We begin to develop friendships when we are children. We go to school and we meet other kids, we play, we talk and exchange ideas about what we like best.
At that age, it’s all an experiment on how to develop a relationship. We don’t stop to ask what type of relationship we are building when we are small people and our only real interests are based on how much fun can we cram into this time together.
These feelings of playfulness in friendships never fade away, but they do get challenged by the over serious attitudes of growing up, becoming mature and wanting to be accepted as an adult who can navigate people effectively.
It’s through playfulness that we really see and understand another person’s point of view, their attitude towards you, and how they value being around you. It’s this value that we get from a friendship that defines what type of relationship we’re having.
Friendships can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, according to statistics, we will all experience the breakdown and loss of friends due to one thing or another. Often we are left standing and wondering what happened.
Why do some friendships that seemed so bound by closeness, openness and shared experiences go into fade and fizzle mode?
One idea that psychologists express, is that the friendship fizzled out because as time passed values changed. Values about what life is, what fun is and how to enjoy time together can change as we learn more about ourselves and the world.
Men, when they are young can often meet adult friends while socialising in a bar — the common meeting place when not much is happening on a friday night. One reason why people visit bars and cafes is because it offers the possibility of ‘something interesting happening’. That happening is slightly out of your control and therefore represents an idea of a playful environment where anything could happen. Singles who seek a partner for a romantic experience, or bored and lonely people in search of companionship with like-minded contemporaries. All of these people can be found in a bar.
Good friendships have been made in bars. The drink loosens up the inhibitions and the jokes flutter from the lips like the best of comedians. At the end of a great night with a bunch of strangers, phone numbers and emails are exchanged and at least one call or text is made to keep contact.
The result is often a good start to a friendship that will blossom into a valuable relationship with another human being, or it will become an attempt at making friends. Meeting up again in some place and in spite of not really knowing the person can be a little stressful, feel a bit forced — unless that first meeting creates a click response that seems to magically cause everything to be alright between you and the other person. Then a friendship begins and you find out who that person really is — over time.
The Double Edged Sword of Friendships
Remember when you where a kid? You made friends played and enjoyed. Summer came and automatically you knew which kids you wanted to spend the most time with, playing, exploring and find things out.
How many summers can you remember that ended in tears? Well, that still happens to us.
We make friends in all sorts of social and work situations. We can never be sure where a friendship is going, so we tend to allow things to develop of its own accord. There’s nothing wrong with that, its the playful way to develop an encounter with another person into a fact finding situation.
It’s just a shame when the time comes and we realise that our new friend, or a friend who’s been around in our lives for a while, becomes a pain in the butt. Suddenly, we feel that things have gone haywire, they seem to express odd ideas or no longer want to join in when it comes to the usual things we do. They were happy enough before, but then something changed.
A good friend always expects their own good friends to be tolerant and understanding of their faults and shortcomings. That’s a healthy attitude to have about friendships, best buddies will have your back even in times when you make mistakes or make a total fool of yourself. But when things change and stay changed, we can see that there has been a change of heart. A friend has been thinking about stuff. Life has been a bit difficult, maybe, and they began to ask questions about themselves and certain values that they have.
They didn’t come and talk to you about it because it was outside of your common experience.
Often, it takes time to understand another person’s values in life. It’s about knowing what is important to them, how they react in certain situations and how much of a giver and a taker they are. These are the tell-tale signs of values.
Some people need a lot of practice to get it right with friendships. They can meet a person and realise that they can get something from them, they can use them to advance their own agenda at work or in social life.
In an attempt to grow, to become more mature about life and put things into a hierarchical form of perspective, people will often go into selfish mode. They have to, they need to take stock and see what doesn’t work anymore.
What doesn’t work anymore can often be replaced by something new, a new value or a way of seeing things with more relevance to their own needs — you might not fit in anymore, or it might be a decision for that person to make, they may realise that they have to let you go. They need to move on.
We put a lot of effort into our real friends, but life is life, it’s a growing and learning experience. People make conscious decisions about what and who is valuable to them. Even the best friendships are a sort of utility that offers support and help in times when we need something. It could be money or emotional need, but hopefully, in a real friendship it’s always been a by-product of how close and open you both are with each other.
