Variations of this keep popping up on my feed. I think I responded to one in irritation a few months back, but this idiotic meme just won’t die. In case you can’t tell, I disagree. I think this is a cop-out, to justify the lack of work people put into relationships.
The movies show us romantic relationships and life-long friendships that overlook a serious lack of communication and pick up again without a hitch.
They make it look like True Friendship is like True Love. It’s something that’s effortless and easy, and the only speedhumps are lack of trust and/or other people trying to interfere.
There are tropes a bit like this with family relationships, too: Family first, blood is thicker than water, friends will come and go but family will always be there.
All of these rely on the same essential idea: A relationship, if it is truly valuable, does not require work. This is false. If a relationship is valuable, you work at it, and you have every right to expect they will work at it, too.
If you are friends with someone, you work at that friendship.
Maybe you help out with babysitting even though you’re not fond of kids, because they’ve been there for you and they helped you out, and that’s what friends do.
Maybe you set up coffee dates and you keep them because you know you have to make time for your friends — that if you don’t, life will get in the way and months will go by, and you won’t even know what’s up in their life. Maybe you don’t feel like leaving the house, but you promised your friend you’d meet up with her and you cancelled the last two times, so you go even though you don’t want to.
You do that because your friendship is important. You show common courtesies like responding to texts, phone calls, and IM messages, even if just to say, “Sorry I couldn’t chat, super busy. I’ll ping you later.”
See, that’s what “life is busy,” means. It means that, yeah, we all have other commitments — but it’s not like you could say to your SO or your boss or your family, “Life is just really busy right now, so I’m not going to talk to you for 6 months. That’s just how it gets sometimes.“
So when you expect a friend to accept that you’re just “too busy” to even respond to texts or phone calls, or that you don’t have time for a goddamn coffee once a month, or to even try and schedule it, you’re basically saying, “Yeah, you don’t bring enough concrete value to my life for me to actually make time and work on this friendship. I mean, I care about you — but you’re not having sex with me/ paying me/ didn’t give birth to me . . . so I’m gonna let you slide for a bit. See you when it’s convenient to me.”
A “friend” is not someone who disappears for months and years and shows up every now and again to catch up. That’s a fond acquaintance, or someone you were once friends with in high school and occasionally keep up with. That’s not a friend in the sense of the word that this person is there for you and knows what’s going on in your life. A friend is there with you, slogging through the hard times because you’ve slogged through the hard times with them — and because the good times are awesome.
And this is true not just of friendship, but of romantic relationships and family as well. You put in the work of building communication and being present and showing respect and lending a helping hand, and they do to. And if they don’t — if they expect you to shoulder the load and blame you when you stumble, well then. They’re not really a friend/ lover/ family member. They’re an asshole who’s taking advantage of you.
So don’t fall for this bullshit. Friends are there through thick and thin. They invest the time and effort in maintaining the friendship, and they do this because they care, because they are friends. That’s what true friendship is.
Not this bullshit about oh, we haven’t talked for months/ years/ whatever and I don’t even know your kids name (let alone that you have kids) but we picked up the phone and had a conversation like it was yesterday so we must be bffs forever!
*** Disclaimers ***
- There’s nothing wrong with being acquaintances, btw. It’s okay for friendships to wax and wane. You can’t expect a close friendship to develop out of whole cloth overnight, so acquaintanceship is a necessary step in the process of becoming friends. In addition, many friendships will eventually peter off into a fond acquaintanceship based more on past memories than current interactions, and that is okay. It’s a natural, normal part of relationships, and that’s fine. We generally term these two types of people “friends” in our societal nomenclature, and perhaps it’s my definition of friendship that is amiss, but I define a “friend” as someone I can rely on for good times and bad, and who can rely on me.
- Long-distance friendships obviously get a little more leeway — but the fact that a friendship is only as strong as the effort you invest remains true. If you aren’t making the time and effort to contact or return the contact attempts of a long-distance friend (or they aren’t making the time and effort to contact or return your contact attempts), well, then, there’s probably a reason for that. You’re more like fond acquaintances than close friends. Nothing wrong with that.