Monday, January 30, 2012

A Nonlinear look at Friendships

There was an insightful article about navigating changing friendships in this weekend's New York Times by Alex Williams titled, It's Not Me, It's You.  One of the concepts he discusses is linear versus nonlinear friendships.

Linear friendships are based on a deep lasting connection. Nonlinear friendships are based on a shared experience, like a job or a certain stage of life, and aren't as likely to endure when those circumstances change.

It made me realize how my friendships have changed over the years. When my kids were small I had a wide circle of friends who also had small children. Being a stay at home mom was a lonely job and hanging out with other women in the same situation was a lifeline. Outings like apple picking or heading to the park were a lot more fun when there was another mom around to chat with, haul strollers, and watch the kids while you ran to the bathroom. Back then I orchestrated my children's social lives around the moms I liked to hang out with.

When my kids were in grade school, I socialized with women I volunteered with, or carpooled with, or whose kids played on my kids' sports teams.

Women's friendships go through changes
Image via ABC, Desperate Housewives
But now that Nick and Emma are in high school, I've lost the day-to-day contact with many of those pals. As my kids' world has expanded and my involvement in their school and social life has diminished, my circle of friendships has pared down too.

I still like these women! But we're just not in each other's lives as much anymore, unless we make an effort to get together. And that takes, well, effort. I guess that means we're nonlinear friends.

The plus side is that, while my immediate circle may be smaller, my friendships are more fulfilling now, because I spend time with the people that really mean something to me (i.e. my linear friends) and my new non-linear friendships are based on my activities - writing, theater, tennis, etc - instead of my kids' activities.

But maybe I've let a few linear friendships slip into nonlinear mode without meaning to. Friendships do evolve over time, it's only natural, but they also take time and energy to maintain.

So what does this all mean?

I don't know if this is the complete answer but  - I feel a girls night coming on!

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