Friends without Benefits

Friendship.

What is it. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to your friends? Are the two definitions the same? What if they weren’t, would you change your actions? Would you expect or hope for them to change theirs?

Words have different meanings throughout time. Words evolve. I cannot say what the word “friend” meant in past generations. I can say what I was led to believe the word meant as a child. I can tell you what I think it means now. That definition would vary from yours, most likely. It would vary between each of my childhood “friends” as well.

The best I can hope, is that my definition of friendship matches closely to the people I care for… and that my kiddo can learn from that example how to be a friend and what to expect from a good friend.

Over the years I’ve noticed something, though. Being a friend comes pretty naturally to children. It’s growing up that screws us up — it’s like our skill set disintegrates with age.

I’ve noticed some old friends (on Facebook) share similar thoughts on dwindling friendships. We all seem to know what we want while simultaneously unable to give to others their needs. We’re all waiting for the other party to show they’re “serious” about the friendship. We want the results without the work. We only want to work if we know we’re getting the payout. We’ve put in the work too many times without payout, and now we’re all jaded.

So, to my darling kiddos, if you are reading this 10 years down the road and are wondering why your friendship isn’t being reciprocated I have a few suggestions:

  1. Know what you want/need from friend.
    • My suggestions?
      • Someone who knows wants to know what is going on in your life (frequently)
      • Have at least one similar interest (real interests here. Pizza isn’t an interest. Hobbies are, religions are, past times are, politics are. you get the point).
  2. Once you know what you want, put a mirror up to it.
    • Are you willing to do each of those things too?
    • Don’t just web stalk them to keep-in-touch. Call them, visit them in person, go on a movie date, if text is all you can do… make it count.
    • Ask THEM what’s going on in their life, how their day was.
  3. Don’t require too much.
    • Require kindness.
    • Require love (or equivalent affection word of your choice)
    • Require consideration, and give it in return.
  4. Never let boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, kids, or work get in the way.
    • No excuses. You have time for the people you care for — because you make time. Hell, go grocery shopping together, do homework together, carpool to (wherever) together… you can work 5 minutes into your day for friends
      • (and damn it, they can make an effort to do the same. If they don’t seek you out for that 5 minutes, then that’s a red flag too).
  5. Finally, and this might be most important, so pay attention: If they cannot give you the same consideration as this minimal list then don’t beat yourself up for moving on. You can love someone and still love yourself enough to have standards. Friendships are not (constantly) one sided. Everybody has slumps; we all need to lean on each other from time to time. It is OKAY to expect to lean on their shoulder in return. You should NEVER feel guilty for that.

We’ve become accustomed to friendship without benefits; A friend is a picture with a name next to it on a website. We all deserve better than that. We have to be willing to give better than that too.

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