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Friendship: A Different Perspective

Friend: A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affections, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Synonyms—companion, confidant, familiar

Friendship: The motions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends. Synonyms—company, companionship, fellowship, camaraderie

--Oxford Dictionary

Definitions and expectations. Every relationship is based on definitions and expectations. How we interact with one another is largely based upon how we have chosen to define the particular relationship and our attendant expectations surrounding that definition. We consciously or unconsciously place everyone in our lives into a particular category, define the category, and set expectations for each.

Our “friend” category, depending on our definition of the word, includes any and every one with which we expect to have that type of relationship. We shuffle individuals between our self-defined categories when they don’t coincide with our expectations for a particular role or we alter our definition.

The Oxford Dictionary definitions above are simply the generalized meanings of the terms. However we define those terms, we undoubtedly expect those we see as friends to behave consistently with that definition. If/when our friends stop acting the way we expect them to act based on our definition, we begin to ask questions and/or doubt that they are in fact our friends.

If they don’t get it together and get back in line with our expectations, then we force ourselves to either change our expectations/definition or move them to a different category, which, in turn, tends to come with different behavior and attitudes on our part. These transitions often happen so seamlessly and effortlessly that we barely notice the change. In a few instances, there is a great gnashing of teeth, hurt feelings, harsh words, and hard lessons during these transitions.

Either way, why do we choose repeatedly to force our expectations onto our friends? Why do we choose to repeatedly, and often unilaterally, define a relationship and attempt to force the other person to comply or be gone? Couldn’t we…wouldn’t we save so much energy, effort, and emotional currency if we simply allowed people to just be in our lives without feeling the need to define the relationship and then requiring the other person to live up to our unilaterally set expectations?

Certainly, this concept does not suggest, imply, or mean that we must accept and tolerate any kind of treatment from the people around us. Having boundaries, maintaining, and following through on your own personal values, morals, and goals is necessary. And, if someone in your life no longer comports with those beliefs, then act accordingly. That being said (well, written), we can stay true to our morals, values, beliefs, and goals without placing our personal expectations on others.

My best friend and I have known each other for nearly 20 years. I have my own set of morals, values, beliefs, and goals. She has hers. We both have boundaries for what we will allow in our lives, but neither of us expects the other to do, be, or act in any particular way because we call ourselves best friends. I don’t expect her to call/text me everyday, tell me all of her “business,” give me money if I ask, support me if I’m doing something with which she doesn’t agree, or even keep my secrets. I am grateful when she does call/text, share her “business” with me, give me money, support me even though she disagrees with it, and keep my secrets. However, I understand and accept that none of these things are required of her simply because I’d like it to be so. She is no less my friend because she keeps a secret from me or doesn’t call/text me for a couple days.

No one owes you anything. So, you needn’t expect anything. Even someone you call “friend” does not owe you because he/she has the absolute right at any given moment to choose what serves his/her morals, values, beliefs, and goals best. As do you. Everything that a “friend” does for you or gives to you is a gift and needs to be treated accordingly. Let your friends be who they are and your friendships be what they are without definitions (therefore restrictions). We are often disappointed and betrayed by our own expectations rather than by anything our friends do or say. Release your expectations for what the relationship needs to look like or be like and just let it be what it is.

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