From an early age and even through our young adulthood, "friendship maintenance" is something many of us take for granted. Our friends, especially our best friends, are always there. They sit next to us at lunch every day, they call us every night to talk about crushes and homework, they support us through our worst moments, they're just there. What we don't learn, what we aren't well practiced in, is how to maintain those friendships as our lives change. And sometimes the effort we put in isn't enough, and some friendships, even "Big Friendships," fizzle out over time, become something different, or are abruptly ended. And that can bring about hurt feelings and strong emotions. Friendship breakups are fucking rough.
Written by Call Your Girlfriend hosts and real life best friends Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, Big Friendship is about what it takes to maintain those weighty friendships, the ones that survive ups and downs, the ones that you hang on to through the good times and the bad. Sow and Friedman, best friends for 10+ years, chronicle the good and bad of their own relationship, their experiences in living in the same city and across the country from one another, and what they learned when their friendship came dangerously close to an end. I have SO many thoughts about this book and this topic, and could probably go on for pages about my feeeeeelings, but I'll keep things top level.
On the book's website, Sow and Friedman define a "Big Friendship" as "a strong, significant bond that transcends life phases, geographical locations, and emotional shifts." The authors have coined the term "stretching" to describe those changing life phases, those emotional shifts. "A healthy friendship involves stretches in both directions. When you're stretching, you're both making an effort to figure out how to adapt to your differences and to the shifting shape of your bond." Maybe one friend gets a new boyfriend and is less present, or another friend moves away for a new job and makes new friends. Sow and Freidman make the case that both people in the relationship must make the conscious decision to stretch in order for the friendship to work.
There are so many passages in this book I want to share with you. Many, if not most of them, are totally gut-wrenching, especially if you have had painful friendship breakups in your past, breakups that still weigh on you every day (hi that's me). "Acknowledging friendship's potential to be one of the deepest and most powerful relationships of our lives also means acknowledging something far more difficult: that its end can cut so deep that the scars might never fully heal." UGH. THIS.
Friendships are "society's most under-appreciated relationship," according to Sow and Friedman. I have to agree. I've made some wonderful friends over the past few years of my life, especially since I've moved to Portland and have re-defined what friendship means to me. And I'm still defining it. Making friends, or "bosom friends" and "kindred spirits" as my dear Anne of Green Gables puts it, is hard as an adult. Big those Big Friendships are so worth developing and nurturing because of the joy they bring to our lives. And when those friendships end, it can feel worse than a romantic breakup.
I said I could go on all day and I wasn't lying. I am so eager to have more conversation around this book, and I'd love to know your thoughts on Big Friendship.
P.S. Cover image from The Lily.