What Makes A “Friend”

Have you ever noticed that some friendships fade off without you even realizing it? There are people that you gradually see less and less and your life really isn’t much different without them. Before you know it, you haven’t seen or heard from them in years and you’ve kind of forgotten about them. I’ve had many of these over my lifetime. They seemed to be friendships out of convenience. We worked together, we lived next to each other, our families were friends…something that just made it convenient to be friends. It was great while it was convenient and they were lovely people, but once the convenience was gone, so were they. It makes me wonder if they were really a true friend at all. Were they really more of an acquaintance? Exactly what is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and have come up with what I think is a great distinction. If they add value to your life, they’re a friend. If they don’t, they’re an acquaintance. But what does that mean?

You may have noticed that you have some friends that when they’re missing from your life, you FEEL it. You notice their absence, you crave time together, you have things you need to tell them. There is something about them and their friendship that adds value to your life. In my mind, this is the meaning of a good friend. If they add value to your life, you’re going to miss them when they’re not there. You will feel the void. Likewise, you add value to their life. I really don’t think you can have a true friendship unless that trait is reciprocated by both of you. It has to be a two-way street. I have had people that I believe saw value that I added to their life. They loved having me as a friend. However, they didn’t reciprocate. I got nothing from our friendship. I gave and gave and gave until I was blue in the face…time, emotions, empathy. In return, I got a demand for even more attention, more time, more effort. It’s exhausting. On the flip side, I have had people that I REALLY wanted to be friends with! I thought they were gorgeous, funny, exciting…and I tried my hardest to fit in and be everything to them. They gave nothing in return, and when I look back, I’m not even sure I was really even adding value to their life. It was more of a desperate attempt to fit in. What a waste of everyone’s time! Those are the kind of relationships that I don’t really think qualify as a friendship. To me, that’s a close acquaintance. You may know them well, but you don’t have a true friendship going on.

Now think about your friendships. If you have a “friendship” where you feel like you are the one giving all the time and you’re not getting anything in return, I want you to really stop and evaluate that. What are you doing in that relationship?!? Self-care is a big, hot topic nowadays and I honestly think evaluating friendships and only keeping the valuable ones is a form of self-care. To be honest, it could be that that “friend” is just not that into you. You might be working so hard to be a good friend that you don’t see it. Don’t waste your time! Or it may be that they’re super self-absorbed and don’t want to invest in somebody else at that point in time. You don’t have time for that! It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, they’re a bad person, or that there isn’t a friend out there for you. It just means that this one isn’t the best fit at this point in time. Down the road things may evolve and you’ll fulfill a need for each other, but right now, your time and efforts are better spent elsewhere. Now think about your friendships.

Now think about this: Do you have a hard time making friends? Do you feel like you don’t really have anybody that you would consider yourself close to? This is going to be tough to stomach, but stop and think about your interactions with people. Are you actually adding value to people’s lives? Are you fulfilling a need that they have? It’s not enough to just do random things for them that you think a friend would do…it has to fill a void that they currently have. They might have more than enough friends that they can call and chat with or get advice from. They might not need another friend who will laugh about motherhood with (though really, don’t we all need more friends for this purpose?!?). Or think about this: Are you a Debbie Downer? Are you constantly looking for sympathy, recognition, pity or reassurance? These people are ridiculously hard to keep around. Trust me, I’ve had several of these in my life and they’re exhausting. They bring you down and don’t want anything more than to be recognized for their crappy circumstances. If this is you in a current relationship…STOP! We all need good friends in our lives, but friendships don’t just happen. They’re two-sided and both sides need to benefit from the relationship. Clinging and expecting somebody to like you as much as you like them without a reason is not a friendship. You’ve got to give them a reason to want to be your friend! Don’t sit and complain about friendships not being what you want them to be. Usually there’s a reason and it’s not that hard to figure out. If a friendship isn’t what you want, it’s either because you’re not adding value to their life or they’re not adding value to yours. Find somebody that’s a better match. Don’t waste your time or energy trying to force it! You shouldn’t have to work that hard. None of us have time for that in our lives!

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