I believe this is a topic with a large variety of perspectives, but overall these perspectives are influenced by people’s actual 1/expectations towards their friends and 2/ life experiences they already had on that matter.
I’m personally the type of friend that can stop speaking for a long time, even a very long time, yet still thinking about the person, genuinely caring about them, and considering them real friends. The quality of my relationships are definitely not defined by how often we talk together. I don’t care about that, and I am friend with people who don’t care about it either.
For example, my sister is my best friend in the entire world. I haven’t interacted with her for something like 5 months now, yet when we’re going to see each other in November I already know that it’s going to be one of the best days of our life. Distance, time, how much we interact does not change that. We just function that way. We don’t need to seek these constant interactions. And if one day we want to change that, then we’ll do.
I’m the kind of person who can’t interact the same way, at the same intensity, with everyone I care about, all the time. There are times when socializing is too much, I’m overwhelmed, I need calm and focus. I have a chronic depression, generalized anxiety and Complex PTSD, which are enough conditions in themselves to require sudden seasons of personal retreat/isolation. That’s how it is. I’ve felt sorry about it for most of my life, felt like it was making me miss good relationships – and I’ve lost friends to that – but I’ve decided that it was unfair to feel that way. I don’t have to feel guilty for needing a lot of time on my own.
As much as I love and care about people, I can sometimes be interacting almost every day, and sometimes not for weeks or months. Real friends to me are the ones who know me enough to not expect more than this inconsistency from me. They don’t put any pressure on me of interacting more or less. They know that not talking doesn’t equal that I forget them or don’t care about them. And if they do believe that, then I failed in expressing how I function, or they failed understanding me. One of the most beautiful gifts for me from friends is to respect my boundaries, my time, my energy. And I want to offer the same to any other person I care about.
The best friendships I have, the deepest, the most meaningful and actually strong ones, are the ones that are free from these expectations regarding how we interact, and give room to healthy/honest conversations when there is any kind of hurt on that matter. If someone goes away, I will feel heartbroken, but I wont blame myself anymore for not meeting others expectations enough. I am myself, and for me real friendship is about meeting each other just where we’re at, just who we are. I can’t express enough the beauty and comfort felt in hearing or reading :“take all the time you need, I will still be there when you will be back”. This is love to me. Releasing control.
My experiences are real, valid, my friendships are healthy and I’ve actually never been more happy on that matter than since I’ve learned to respect myself, to stop trying to respond to any demands from others, to be the person others want me to be for them. I’m a people pleaser so it’s a hard thing to learn. But I am so grateful for the friends who never try to make me someone else, to make me interact when it would actually burn myself out, just because my level of daily energy is already depleted by lots of other things.
You know, it’s like in a love relationship – you have to accept to navigate between your expectations and the way the other person is. There is a part of accepting who they are and lowering your expectations, there is a part of expressing your personal needs regarding the relationship, and there is a part of talking about all of this together. If people are willing to grow together, whether they want to interact often or not, then it can function either way. No friendship or relationship ever follow any general rule. People create them in the context of their relationship. It’s all about being aware of our personal expectations and how we deal with them both in the relationship, but also on our own/by ourselves at the same time.
I hear the hurt that you feel about this friendship that went distant then kind of confused, going back and forth. The lack of clear communication and clarity regarding each other’s intentions and needs is really tough. How you feel is absolutely valid. I would like to encourage you though, to not let it prevent you from seeing the beauty of relationships as they are: it’s complex, it’s messy, but with the right amount of grace, patience and mutual respect, it can really become very special.