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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Can't We Be Friends?: A Thesis on Types of Friends

Recently, I saw a few friends that I hadn't seen in years.  Actually, the last time I saw them was before me and my ex split up for good.  They were nice enough and all, so I have no complaints about anyone individually.  However, it felt like there was a serious disconnect.  In conversations with a number of people over the years,  I have heard stories of them 'losing' friends when they've sobered up, split up, stop working somewhere, stop going to school somewhere, stop going to church somewhere or had their significant other passed away. Unfortunately, to me this points out a painful question: were they ever really our friends?

(Updated 7/16/19)

I guess I would split people in our lives into a few categories:

  • Transactional Friends
  • Acquaintances
  • 'Friends' of convenience.
  • True friends 
Transactional (or For-the-Moment) Friends:

  • This is the most shallow type friendship/relationship.
  • People you meet for a limited time, typically sharing an experience together such as meeting in line somewhere, meeting at an event, etc.
  • Get to talking to kill the time, to kill the drudgery, to be heard or to flirt.  
  • Most of the time there is an unspoken understanding that the 'friendship' will last as long as the situation lasts as you aren't necessarily seeking a new interpersonal relationship.  If there isn't that understanding, the inevitable separation can be awkward.
  • As long as you understand the limits here, these types of 'friendships' can help your well-being.  These are the fill-in-the gap friendships that can make you feel 'heard' without all the overhead or 'expense' of a deep friendship.
  • I noticed the way my daughter growing up would go to the park, camp, etc. and meet other kids for a bit.   She would say, I made a new friend even though the 'friend' wasn't usually going to be a lasting friend, but instead a 'for the moment' friend.

  • You don't really share much in common.
  • Without a connecting person or people, conversation can be awkward, especially conversation of any depth.  Therefore, when the connecting person/people are gone, this 'friendship' can end VERY abruptly.
  • This is what I consider a 1D friendship.
  • Examples: Friends of your spouse aka marriage friends, friends of the larger group who you never hang out with alone and friends of friends.

Friends of convenience:
  • Are friends who will hang with you if you happen to share a situation or vice in common, but aren't interested in you beyond that.  In other words, they like that aspect about you or commonality, but aren't interested in anything else about you.  
  • They like you for what you can do for them.  I would call this a 2D friendship.
  • They can't be counted on, when circumstances/situation changes such as sobering up, changing jobs, stop attending church somewhere, etc.  In other words, there is an expiration date on the friendship - once the 'benefit' or convenience isn't there, the friendship dies off quickly.
  • Examples: work friends, school friends, bar or drinking type friends.

True friends:
  • Are friends that like you for who you are, not what you can do for them.
  • They are friends with you, no matter where you are, no matter what life circumstances change around you.
  • They may take from you--such as bending your ear--but they are cognizant of your needs too.
  • Are truly form a 3D friendship with you.
  • Examples: friend since childhood, friends who have experienced similar traumas, etc.

Each type of 'friend' has a place in our lives, but it is up to us to recognize the role they have in our life.  I believe where the pain comes in sometimes is 'losing' someone who you thought was a true friend, but turned to be a friend of convenience or a associate.  The pain can also come in when you might someone and think they could develop into a true friends, but are only a transactional friend. In other words, too much was expected of that person.  The expectation vs. reality was way out of sync.  I have found the best way of dealing in friendship is to recognize them for what they are and not to push them for what they aren't.

Just my thoughts on friendships.

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