This Is A Shout-Out to the Low Maintenance Friend.
She’s been on my heart lately and I just wanted to take a minute to tell her how much she means to me. Maybe she’s been there for a moment. Maybe for a lifetime. Or some stretch of time in between. The length of our friendship does not define the strength of it.
Referring to a friend as “low maintenance” might even seem off-putting, considering its definition, but hear me out.
- requiring little work to keep in good condition.
How Does Your Garden Grow? High Maintenance vs. Low Maintenance Friends
I am the last to make garden analogies since my thumbs are far from green. But I have memories of orchids growing in the kitchen window of my childhood friend’s home. Her mother had a collection of them. They were beautiful; prominent shades of purple and pink with lush green leaves. The main attraction, they made themselves known to all who entered the room. But I also remember the amount of effort they required. In order to flourish, they needed specific sunlight, frequent watering, and chronic attention. Orchids seem to me to be about as high-maintenance as they come.
This spring, I was pleasantly surprised when several clusters of daffodils popped up out of the ground in my garden beds. Planted by the previous homeowner, I hadn’t even known they were there. They’d been hidden away all winter, overlooked and absent. Yet they still made their way to the surface. They’re not the limelight of my landscaping, admired by every passerby, but when I catch a glimpse of them, I am grateful for their presence.
You Belong Among the Wildflowers
The low maintenance friend is the daffodil. She is the one who has stayed, even in my absence. During the times when I haven’t reached out, or I’ve neglected to check in. When I feel like I’ve failed her, there she is, still loving me anyway. Giving me grace when I don’t think I deserve it. Reminding me that she’s not going anywhere, that her friendship is not conditional.
I think we could all agree that any good friendship requires “work” to continue to bloom. I’m certainly not advocating for the one-sided, selfish kind of friendship that lacks accountability. We must tend to our friends with honesty, kindness, compassion and generosity. But this friend, the “low maintenance” one, is hearty. She isn’t fragile. She is empathetic and forgiving and embracing of humanness.
And these types of friends are hard to find, especially when marriage, motherhood, ambitions and obligations are bound and determined to take center stage.
Stuck in the Middle
In my youth, the low maintenance friend was a rare breed. Ever the people-pleaser, I found myself trapped too often in triangles. Made to choose between friends and then guilt-tripped because of it.
Whose science partner would I be today?
Which girl would I sit by at lunch?
Who would claim me first as their designated playground playmate?
I dreaded going to school. Prayed that one side of the triangle might be absent so that I could breathe in the merciful default of decision for just one day. I even begged for sick days to avoid them altogether.
Anytime You Need A (Low Maintenance) Friend
From outside of the triangle, she watched it all go down, but she stuck it out with me anyway. A low maintenance friend in the best of ways. With her, there was no exclusivity, no blaming, no demands to be met. She declined to exist among friends who only chose her, accepted her, loved her, on the condition that she chose them solely in return.
She’s the one who pulled me up and out and helped me find my footing. She was a friend to all, and she still is. And after all these years, she’s still here, rooted in that idea of true friendship.
The formation of my friendships has grown with me over time. I’ve walked through the ups and downs, but haven’t we all? Isn’t that true about everything and anything? Perfection doesn’t exist within any relationship. We’re human and we make mistakes. We grow together and grow apart. Sometimes, friendships become casualties of our changing landscape of life.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
From time to time, I’ve looked up and found that I’ve fallen in with the high maintenance crowd again. With those who have demanded of me, expected from me, and accepted me conditionally. It’s not a habit that’s confined to my youth, apparently.
Each time, I’ve sifted through the guilt; my bewilderment over unintended offense. Each time it has drained the self-esteem and confidence right out of me.
And now, I watch my son grappling with his friendships, too. He voices his worry over not being accepted for what he wears, for how he looks, or for who he is. So, I do what any parent would and I preach to him about the importance of choosing friends who value him not because of how well he fits a norm, but for how well he chooses to live in his own skin.
But what I really want to tell him is to seek out the low maintenance friends. Actively. To find the people who will stay in his corner without expecting that he will bend over backwards for them in ways that real friends would never ask of him. That if he finds these friends, he’ll be set for life.
Build Me Up, Buttercup
And then it hits me. I realize how surrounded I’ve become by friends who boost me and build me up. And because of this, all power is sucked away from those old triangles that used to have their way with me. And each woman in my life, each low maintenance friend, she’s part of my infrastructure. She’s woven her place into my fabric with intention and purpose.
If it takes me a week, even two, to text her back, she forgives me.
Should I have to reschedule plans with her when life gets in the way, she understands.
When it’s been months of absence, we can find our way back to each other without awkwardness or hurt feelings.
She tells me to stop apologizing so much, that it’s ok.
Around her, I am myself without fear that I’ve misspoken or misstepped.
She’s also waded through life’s murky waters, and maybe she still is, and she gets it. She knows the messiness all too well, and she isn’t holding my struggle to keep it all together against me.
Lean On Me (Too)
And on that note, it is my duty to bestow the same low maintenance grace back upon her. Always.
To relax if I see the bubbles pop up momentarily under the text I’ve just sent her and then I don’t hear from her for days. LIFE HAPPENS.
To be flexible if she cancels our coffee date the morning of because her needs have changed for the day. LIFE HAPPENS.
If she’s been absent for a season, to welcome her back readily and wholeheartedly and reassure her that I haven’t thrown in the towel. LIFE HAPPENS.
I hope you’ve got at least one low maintenance friend in your life, too. Take a moment to think about who she is. Send her a text, tell her you love her. Drive over to her house and give her a hug. Let her know you’re not giving up on her, either.
Check out this article from The We Spot for another perspective on friendship: “I Got You, Babe: Creating Authentic Female Friendships” by Marti Bruening
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates