Monday, October 19, 2009

How Friendships Form

I'm glad people enjoyed the poem! So, we've delved a bit into how romantic relationships are initiated--Shades of Gray also wrote a post recently that described the process in a way that made a lot of sense to me. It seems like the same factors for romance-- being in the right place and time combined with chemistry-- are similar to how friendships are initiated. I realize that I've never written about the topic of how friendships are formed. So here it goes...

I've realized that the making of good friends does not depend on the length we've known each other or shared interests. I've also realized fairly recently that even though I might want it to be otherwise, not everyone is going to become my best friend if I just put in enough effort. A friend is not a close friend is not a best friend, and people don't seem to move easily between categories. Despite the prevailing "wisdom", I've never been able to make friends simply by joining groups or doing activities. As a kid, I met my best friend because we happened to be sitting at the same picnic table. As an adult, friendships don't seem a whole lot less random. They've always seemed as dependent on the right time/place and chemistry as romantic relationships might be. Just like romance, there doesn't appear to be any formula for friendship, either.

I've realized that you can have an acquaintance for years who never really becomes your friend, even though on paper they might look like they should be. It also seems like people are more open to new friends at certain times in their lives, and you have to catch someone at the right time. If you do, you can stay friends with that person even if they move away or get busier later. If you don't, the friendship just isn't going to happen, no matter how much the two of you might share. That's why you aren't going to make friends from joining things alone. Of course, you have a better chance of making new friends if you meet new people. But it sometimes seems like you have to meet an exhausting number of new people (there go the thoughts of an introvert) to make one friend. Making friends (and maintaining friendships) is not always easy, especially for adults who are out of school, and deserves as much discussion as romantic relationships get.

I wonder if technologies like Facebook are changing the way we view friendship at all. I know people that have 300, 500, 600+ friends on Facebook, and I'm sure they wouldn't consider all these people to really be friends. But it's strange how a "friend" can either be the most important person in your life or someone you hardly know. I wonder how other people define friendship-- do you call someone a friend based on length known, amount of time spent together, sense of connection felt, mutual interests, the fun you have, a sense of accountability, shared past, or something else entirely?

*Thanks to the writer of Edge of Everywhere for the conversation about friendship, among other things (and good company in the extreme cold)!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you read Brideshead Revisited? Among other things, the novel is about what the author terms a "romantic friendship" (non-sexual) between two men--one gay, one straight. They meet at university and the author sets it up very well, with the narrator going along, studying every evening with his group of "friends" (which he later discards) but he feels like there is something missing in his life. Then he meets Sebastian.

Later on in the book, the two have a falling-out and the narrator enters into an unhappy marriage. When someone asks him why he married his wife, he said that he was "missing Sebastian". It's the first time I'd ever read a book where it was made plain that friendship was apex of relationships and that marriage was a kind of next-best-thing.

-Sarah T.

Siggy said...

I think I must have very different friend-making habits than you, because I disagree with most of this. I find that people do easily move between categories, though it's mostly situational (ie how often our paths cross). I've had long-time acquaintances suddenly become best friends, and best friends suddenly disappear from my life. I guess it's not a common occurrence, but it happens. Otherwise, how would you make best friends? They don't just become best friends as soon as you meet them, do they?

I've also found that for me, groups and activities really dominate my list of friends. Also, I can't say that I find it exhausting to meet lots of people in order to make only a few friends. It actually sounds like fun to me.

Ily said...

I haven't read the book, but the movie has been on my Netflix queue forever so maybe I should bump it up.

Well sure, I can only speak for myself here. Although, if you're in school, I think the process of making friends is pretty different from when you're out of school. I wouldn't say I make best friends instantly, but I feel like I tend to get a pretty good idea early on. Not like I'm judging people prematurely, but if that "chemistry" is there, it's usually there from the start with someone.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Sebastian's gay? Really?

The movie is apparently a pretty twisted version. Basically, the book is one rambling fictional biography, while the movie (I have heard) cuts it down to only two plotlines, and simplifies and asexually represses* them.

I never really thought of that book in terms of asexual freedom, but I can see how it fits.

*finally used that term in a sentence. Doesn't quite scan, but I don't care.

Ily said...

Great term!

Anonymous said...

re: Brideshead, if you're talking about the 2008 movie...? I didn't watch it because I heard that they were going to focus on the main character's relationship with Sebastian's sister and just shove the relationship with Sebastian out of the picture (asexual repression, indeed!).

I would highly recommend the 1981 miniseries they made of the book. It follows the book very closely and the acting was superb (Lawrence Olivier was in it as Sebastian's dad). Great musical score, too.

-SarahT.

Katie said...

Given that we've had some conversations about friendships recently, you know that I feel very similarly about making and keeping friends. I spent yesterday morning signing up for all sorts of groups on meetup.com, but after an hour or so I was more stressed out and lonely than before when I realized just how much it was going to take to even meet one person with whom I might end up being friends. For us introverts, Siggy, making friends is a very emotionally/mentally taxing endeavor.

Ily said...

Heyy, Katie! I guess the thing might be to do activities that you would have done anyway, whether you were attempting to make new friends or not. Then even if you don't find anyone you really click with, at least you did something you wanted to do anyway? I dunno, it's tough. You inspired me to check out meetup.com for my own town, and I found that there is actually a dive bar group-- but that 92 people are set to come to the next meetup--how are they even going to fit in the bar? Hmmm...

Noskcaj Llahsram said...

I have 63 friends on facebook, -2 fictional people, -5 familly, -~10 enemies (keep 'em close after all), -6 people I met once or twice when I went to the States school, before I got deported, so ~40 actual 'friends', almost all of which can only be described as casual at best.
As an introvert, I just don't get it I don't seem to pick up on, I dunno what they are signals? body language? subtext? I would use the phrase "it's all greek to me" but to be honest, I actually understand ancient greek better. The fact I can't afford a cell phone, also seems to be a hit to whatever social life I would/could/(should?) have

Lanafactrix said...

I'm with the introverts. I have no trouble joining groups and having fun with them, but I haven't made a new close friend since college, and I've never tended to make good friends through activities.

Willian said...

Dear Ily

I am a Brazilian journalist writing about asexuality for a women magazine and found your post about the Pride Parade. Can we talk about it? I asked David J for an interview, but I am afraid he's too busy. So I'd love to have your mail or phone numberto ask a few questions. Please, can I?

Best regards.
Willian Vieira
(vieira.will@gmail.com)

Himmel said...

I haven't really made new friends since grade school (in college now). I mean, I've picked up a couple over the years of highschool, but only one or two that are really close. I do find it odd that if I really want to be friends with someone, and I try really hard, it doesn't always work out. And then sometimes I just hit it off with someone (odd for an introvert like me).
Great post, I had never thought about friendships in this way before.

Alcinia said...

I totally agree that forming friendships take just as much consideration as romantic relationships. I have found it very difficult to make a sustaining frienship since graduating high school and college. My closest friends are the ones I had since then. I think often friends and friendships are taken for granted because we assume if someone is a friend then they should just be there when we need them instead of thinking about the time, effort, and energy it takes to make that relationship last just like any other.

edgeofeverywhere said...

Oh goody! I just saw this now. I agree that friendship deserves as much discussion as romance; after all most people hope to have lots of friends and (usually) only one partner.

It does seem like it takes meeting an exhaustive number of people in order to get one real friend out of it! It's frustrating the way friendships that seem like they should work out or get closer often don't.

I'm definitely interested in hearing more of your thoughts on what constitutes a friendship and what differentiates a good friend from a close friend from whatever other kinds there are.