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Is Work Hurting My Friendships?

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ENVY

In a word, yes.

As I go through my address book to write my Christmas cards, I realize that there have been many changes this year in my relationships.

Sadly, several good friends have died and as I see their names in the book, I am reminded of happier times and of how much they meant to me. But there are other friends who have become more distant, or with whom I have nothing in common anymore and that makes me sad too.

Why do friendships wane? When I look at the friendships that have cooled over the past year, and there have been a few, obviously the one common denominator is me. It isn't a comfortable thought that perhaps that I am the one who has changed; that I was the one to cause the rift.

Much of it does have to do with my time, or lack of it, to invest in friendships. Running my business is all-consuming and friends who are retired or not working just don't always understand the time commitment involved, and may take my lack of involvement as a personal slight.

When I first started Company of Women I knew I could be a bit of a bore with my excitement about whom I had met, or what I had just learned. I like to think I have toned that down because I found that some friends were not at all interested in what I do. But because my work, rightly or wrongly, is so much a part of me, I start to feel invisible and think that they are no longer interested in me.

I guess that is why I value and treasure the friendships I have made through Company of Women. These women are also business owners. They get it.

Friendships are a bit like a teeter-totter. You need two to make it work and when one is up, the other is down, but it is constantly shifting and you get your turn. But when you get together and one person dominates the conversation and you can hardly get a word in, then you do have to question whether this one-sided relationship is worth it.

Don't get me wrong -- when someone is going through a rough patch, of course the focus is on her. It is all about supporting each other. But when I go out with a group of girlfriends I like it best when we all get to "share the air," with everyone taking a genuine interest in what the others are saying.

It's just those small gestures -- a quick email or a phone call that make all the difference. It makes you feel warm and cozy inside when someone cares enough to remember important events in your life. For example, this fall one friend drove three hours to hear me give a talk. She knew I was nervous and it was comforting to have her there in the audience.

Doing business with a friend is not always a good idea either. I know that one friendship has gone sour because of money. I like to believe I am someone who is very generous -- with my time, my friendship and with my money. But when someone takes advantage of me, then I am pretty unforgiving.

If you are doing well and the other person is not, jealousy can raise its ugly head, eating away at the bones of the friendship until they are raw and bare. And while I hate to speak ill of my sex, sometimes with a group of women it feels like we are back in high school. Well, I've graduated and want no part of it.

Friendships are like gardens. They have to be watered and weeded regularly and I guess I did a lot of weeding this year. Yes, having my own business took its toll in the friendship department, but there were other factors too, like moving to the country.

But clearly I need to focus my energies on nourishing my garden and on planting new flowers; otherwise I could be looking at an empty flower bed and that would be really, really sad.

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