What Are Your Friendships REALLY Made Of?

 signs of a healthy relationship

What friendships are made of...as told by my friends.

My boyfriend makes fun of me because of the lengths I go to in order to define my relationships. No, I'm not referring to a weird friend version of the "what are we" discussion, but with both romantic and platonic relationships I like to define them as they feel to me. When we first started dating, he told me he had a double digit amount of friends, which blew me away because I have about....three. Sure he's incredibly easy to get along with, fun, and funny, but I couldn't understand how someone could really have twenty different friendships.

The contrast was how we defined our platonic relationships. For me, the labels coincide with how much emotional effort I invest in them. For him, "friend" is more of a blanket term that he uses. I adhere to my labels, but I have no real defining characteristics besides how the individual makes me feel. The categorization or lack thereof was interesting to me. For example, I don't think to define friendship by time spent or even proximity. Hell, Kendra is my best friend in the world, and she has lived in a different time zone than me since 2010. I can't even say that shared experiences drive it. She and I are nearly the same age, but her life certainly took a different course than mine.

My mental gears continued to turn on the topic, so I decided to see how other people did or didn't define their friendships and what better source than my own friends. Before, we never actually talked about our expectations of friendships, so the discussion was pretty enlightening to me. Was I measuring up?

I asked my girlfriends how they defined a "friend" and here's what they said:

 

I don’t use “friend” as a blanket term anymore...I used to.
— Kendra
I use ‘friend’ as shorthand to describe a relationship but I consider magnitude when I use it. I’m closer to some people more than others. So I may say ‘friend’ because it’s shorter than saying associate, or to mean ‘I enjoy this person,’ that doesn’t mean I’ll come to you for advice though.
— Ky

Then, our discussion veered into a deeper analysis, as they often do. We started discussing what defines a healthy relationship because we've all had our fair share of dysfunctional friendships right? Here's what my girls had to say:

Respect, good communication, admiration, trust, and the ability to share fun.
— Kendra
Deep & profound intimacy, transparency, reciprocity, acceptance, and mutual interest. However, I don’t think all friendships would be like that or require it. It depends on what I want from that person and if it’s the same thing they want. I’ve had unequal friendships where we didn’t want the same kind of friendship or I thought we had a certain kind and it turns out we didn’t. Healthy relationships, including friendships, come from a place of wanting the same things.
— Ky

 After my various conversations, I stand even more firmly on my conscious decisions to label my relationships. I think that labels are important, that they define expectations and they'll continue to be led by my feelings. I can not see you in person for years and still feel close to you, or I can see you every day and feel like our interaction is only superficial. One person is my friend....and the other is something else.