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Worth Fighting For
May 1st, 2012

I haven’t had a fight with a friend in years.  Marital butting of heads?  Yes, periodically.  A silly, momentary, sisterly spat amidst holiday stresses?  Once or twice.  But a fight with a girlfriend?  I can’t begin to remember the last one I had.  Probably a roommate disagreement at some point in college, but I can’t recall what it might have been.  I haven’t had a fight with a girlfriend in my entire adult life.  And I wonder what that says about me.

This topic of fighting has been on my mind lately because someone I know recently had a major fight with a friend.  The details aren’t relevant but the gist of it is that one of them did something inconsiderate, the other one tried to glide past it while at the same time gently standing up for herself, and the first one picked the scab until the friendship bled out.  And the whole thing made me curious about the nature of adult friendships.

I guess the crux of my puzzling is whether or not there is an age at which we outgrow fighting with friends.  Is there an age after which  offenses that would have caused a playground or dormitory explosion are henceforth always dealt with via some more civilized means?  For example, today if a friend of mine did something really hurtful to me, I’m not sure I would ever confront her about it.  Provided the wound wasn’t inadvertent, I would likely just get through the moment with as much composure as possible, and then let the friendship wither away.  And I don’t know if this is indicative of the limited bandwidth of a working mother, or just the facts of adulthood, or some sad commentary about the quality of my friendships.

Consider Option #1.  I have a very limited number of hours to commit to friendships.  I work full time.  I have two young sons who want and need a great deal of my time and energy.  I have a husband I love and a marriage I want to take care of.  Girlfriends get precious little of my time.  This means that the time I do have to spend with/on friendships is time that I want to be fun and satisfying.  If someone isn’t going to be a good friend to me I don’t really have the time or inclination to dig into that kind of drama.  I’ll likely choose to move on.  Pragmatic or cold-hearted?  I say the former, but perhaps you have a different view.

Consider Option #2.  We are all adults now.  We have skills of diplomacy and self-restraint.  We understand that the fights that make for sensational reality television aren’t actually how we want our own lives to look.  If we confront a problem in a friendship shouldn’t it be in a metered, measured conversation?  If there is a disagreement shouldn’t it be addressed in civil tones over coffee?  Simply put, is there a point at which we’re just too old for fights?

Consider Option #3.  Is none of my friendships worth a fight?  If I’m willing to walk away from a friendship rather than get to the root of the problem does that mean that my female friendships are lacking in substance?  If I would sooner complain to my husband about any platonic transgression and then watch it atrophy than face the thing head on perhaps I should take that as an indication that the friendship wasn’t much to begin with.  Or perhaps Option #1 supersedes all the others.

Truth be told, female friendships are something I’ve long struggled with.  While I’ve had many friendships that I would describe as happy and enjoyable and satisfying, that deep, intimate, BFF-style bond is something that’s never come easily to me – though not for lack of desire.  As an adult with a happy family life I feel less existentially hinged on my friendships as I have so much richness in my life from other relationships.  Nevertheless, I still wish for an adult BFF.  I wish for a friendship that’s worth fighting for.  But how will I know if I’ve found one if the circumstances of adulthood are such that I never actually would?

8 Responses to “Worth Fighting For”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I don’t have many friends, either. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have time, or because I really don’t care, or because I’m lazy and don’t seek out friendships, or because I’m odious. It’s a conundrum.

  2. Gale Says:

    Kitch – I’m pretty sure you’re not odious.

    For me, it’s not friendships in general that are hard. I have plenty of lunch buddies, friends to meet up with for a glass of wine, and fellow mom friends. It’s that “I bare my soul to you” kind of friendship that I’ve never been able to master.

    A conundrum, indeed.

  3. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I’ve always had extraordinary female friends – and for many, many years. I don’t recall the last time I fought with one of them – if ever.

    But I will say that major life changes have resulted in some of those friendships weakening – to the point of simply slipping away. Divorce. Change in financial circumstances that resulted.

    I understand it. We no longer could travel in the same circles, do the same things. My world exploded; theirs didn’t. Perhaps I’m the one who allowed the friendships to slip away, because the divide between my old life and what came after was too painful, and too painfully reminded by those friendships.

    But I have made other friendships with women that are as strong and as solid as those former friendships. Not as many – but a few – and they’re exceptional. It’s harder as you get older, especially when the “everything” of the juggle eats all your time – kids, trying to make a buck, a little sleep occasionally. In some ways, it makes virtual friendships cemented by phone or the occasional visit all the more a gift.

    And I don’t take those gifts lightly.

    We see a lot of fighting among women on tv. I don’t get it. I never had friendships like that. Ever. Doubt I ever would.

  4. Gale Says:

    BLW – Thanks for this comment, and (as always) for your perspective. You touch on something that I alluded to, but didn’t express as succinctly. That is, sometimes life intervenes in friendships and circumstances that might have sparked a big fight in young girls just creates distance in grown women. In most cases I think that’s probably best. But I wonder if sometimes we let a friendship die off that might have been rekindled through an active disagreement. Even so, I’m pretty sure I don’t miss that kind of drama.

  5. Anna Says:

    Gale, thank you for bringing up this topic. Like you, I have friends, but not an adult BFF. I occasionally feel kind of bad about it, like something is wrong with me. But also like you, I’m a working mother with limited spare time. I’m glad it’s not just me:)

  6. Elaine Says:

    My sister has always been and will always be my BFF. It is not something I take for granted. She’s that person I turn to when I really just need to talk. We certainly have our differences, but 58 years later there are few people I’d rather have as my confidant. Beyond her other bff’s include my daughters and my daughter-in-law. I’m a very lucky lady! And fortunately I in no way feel a need for other best best friends. I’m blessed.

  7. Gale Says:

    Elaine – Thanks for this comment. You make a really important point here. Family members shouldn’t be discounted as we think about our important friendships. Like you, my sister is the person I call for things big and small. When I’ve found a new brand of mustard that’s wonderful or when I’m questioning my place in the world. And over time I’ve also developed priceless friendships with members of GAP’s family. Just because a friendship was forged via family doesn’t make it any less a friendship. I need to remember that.

  8. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Friendship in adulthood is a really interesting, and rich, topic. Thanks for this post and all of the food for thought it contains. xox