Friends without benefits

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My mum always used to say if you show me your friends I’ll show you who you are. I never really used to take any notice, it sounded like an old irrelevant proverb designed to spoil my fun and coerce me into getting rid of my ‘colourful’ friends. The ones who never had a curfew, never got grounded, wore the shortest skirts to school and allowed to eat crisps for breakfast. I guess by natural elimination some people just don’t stick in your life. Friends can be for a season or a reason, or simply promoted to family, and they just become part of the furniture. 

A good friend apparently is like a good bra, supportive, makes you look and feel good and is close to your heart. A bad friend is not necessarily ‘bad’ but perhaps just not right for you. A person whose interests always seem to come first, who’s unavailable, unattainable, insincere, dishonest, selfish, competitive or even disloyal. A bad friend like any bad relationship is a manifestation of low self esteem. If you value yourself, your progress, your emotional well-being and development you’ll identify friends without benefits and excuse yourself from the equation. It’s easier said than done, I know, unfortunately it’s not as easy as finding a bad egg…bad friends don’t always float to the surface. Sometimes we hold on to precious memories, grasping on to history and nostalgia and discounting behaviours we know to be detrimental because often it’s easier to ignore than call it out.

Growing up as an only child I never feared loneliness. I was used to flying solo and my own company was all I had most days. Although there were times when I longed for some companionship, growing up learning how to enjoy my own company meant that I didn’t force relationships, I have always been content, and by default I welcome people into my life who bring love, support, joy, humour, resilience and attributes I lack.

I’ve been the friend, the confidant, the trustee, the devotee, the supportive one, the ride or die, the hold her hair back she can’t control the vomit, the skirt in knicker situation cunning rapid remover, the spinach in teeth quiet highlighter, the bouncer, the cock blocker, the goggles with no beer, the leave work early we have a serious problem, the he’s dumped me lets go and paint the town red, the cheer leader, the party friend, the oprah friend, the friend in good times and bad. Friends have been like weight for me, I’ve shed a few pounds and gained a few over the years. But thankfully I’ve maintained a healthy balance. 

When you become a parent your friend circle changes drastically. Your focus changes and friends without children often feel a divide and less commonality. It’s a natural change, motherhood requires some mummy backup, even with the best will in the world, a friend with no kids may not fully understand your new position, is unlikely to be able to answer questions about teething, colic, or breast feeding and won’t be awake for the night time feeds…unless she happens to be at Garage Nation…

Real friends stick with you, through all of life’s changes, they roll with the changes in dynamics, schedules, priorities and just fit in like nothing really changed, when so much has. They accept that you are fundamentally still you, and now just happen to have children. My friend circle has evolved over the years and I’ve been blessed with truly beautiful people who’ve been like a sports bra in this marathon called parenting, hoisting me up, strapping me in and preventing whiplash. I’m open to building meaningful friendships with people who are givers. Takers need not apply. If we were all givers we would be surrounded by friends who burst at the seams, over loaded with love. We do ourselves a disservice by entering relationships seeking out what we can gain. Rather we should consider what we can offer. What can we give? How can we improve someone else’s world?

There are friends that stick closer than a sister. A friend that has your back no matter what, who loves you without condition, celebrates with you in achievements, mourns with you in hard times and who loves you enough to correct you when you’re wrong, and fights to keep your friendship blooming. As a woman I am acutely aware of my need for a tribe, to belong to a solid group that I can rely on, who empower each other and encourage one another to make their dreams a reality. Spending hours without adult company with wheels on the bus on repeat, it’s easy to get lost in the thick of it, so it’s essential to have friends who keep you grounded and present. You deserve to be surrounded by love, and if you doubt that love is the intention then perhaps you should reconsider the companion. Sometimes your circle decreases in size but increases in value, and that’s ok, it truly is quality not quantity. Cherish the friends you have, don’t be afraid to make new ones and be a giver not a taker.

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