A closer look at friendships

 

I am a real friend person. There is something very attractive about spending time with other people on a purely voluntary basis. Each of my friends is special and unique, and I treasure them all. Let's dive in and find out a bit more about friendship and why they matter.

 

What makes a friend a friend
I have a friend who is so intrinsically funny that she makes me laugh like no other. Sure, I can have serious conversations with her too, but somehow these always end on a lighthearted note. My friend is gifted with an undeniable and undefeatable sense of humor and I love her for that. I have another friend who is amazing at many things, one of them being multitasking. When she came to visit me the other day, she rushed in, covered my couch with electronics and started transferring stuff from her to my computer, installing Apple TV for me and asking me how I was doing - all at the same time! I’m genuinely impressed with her.

Friends see each other as special and they accept and appreciate the other for who he or she is. They voluntarily share a certain degree of intimacy, mostly on a social, mental, spiritual or an emotional level. What most friendships have in common though is a mutual respect, trust, a certain loyalty, the willingness to understand each other as well as maintain the relationship for an undefined period of time. Also, friends tend to feel connected to each other and find themselves on equal ground somehow.

Different kinds of friends
I care about all of my friends. I genuinely like them and wish them all the best, but I don’t share my deepest thoughts and feelings with all of them: that’s my best and closest friends’ prerogative. My best and closest friends are either those I have known for a very long time or those I connect with on a very deep emotional level, or both. Then there’s friends I share something special with, like having fun, making us seek out pleasurable activities like seeing a movie or having a beer at a cafe, or with whom I always go sailing for a couple of hours after work during summer or whom I love to discuss the deeper meaning of life with. My relationship with these friends is not limited to just one aspect though; it just tends to focus on a particular activity or mutual interest more.

The level of friendship two people have can also vary. Though friends both have to agree on being friends, the degree in which they value each other can differ. This inequality or imbalance if you like can be a very sensitive issue for some, especially the part who expects more from the friendship. I once had a friend who told me I was her best friend whereas I didn’t even see her in my inner circle of friends. And I have had a friend who said we were good friends, but he never ever contacted me, it was always me taking the initiative. Personally, I prefer more equal relationships, but I realize that one of the beauties of friendship is the freedom it encompasses; we choose who we want to be friends with and we choose what we are willing to put up with and accept – or not. 

Changing friendships
I have known one of my best friends for more than 30 years and you know what, we’ve never ever had a fight. It’s not like we never disagree, but our characters just seem to match flawlessly which I can’t say of another old friend. He and I have had our share of arguments over time and things can really clash at times, but somehow we always manage to make up, moreover it feels that after we have cleared the air we end up being better buddies than before. 

Through time or events, the bond between friends can grow stronger or weaken and sometimes friendship ties are cut completely. Some friendships die only to be revived again years later, some go through a lot of ups and downs and some seem to come along just fine. Some friendships are not meant to be while others end as a love relationship. Why, almost anything is possible in friendship! 

What keeps a friendship alive, and what makes it interesting in my view, is the capability to grow with the other person, to change with him or her and to keep your tolerance level at an all-time high, especially if times get rough. We are all far from perfect, so yes, very likely you will make some mistakes in your relationship with a friend or friends. I know I have. But real friends stick around and real friendships will survive minor and sometimes even major mishaps all depending on how solid the basis on which the relationship is built, and of course also depending on the emotional and mental stability of those involved.

Why friendship matters
Friendships that empower you and your friend in any way, are worth having. A friend can make you feel good, safe or supported or even challenged in a positive way. He or she can make you happy, understood, seen, heard and even loved, and vice versa.  Even though friendship is colored by, for example, culture or gender the basic principles in friendship remain the same; it has a central function in our lives, it shapes us and it forms an essential part of being human. True friendship makes you feel alive, it can teach you things you didn’t know about yourself so you can learn and perhaps even become a better person, but moreover it offers you the opportunity to connect with somebody else and share a part yourself.

Sources used in this article: ‘The Meaning of Friendship’ by Mark Vernon and ‘Vital Friends’ by Tom Rath.