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What do you consider a 'friend?'

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    What do you consider a 'friend?'

    What do you consider a friend? What does friendship mean to you and what are your boundaries? Do you have levels, like 'acquaintance, friend, best friend,' or is it more black and white? Or something else?

    This topic is hard for me. I usually feel things out moment to moment, and "close friends" end up being people where it's still going strong after many years. We work through issues thoroughly, but expediently, since we both have many things we'd rather be doing than talking about the friendship. Most of the time, the connection is enriching and productive, focused on things wider than interpersonal dynamics between "us."

    And therein lies the rub. I don't want to spend too much time thinking about friendship. It feels claustrophobic. So I start backing off when there's too much reason for me to think about this.

    By default, I don't think much about trust, because my general sense is that I don't need anyone and so, I can just enjoy the moment. I can spill my soul, others can spill theirs, and the flame may ebb and flow. I don't measure who is giving or receiving more - when I need to focus on my business, I do so, and I explain this to the other party if needed. But if I'm with someone, then it means I want to be there. I am wholeheartedly present, and I'm not seeking anything in return. Or at least, that's what I think, at the time.

    However, there are some things implicit in the exchange - like basic humanity and respect - and when those are violated, that's what makes me say "hmm, is this really a friend?" It takes a LOT for me to feel that way. And when I do, I not only feel hurt over the insult itself, but also, that I'm wasting my fucking time emoting about it. This pisses me off more than the actual offense since it's something I have control over and I prefer focusing on that which is in my control. So my anger gets directed outward in a pretty immediate way, and the residual anger gets directly largely toward myself. I work to reshape myself so that I won't be subject to this kind of bullshit again for a while. My wires must have been crossed if I allowed humans to matter at all, especially the type of humans who would disrespect me so easily. And I'm going to open up the motherboard and put my wires back in place so I can function more optimally. I'm a fucking machine.

    I don't care that people in general are mad at me, or even hate me. In fact, I get off on being the leader at the forefront, taking the heat for the group. What bothers me is that if the haters include people I love, I get emotionally involved in navigating the morality and betrayals, and this is suffocating. My energy is all wrapped up in bullshit when my real life's aims lie elsewhere. It makes me want to ditch humanity altogether. Too much interpersonal involvement feels like a spiderweb weaving itself around me ever so softly, until I find myself cocooned and helpless. At this point the only thing I can do is pull out the claws and rip the entire web of friendships apart.

    The fact that I even find myself thinking about this stuff makes me feel claustrophobic. Who can be trusted and who can't, who is a friend and who isn't, who is talking to who about what when and why, etc. It sounds like one big screech of static noise, clogging my ears, obstructing the rhythm of my own heartbeat. It's so fucking.. small. And there's no room in all this for ME. I am too big, too vast, too expansive for their itty bitty world.

    But at the same time, I still have love for specific individual people and that's why I think about it. Because blatant disrespect from people I invested in, actually fucking hurts. And the more this cycle goes on, the more I feel the need to distance from the social sphere altogether, lest it devour me whole.


      That someone is a friend implies to me that I have a good connection to them. That I feel a sense of comfort around them, that I feel I can speak my mind around them without problem. For me there needs to be a certain sense of emotional vulnerability, friends have to be willing to share about themselves. Not at every point, but at some points at least. The closer the friendship is the less I care about receiving returns for the efforts I put in. If they don't reciprocate my efforts, that's fine and depending on how much I desire a connection with them I will either put in more effort or just let it go.

      Things that are detrimental to maintaining friendships:
      • Other people betraying my trust
      • When I'm used as a mere space for venting
      • Other people not being capable of self-reflection - I am very forgiving, but, sometimes the only way some people learn is by letting them sink to the bottom on their own and getting out of there on their own strength. Afterwards I will be more than ready to support them.
      • When people act like asshole and do this consciously
      "Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism.
      Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations."



