On friendship

We’ve run a few posts on how babies have affected friendships recently, and I’m sure I’m not the only one for who it’s made me consider more carefully  a) how I behave, and b) how I react, when it comes to friends with, and without, children.

I love that Emma has taken the time to really think about what Friendship means to her, and how that’s developed over time, and how it might develop in the future. Because friendships do change over time. Not just when babies come along for one or other of the parties, but just as life moves on, and takes us to different places, either physically, or mentally. 

There are many things that I love about AOW but chief amongst these is the fact that it forces me to think about some of the things I take for granted. To consider something from someone else’s viewpoint.

A couple of weeks ago a post on these here pages made me think about friendship, what it is, what it means to me, where it starts and where it ends.

It occurred to me that friendship has meant different things to me at different ages. Whilst scouring the internet for thoughts on the meaning of friendship I came across some direction from the mouths of babes…well teenagers, but that is close, right? (I suspect any mothers of teenagers out there might disagree with me at this point, but stick with it, I’m heading somewhere. I promise).

 “No matter how many friends you have, there is always room for one more.” Andrea, age 14

“My real friends aren’t the ones I go out with, but the ones who listen to me when I need an ear and the ones I can cry to when I need a shoulder.” Cory, age 17

I probably subscribed to both of those at some point in my life. I definitely adopted Andrea’s philosophy on friends throughout my life – my number of best friends reaches into the teens. Whenever the day might arrive that I make my way down the aisle towards my future husband, I am confident I will be flanked by a troupe of bridesmaids that would rival any American bride (where, in case you don’t know, it is not uncommon to have ten plus bridesmaids. Sounds perfectly in line with my kind of selection process).

In my teenage years I have almost certainly fallen fowl of Cory’s dilemma – seeking out the ‘cool’ and the ‘popular’ at school that were never and could never be ‘proper’ friends. But the fakeries always fall by the wayside and it is true friendship that shines through from school and beyond, right?

In my early twenties my best friends were certainly the ones that I partied with. But the ones that I partied with were also the ones whose shoulders I cried on and who I shared life’s highs and lows with.

So, what does friendship mean to me now? Of course you have to decipher the true friends from the acquaintances. But all in all I think that Jane Austen probably says it best when it comes to true friendship (afterall, there is no topic that she doesn’t excel on, surely): “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

Time, and the way of the world, dictates that there will be friends throughout your life that will come and go. There will also be those that stick around for good, the ‘keepers’.

But how do you tell the difference between the two? How can you tell which friendships will just ‘fizzle out’ and which will still be going strong when you are old and grey and in the retirement home?

You can’t. Not really. Much the same as relationships, you go into every friendship thinking it will last forever, otherwise what would be the point? But what is important about friendship is that you know that there is nothing you wouldn’t do for each and every one of your friends. And that they would be there for you no matter when or what you might need. You might not have spoken to them for days, weeks, months, or even years. But you know that if you picked up the phone for a chat they would be ready and willing to listen, that it would seem like no time had passed at all.

And when the time comes that any one of them is not one of the people that you would consider calling for a chat, to talk through your problems or to share your latest news with. Well, perhaps it has fizzled out, but that’s ok too right? It doesn’t change the mark that they have left on your life or the fact that they have made you the person that you have become.

Because that is what friendship is. Sticking together through thick and thin. Helping each other become better people. Knowing that it doesn’t matter where it all began or if it is going to end, what matters is the unique friendship that you share with every individual friend. That’s pretty special…

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Life, Life Experience
10 interesting thoughts on this

10 Comments

  1. Lee-Anne
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Love this post, I remember being in high school and thinking I would be friends with my group forever. Half of them I dont talk to anymore, nothing bad just totally different people. On the other hand my best friend was part of that group amd we are still going strong. I agree friendships are a lot like relationships, sometimes they need work and if you dont make the effort they can fall apart x

  2. Posted August 20, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Lovely piece. As someone who’s been through a lot of life changes in the past few years I’ve found it pretty fascinating to see how different friendships have changed and evolved with those. There’s the friends who check in regularly to see how you are. There’s the friends who assume you’ll call them if you need them. And there’s the friends who you don’t hear from much but when you need a crazy drunken night out, they’re there for you…

    Feel very lucky with the ones I’ve ended up with -and that includes the ones from AOW!!

  3. Posted August 20, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    This post is great and captures a lot of how I’m feekling right now better than I can. Thank you.

    I had a friend at school who probably saved my life. I have no idea what she is doing now. I wish her well but we lost touch and that is okay. I had a friend from school who was amazing and that b8stard cancer got him.

    I’ve tended to travel light when it comes to friends and have carried few from place to place but recently I have a wonderful group who I hope to never lose. It makes me scared to leave at any point because, well, I’ve always travelled light in terms of friends and this rag tag bunch are probably the best I’ve ever had. Scary. Worth it though.

