Over the past few days, possibly even the past month or so, I have been deeply contemplating the meaning of friendship and what that entails. Along with that, at least for me, is also the contemplation of a romantic relationship, or love, or even just a sexual relationship. It has been an interesting journey to say the least.
In my life of relationships, I’ve had friends to various degrees, and lovers to various degrees. From barely knowing someone who came and went in a blink of an eye, to it taking years to build up a friendship, to a sexual one night love affair, to love affairs with married men, men not married, to thinking I met the man of my dreams and we would be together forever. To so many degrees in between.
True friendship is something special. Something to be cherished. Something that is worth taking the time to develop, hone like a well oiled blade, and carried with you taking special care not to crack it, drop it, or consume it. Friendship is not one sided. It takes at the minimum, two people. Two people who are willing to meet and travel together on the same level, on the same pathways of that friendship.
I have learned throughout life that everyone uses the term friendship but not everyone agrees on what that means or what one is willing to do to cultivate it or what one is willing to do when someone they call friend is in trouble.
As I said, I’ve had friends of various degrees. All of those degrees I would call acquaintances except for one. I want to first talk about every level of friendship except that one and then I’ll talk about the one.
Friendship or rather acquaintances are those who sit on the sidelines. They will call you friend, sometimes take time out to chat about all sorts of things, like the world atrocities, or their or your woes, and even some of their past experiences while never really giving much of themselves. As long as they share those things that they think make them look good in the eyes of the person they are talking to, or sometimes giving the appearance they are there for their friend by listening to the other chatter away in detail and depth without sharing any of their own. They will expound at great length about how they desire deep friendship but will never contribute any depth of themselves as to what makes them tick. For those who desire depth, these people eventually take on the appearance of what I call surface dwellers. They give nothing of themselves and therefore reside on the surface or wade in shallow waters barely getting their feet wet. Some may even help with minor issues as long as it doesn’t impede their life in any way. There are some who may wade in deeper but they always pull back if the waters become too deep. Friendship like these come a dime a dozen and rarely stay around for long, or they come and go stepping in just long enough to give the appearance they are there for you before they go skittering off on another adventure which might just be a trip to the grocery store.
What I call “true friendship” bears no resemblance to what I mentioned above. Is of the nature when two people share themselves whether it looks good on them or not. They support each other no matter what even if it means they miss out on their all time favorite thing to do. The only thing which would keep them from being there with a friend in need is something in their own life which is life or death or critical or something of the nature in which they have to do or it would cause serious detriment to them. This of course can be seen differently by different people but “true friends” understand and will help each other and not let the other hurt themselves if at all possible. It becomes a bond which lasts a lifetime no matter how much distance is placed between them. Nothing can break it except an action which would destroy the trust developed between the two. I have three such friendships now. They take years to cultivate but they all start with work from both people and a willingness to share the good and the bad.
I have entered into friendships with people who claim they want to be friends not realizing they really only mean at the level of acquaintance. Not realizing this, I share the good and bad of myself hoping they will do the same. I will share with them, hoping they will share with me. Eventually, it becomes clear after a time that I am the only one sharing going deeper and deeper into who I really am, to find they are still standing on the surface looking down at me, or up, whichever the case may be. “True friends” walk side by side, and if one falls behind the other will wait for them to catch up or go back to help them along. Of the other kind, I will step back, I will join them back on the surface, and if that is where they choose to remain then I’ll stay there with them never sharing my true depths.
Most of those who call me friend are of this type. “True friends”, at least for me, are rare to find, and of those I do, I cherish. I have no doubt they cherish me as well for it never goes unsaid. They know I am someone they can count on if I am in a position to help them I will. I won’t sit back and watch a friend suffer if I can do anything to help.
As I said, when contemplating friendship, I will find myself also contemplating, romantic relationships and all the various levels. It is my belief that romantic relationships or relationships which have the intent to become permanent as in marriage or a lifetime partner have to encompass “true friendship”. If the spouse, lover or significant other is not in a symbiotic ‘true friendship’ then in my opinion there is a large gaping hole which will never be filled until there is. If this never develops then it becomes a vulnerability in the relationship which can erode and break it apart.
As I’ve said I’ve been in varying degrees of romantic relationships, from one night stands to temporary affairs, to trying to develop a deep and meaningful relationship that would last years if not a lifetime. Most were hollow and empty due to not having developed the foundation of friendship, love and trust. And some never developed deeply due to the other not desiring the same depths in which I thrive within eventually breaking apart because of the distance between us.
I have come to accept that many people are not comfortable entering into the depths which I call home. Accepting how rare it is to find this in a man has been even harder and disappointing when I discover the difference in what I consider friendship to mean versus what he considers friendship to be and what levels he is willing to share.
Friendship is not about coersion, or manipulation or interrogation or any other types of methods to gain a deeper relationship or gain information or any other thing someone desires in trying to cultivate a relationship. And it definitely isn’t used to gain a hold over someone to get what one wants.
It isn’t easy to sit back and discover that someone you have been attempting to cultivate a deep and abiding friendship with has no desire to dwell within the same depths. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, just means you won’t be friends to the level you may have hoped.
For me, this depth of true friendship is required, if I want to move forward into a deeper and possibly romantic or sexual relationship.
I’ve tried sex in a one night stand. I’ve tried sex in a casual relationship. I’ve tried sex with friends. I’ve tried sex with married men, or affairs in which there was no chance of it going anywhere. I’ve tried sex in a relationship in which I thought we were sharing depths of ourselves beyond anything I have ever shared with another human being. The latter was the most fulfilling. The most dynamic. It also was the most heartbreaking when I discovered it was all a lie. But while for me it was all true, it was the most beautiful and wonderful experience of my life.
A person who can truly share themselves, all the good and the bad, for me is someone special, someone to cherish. It triggers within me sparks which ignite and charge, if it is a female friend then it becomes a bond of sisterhood. If it is a male friend, then it can become either a bond of brother-sisterhood or a bond igniting the sexual tension and desires for something more.
I can’t ignore this. I could not have a long term relationship without it, so I strive for it in every opportunity presented. And I am finding even if the contact would be short term, I want this connection as well. I thrive for depth, without it, life for me is blah, and I’m not fond of blah… lol
More than ever I have come to rely on my instincts, for they have never failed me. What has failed me is my willingness to listen to them. When I try to go against them, I find myself struggling. I find myself attempting to jump across barriers which are not meant to be breached. I find myself dangling over a chasm by my fingertips telling myself it doesn’t really exist and daring myself to drop into its depths without a net to catch me.
I am paying more attention now. True friendship is a key worth cherishing and keeping safe. It can unlock so many other doors. Ignoring those instincts can lead me down roads which are difficult, full of dangerous obstacles, and possibly detrimental to my sanity. Listening to them, brings peace to a chaotic world for me, it opens doors that were once closed, it brings forth those things I need in my life and does so without struggling to get them
I used to believe life was meant to be a struggle. That those struggles were meant to teach me about life and about myself. Well they are. I am learning those struggles mean I am not on my true path. Like true friendships, if you have to force it, it isn’t the right one for you. If you have to become the interrogator, if you are the only one sharing who and what you are, if you have to twist and dig and pound away with a pick ax or jack hammer then it isn’t something true it is a piece of artwork which on the surface is beautiful but underneath is nothing but hard stone or a blank canvas.
I would rather swim into the depths of an ocean, into its deepest recesses, than to float upon its surface only seeing the sun beating down upon me. I would burn up into a dry crispy corpse in no time at all regardless of how much water and life surrounded me.
This is what true friendship and love mean to me. What do they mean to you?