Disappearing act or last man standing?
Why most people don’t stay with you throughout your life.
It can be a bit of a cold realisation that statement, but it’s truth doesn’t dwindle. The harsh and piercing nature of this insight can be a bit of an emotional hammerblow to some, but the reality is that this is the norm and not the exception. Most people won’t stay with you throughout your life – and this is ok, it may even be for the better – now let’s explore why, shall we?
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gone through in life, it’s that people don’t tend to stick around for the long haul – maybe I do indeed smell funny.
Before we really dive into it, ask yourself this question: “Would you like it if everyone you had socialised with from your primary school class right up until now still kept in contact with you?”
I’ve yet to meet someone who answers “yes” to that question. So, you come to the realisation that you don’t even want most people to stay with you throughout your life. There seems to be this natural progression as you age to tighten your social circles where the old adage, “if you can count your true friends on one hand you’re doing better than most”, starts to hit home.
I think most people, in retrospect, understand that some people were only around for certain life stages or periods of their life. I’m sure everyone has had a moment where they think of those kids they knew in primary or high school that they no longer talk to and wonder what they are doing now (if not it is easy to imagine so). Hell, I have my Year 6 graduation bookmark and I’d be lucky if I’ve seen three of these people in the last 10 years…and it’s through no malicious intent.
That is one of the reasons why, it sometimes can take no real conscious effort to drift apart, especially if what kept you seeing one another is no longer in place. This is also true of work, sports, university and other activities or interests that you did and no longer do. It’s not like most people sit there and plan how to become distant from their friends or acquaintances, it’s just something that happens naturally over time, right?
I think sometimes it is, however, sometimes I find people just don’t really want to put in the effort to maintain their relationships and will too easily dismiss it as “it’s just life, man”, when in reality they weren’t honest to themselves (or the other person).
And that’s why lifelong friends/intimate partner are such a rare commodity these days. It is difficult to maintain a long-term relationship with someone, it requires a lot of effort, sacrifice, understanding, compassion, empathy, a connection unlike others, the right personalities and the overcoming of life circumstances and pressures which could have derailed it. That is a lot to fight against! And how many people can fight all that? How many people are worth fighting all that for?
As someone who is an advocate of quality over quantity, just how many high quality relationships can you have? You have yourself – it’s amazing how many people overlook having a good relationship with themselves – and an intimate partner, ideally, along with your side of the family and their family and possible one you’ve created together. Then you have your close friend/s and maybe a decent work colleague or sport companion if you’re lucky. You’ll find that sometimes these categories overlap and for good reason, because if there is anything I remember from the foundations of social psychology it is that proximity is the biggest factor in both starting and maintaining relationships.
It’s funny I say this given how far apart I am from my closest friends; either interstate or in the capital city hundreds of kilometres away.
Sometimes we don’t wish to admit that the time is closing for a particular person in our life, and as I said at beginning, this can be a bit of a harsh reality check. “But I see a future with this person”, you say, well, only you can truly determine how much time and effort you wish to devote to someone, but please don’t let it be based in naïve optimism. Dealing with separation is rarely easy and there is usually someone who ends up feeling it more. However, from what seems like the end of the world springs a new beginning of possibilities…though I admit trying to find new friends/relations is not always immediately fruitful, particularly past the age of 30 and if you’ve relocated to a new area.
I try and take a similar approach to that of the Buddhists, Taoists and Stoics; I accept people for however long they are in my life and cherish it for that period. If people are meant to stay in my life, they do, and if they aren’t, I let them go – in a way you detach from a sense of ownership and entitlement to them. That is not to say that I don’t make the effort to maintain my relationships, quite the opposite in fact, and if I would like to continue interacting with someone I do what I can to facilitate that. However, if I feel there is little to no reciprocation, I will take a step back.
So, when we come to understand the odds we’re overcoming to have someone (or a few, if we’re very fortunate) stay with us throughout our life, we need to express an immense level of gratitude…as well as give ourselves a little pat of the back for the part we played.
“Learn how to be by yourself so that you can be with others out of want rather than need.”