  4. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    This is a great post! I have a group of three friends from university who I know I’ll be friends with in 50 years time (if we all live that long!!) but they’re not the ones I go to the pub with or spend Sunday mornings with unless we’ve specifically arranged it. We’re scattered to the four corners of the country (well, three corners and the middle).

    Similarly, there are people who I’ve been really close to, who supported me when I split up from my husband, had me cry on their shoulder etc that I’m just not friends with any more (for various reasons).

  5. Fran M
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Great post and a nice conclusion – I like the idea that you don’t know when it’s going to end, but that doesn’t make a friendship any less valuable.

    I think friendships ending come as such a shock because when you’re younger you never see past the ‘friends forever’ stage. You (well, I did) think that friends are the same as family: they’ll stick around forever, no matter how your life changes. Added to the fact that during your teens you can’t possibly see how much your life can be transformed in a few short months even (hello, uni..).

    There have only been a couple of people who I feel like I’ve lost as friends and coming to terms with this was filled with guilt, regret, insecurity for me. But would I go back and salvage those lost friendships? Nope – they had just run their course.

  6. Amanda M
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Any post that includes a Jane Austen quote is a winner for me!

    I have to say that I have had ‘best friends’ that I have lost along the way and I still mourn them. Perhaps I’m too immature to accept that sometimes paths just naturally diverge and I take it too personally (yes, even if I’ve been the instigator of the separation).

    Some friends are for life and some are for a moment in life – like bonding together over an horrendous boss (yes, has happened) and then one of you gets a new job and unless you both put a lot of effort in, you just… drift. I find I can’t always tell initially which are the friends that will stand the test of time and make the transition into ‘best friends’.

    I kind of kicked this off as I’m of an age where all my friends are having babies – and quite naturally, they kind of disappear for a bit as they want to be with people who really understand parenthood and don’t glaze over (despite best efforts) on the latest baby story. Okay, some of these stories are funny and/or cute but not what they’re eating or pooing (the babies; no-one has yet told me about their own bowel movements I hasten to add) – I womanfully try to engage but perhaps they sense I’m not fully participating.

    But my oldest, bestest friend has a 7 year old. I see them en famille and just us two. Of course, even when it’s just us we talk about her daughter – as we talk about our husbands, colleagues, families, it’s all just part of a normal relationship. She’s a reserved woman but recently we were invited to a small party for her daughter’s birthday which was just her family “You ARE family” she said to me firmly. That’s the best sort of friend.

    • Posted August 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      Amanda – that’s the kind of mother I aspire to be – I hope I manage it. I’ll talk about the kid, but just as much as I would talk about work, or my family, or the rest of my life…or my latest random musings on life.

  7. Posted August 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    This has come at such a good time for me, I was reflecting recently on how our friends and relationships shift and change throughout our lives. My best friend 10 years ago is barely in touch now, but since then I have made friends who are not better as such, but better for the person I have changed into in the past 10 years. I think some friendships are always transitory, they’re there because you both need each other or identify with each other at a certain time of your life, but as you grow and change, you don’t always grow and change together. This is true for growing up into an adult, leaving school, leaving uni, starting a career, having a family, and any life changes and choices.

    The best friends, the long-lasting ones, are the ones where that won’t ever matter. My best friend now doesn’t have the same day to day concerns as me, the same life or the same career plans, but it doesn’t matter. We talk about things in her life, and things in mine, and then we act like idiots and giggle in a heap for a bit.

    And I feel so lucky to have found this community, at a time where I was starting to feel like a lot of my friends weren’t on my wavelength anymore, because we’d all changed too much. I was starting to wonder if I had changed wrongly. You people make me know I haven’t.

    KL x

  8. holly
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had a ‘best’ friend, other than my husband, for a long time. I do have old friends who have seen me through thick and thin, and they aren’t necessarily the people I could have predicted would last! There have been some very intense friendships that have faded (sometimes due to children, sometimes not), but those that remain are the strongest relationships I have, even more than family.

    Making new friendships as an adult is harder than I want it to be – one reason being that I invest a lot of time and energy into those old friendships. I recently moved from one coast of North America to the other, and changed countries to boot. It’s a good reminder to stay open to new friendship possibilities, even if I have no idea how long they will last.

  9. Posted September 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been on holiday and catching up with posts. I’m usually a lurker but I really enjoyed reading this one and wanted to comment. Friendships and relationships is one of things that interests me most in life, both personally and professionally. My research has allowed me to explore what happens to friendships across the lifecourse and in particular, what happens in the face of significant life events such as marriage, widowhood and divorce. I’m fascinated by the decisions people make about who they surround themselves with and how that changes as time passes.

    This post has encouraged me to, once again, think about my own friendships. Cheesy fridge magnet quotes about people being there at a particular time for a reason, and the lasting impact people can have on you don’t half ring true…!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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