My husband has a childhood best friend called Andy. Over recent years, Andy has put on a fair bit of weight which, at first, wasn’t much of a concern. My husband and I aren’t usually ones to comment on other people’s weight, but we recently met someone in their 40s who had a heart attack, a result of their unhealthy lifestyle. They were told by their cardiologist that if they didn’t change their lifestyle, they would die prematurely.
We both immediately thought of Andy. His weight gain has been the result of an unhealthy lifestyle which sees him consume 6000 calories a day and engage in other unhealthy habits.
Andy can be quite stubborn at times, so my husband decided to speak to Andy’s father about his concerns first. This was just before our wedding. Andy found out, and he wasn’t thrilled. I thought to myself, “what awful timing”, given that Andy was playing such a crucial role in our wedding.
Andy made a speech on our wedding day. He started it off by telling our guests that my husband went to his Dad with his weight concerns and how it upset him. But then he shared the advice his Dad had given to him from a young age, which he remembered when my husband spoke out about his weight: “a good friend will tell you what you want to hear, a best friend will tell you what you don’t want to hear”.
I’ve been reflecting on my own friendships lately. As you may know I’ve struggled with friendships, and I’m currently mourning another friendship break up (because yes, that is a thing). Truthfully, I had normalised a long time ago that friendships don’t always last but losing someone who I thought would always be in my life has been jarring. I’ve been trying to come to terms with it and reflect on what happened because from the outside, the friendship looked strong and unbreakable, and yet, it ended so suddenly.
Andy’s father’s wisdom is something that I’ve been playing in my head over and over again. It made me realise that, whilst my friendship was strong in many ways- we could effortlessly speak on the phone for 5 hours, we validated each other’s feelings, we supported each other’s dreams- we never actually told each other what we didn’t want to hear. We’ve both gone through our own insecurities and struggles with friendships that we ended up tip toeing around each other and trying to constantly please each other. We avoided talking about the elephant in the room. If I did something wrong, my friend wouldn’t call me out on it. If she did something wrong, I was too scared to say anything, and glossed over it or avoided it altogether. We acted like best friends sure, but we failed on really being best friends. And so, whilst on the surface everything looked great, the friendship had cracks in its foundations which ultimately crumbled.
Understanding this hasn’t made it any easier, but it is giving me closure.
I’m taking comfort in the fact that I have changed in many ways since I first formed this friendship. I now establish healthier boundaries with people in my life. I’m more confident with saying no. I’m more comfortable with expressing what I deserve and what’s right and wrong. I have a better sense of self-worth. I’m less of a people pleaser. With the accumulation of these changes, I’m hopeful my current and future friendships will strengthen.
I’m hoping these changes will give me the confidence to tell my friends what they don’t want to hear so that I can be a best friend.