The Committed Friend Conundrum

I was discussing with a friend over lunch about friendship, and here is a conundrum: is it right to always follow your own wishes, notwithstanding who’s around you? Or should one think of his friends, take care of the relation, also when you’re not really up for it?

Friendship doesn’t come for free. We spend time fostering these relationships. Sometimes it takes years to meet, choose, feel close to, and eventually be surrounded by people that share a similar thinking, or some interests with us. Then, sometimes happens that friends get into a serious love relationship, or get married, and they kind of “disappear”. I mean, not like they disappear for good. That happens too but I am discarding this as a not such a good friend kind of thing. It is also perfectly normal that being committed in a relationship leaves us less time on our hands.

It’s not that. I am talking about their presence disappearing, their spirit in a way, at least the way you were used to it, the way you wanted it to be, because it was adding something to your life. Suddenly, work is stressful, the girlfriend/boyfriend wife/husband/family situation is stressful, time is limited, and the people around you are so strained about everything else that when they hang out with you, all they need is to switch off the brain for a while and take it easy. It looks like the interesting discussions, shared interests, the confrontation and personal development, everything that makes a shallow relationship into a meaningful one, are suddenly not on the plate any longer.   

I guess this is just something that happens. But how to react? It’s spinning around my head because I’ve been called a cynic over this discussion. I don’t mind, not the first time won’t be the last. What really bothers me is to be called a cynic preemptively, after one tiny sentence, without listening to what’s troubling me. 

Anyways, after this, I must say brief conversation, two visions emerged. One way to look at the problem is to relativize it, and apply extreme subjectivity. Following this reasoning, I should think about myself only. I have the right to do what I want, when I want. I can’t be forced into behaving in a way that I don’t feel up for. So, to put it simply, screw the nice conversations and the personal development and anything that was treasured in the past. The situation has changed, these is how I am now when I see my friends. I just need to switch my brain off, deal with it. 

The second vision, for which it seems I am a cynic, is that people could find a way to have a committed love relationship without the need to grab onto it for every single need they have (for then complaining with their taken for granted friends when the relationship goes to shit). It’s not like it’s the end of the line! I am in a relationship with someone I care about, whom I love, I am in a good place. Fine, I am happy for you! That doesn’t necessarily mean this person becomes the only repository of my thoughts, feelings, curiosity, and possibility to grow as a person. It doesn’t mean I have to stop putting some energy in other meaningful social relations, if only to keep them alive.  

Don’t get me wrong! I am a big fan of relativity. From Einstein’s spacetime to the whole plethora of human perceptions, to take the meaning of this word in a broad sense. There’s so much that can be considered relative to a certain moment in life: ideas and perspectives change. Being aware of this is part of growing up. Even what we see, feel and remember is not immune to our own perceptions.   

If we apply extreme subjectivity however, we also run the risk that everything looses meaning vis-à-vis the others, because everything can be subjective, with no exceptions, and consequently it becomes easy to discard something that in a certain moment in time does not feel so important to us. That something might be hard to get back, would the situation change again. Meaning might not be easy to build again. Moreover, by looking at it this way, it seems to me that we’d take a very utilitarian perspective: friends are as good as the time I spend with them satisfies my needs. Once the need is gone, the use is gone. Perhaps this is how it works, it is certainly logical, but isn’t it also extremely cynical? I can’t help but thinking: is that all there is? 

I believe there’s something more to relations among people, something imperceptibly present that escapes logic. Affections. Mutuality. Respect. Hidden realities, reasons, that helped building trust, often without us realizing it. And these are strong ties. I do agree that there are different moments in life. Everyone has the right to pursue the best possible way to find peace of mind and soul. Each his own way. But I also believe that there is a kind of responsibility where there have been ties, a need to take care of them. The alternative is to consider ourselves no more than objects. A legitimate thought, but one that I don’t really like. 

Change might be inevitable, but can be managed, sometimes with very little effort. It hurts loosing people. Not only in love, all people we have felt close to. It’s certainly some shit everyone had to learn how to deal with in life. It might hurt only for a while, the time to adjust, or for a long time. It might just leave a bitter memory, or a huge hole, bringing long term consequences in the way we perceive and relate to the others, especially if we don’t understand. Whatever it is, it hurts loosing people. 

And to think that one word could make the whole difference. I can’t tell how to deal with this, I don’t think there’s a rule that fits all situations. I have certainly found myself in many places, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, most often somewhere in the middle, as categorizing is nothing more than an intellectual exercise, and rarely grasps the intricacies of real relationships. And yet, I think a word might make the whole difference. 

Perhaps it is a matter of being able to communicate, when this happens. How many times this kind of situations went by in complete silence, as if there was no need to say anything? How many times have we imagined conversation that never took place? We do talk so much, but it’s so hard to express to others how we feel. And one more time, this kind of talks are most of the time left to the realm of love. So, perhaps that’s where an effort is possible. Not all the time, of course. At the end of the day we want to have fun with our friends. But when we feel something is going wrong, we might want to give it a shot. When we are in  a good place, feeling confident, we might look around ourselves, and if there’s some friends out there, friends that perhaps we put aside for some reasons or unintentionally, we might try to drop a word, wave our hand, give them a sign that we understand what’s going on. And we might change a troubled day into a tranquil one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.