“Observe and listen for the truth in a relationship. Friendship is a responsibility towards another person. It is made to last”.
What have we learnt about the way we make friends, keep friends and change friends during the COVID pandemic? It is natural to want to have relationships with other people, to feel connected, to be part of a community. There is nothing like enforced separation to cast light on the relationships that matter. How seriously do we take our friendship making? How do we know we have a real friend? Given that social connection is such an important part of our lives, why is it that we seemingly make “friends” in such a random way?
Building a community of friends provides support and a sense of belonging that is critical for our mental health and well being. And yet, our needs for friends may change over time as will the needs of our friends. During these turbulent times we want to be sure we are authentically connecting with people and genuinely caring for them and they for us.
Consider the “fair weather” friend for instance. They move on when the weather changes, we stop hearing from them when the going gets tough, they feign emotion when they see us. We can feel disappointed and let down when they stop contacting us. The whole experience can feel fake. But didn’t we know that about the relationship all along?
Consider “falling” in love. To fall in love suggests that we have no control over what relationships we “fall” into. They just happen and before we know it, we are in a romantic or intimate partnership without really having reflected on how we got there. It just happened. No where is this notion of ‘friendship without responsibility’ so obvious as in the case of infidelity.
It is not always easy to decide what sort of relationship you want with a person when you meet them – there are so many variables and uncertainties, such that it may be easier to absolve oneself of all responsibility for making the connection in the first place. There is also the risk of getting hurt or hurting another person. If you’re not sure if you want commitment to friendship, or you have unconscious fears, your ambivalence may likely attract someone that is not right for you or is unable to commit emotionally.
How often do we mistake the early signs of a love relationship for reality? The bliss of infatuation and early connection with a person you are attracted to can lead you to feel playful, expansive, euphoric, in bliss. Some people even get married at this stage of bliss before they have really gotten to know the other person and faced the realities of everyday life with them. So much more work is required to really build a lasting relationship.
So how to build the foundations of friendship with another person? Get to know the other person and apply care and compassion in getting to know the other:
- Observe how your friend treats people – especially those with less power than them
- Notice the range of emotions expressed in the friendship: can you or they show sadness, joy, disappointment, pleasure etc.
- How do you and your friend listen to each other? Is there give and take?
- How do you and your friend set boundaries in the relationship and with others?
- What are the expectations and values expressed in the relationship?
- What can you and your friend share with each other? What do you feel safe to share? Can you have fun and laugh together?
- Imagine you are with your friend in a war zone. What would you do for each other?
- Can you extrapolate from everyday, examples of virtues in your relationship such as courage, justice, fairness and honesty, kindness?
Check in with yourself before entering a new relationship. What are your intentions? What in this person are you attracted to? Are you entering this relationship with integrity? How do you know you can trust this person?
Friendship takes time. Being able to answer some of these questions is a start towards building a friendship. The beginning of friendship requires us to explicitly evaluate our motives, values and expectations in the process of getting to know each other. Observe and listen for the truth in a relationship. Friendship is a responsibility towards another person. It is made to last.
Start Anew Friendship today!