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The Best Advice I Never Got: Friendships are like ...

The Best Advice I Never Got: Friendships are like Gardens – You Have To Get Rid of the Weeds

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageMy Nana gave great advice. In regard to friends she said “You need to have more than just a few friends. It’s good to have lots.” My mother also seemed to adhere to the same philosophy and so did many people around me. In the age of people having hundreds or thousands of “friends” I wonder how people keep up with them all? How can you expend the time and emotional energy to cultivate real relationships among thousands? You can’t. And what do you do when the friendship no longer works? What I wish Nana would have said is that friendships are like gardens – you have to get rid of the weeds.

Getting rid of the weeds can be a profoundly difficult thing for women to do. We’ve been told both subliminally and overtly that we’re the caregivers, the nurturers, the people who fix what’s broken. We’re the ones who keep the wheels from falling off. So when a friendship no longer fits us, helps us grow, is reciprocal or in our best interest, we struggle with ending the friendship because it may not be the “nice” thing to do.

file1411267987060We may decide that it’s easier to keep the dysfunctional friendship than risk hurting somebody’s feelings. But here’s where I have to call bullshit. We choose not to end the friendships because we’re squeamish…we’re chicken. It’s a whole lot easier for us to put up with the bad behavior of a long time friend than to look them square in the face and be honest with them. Because in order to be honest, we have to get our hands dirty. We have to actually deal with the issues that have caused the demise of the friendship and chances are it won’t be pretty.

Amanda Christian, in her article on Tiny Buddha, speaks specifically to HOW we should handle a friendship ending in “5 Ways to Embrace Ending Friendships and Relationships”:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid
  2. Take Responsibility
  3. Trust that you always have everyone you need
  4. Get ready for new friendships
  5. Release your guilt

file8841246481259Sometimes our friendships fall by the wayside due to distance, or a mutually unspoken agreement that says we’re not willing to invest the time in keeping the friendship. It happens – friendships can be very situational and if the relationship doesn’t grow, it stagnates where it was formed. Chances are your very best friend in 2nd grade is not your closest confident now.

Many times we grow as individuals – learning new life skills, attempting to hold ourselves accountable – and while we see growth in ourselves, we see no introspection in our friend. Or worse yet, the friend makes fun of or resents our personal growth.

In the past 10 years or so, I took a closer look at the friendships in my life and I made some significant decisions. I didn’t want to be around people who continually gossiped, picked apart strangers for how they looked, used people when they were convenient, frequently focussed on the negative, poo-pooed spiritual and personal growth. I didn’t want to be around those kind of behaviors and didn’t want to be guilty by association.

Andrea Bonoir, Ph.D, writes in Psychology Today about the signs a friendship may be failing in “Danger! 5 Friendship Warning Signs.” According to Bonoir, the signs include:

  1. You do not like who you are when you’re around him or her.
  2. Your friend is bringing out bad behaviors in you.
  3. The friendship feels significantly unbalanced.
  4. The words you use to describe your friend are not flattering.
  5. Your friend doesn’t seem to get who you are.

file9411262078460As a gardener I know that you frequently have to cut back hard a plant in order for it to thrive, become fuller, or bring out its beauty. So too with weeding out friendships that didn’t work, took too much work, or had simply failed to grow. My friends are a splendid and varied garden of people. But in order for me to enjoy the unique beauty they offer, I have to tend to them, nurture them, pay attention to them. If I don’t pay attention and weed the garden when it’s necessary, if I allow the weeds to take over, the beauty will be overrun, and the garden will fail to bloom.

It’s never easy to end a friendship since it brings up so many feelings of guilt and/or failure. But sometimes ending a friendship is the only step we can take. Sometimes weeding is what we need to do in order to see the garden in front of us.

My Nana gave some great advice, but this time she missed the boat. It is not the number of friends, but the quality of friends, that enrich us, call us on our shit, and stand shoulder to shoulder in the crazy ebb and flow of our lives. What I wish Nana would have said is that friendships are like gardens – you have to get rid of the weeds.

Have YOU ever had to end a long-time friendship? How did you handle it?



  1. Sharon Greenthal

    10 October

    So timely for me, Lee. It’s true that fear is what has kept me in relationships I should have let go of, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found it easier and easier to move on from bad situations. Usually.
    Sharon Greenthal recently posted…Wear Orange on October 9 – Stop BullyingMy Profile

    • Lee Aldrich

      10 October

      Sharon –
      It’s never easy to let go cause we as women think we can fix anything. That’s usually not the case. We all need to know that in order for the garden to grow we gotta pull out the weeds. Some of them are very well rooted and it takes us a while to extricate them, but in the end we realize it’s the right thing to do and the garden looks much better without them. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Sue Shoemaker

    10 October

    This post ties in so well with Barbara’s post on DEVELOPING BOUNDARIES.

    Is it more important to be “NICE” or to be HONEST? That is a dilemma lots of women face, and especially when it comes to relationships with other women.

    I’ve been reading a book entitled “IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN: Indirect Agression Among Women: Why We Hurt Each Other and How to Stop.”

    The admonishment to “be nice” or “play nice” does not give girls a healthy way to deal with conflict or disagreements…that’s why we choose to handle our agression “indirectly.”

    Since I am retired, I very seldom find myself in a position to have to “play nice” with very many people. It’s interesting that the women I worked with for so many years, see each other as “old friends.” I see most of them as “old acquaintances.” My true “old friends” can be counted on one hand…one from high school…one from college…and two from my work environment. In the meantime, I see myself as creating relationships all of the time…in my dance and exercise classes, in my volunteer activities and book clubs, and especially in the world of cyberspace.

    I’ve even found some new acquaintances right here!

    • Lee Aldrich

      10 October

      Sue –
      Thank you for an insightful comment. I’m not sure why people don’t understand the difference between acquaintances and friends, but it may have to do with living in a somewhat superficial society. I agree with your observation about the number of true friends. Just cause I can call somebody up for coffee doesn’t mean I trust them with my heart….there in lies the difference!

  3. […] The Best Advice I Never Got: Friendships are like Gardens – You Have To Get Rid of the Weeds […]

  4. smokeapuff

    2 August

    It’s never easy to remove weeds. They take a lot of hard work and time.

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