scissorsI have always been fascinated by this question.

With some of my friends, we can go for years without connecting. Yet, when we do come back together, it feels like no time has passed.

With other friends, however, the process is much less organic. There seem to be inbuilt “requirements” – which I sometimes feel I should be sensing without needing to be told….yet don’t.

With these friendships, perhaps those requirements might include how often we talk to or see one another, what we do or where we go, or how quickly we respond back to one another when one of us has reached out.

Or the requirements could fall more along the lines of willingly aligning (or changing if need be) our beliefs, expressing agreement with one another without question, or knowing exactly what type of support to offer in different situations.

Interestingly – for me at least – in the first type of friendship (the organic kind) all of these requirements are a non-issue. What needs to take place takes place. What doesn’t need to take place doesn’t take place. Each of us is self-reliant and self-sufficient, but mutually appreciative of the chance to enjoy friendship when the time is right.

In the second type of friendship (the non-organic kind) each requirement needs to be spelled out – either because there is no congruent inner “sensing” of the friendship’s natural ebb and flow – or because, with these friendships, there actually is no natural ebb and flow. As a result, the friendship itself feels more manufactured, awkward, effort-full, and much less satisfying.

I have also noticed a great deal more resentment in the second type of friendship. There is more drama, more passive-aggressive behavior, more hurt feelings, more angry texts or phone messages, more assumptions and expectations – all of which can add up over time to less actual friendship.

Most of the time, I don’t do too well with the second type of friendship. I have a low tolerance for the requirements, demands, and constraints of this type of friendship. After a time of feeling like I’m just not “getting it” – whatever “it” is that the other person seems to expect me to get – I give up. And I move on.

Sometimes I reach the giving up/moving on stage in a matter of months. In other cases it is more a matter of years.

And, up until the very recent past, I have often felt quite guilty about the moving on part….and often that guilt has lasted for years.

But I was reassured on two counts recently that a) there is nothing wrong with me for failing to connect in a healthy and nurturing, long-lasting way with certain friends, and b) I am definitely not alone in sensing two distinct “types” of friendship as I continue to move through my life.

Recently I was reading a magazine article on lifelong friends. The writer shared how, at one point, she realized it simply wasn’t realistic to expect herself to keep every single friend she had ever made in her life. Her reasons were – people grow, they change, they want different things, they believe different things, they need different things.

In other words, there is an organic time stamp on different friendships – some are set to last for a short time, others for a longer period of time, and others for a lifetime (which reminds me of the old saying “friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”)

Also, I did the smartest thing I can think of to do when I have an ongoing dilemma I am wrestling with – I reached out and asked my mentor for her insights and guidance.

What she told me (we appear to be “lifetime” friends so her words were especially poignant) is that she feels like people come from different “pots” of energy.

I love this analogy – it is so helpful to me!

As my mentor explained, all pots of energy are necessary – and all are desirable. But not all pots of energy mesh well with one another.

When we meet someone who seems to come from our same or similar “pot” of energy, the organic (first kind) of friendship takes place. It is effortless. We just “get” one another. Neither party worries when the other disappears for a time. Intuition and faith guides the connection through its ebbs and flows. There is a natural joy of “getting” another person and being “gotten” by another person in turn – it cannot be manufactured or orchestrated in any way, because the two friends were born from the same pot. They are standing on the same foundation.

However, when we meet someone who comes from a different “pot” of energy, there is less of a shared foundation. So there is more maneuvering, more misunderstanding, more attempts at manufacturing a deep, natural, organic connection. Unfortunately it is just not possible, and often the friendship runs into trouble in terms of communications, expectations, and longevity.

More than any other theory or explanation, my mentor’s “pots of energy” analogy has brought me a lot of peace.

Viewing each of my treasured friendships from this perspective has made it easier to flow with the many types of connections in my life – those that are set to last for the balance of my life, those that come into and out of my life more quickly, and those that appear for a fleeting moment and then vanish again.

Today’s Takeaway: How do you process the varying levels of closeness you might feel for different friends, family members, even colleagues? Is there a theory or analogy that helps you permit each connection to fulfill its purpose and then, if necessary, move on? Have you ever felt more struggle with a particular friendship and wondered how to resolve it? Whom among your friends do you feel organically closest to – why do you think that is the case?

Two types image available from Shutterstock.