Some situations are worth saving and working at, and some situations are dead-ends, or inevitable loops, that won’t change, grow, or improve.
Some people relationships are limited by how little two people can realistically share or give. Some parents are cold and selfish and don’t bond with their kids. Some people just want free therapy or a passive sounding board. Some people just grow apart due to a loss of shared context. Some friendships may be just circumstantial habits.
For my part, my need to be a helper, to care or empathize, always seems to have a limited lifespan. Eventually, I seem to hit a saturation point where something about the person I’m helping just pisses me off; the novelty of the new friend wears thin, and the fun or excitement trails off.
As a young person, my need to be helpful developed along with my need for approval. If I did good, I was good. This was tied to my parents mostly, and even after Dad and Mum passed on (when I was 23 and 29, respectively) I kept a connection to them in my heart and held on to my need to reach them, or to be good in their memory. I kept loving them from afar, even after they’d left for good. Sometimes, I felt afraid to let go of them. I didn’t want to lose what little that might still be there.
Initially, being able to help someone feels like a bonding, sharing thing. But after a while (years, usually), the thrill can fade and the situation can begin to feel one-sided, repetitive, or even exhausting. That lack of novelty could signal my slow decline in interest in another person. It also makes me wonder if I’m too passive or not making effort to be a good friend. Does it make me a bad friend, or a maybe just a poor judge of the kind of person whom I choose to befriend?
Circumstantial friendships which sometimes feel unsatisfying or one-sided to me will probably trail away after the shared circumstance changes. That kid who lived in your neighbourhood, whose company you once enjoyed, she or he who was your friend, drifted away after one of you moved to a different neighbourhood, remember? Situations never last forever, and it’s somtimes circumstance that drives mutual need. If a relationship doesn’t feel fun or invigorating anymore, maybe should not be “fed” by me just to try and keep it alive for myself, so I can tell myself that I still have that friend or relationship. That sounds just a little needy, insecure, or pathetic on my part. In some ways, I always feel like a solitary man. Maybe that’s just a familiar fallback position for me.
In some cases, some relationships have been terminated permanently by me because of perceived offense or chronic selfish behaviour of the (now ex-)friend. In other cases, their offense is temporary and forgiven, because the relationship seems truly irreplaceable, or after months have passed to help me cool off.
Friendships are difficult and human hearts are precious and fragile things. Each relationship provides chances to see things through new eyes, or to reflect on one’s own behaviour. Each relationship is a learning opportunity to become a better, healthier person.