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Can't Talk | July 15, 2020

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How I Became A Low Maintenance Friend

How I Became A Low Maintenance Friend

I like to call myself a low maintenance friend. I don’t need constant attention, I’m not causing or wanting to get involved in personal issues that run rampant in people’s lives, I’m the quiet, low maintenance friend that is there when you call or text, perfectly capable of picking up right where we left off the last time we hung out. The last time could have been yesterday, last week, last month, or even several years; I am always ready to pick up where things ended.

Many people outside my few close friends (you can actually count them on one hand) don’t understand that, so I wanted to explain this concept of mine because many of you may know someone like this. You may think them aloof, at best, or completely detached and uncaring at worst. Speaking for myself this is not the case, and I suspect that it isn’t for most people. I care deeply for all of my close friends; I would stand up for all of them unquestioningly as I believe in their character and ability. I just don’t need to spend large amounts of time with them to validate my feelings or theirs.

I wasn’t always like this, although I’m sure when it started around the time my son was born and I certainly shed a good number of friends as the process of parenting took over. Previously, I had a much larger circle of friends and spent a great deal of time with all of them. I was the quiet one they all turned to for sober advice, a sober ride home, and a shoulder to cry on. As demands on my time grew, I needed to start setting boundaries—I had to work, I had to spend time with my son, I had to sleep. Those that kept getting the same advice over and over again soon found themselves getting much blunter responses than the enabling platitudes they were used to. What they heard instead was that they had made a poor decision, or that I had already advised them on how to handle their issue and now they needed to do something about it. Soon those calls and text messages mostly stopped coming in. The messages that did come in now were from people a little more like me—low maintenance.

The two that remained (that number has since grown) respected my time, my opinions, and when they asked for my advice on a problem they took it; there were some cases where they didn’t but they would never ask for the same advice again unless the circumstances had changed. I was amazed. I didn’t need to spend my free time solving their problems and could focus on my own (and they were numerous). I had problems  taking my own advice but, when I needed them, my low maintenance friends were there to listen to me, advise me, and give me a swift kick in the ass too, all without judgement or condemnation because we knew that if we weren’t going to listen then not to ask again.

I spend a lot less time with my close friends than I’d like; work, family, school, and other life events get in the way. As I approach 38, I expect this will get worse rather than better. One friend has moved to a different city and, while it isn’t a long drive, his work hours are erratic and it make finding time more difficult. Another works full time and has his own family and plenty of his own activities after work that keep him busy, which makes finding time to just hang out challenging. Even when I have a night set aside for Pathfinder with my friend Alex I find that the weather (I work snow removal in winter) or school have been interfering with that. While I feel some regret over losing all of this time with my friends, they are low maintenance people too. They understand and they know that we will be able to pick right up where we left off; whenever that happens to be.

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