By Dr. Trask’s COM 252 class
Feature photo from Unsplash
Interpersonal Communication is the ability to identify, connect with, and analyze interpersonal communication concepts by engaging in critical reflection, engaged discussion, and applied learning. To achieve this objective, over the course of several weeks, our COM 252 class will attempt to help our MCK students by providing advice and suggestions for creating and maintaining healthy relationships. The goal is to synthesize the content we have learned from this class, the class text, research, personal experiences, and write for public consumption.
My childhood best friend and I decided to attend the same college. We met through our youth group at church when we were 11 years old and later we attended the same high school. We attended dances together, never drank, and had a ritual of watching Disney movies every Saturday night. We were inseparable. Both of us had goals of going into college. We both had dreams of becoming nurses and were so excited to be roommates, sharing the next chapter of our lives. At the start of the year, things were going well. We were both on top of school work and continued our Saturday night ritual. However, things changed when my best friend started hanging out with a boy in her class. It started with her choosing to spend our homework time with this boy rather than me. Then she started to miss movie nights to spend the night at his house, and that turned into her partying with him on the weekends. Now, I barely see her, she’s falling behind in school work, and parties even on the weekdays. It seems that we have different priorities and are slowly losing the connection we once had. I do not want to lose her, but this boy had caused a disruption between us. How can I fix this?
Clinging To What Once Was.
Dear Clinging To What Once Was,
The second your parents say their goodbyes to you on your college move-in day, you are immersed in a new world of freedom and independence. However, like everyone’s parents have said to them at least once in their life, “With freedom comes responsibility.” College freshmen are responsible for making the decisions that they believe will lead them to a successful future. So, you choose if you go to that party tonight your friend told you about or not, if you get out of bed and go to class or not, if you spend your money on drugs or spend it on food, or if you change your major or not–these aren’t always easy decisions, so inevitably there will be screw-ups, regrets, and missed opportunities. But, these experiences all contribute to the formation of your best self.
College is all about self-discovery—you learn new things every day, you pursue new passions, and, ultimately, you find your place in the world (don’t worry, some people take longer than others). To me, it sounds like your friend is jumping right into that pool of self-discovery.
Sometimes, you just have to let people figure things out on their own. The best thing you can do as a friend is to show her acceptance, care, and support. Don’t try to dictate her actions—it will only push you further from her as she will feel like you are against her process of self-discovery.
If you believe that her recent actions are unhealthy, the first step I would take is to simply check in with her. Ask her how she’s doing, how she’s feeling, if she’s okay. Make sure she feels supported because acting out of character is often a sign of a repressed issue or negative emotions. But, maybe she has no deep-rooted issues, and your friend has been hanging out with this boy and partying more simply because she wants to. In that case, all I would do is have an honest conversation with her. Let her know that you’re concerned about her grades and her overall health. Listen to her story, her reasoning behind her choices, and her current priorities. Define what you both want from your friendship.
Remember, a friendship connection can naturally fade, and that’s okay! Some friendships just aren’t meant to last forever. People’s values and ethical beliefs can change, so you and your friend’s respective journeys to your best selves just may not collide. However, for as long as you accept her, care about her, and support her, your connection will never die.
Floyd, K. (2021). Interpersonal communication (4th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Romig, S., & Howard, K. (2019) Coping with stress in college: An examination of spirituality, social support, and quality of life. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 22(8), 832-843.
Walther, C. A. P., Pedersen, S. L., Cheong, J., & Molina, B. S. G. (2017). The role of alcohol expectancies in the associations between close friend, typical college student, and personal alcohol use. Substance Use & Misuse, 52(12), 1656-1666.