Old fashioned, shoulder-to-shoulder, roll up your sleeves together, yell and scream if you need to then make-up kind of friendships, have always been on the scarce side. But today’s world of separation, ‘othering’ of people who believe differently than you, alienated families, and virtual meeting places have almost rendered them visibly extinct. Those of you who still retain the closest of in-person human friendships, please know you are truly blessed.
Fighting for those kinds of relationships is worth every drop of sweat, blood, and tears. But take note I didn’t say peaceful friendships, easy friendships, or quiet friendships, although those kinds are also a blessing and very important. It’s the friendships we must fight for that tend to grow the deepest strongest roots, and in times of trouble as well as calm produce the sweetest fruits. I also don’t believe that this level of deepness can be reached in a virtual friendship.
If you read last week’s post On Friendship: Virtual Friendship you will know I’m in no way against online relationships. In fact, I think they are pretty important in this changing world. But, they should never take the place of in-person interactions if we can help it. Face-to-face communication and connection are what humans were built for.
“Fighting for those kinds of relationships is worth every drop of sweat, blood, and tears. “
So what do modern in-person friendships look like these days? I don’t think casual friendships have changed all that much over the last few decades. It’s still about going out with friends for drinks, catching a movie, and sharing a laugh. Going and doing is still very much a part of it all, especially for younger people. It’s the ‘staying and being’ that I have seen change. We are so busy that we slip friends into the rush of our lives but tend to exclude them from the quiet moments when we come up for breath from the busyness. Have they become just another responsibility we long to take a break from? Friendship is work, and building a friendship to a deep level requires A LOT of time. So yes, we are so busy that the modern human often lumps friends into a group of draining activities. This is true for introverts especially. But I think extroverts are much more tired than they might realize.
Why is this?
We have lost the ability to ‘rest’ in friendship. Of course, this isn’t going to be true for everyone and every relationship, but since relationships take work to build and we are so busy we often don’t have in-person time for each other. Fewer and fewer of us are able to form friendships we can ‘rest’ in. Friendships where you don’t feel like you have to show up looking and feeling your best to participate. Even for an introvert, just being with someone who enjoys your presence so much that the messy living room doesn’t matter, gives you rest. Friendships where you can just be you, and you know you are wanted, friendships where silence is acceptable and the need to entertain each other isn’t constant while still sharing each other’s company, are a lost art form.
I remember those friendships, and I long for them with a deep ache. Have you ever experienced companionship like that?
“Have they become just another responsibility we long to take a brake from?”
This kind of friendship that you can ‘rest’ in is also going to look different for each of us since we all have our unique ways we show love and receiving it in turn. But it’s become exceedingly rare to KNOW someone at that kind of level. We just don’t have time for it.
Or do we?
There is another reason for this I’ve been mulling over. In our collective growing exhaustion, we’ve all become very needy people. We sometimes need much more from our relationships with others than we can give in return. This creates a deficit in relationships. Friendships should be a give and a take.
So what do we do when we simply can NOT give the same as what someone else is offering us? Or what do we do when a friend asks for more than they can give back?
I think we need to realize that everyone brings something to the table of friendships, it’s being able to recognize exactly what that is first, and not expect to get something they are not able to offer. We do not want our friendships to become co-dependencies. Boundaries, even while endeavouring to form strong bonds, are important. Being able to respect the boundaries of others is equally as important.
Friendship isn’t always about doing fun things, sometimes it looks like cleaning someone’s living room before leaving their house, not to shame them, but to give them a few more moments of rest in their day. Or letting someone act out their offer of help to clear the table when we’ve invited them for a dinner party. This thought is going to horrify some of you. That’s okay, as they are only a few examples of letting someone step out of an entertainment role and inviting them into a more active role in a relationship. Perhaps for some, it might simply be asking advice, and taking the time to truly listen to the ideas offered back. (With cell phones left in pockets while others talk) The point is being ACTIVELY engaged in each other’s lives. Not just having fun.
“Friendship isn’t always about doing fun things, sometimes it looks like cleaning someone’s living room before leaving their house, not to shame them, but to give them a few more moments of rest in their day.”
To cultivate long-lasting and deep in-person friendships our perspectives need to change. Going out isn’t always going to be possible. But sitting together in someone back yard or living room is something almost everyone can afford. I love the kind of people who want to spend that kind of time with me, especially when they don’t care if my hair is properly brushed or not. Doing life together doesn’t always look like ‘doing and going’. But doing life together is what friendship is all about.
What do you think? It’s not possible for me to explore every part of in-person friendship in a single blog post. I would LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments. Want me to write about something specifically? Let me know. Disagree with me? I would love to hear why.
How do you prioritize and maintain in-person friendships? How do you open the door for those relationships to grow beyond casual friendships?
Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef
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