EXTREMELY GOOD FRIENDS

Categories:Anne's Blog
Anne Hooper

INTRO

A couple of recent surveys disclosed that friends are often rated as highly or even higher than lovers and marital partners.  Such is the value put on friendship that people of all ages prize it.  In the transient world we live in, we may not expect a love relationship to last but we do pin our hopes on to our mates.  Perhaps this is to do with the fact that we have become a mobile society with men and women travelling to work in very different parts of the country to those in which they were raised, removing them from blood relations and forcing them to develop extensive friendship skills.

Even the nature of friendship seems to have re-arranged itself with far more platonic friendships existing between members of the opposite sex than there were forty years ago and with no hint that anything might be expected of these other than the enjoyment of fun and emotional support.

Friends are especially valued by those of us who separate and divorce.  Friends are the ones who nurse us through the agony, listen to hours of wailing and moaning, send us to the gym or to the beautician, drag us around with them to parties and, most valuable of all, are simply there for us.  Such is the value now placed on friendship that the subject itself has been the object of very thorough research.


THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP

Steve Duck, when senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lancaster, researched friendship as his specialist interest.  His findings offer a fascinating picture of how friendship works, what it does and what its personal value consists of.

Some of these findings are:

  • Friends help us maintain emotional stability.  Possibly also physical health.
  • Some people aren’t “good” at friendship.  But friendship skills can be improved.  Training and practise make us more fluent.  He offers the idea of “doing friendship right”.
  • Other people ie. friends, stave off loneliness, depression, even death.
  • Friends provide anchor points for opinion, beliefs and emotional responses.  They help us form our picture of our ‘self’.
  • As well staving off loneliness, friends stave off panic of the great unknown therefore (my suggestion) the need for friends may possibly be a survival mechanism (an emotional one).

Friends can provide assistance and physical support/psychological support.

  • A good friend values your opinion.  This is important because it brings us the sense of being valued and respected.  Older people are often not allowed to feel enough of this.

 

THE ACTION OF ATTRACTION

  • Attraction is the first point of a relationship.
  • People’s feelings may change as a result of proximity.  Begin and Sadat living in proximity at Camp David for peace talks ended up much friendlier than when they started.
  • For friendships to survive we need a broad base of interests – one shared hobby will not be enough.
  • Contrary to popular belief, not everybody wants friends.  Different people have a different drive for friendship. Some self-assured people are strong enough to do without friends.  They don’t need them so much.  It’s also harder to make friends when previously hurt.
  • Friendships may change through time in accordance with one’s self-esteem.  If, for example, you end up knowing more and feeling cleverer, you will not have so much in common with your stupider friends.  This is one reason why we grow out of friends.
  • Friendship needs are influenced by a kind of critical mass phenomenon.  Once we get to a certain number, we don’t need any more.
  • There is also a critical threshold before we feel motivated to do anything about loneliness and isolation.
  • Friendship drive declines after 30 except where there’s serious disruption to life such as divorce, change of career, death of spouse.  Retirement brings on a need for friendship.

DEVELOPING A FRIENDSHIP

  • Self-disclosure is a key factor in establishing friendships, so too is humour, good skills of listening, the ability to ‘to and fro’ in conversation, the ability to refrain from boring monologues.

The more you tell, the more vulnerable you become and so the more trust and confidence you therefore place in a friend’s
loyalty.  Negative information about yourself should be disclosed early.  Positive information later.  Otherwise you will be disliked.

  • Friendship grows like any relationship.  If you sense it’s stopped growing, you start to lose interest.
  • People have personal limits of how intimate they want a friendship to grow.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Friends often go dancing.  Research shows that violent physical exercise and dancing can create the necessary state of arousal for a friendship to turn into something else.  We often quibble about the differences between friendship as opposed to love but these are artificial labels.  Friendship can well lead to love and it is marvellous to be good friends with a partner.  However, where there is uncertainty about whether to step over the border line of friendship to sex, this may well be because you sense, unconsciously, that sexually the friends may not quite suit you.  It appears to be difficult to stay friends with a friend-turned-lover if the relationship goes sour.  However many people find it easy to stay friends with someone who started off as a lover!


MAINTAINING YOUR FRIENDS

Fairness is the buzzword in keeping friendships alive and well.  Quarrels between friends are usually caused by the feel that a balance has been unevenly set.  The rules of equity dictate that you have to put as much in to a friendship as you take out and we feel unhappy when we feel that we are doing everything and they very little.  Interestingly putting too much into a relationship can also unbalance things since the friend on the receiving end can find this pressurising and subsequently they retreat.  But conflict in friendship, if managed well, can develop the relationship.  In this respect, it’s like marriage.  The more openness there is about distress and the consequences of a particular behaviour, the more things can improve.


BOX     WHERE TO MEET PEOPLE AND MAKE FRIENDS

  • outdoor activities such as hiking or golf
  • volunteer work
  • evening classes
  • lectures
  • galleries,book clubs, activity holidays
  • Internet