The Psychology of Friendship

The term Friend is defined as:

– A person you know well and regard with affection and trust.
– An associate who provides cooperation or assistance.
– A person with whom you are acquainted.
– A person who backs a politician or a team etc.

Sociologists have put a cap on the number of friends that a person can properly have at 150; despite some people on Facebook boasting friends in the high thousands.

The infamous words of Baz Luhrman’s “Sunscreen Song” always shine through when I think of friends:

Understand that friends come and go,
but for the precious few you should hold on. 
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, 
because the older you get, 
the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

A question that is on the minds of many however, is when to let a friendship end? Do friendships in fact come to end, or do they merely enter a prolonged status of hibernation?

Friendships are a precious thing, never to be taken lightly or for granted. Some require constant nourishment; others can lie dormant for elongated periods of time, and spring to life the moment choices necessitate. It takes a sharp mind to differentiate between such friendships, and those where one or both of the parties merely use the other at their time of need.

The problem however is that we have become too accustomed to giving out the label of friend to everyone that it has lost all meaning.

As with everything else, the internet has severely diluted the connotation behind the term friend, we apply it without bias to both people we have known since preschool, as well as casual acquaintances we came across during a holiday or so and will most probably never meet in person again.

For anything to be maintained there must exist a balance in the scales; a give-and-take, push-and-pull. Friendships do not abide by this rule, as it is quite common to cases where one person gives without limits, and the other barely reciprocates, or worse, does not reciprocate at all.

I am talking about the lost-puppy syndrome, filling someone’s life with attention and gifts on the off-chance that said person might take interest and reciprocate, trying harder and harder to make that impression where in reality, all you are doing is pushing that person further away, the proverbial grasping at straws. It happens in romantic relationships as well as platonic ones.

I once had a friend, correction; I have a friend who, as a child growing up, I considered my best friend. He was a neighbor, an ally on the “streets” (boys will be boys), suffice to say, a great childhood friend. We bickered and fought, as friends have a habit of doing, but beneath it all, we were solid.

Fast forward to a decade and more later, I would meet said-close friend coincidentally in a mall, and we would recognize each other, exchange pleasantries and phone numbers, promise to keep in touch, and be on our separate ways, knowing full well that I would neither call him, nor would he call me.

Why is that? Simply put, we have grown apart, we were friends from a young age for a very long time, but time, as it has a habit of doing, passes. The children grow up, and the folly of youthfulness is replaced with the toils of the day to day life.

People have a habit of growing apart; there is nothing wrong with that. What differs between different cases however, is the foundation upon which that friendship was built. I know that with this friend, should the need ever arise that he call upon me, or vice versa, that we would both be there.

Unfortunately, we sometimes pretend that that foundation exists in all our friendships, which is not the case. We seek to project the image we have of a friendship, and superimpose it upon the reality, drawing a veil upon our eyes and seeing the world as we wish to see it.

By itself, that is not a terrible thing, however, it is at times viewed as a sign of weakness that allows the so-called friend to take advantage of us. Those who have been stung by such friends will understand the gravity of the situation.

In the end, friendships are a precious thing. We cannot survive without them, it takes a wise person to know when to sever the cord of a parasitic friendship, and when to reconnect with old friends who are worth it. Live by the philosophy that everyone is a friend until the prove otherwise, but be savvy enough to read between the lines.

 Not every person we come across will be memorable in our lives, but they will play the role they are meant to play, and you will be a better person for it. – Aymz

 PS understand that in the above context, the word “friendship” can easily be replaced with the word “relationship”.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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