Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 31: The "Friendship" Myth

It’s my last official night of the Summer Blog Challenge. As I mentioned previously, I will be continuing on with my challenge through September, blogging at least once every two days.  I have decided to do this because I a) am really enjoying the release that comes with my nightly purging writing exercises, and b) because there are many topics that I really wanted to take on but simply didn’t have the time to complete the necessary research or to invest the kind of time that a post of that nature would necessitate.  I have made commitments to myself to write on certain topics that are dear to my heart including a letter to a ‘new’ friend on why I think she’s great, a post for ‘Make Jen’s Day’ recounting a good deed that I have been planning, and a long awaited post on my struggle with being a practicing Catholic in today’s socio-political dynamic.  These are all topics that I am 100% determined to write on, but I need the extra “in between” day to really do a good job them, hence the “every other day” goal.

I have thought long and hard about what my last official post of the challenge should be. I had planned on writing on a completely different topic, but after opening my facebook and seeing the same quote shared by at least three of my friends (and dozens more in the past few weeks), I feel the need to address a topic that has been burning at me for quite some time. I’ve hesitated to write on it for fear that it might make people feel defensive…

But, hey, might as well go out with a bang, right?


There’s an internet “meme” that been pissing me off lately. It’s everywhere I look, shared by half a dozen people a week. And it is seriously annoying the hell out of me.

What is it you ask?

Here it is, in all its overly-simplistic, hipster glory:

"Real Friends don't come with "Fragile" stickers...They are not easily scared off, turned off, or ticked off. Real friends are cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die, fair-and-foul-weather, good times and bad times, fifty-fifty, tell you anything, trust you with their life and deepest secrets. Real friends are there for you through thick and thin and love you no matter what!!!"

On the surface, it seems like such a nice idea; such a beautiful description of unconditional friendship.

But here’s the thing: There’s no such thing.

It’s time to blow the lid off one of the biggest myths of our generation.

Contrary to what Facebook and stupid memes like this would have you believe, friendship is not unconditional.

Nor should it be.

Every friendship has a line- a fine line- that distinguishes the stuff that you are willing to put up with from the stuff that you simply can not. This is not only inevitable, quite frankly it is necessary for our own survival.

The problem with the quote above is that it only works if the relationship is perfectly reciprocal. You need to be the kind of friend that you are expecting out of others.  And very few people out there are capable of keeping up with the terms of this kind of social contract indefinitely.

I’m a good friend to many.  I’m a great friend to a select few.  I am a crappy “friend” to about 80% of my facebook “friend” list, most of which I struggle to find time to see and talk to on a regular basis.  This isn’t because I don’t care about them.  It is because we ultimately have only so many hours in the day, and “real” friendship- especially the kind listed above- is a HUGE time commitment. I would even go so far as to say that it is an impossible expectation to place on another human being. Unconditional love is a major demand.

There is only one person that I have vowed the kind of love and commitment that this quote would demand from me, and that is my husband.  And even then, let’s face it- 1/3 of marriages fall apart because one of the two (or both) was unable to keep up with their end of the bargain.

I’m also going to take this one step further and state that I’m not sure it’s healthy to unconditionally love someone else.  We need to have barriers and limits on what we are willing to accept, otherwise we run the very real risk of finding ourselves in abusive situations.

I love my husband and my child, as close to unconditionally as I can love another human being. But if ever our relationship were to turn physically or emotionally abusive, I would have no choice but to sever the ties out of the need for self-preservation.  And I am a hell of a lot more committed to my family than I am to 99% of my friendships.

I love my friends. We are good to each other and treat each other with respect.  But if these relationships were to become one-sided, it would become incredibly difficult to maintain them. 

I’m not saying that there won’t be times in every relationship where the balance is thrown off and one person gives more than they receive in return.  This is, sadly, a reality of life. We don’t always treat each other the way that we would like to be treated, and there are many friendships that I have neglected who have stuck through with me because they know that- when things settle down- my heart is still committed to being there and being mutually engaged in rebuilding.

 Likewise, I have often been the friend who found herself giving, over and over, and feeling forgotten and left behind by people I care about.  This is painful but is a reality of friendship and human relationships as a whole.

HOWEVER, when the balance gets tipped so far in the favour of one that the other is genuinely being neglected, abused, or taken advantage of, it is without a doubt time to sever the ties.  This can happen over the course of years, or can happen in one day if you are treated poorly enough.

Let’s be realistic here: each of us probably has at least half a dozen “bad” friends that we would be better off without.

Things like sitcoms, Facebook, and Twitter have deluded us into believing that the quantity of friends matters more than quality and that once you are friends with someone you must always be friends with them.

This is a myth. It was a myth in high school, and it is a myth now.

The truth is that the more false “friends” you surround yourself with, the less time you have to focus your energy and affection on those who truly matter to you.  This is a game that I have found myself caught in far too much over the past few years.  My time, my energy, and my efforts have been sorely misplaced, desperately trying to solidify new friendships over focusing on maintaining the old ones. 

I have been guilty of being a crappy friend to far too many people who matter the most to me.

Now, this is not a self-pity post, and I’m not going to pretend that this has not been a two way street.  Quite the opposite, in fact. I am asserting that- ultimately- unless both parties are actively engaged in making a friendship flourish, it will not.  It might last, and stand the test of time. But it will not have the quality of a friendship that has been well maintained.  It will always be unbalanced, disjointed, and resentful until reciprocity has been reestablished.

So do me a favour, Facebookers of the world. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that friendship- OR ANY HUMAN RELATIONSHIP- is anything but completely fragile. Always treat it as it is fleeting and breakable, as if you must handle it with the utmost care or risk losing it completely.  Because, whether you like it or not, friendship is not unconditional.  It needs to be nourished in order to thrive.

And next time you find yourself in a friendship that is fizzling, or wonder why you haven’t seen so and so for quite some time, ask yourself whether or not you are the blame for the situation.  If you are, take the genuine and sincere measures you need to in order to rectify the situation and hope to God that it isn’t too late. And if you aren’t to blame, if you are in fact the person who is always giving and never receiving, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that this friend just ‘isn’t that in to you’ and it’s time for you to move on. Remember that you are not a victim of circumstance. Friendship is a choice, and walking away is too. If being a friendship makes you feel like crap, it's time to walk away.

There are plenty of friends in the sea- find the ones who deserve you, and be the kind of person who deserves them in return.  Then you won’t need a stupid meme to tell you what friendship is. You’ll already know.

A very special thank you to my close friends who fill my life with laughter, joy and love. You are the ones who do not need to be named, because you already know who you are. You are the ones who have held me through my most painful moments, the ones who have nursed me when I was sick, the ones who have shared in my greatest joys, and the ones who have celebrated my greatest accomplishments.  I know that I don’t always deserve you, but I do try to and I look forward to trying even harder in the future. In the meanwhile, know that you mean the world to me, and I wouldn’t be who I am without you in my life. XOXO Zita

This blog is part of the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge (31 posts in 31 days).  To follow along with my fellow writers, visit their blogs: 

Natasha at Natural Urban Mamas
Meaghan at Magz D Life
Aramelle at One Wheeler's World
Cliff at Peer Pressure Works
Tam at Tam I Am 
Liam at In The Now 
Jessica at 2plus2X2

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written Zita!! I whole heartedly agree with you.