Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Real Meaning of Friendship

By Charlotte Underwood

I guess I just try to be that friend that I really needed when I was younger and alone.

In a previous article I mentioned that “I guess I just try to be that friend that I really needed when I was younger and alone.” It was something that came to light as I was writing, a sudden hit of realization as to why I am so empathic. Though it is quite a sad truth, it binds well with my ability to turn even the worst negatives into positives. Today I want to expand on this thought.

As I grew up I found it increasingly difficult to make and maintain relationships of any sorts. I did have friends, although they were people I had grown up with and had become accustomed to my behaviours – I wouldn’t say they were close friends but we had known each other for life and that counts for something.

At the age of seven I moved to a town about three hours away from my hometown and I knew that I would have to start a new life. I would never see my friends again and would have to find new ones or just find comfort in being alone. Despite my introverted nature, I enjoy company and talking. To be honest I could talk for hours without stopping. I do enjoy having time to myself but if I am alone for too long it has detrimental effects on my mental health.

I never understood social cues or etiquette which certainly came to light when I attempted to find a new friend. It seemed that I repelled potential friends as I would be avoided or left after that first introductory conversation. I never knew why this happens, but even now it seems that something I do pushes people away. I am a kind person and only mean well, I give my all to the people I care about and I am a loyal friend. So why is it so hard to make others see that?

The problem with my childhood friendships was that I always found myself being the third wheel or tag-along. I found myself ignored and pushed out of relationships or used as a second option of company. I never felt valued or wanted. What hurt the most, and still does, is that when I would find people who later became my best friends, they would always leave. In fact, pretty much every friendship I have had has ended due to me being cut out.

I do not know what it is like to have a lifelong friend that stands by your side. I do not know what it is like to be able to reflect as an adult with your friend as to how you met all those years ago. I envy the people who have real friends, by which I mean a person who is always there for you, who starts conversations and makes plans to meet you. I don’t have that.

All I ever wanted was a companion to share this life with, not in a romantic sense but the kind of friend who you would still have when you grew old, who would be your maid of honour and be an auntie to your children. The kind of friend you could still be close with at old age and know that you have a unique bond.

I remember how planning my wedding hurt me. I did not want a reception but I was forced into it by other family members. I found myself with a tiny guest list and found it impossible to plan my half of the wedding party. It hurt not to be able to have close friends to spend the day with. When I think about the future, it hurts to know that I do not have friends who will be by my side when I have my first child or when I find my own success in my writing.

My husband is everything I could ever want in a friend, he respects me and supports my dreams. He does not judge me or my past and only ever lifts me up. He makes me laugh and we go on adventures together. He is my best friend, but although this is the absolute dream in a relationship I find myself still lonely as I must rely on my husband for all social desires.

I want to be able to unload onto someone else or to have other experiences. My husband is perfect but it is just not the same as having an unromantic best friend, someone I can have coffee dates with and go on holidays with. It does my mental health a lot of damage to feel this alone. It may sound horrible but having only one friend, a husband is not enough for me.

We all need someone who will always be in your corner, who has no intentions other than to be by your side and always lift you up. In a way we desire that second love, that soul mate who is not meant to be your husband or wife but rather be your right-hand man or woman.

I do, as an adult make it hard for myself to maintain friendships. I have severe trust issues and high standards of the people who I call friends. The truth is that I have been so hurt and taken for granted by people who I thought respected me that I believe that everyone will leave me and use me.

Friendship is a two-way street and I feel that some people forget that. You need to put the same effort into any relationship that the other party does. Even if you have no ill intentions, if you are never the one to call, to send that text or to plan a meeting, if you put none of the work in and expect the other party to do that for you – it causes a lot of damage and it’s toxic to mental health.

When you really care about someone you will find time for them. Even if you only send a message to check they are ok or give them a five-minute call that shows you value them. The little things count for a lot. You don’t need to sacrifice anything for the people you love but you do need to remember that your friends will not be around forever.

This is something heavily important to think about in this modern age where everyone prioritises work. When did money become more important than real human connections with those you love?

So, these are the things to remember:

  • Be honest with your friends. Do not lie to them because lies will always hurt more than the truth.
  • Take a moment out of your busy week and just check on your friend’s wellbeing. Show them you care and that you value their being.
  • Be equals in any relationship and don’t take a person for granted. Give them back what they give you.
  • Learn to communicate. If your friend upsets you consider if it is worth losing them over something that can be talked through and worked on.

No one deserves to feel alone in this world and no one deserves to feel like they are undesirable. If we all share a little love then the world will be a better place.

About the Author

Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She is a growing mental health advocate and writer who aims to inform and education on mental health. The goal is to be a friend to those in need. She believes no one should feel alone. Charlotte blogs at charlotteunderwoodauthor.com. You can also find her on Twitter and on Facebook.

 

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