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Why we still need friendships that have faded

Erica DeSpain

My siblings and I have always trusted both of our parents to give us very sound advice when we need it (which is often), but my dad is famously known for giving these nuggets of wisdom that are typically only one sentence long that really, really stick.

He gave me one of these nuggets a couple of years ago that I’ve never forgotten and that has eased my mind when it comes to friendships and expectations as I’ve navigated adulthood.

My parents were in town visiting me when I was 10 weeks pregnant two years ago. My husband was deployed in Afghanistan at the time, so just the three of us went to a wonderful elective ultrasound studio so that we could get our first peak at my daughter. I’ll never forget floating out of the studio on cloud nine as I studied every tiny detail in the pictures the tech printed for me.

All of my closest friends knew I was pregnant already, but there were a few more friends I wanted to personally share our news with before I announced it on social media. I picked up the phone to call one of my really good friends from college who I hadn’t spoken to in about eight months, and when she didn’t answer I decided just to send her a text of the ultrasound picture. Several minutes later she called me screaming with joy. We screamed and laughed together for the next 15 minutes over my news and catching up on a few other things, and we promised each other that we wouldn’t let that much time go by again without talking.

I hung up the phone beaming and shared with my parents how genuinely happy my friend was for me and how we picked up right where we’d left off eight months prior. I then began to explain how I felt guilty for not being the friend to her now that I was in college, but my dad stopped me in my tracks, and I’ll never forget what he said.

He told me that sometimes we need friends in our lives who don’t require much of us but love us anyway — people who we can still call friends without the pressure to send birthday gifts, weekly phone calls and annual visits. People who we pick right back up with after a long period of time and not have any air to clear.

I’ve thought more and more about what he said ever since then. Sometimes I struggle with the weight of maintaining friendships across the country since we’re physically so far removed from most of my friends, but then I remember my dad’s advice that I don’t have to pour my whole life and exhausting effort into every one of my friendships in order to still call someone a friend.

That advice has helped me tremendously when it comes to setting realistic expectations of my adult friendships.

I’ve always believed that the people who invest in you are often the people worth investing in in return, but that doesn’t mean the rest of my friendships with others have to crumble either. It just means that our mutual expectations can be lower while still knowing that I can pick up the phone any minute to send a text or make a call and pick up right where we’d left off. No apologies, just friendship and meeting each other right where the other is.

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