Derf Assist List > Changing Friendships

My best friend and I have been friends for more than 30 years now. Other than a couple of periods where we didn't speak for a couple of years, we communicate several times a day.

I realize that people change over the course of time; our ideals and values can change, our political and religious views, etc., but can those changes have a negative impact on a friend relationship, just like they can a marriage?

My friend has always (for the most part) made her faith a central part of her life. I've never had an issue with it, I truly try to be a live and let live kind of person. But I sometimes feel like there's a side of her I don't know. As an example, we just recently were discussing bigotry and how there's still a lot of it in our world. But then later that day, she posts a picture on FB of the Duck Dynasty guy, one of those 'stand up for Phil's religious freedom' or whatever. And I wonder, does she even really know what he said? Sometimes it feels like there's the person I know, and then this very conservative person, and I wonder, is she silently judging me?

Despite being the same age, we are in completely different stages of our lives. She has two grown daughters and three grandkids; I have a 13-yr old boy. While we are in some ways, we are still the same people we've been for the past 30 years, and in other ways, we are completely different.

I guess my question is- can friendships be sustained despite differences in core beliefs and ideals? Am I obsessing too much over this?

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKelley

Oy. That's a tough one. I have several friends who are in other places in their lives (either much 'older' or 'younger,' in terms of stages), and people who are vastly different from me in terms of faith or lack thereof, or politics.
I am not really that close with any friends who are that different, but my FAMILY is a whole other matter. My closest sibling is wildly in a different place, and he and I talk nearly every day.

One thing that a counselor told me that really REALLY helped was this: "they are not your peer."

You can be friends with someone, or be a relative, or whatever. But they don't have to be your peer. A peer is someone who is in the same basic spot as you; someone who is more or less your equal in ways that are important to you.
Not every friend (no matter how well-loved) is a peer. They don't have to be a peer to be loved by you. But you don't need to stress about not being tethered in a peer-ish way to those you love. You can just value them for who they are, and let that be good enough.

To me, it's been tremendously freeing. It takes the peculiar guilt off of me if I am "doing better" (for lack of a less judgmental phrase) than they are,(or if they are) or if they are more faithful, or more wholesome, or better recyclers or whatever.

Does this make sense? FYI, I would NEVER tell them that I don't consider them peers. I'm not using the term "peer" to express being good enough for me, or vice-versa. I'm just using it to define them as "in the same basic place."

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkate in MI

Kate, your response is quite good, I'll have to remember that for myself.

I have also had to deal with similar situations. Not long ago, I had a dear friend--someone I met within the last decade--reveal herself as a "birther." When I called her out on the misinformation she had latched onto, she basically told me that we could no longer be friends. I suppose it's for the best, although it did hurt to realize she was not willing to put any more into our friendship simply because I didn't agree with her conservative positions.

I have another friend, someone I've known since kindergarten. She and I have almost nothing in common, she is a devout Christian and deeply conservative. She has children and grandchildren; I have neither. She was also in the "stand up for Phil" camp. I think we both recognize how different we are and simply choose not to discuss those issues around each other. Our shared childhood and knowledge of each other's lives is a far more important measure of the relationship. Our friendship will wax and wane, yet we always return and seem to pick up where we left off (sometimes with even better stories to tell for not having been in each other's orbit for a while).

Also, I have discovered as I grow older that the people who knew me as a child are the ones I want to keep.

Not sure if this is helpful at all. Thanks, Kate, for the sage advice.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDATdeborah

I think it's possible if both of you respect each other despite your differences. I have friends who have very different belief systems than me and I love doing things with them, but they aren't friends I would necessarily call to bare my soul or share my troubles because we aren't living by similar design. I believe there many different types of friends -- movie friends, coffee friends, author reading friends, cocktail friends and, of course, my handful of soul sisters. I do have to qualify that I don't want to be friends for any reason with racists.

January 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterMrs. G.