      • Animal
        Animal commented
        Editing a comment
        'When I'm used as a mere space for venting'
        I will say something about this, as someone who might be on the other side of this. A lot of the time, I am pleasant, open hearted and want to be there for other people's problems. But when I get hurt and start venting, it can go on for a period of time because I feel things incredibly deeply. I wouldn't want anyone to feel used, so generally I do this in a group chat setting rather than laying it on one person; this way people can ignore me. I have never once complained about being ignored, nor pressured anyone to be there at a specific time.

        It seems to me that most other people kind of... question their emotions, waffle, hold on to resentment for a long time, etc; whereas I go in to the extreme and then come out the other side. So I could be perceived as "using people for venting" if they just focus on my actions for a short period of time. But really, I don't expect anything back. And if someone would say "Hey sorry I can't handle all this venting," I'd stop immediately, no questions asked, and never hold it against them provided they said it in an empathic or direct way rather than intending to kick me when I'm down. (And even the latter, I wouldn't hold on to anger. I'd probably just tell them, dude, ouch lol - and then move on.)

        But a lot of people keep this stuff to themselves and then secretly seethe in silence, which makes me feel like my very self (my intensity, passion, rawness, honesty) is being rejected. It would make more sense if they just stated their own needs and boundaries, OR just ignore me til I'm done but don't hold it against me. Unfortunately I find out more and more that they're sitting there measuring me and making judgments that aren't being communicated to me.

      I've been on both sides. I have both seethed in silence and spilled my guts in copious amounts. In the past both my silent seething and my venting sessions could continue on to such degrees it started to seriously bother my friends. The friendship with a good friend of mine started of with us pretty much only venting to each other and reacting to each other's vents. That was fine for a long while, but eventually something has to change, because just venting won't sustain a friendship and besides it's depressing. Listening to someone vent one-on-one and lending an empathetic ear is emotional labor I'll gladly engage in, but it tires everyone out, if you continuously have to play that role.

      The amount of issues caused by a lack of communication is truly immeasurable. Sometimes though, people are unable to communicate their judgements because of their own issues, which is not a justification for their behavior, as I do believe it would be far better if people would communicate clearly. Some don't want to lose face, some aren't really in touch with their emotions, some are just assholes and some don't have any guts. I any case, even though it might feel like a rejection of you (and your self) I think it's mostly an issue that related to them and their ability to communicate.
      "Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism.
      Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations."



        Vive So true, communication is absolutely key.

        I was hurting the other day, but I'm feeling better. In retrospect, rereading my post, it read like a bad case of social last. I'm a particularly bad case, I think, because I also have minimal attachment influence compared to the average person. So I kind of 'get by' through ignoring it and just dealing with my relationships one at a time, doing my own thing, and never actually learning the rules of wider interpersonal engagement - but having real deep love with a few close people, which kind of masks the problem. I can be a good leader or loner, but not a good 'average person' who is just 'part of things.' In that position it's like my heart is singing but my tail is collecting dirt that I don't notice, until suddenly my whole body is bathing in it and I'm choking on it. Perhaps social firsts and seconds, or people with more attachment, or both - would know when to groom their tail to avoid this.

        Click image for larger version  Name:	bd756b4ee806d0bbb8df2cdefe04d64d.jpg Views:	0 Size:	110.0 KB ID:	4876


          Well, it's a feeling of... sharing a close bond and mutual affinity and you feel you can talk with them about anything and have a good dynamic with them. It's not too different from how I see romantic relationships, but romance is more... steamy as well.


            Originally posted by [redacted] View Post
            Well, it's a feeling of... sharing a close bond and mutual affinity and you feel you can talk with them about anything and have a good dynamic with them. It's not too different from how I see romantic relationships, but romance is more... steamy as well.
            Fully support this opinion


              To be honest, I don’t really make friends that easily…at all. I’m a true hardcore loner, and I don’t really consider most people friends. I don’t build a “friend tier” per se. There are just different people in my life.