Social needs are a powerful emotional force within us. Nobody can honestly claim not to want friends. Some people like to claim that they can’t be bothered with all that emotional back and forth between people, and so say that they are happy without a deeper relationship with a person. Watch them and see them do just the opposite — they need friends, people around them and the security that friendship brings us, just as much as the next person.
We can get burned, be dropped suddenly, a good friend announces that he or she is leaving town for good, and won’t be back again. We deal with it, learn from it and realise that life itself and all it offers is why we are here. Friends are partners in crime, buddies along the way, and a place to go and be secure and open up our hearts in times of trouble. They last that long.
If you have a friend who’s been around for many years and you are already growing old, then you are one lucky person. Most people get to middle-age with a heart full of memories about old friends, and head full of questions about what happened to them.
Today, facebook and social media allows us to track down old friends and see from a distance what they might be doing. The old story of going down memory lane is quite true. It’s generally a bad idea.
If you meet an old friend again, the chances that they are really the same person from all those years ago is slim. If they are the same, then you ask the question; what on earth have they been doing — living in a bunker some place under the ground? They left you in order to change, or because they felt a change coming. Maybe that didn’t happen.
I’ve bumped into old friends from years ago. We chatted and caught up a little. It doesn’t take long to realise that there’s no common ground anymore, we have become different people.
This often becomes apparent when the one person begins to talk soley about the old times, the things we used to do together. An uncomfortable feeling arises hoping that they aren’t suggesting that I drop everything and take up where we parted all that time ago. I’ve got new values in my life.
Families grow, jobs and careers develop into responsibilities, and personal needs about socialising and fun become more defined as we age.
Young people are playing a game. They’re out on the town looking for a soul mate, or an experience that they can put into their diary for later life reading. Most of the time they are testing each other, seeing who is sincere, or who is up for a wild-time for an adventure. This is why they, young people, tend to judge each other by superficial means, important as they are, music and books represent values and ideas. I think today, which social media you use might be a judgmental thing. Some social networks are for young people and some for mature audiences. The music you listen to echoes your own message, often about your attitude to love and friendships.
All of this is an experiment to find out who is who, and what they believe in. As we get older we become more secure about who we are — healthy people can reject an asshole quickly, and not mistake her for a cool person who is just having a laugh at other people’s expense. When you are young and meet a person who loves the same music as you, has read a few books that you have read, then that’s a basis for a connection to try and go deeper.
Later in life books and music are important, if you had good taste. But, family and work which both offer security based on responsible attitudes of those involved can replace many fleeting friendships that might be a bit too much emotion for us. We don’t go seeking adventure in bars and clubs, or hope to hook up with somebody who is cooler than us. The pseudo promises of an adventure that bars offer, doesn’t appeal anymore.
We have developed our thoughts and ideas into solid beliefs about who we are. Old friends can stay old friends and making new friends, which is a refreshing thing to do, is approached with caution. We have something to protect back home, which is where our real life, our solid values are waiting for us.
Take away from this article
- We develop the ability to make friends when we play games, especially when we are kids.
- We go through life learning about ourselves by reflecting on how we handle relationships.
- We discover that friendships, however deep and meaningful they seem, can fizzle out as we understand more and mature into functional human beings.
- As young adults we are still learning to make friends. We have to base them on utility. Is it a romantic friendship? Or, Is it a Friendship based on understanding another human being similar to me?
- Some people only see value in utility. They use people and have many so called friends that come and go.
- When friendships fizzle out, it’s often because of the fact that experiences in life come from many different angles of the day. Your friend will encounter and experience things that are outside of the common experience between you both. They can’t always talk to you about it, they’ll make their own decisions.
- It’s perfectly normal to lose good friends. We need to understand how to let people go their own way so that they can mature and learn. And how doing so helps us to understand our own values and needs in life.
- As we get older our values change. We take on responsibilities that offer more security, so they come first and new friendships have to develop more organically.
- It’s perfectly normal to go through life with only two good friends at any time. You can give time to two friends, but try being there for ten or fifteen demanding friends everyday.