I don’t have any friends. I have acquaintances, co-workers, and relatives. That is pretty much the extent of my social circle. I’m not one of those extremely needy individuals that simply MUST have someone to text, call, or facebook every waking moment. I understand that these people constantly crave attention and acceptance, and simply cannot entertain themselves, I am just not one of them. I would rather have 1 close friend that I can trust implicitly (in today’s world full of liars and cheats) than 100 faux friends that I only text to get the latest gossip, inflate my ego, or pass the time. I have had several BEST friends throughout my life. My preference has always been to have one really good quality friend that I have a deep connection with rather than a larger circle of friends. Over time, my tendency was to drift farther from my friends and closer to my significant other. For many years this arrangement worked perfectly. We had couple friends that we did couple things with and she had a best friend that she did best friend things with. I tried to have a best friend during that relationship but it ended badly (reason # 212 why I do not form close friendships in the workplace anymore). It was during this time that I had to learn to ENJOY my own company. All of my friendship was poured into this one person. Then it ended. I lived in a relationship bubble for so long that when I was finally ready to break the bubble, I was alone. I didn’t have any friends to help me move, offer support, or let me crash on their couch. Sure, I had people that I would talk to on a regular basis, but no one that I felt comfortable asking or accepting a favor from. I guess the UP side was that without close friends, starting over in a new city was super easy for me. It reminded me of being an Air Force brat and moving frequently. We never got too close to people in those days because every residence was temporary.
I have tried to cultivate friendships. I’ve offered to assist people I know with various tasks, sent thoughtful messages, extended invitations for lunches. It never seems to “stick”. I always seem to be the one that does the “work”. I can’t recall the last time I got a phone call, text message, or even an email asking how I am doing, yet I frequently reach out to others. Perhaps I am a bit jaded. I remember talking with someone that I considered to be my best friend. I asked her, “who is your best friend?”. Imagine my surprise when she responded with the name of someone she barely knows and rarely sees. I was crushed. I obviously was way more invested in our friendship.
Maybe after all the years of NOT being a friend, I forgot how.
I always thought I was doing the right thing by making my partner my priority. Isn’t that the whole purpose of being in a committed relationship? Could my romantic concept of being the most important person in the world to each other flawed? Is it not supposed to be us against the world?
We spend a minimum of 8 hrs a day working and a maximum of 8 hrs a day sleeping. Factor in an hour each for the daily commute, exercise, and necessary grooming. Don’t forget to add about an hour for each meal (including prep time and clean up). The other 2 hours likely are for errands and chores. When am I supposed to carve out time for friends? I have just always felt that whatever time is left should belong to my significant other.
I was partially right. Of course I needed to set aside time for my partner, that is my main priority. However, expecting someone to spend every free moment with only you is controlling, smothering, and needy. When we widen our social circle, the benefits are countless. The time spent with other couples enable US to grow as companions. We observe the actions of our friends and how they relate to each other as a couple. We can adopt their positive attributes, and avoid the pitfalls of the ones we deem negative. Often we can identify unfavorable habits in others much easier than we can see them in ourselves. How many times have you and your mate gone out to dinner with a couple and later discussed their behaviors? I just hate the way Jim interrupts Jan while she is telling a story. I couldn’t believe Mary divulged those personal things about Joe at dinner.
Somewhere I read a quote that said something like not every friend is worth the hassle. Wow, that really struck a chord with me. At the time, I had been enormously disappointed by a close friend. She hadn’t done anything specifically TO me, but her choices made me question her values. I didn’t really know her as well as I thought. I was deeply hurt because she didn’t live up to the person I THOUGHT she was. She wasn’t the only friend that had hurt me. At the time, I had suffered a long line of betrayals and disappointments. I considered myself a giver in a close knit circle full of takers. I realized that when I needed something/someone I had NO ONE to turn to. Sure, I have heard, “we can get through anything together”, but the truth of the matter is that I could never collect on that promise. Those were just empty words, that were never really meant for me. I had to rely on myself, find my own resources, trust my own advice, wipe my own tears. It is an accomplished feeling to know that you made it through the darkness alone. But, it doesn’t have to be that hard.
We all need friends.
Define what “friend” means to you. That is how we become a better friend, by recognizing what we want in a friend.
Make sure your expectations are realistic. Sure, we all would love to have a rich friend that whisks us off to Paris for lunch, but that isn’t realistic.
Keep in mind the commitments and priorities that we all have…families, jobs, homes, etc. Sensibly decide how much time you are willing to invest and how much time you can expect in return.
Don’t discount a friendship because it isn’t conventional. I hate talking on the phone, but I will text you to death. I may not always be able to go out for dinner but a quick lunch is always feasible. We may live too far apart to visit but we can Facetime.
Keep in mind your interests and personality. For example, I don’t drink or go out to bars so it doesn’t make sense for me to befriend a 20ish party girl that is in the club every night.
Find like-minded cohorts with similar values. As an animal lover, I am not going to have much in common with someone who dislikes dogs. I’m not a physical fitness buff so a gym rat is probably not my ideal pal either.
Don’t discount friends because of their flaws. I still maintain relationships with those people that abandoned me in my time of need because I now know what to expect from them. Not everyone is capable of being supportive or attentive or even compassionate. That doesn’t mean that they have nothing to contribute to the friendship, I just know that I can’t count on them if I am in crisis. I can still enjoy a meal with them, share laughs, and be their rock.
Different friends serve different purposes. We all need that shoulder to cry on, our emotional stability. Everyone needs companionship, someone to go join us for dinner and a movie. A bitch-buddy is also a necessity, that one person that we can gripe and complain to without judgement. Each friend has a different duty. You don’t have to get all of your needs met by just one person.
We don’t fully realize the value of friendship until we reach out and there is no one reaching back.