              So I don’t really have “acquaintances”, just people I deal with every day. They aren’t much different to me than the general public, except they’re the public that I see repeatedly. But I would seldom say anything like, Oh hey, they are my acquaintances. It would be more like, This is my coworker, this is my landlord, this is the guy I talk to on the way to work sometimes, this my favorite waitress in this restaurant, this is that person I exchange farm goods with. Etc. I don’t think of them as acquaintances, I think of them as functions.

              I guess I would consider anyone who knows me and can get along with me and even take it a step beyond that (eg, hanging out sometimes, doing activities together, mutual affinity) to be a “friend”—but most people never get there with me. I’m not sure if that’s more that I push others away or if there’s just something wrong with me that makes me dislikeable. I don’t really reach out or start conversations with others and tend to inadvertently end other conversations by being overly concise and to-the-point. But I don’t know what else I am doing wrong. I used to get very depressed about it as a child and young adult, but approaching middle age, I think I’ll take my freedom instead. Friends come with a lot of obligation, sacrifice, unspoken expectations, time demands, disillusionment, and hurt.

              And here’s a thing that’s been bothering me lately that I need to vent. Every time I go out of my damn way to honor a budding friendship—like spending time doing some dumb thing I didn’t even want to do, tolerate their endless words about themselves, support them in their crises even though I CANNOT HANDLE PEOPLE’S EMOTIONAL SHIT, or simply refrain from saying what I *actually* think of their politics/clothes/opinion/whatever, etc—every time I do that, they STILL chuck me away like so much refuse. It has happened 3 times this year alone. I guess I do something wrong—one second I’m giving 110% of my limited reserves to the relationship, the next I’m being cast away because of some ultra-minor petty infraction (let me recount them here: I asked a friend if she ate some rolls I bought for both of us and now she refuses to talk to me again, I liked another friend who wasn’t cool enough, “I’m spying on her”—code for “I asserted a will independent of hers”, I got mad one time, someone better came along, my period started and I couldn’t join them for dinner…etc…any time I show one ONE-MILLIONTH of what is really going on in my own mind, it is an instant dealbreaker to people). I don’t think my boredom with the initial stages of friendship shows on the surface—I keep a big smile on and accept everything they say, give HOURS of undivided attention, maintain a cheerful façade, and am very open and accepting of them. It is never about me—I make it all about them. Others have commented on the way I’m treated after showing them such kindness so…idk. But I don’t think I’m conveying disdain to them or anything.

              I hope you can understand why even though I have no friends, I am no longer motivated to start. What is the point? I’m not good enough for anyone. Being nice and acting against my own grain gets me nowhere. Sacrifice doesn’t help build a relationship. Reaching out gets me smacked away. I don’t have the right attitudes, the right reactions, the right ethic, whatever. I don’t deserve friendship I guess and tbh that is just fine because I don’t want to waste time on any of them, either. Like I literally vowed a couple of weeks ago, after being accused of being a spy, that I was simply going to refuse anything other than polite hellos from now on. From ANYONE.

              But you know…there actually are some people I know pretty well, and have known for years, and I still don’t really feel a deep bond with them. I feel like I’m just sort of going through the motions and being polite (hence, not my real self) just like I said above. Moreover, literally all of them are in different countries—Australia, Wales, Brazil, England, Germany, Portugal. We keep in touch, and I call them my friends…but God, what kind of relationships are these really? I don’t think of them when I think of friendship (hence why it took me multiple paragraphs to even reference them). I don’t really lean on them emotionally. We don’t hang out. When we talk it’s just about normal stuff. Yet there is sort of a bond there that endures and I remember them fondly from time to time and reference them to others. So I guess they are my “friends”. The people who I haven’t managed to make hate me.

              Still, the part of this that sucks for me is that I know it will all go down in flames if I put a single toe out of line. It is only a matter of time. I can’t be my real self if I want friends. Understand my dilemma—friendship is eternal discomfort; loner-dom is comfort. I’m an extravert who needs people; yet sanity precludes people. All things considered, I guess distance-friendships are the way to go.

