How often do you hear of people who move to another town because their friends are there? People move to be closer to family, or romantic interests… but friends? Haven’t heard of many people doing that.
How often do people fly overseas to visit a friend? Family, sure. Romantic interests, sure… friends? Not so much…
How often do people forget to keep in touch with friends they’ve known for years, who they were once very close to, and just drifted apart due to work, marriage, kids, etc? “Oh well, that’s just life!” is what people tend to say… What does that mean?
It means they think it’s perfectly normal for friendships to just wither and die over time due to neglect, and even if it makes them a bit sad, they don’t really feel like it matters enough to actually do something about it.
Conclusion: It means they don’t consider friendship all that important. It isn’t really worth their time to try to keep it alive. They have too many other “more important” things to do, like make money and raise a family, and watch TV in their spare time.
What would you do?
Say you get a job offer in a far away city, which is everything you’ve ever wanted in a job. But, you have some awesome friends where you currently live. Do you:
A. Take the job! Move there! How is this even a question?
B. Decline because you don’t want to leave your friends.
Most people would probably pick A. They might not even need to think about it for very long. Maybe they would be sad to leave their friends, but they don’t think that’s a valid reason to stay. Maybe all their friends are saying “You should go! It’ll be great for you!” because they want to be supportive, but are secretly actually really sad that you might leave… but it’s not socially acceptable to say stuff like that, even if it’s true.
So, let’s say you take the job, and move away. (Hey, don’t feel bad, that’s what most people would encourage you to do!)
Maybe you keep in touch with your friends for a while. Maybe you make some new ones in your new home. Maybe even some good ones. Maybe the good ones get awesome job offers and then they move far away from you again. People come and go, you come and go. Eventually people just don’t bother to really get to know anyone or to get close, because most likely they’ll move to greener pastures at some point anyway. Why bother?
This is where romantic relationships come into the picture. There is one person that it’s extremely socially acceptable to take with you when you move someplace. It is even frowned upon to leave them behind (sort of). So if you really care about someone, and want to take them with you, you need to be “more than friends” with them.
“More Than Friends” and “We’re Just Friends”
These statements say a lot about how much people value friendship in general. They imply that friendship has a limit of importance or significance, and that the only way to move beyond that limit is to be something other than “just friends” with that person.
Because most people don’t consider friendship particularly significant, it really doesn’t take much to get “beyond” friendship and into romantic relationship territory. In fact, many people often skip the friendship stage entirely and just go directly there. I’m not really sure how people can be close and intimate with people they aren’t even friends with in the first place, but clearly a lot of people think that approach works, so… okay, whatever.
Anyway, so this ONE person that they are allowed to view as important enough to move or stay for becomes the center of their world, and has a pretty huge role to play in their lives. This is apparently normal and fine, but isn’t that a lot of pressure for ONE person? That person needs to be their lover, best (or only) friend, and life partner, and possibly a bunch of other stuff too. One person. Really? That one person needs to be amazing in several ways all at once, and compatible. What are the odds? This kind of shit is the reason why people are so obsessed with “soul mates”, and they go crazy when they think they’ve found their “one and only true love”, or whatever.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep a group of friends instead, or at least in addition to this person? Less pressure on one person that way. And if they decide to leave you (because let’s face it, just because you’re “more than friends” doesn’t magically make you immune to that), then at least you’re not suddenly all alone. Speaking of which…
Losing A Friend Can Be Worse Than Being Dumped
Because when someone dumps you, they usually let you know what they’re doing. Maybe even the real reason why, if you’re lucky. Friends? They’re just always “busy”. Because it isn’t “polite” to actually just straight up tell people you don’t want to be their friend anymore (or maybe if you never did in the first place). So they’ll keep on being “too busy” to hang out, or to talk, until you give up asking. Depending on how invested in the friendship / stubborn you are, this can take a pretty long time. A long time of uncertainty and slowly dwindling hope. This can hurt more in the long run than just being told up front what’s going on.
What about those rare people who actually do take friendship seriously, and who would gladly put in effort to keep a friendship alive for many years? If they’re lucky, they’ll find other friends who are willing to do the same for them… but in most cases, they’ll be stuck with friends who don’t take friendship very seriously, and this is bound to be a recipe for frustration.
Just think about that for a minute. How would it feel to care about someone, knowing full well that they will never care as much about you? They will gladly take the job offer in the far away place and move away from you. They probably won’t even visit much, or at all. They might not even keep in touch. They probably don’t even have the capacity to understand that this might hurt you. Or if they do, they shrug and go “That’s just life! Oh well!”.
We live in a world with instant global communication, and jet planes that can take people anywhere in the world in just a few hours, and yet people are LONELY.
I think the reason is obvious.
That’s a good summary of the problem. We need more close relationships than just a romantic partner.
Great post. I absolutely agree with all of it, and especially like that you point out how this kind of devaluing of friendships is not only harmful for singles but also for partners in a relationship. Singles are hurt by having to say goodbye to friends they’ve invested a lot of effort and time into, and romantic partners are hurt by having an insane amount of pressure dropped onto them. I know far too many people who rely almost solely on their romantic partners for meeting all of their social needs, and that cannot be remotely healthy. Thanks for sharing this post. I share a lot (if not all) of these frustrations.