Friendship – Ready? Set…Go!

5.7.15 FriendshipWe would rather be hungry, go without sex, and suffer many similar hardships rather than be lonely.  That’s how ingrained the need to bond with others is.  And of course, no one wants to die alone. We are such social creatures.

Loved ones, family or friends, are the crux of our being and bring much of the meaning to what we do.  How to benefit others and make the world a better place is a worthy goal to our existence.  Even if the world is defined as our little corner, consisting of just 1 other person, it makes a difference.  At the heart of love is friendship.  And sometimes the act of extending ourselves in friendship to another or others can be hard to do.

Friendship is defined as “a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people” with the key word as “mutual”.  If only one side likes the other, and the feeling is not reciprocated, one person alone does not a friendship make.  The “relationship” concept is also key; it takes two communicating with each other to be in a relationship.  Anything lacking the relationship component is not a friendship, it’s an acquaintance.  Someone you pleasantly know, who knows you also but doesn’t know you well, a “hi” friend, more accurately labeled in business as an associate.

Friendship is a relative term depending on which side of the friendship you’re talking to.  One person can describe the relationship as bosom buddies while the other person can be thinking that the same relationship is simply one of convenience.  This misconception frequently happens in varying degrees because we would rather fool ourselves than believe we are not likable (remember the dread of loneliness).  I once was surprised when an OK friend described me as her best friend. Because with the BFF label comes responsibilities, which I wasn’t prepared to own.

For some outgoing people, making friends is easy.  For others it’s hard.  And for some it’s close to impossible and more than a little painful.  We are not taught how to make friends in school.  It’s just assumed that as little kids we somehow know how to make others like us.  My daughter was having a hard time making friends in 1st grade, which I recognized and stepped in to remedy.  I picked out a best friend from her classmates, and then sent snacks in her lunchbox to share only with the chosen one.  Later jump ropes and small toys were added to the mix, with the same instructions.  Did it work on a 6-year old?  Absolutely!  You can buy the affection of almost anyone, at pretty much any age.

 

But over time as they changed schools the friendship faded and distance plus changing personalities inevitably drifted them apart.  OK, so the foundation wasn’t solidly built on personality, but at least it got her through the tender developmental years.

So how do you make friends, without resorting to bribery, especially as an adult?  To make friends you have to open yourself up to be vulnerable.  This could put you in a world of hurt if the feelings are not reciprocated.  But that’s part of what it takes to bond with another person.  It also takes being authentic, being true to yourself – not pretending to be something that you’re not.  Another open avenue to getting hurt – what if the person doesn’t like who you are? …And the crippling insecurities rise up and swallow your self-esteem.  A third prerequisite of friendship is a genuine caring for the other person.  In the social/selfish balance, to gain a friend worth having requires thinking about them and their needs ahead of your own.  (Similar to being a parent.)

Kids have a pretty easy time making friends.  But as we get older, it’s harder and harder to make good friends.  “Hi” friends are easy enough, but we truthfully only have time for a handful of close people in our life, and as we age, all our available slots are already filled by existing relationships.  It’s said that if you die and can count your good friends on one hand, you have lead a rich life.  So 5 slots and you’re out of room to add any more good friends.  Deep relationships take up time to cultivate, maintain, and nourish properly.

Like a garden, every relationship needs weeding every so often, or complacency and taking for grantedness settles in.  You turn around one day and wonder who this person is that you don’t recognize anymore because you haven’t kept up with the changes that time brings to all of us.

So the friendship is at the end of its cycle and it’s time to call it quits. Throw in the towel.  Move on.  But unlike a marriage that ends in divorce, we don’t formally divorce our friends.  We just let the friendship fade away.  Softly and slowly without fanfare, but definitely.  And the point here is to make the decision to let a friendship go.  Think about what you are giving and getting from a relationship that is on the ropes and then make the conscious decision to fade or fight.  A rational decision is so much better than the default option of “oops!  Forgot about you over there in the corner and now it’s too late to salvage the friendship.”

What if you want to fight for a friendship but the other person is in fade mode?  You can address it head-on and maybe a direct conversation about what’s not happening with the friendship may be enough to jolt the person back into action.  But usually it’s a sign that things have changed and this friendship has run its course.  No messy breakup, just at the end of the friendship cycle.

Some friendships never end until the big D ends them.  A friend of mine had a best friend for 30 years who died and left a huge void in her life.  It was nearly impossible to fill the emptiness and a large depression set in.  Although several of us tried to fill the gap, even after several years, the withdrawal persists.  Vulnerability is a bitch.

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