When I was about 20 I took time off from friendships. I had a few older friendships that I maintained and nurtured, but overall I had very little in the way of friends. The choice was calculated. For years I had gotten into weird friendships where I felt taken advantage of or that were deeply disappointing in one way or another. We moved from New Mexico to Montana and I decided to take some time to really figure out what I expected from a friend and what I wanted to give as a friend.
For nearly two years I made no new friends. That's not to say I wasn't friendly. Eric and I were involved in our town, I chatted with colleagues, was friendly with acquaintances, but that was where I left it for some time. Eventually I organized my thoughts and expectations. I felt like I was ready to pursue friendships.
I knew what I wanted from a friendship:
•I wanted friends who were smart, interesting, funny.
•I wanted friends who were independent and honest.
•I wanted friends who were thoughtful and kind.
I also knew what I didn't want from a friendship:
•I didn't want someone who had loads of problems that they wanted me to fix. Look we all have problems, and friends should be able to vent and support, not fix.
• I didn't want friends who took advantage of my kindness.
• I didn't want friends who had no self-confidence.
Once I identified those things and trusted myself to stick to my rules (I had/have a tendency to allow my sympathy overrun my better judgment) I knew that anyone who didn't meet that criteria would not be a friend. So I began to pursue potential friendships. Over time, by following those guidelines, I began to make some really amazing connections with friends.
Since I set those parameters for myself I haven't rid myself of people who try and take advantage of me, but I am more able to identify people as friend or someone who just needs/wants compassion. I can give that compassion more freely when I don't confuse those people for friends. It has also given me a ton of confidence to stand up for myself.
Now I have a really amazing group of friends. All of these people in my life are really special gems that I have found, by following that set of rules for myself all of those years ago.