              I guess I consider a kind of “best friends” status to be the only thing I’d consider a “true” friendship, actually…people who hang out together, share everything with each other, are conjoined at the hip, etc…yet I only had that as a kid. You’d have to be a sister (or brother) to me to attain that title…and well…even my own sister doesn’t really keep in touch with me. A best friendship would mean I would have to be my real self and of course, we all know that no friendship survives that. So it seems very improbable that this would occur as an adult and tbh, I’m not sure I have the energy to keep pumping into potential friendships when the return I get is always so minimal. So yeah, I feel like I have no friends because according to my definition of friendship, I actually do not. I'm no longer sure this is a bad thing.


                I think about friendship a lot and I take a systematic approach to it, I guess. In general, my friends are people in my life who I like, who like me too, who I take time for outside of requirements like work (and who take time for me as well), and who I trust to the degree necessary for the parameters of the friendship. The criteria can get more specific than this but that's basically a bird's eye view. The levels of closeness vary but I tend to define the parameters of each friendship on a case by case basis.

                I think, like romantic relationships, friendship comes with responsibility and it's important for me to define clearly what those are even just to myself. Not every friendship is going to come with the same expectations and responsibilities. From some friends I think we're bound to each other by support. If a friend is struggling I'll be there for them and do what I can for them, and if I'm struggling I can expect the same. But the levels of this differ. For my partner (who I still count and perceive as one of my friends), our level of support is frequent, involved, and intense. Apart from trauma that neither of us really want to talk about outside a controlled setting like therapy, we talk about pretty much everything no matter how distressing, and the level of support and space for processing we give each other is much higher than in our other relationships. For some friends it can be pretty involved too, sometimes daily depending on what's going on. With others, unless there's some kind of crisis, they aren't the people I reach out to and I don't expect them to reach out to me either. I literally can't provide that level of support to everyone I like, and I don't expect that level of accommodation from everyone.

                Support is one factor, but it's not the only one that I take a very conscious approach to this way. It's also important to note that while these factors can impact how I perceive my closeness to someone, it doesn't always preclude closeness. Some of my closest friends aren't the people I turn to for support (and they don't really turn to me). I learned a long time ago that just because you talk to someone a lot and know a lot about them it doesn't mean they're your close friend.

                I do have a few people I consider to be my best friends, which isn't defined by much of a particular metric so much as just a strong feeling I have toward them and the perception that that feeling is reciprocated.

                Another factor I recently came to define after the last person I cut off (a couple of years ago... I am doing pretty well at keeping friends lately!) is how interesting I find them and how curious I am to know about them and their world. I realized before that I sometimes would keep people around who I didn't actually find interesting at all, but they found me interesting and so would indulge me by participating in the things I wanted to do and basically let me use them as an audience... I wasn't doing it consciously at the time, but I've decided since then that I shouldn't be friends with people who bore me and who I have no curiosity about. It's not fair to them and it always eventually gets annoying for me. I hate being in the situation where people like me more than I like them, which used to happen a lot.

                I'm trying lately to expand my criteria for how I choose and consider people to be my friends because I don't really have a lot of friends and I want to make more, but I'm not compromising on the basic principles of taking time to think about my different friendships, what they mean to me, and what I'm willing to put into them and expect to receive from them. I see a lot of people lately complaining about people who view friendships as transactional but I think being honest with yourself and setting boundaries is kind, not cruel, and ultimately produces healthier and more fulfilling friendships (for me, anyway). I'm always a bit baffled that people can understand the importance of defining responsibilities and expectations in romantic relationships but think it's dishonest and utilitarian in friendships... if you consider your relationships to be a commitment, then it shouldn't be a strange thought that one might rise better to the responsibilities of that commitment if those responsibilities are clearly defined.
                Last edited by inkreservoir; 09-21-2021, 10:08 AM.


                  What do you consider a 'friend?'

                  someone who would contact me after a long period of time.