The Dynamic of Friendships and Love

by on March 7th, 2015
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There’s a certain element to our lives that exists with us through almost everything we do. It influences our personality, our behavior, and just about everything else that makes us who we are. The element we’re taking a look at here is friendship, and it happens to be one of the most unprecedented complications that can befall upon an otherwise uncomplicated situation. We often consider friendship to be one of the most powerful realms of attachment in life, and in some ways, a friendship can even mean more to us than a romantic relationship ever could. Our friends are the people that we like to surround ourselves with, and our best ones will stay with us for the rest of our lives. But what is it about a friendship that can create an unprecedented complication in a relationship? There may be some obvious answers that we come across as we mature, and we might even experience them from several points of view. We know that freinds are often the subject of jealousy or uneasiness in a relationship, and we know that they can even become a detriment in some unfortunate circumstances. But there’s more to it than what is merely perceptible, and the profound nature of how friendships affect relationships will sometimes catch us by surprise.

When we look back to our younger days before the idea of a relationship was in our mind, we don’t really find the kind of complexity that would make for a complicated situation. Social attachments were simple back then, and they were free from the conundrum of having an intimite fidelity to another. We became close with the people we liked, and openly disregarded anyone who brought on a quarrel. Even though we may have experienced altercations within groups of mutual friends, the vantage of our deliberation was still simplistic because we were acting solitarily in the interest of our own concern. We had an atmosphere where the nature of interactions between people remained exclusively individual, and friendships didn’t carry the limitations that romantic relationships impose upon them. Skip forward to the relationship oriented culture that we now have around us and what do we find? We find that fidelity disciplines the nature of our friendships to the extent that what we were accustomed to may begin to become disrespectful or innappropriate. We find that we will sometimes lose certain aspects of our existing friendships whenever we pursue a relationship, and we will sustain the loss as a measure of loyalty to a romantic partner.

With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why the friendships that always encounter this precept are opposite gender friendships. Opposite gender friendships, for a heterosexual couple, are the ones that create an enormous amount of anxiety in a relationship. They are the ones that we fear because they can compromise the feeling of fidelity. Whether it’s one of our partner’s friends or one of our own, there will always exist a level of uneasiness that is the result of these friendships. Anticipating the uneasiness is a healthy step toward avoiding heartache, but is it enough for a couple to just decide what is appropriate behavior regarding these kinds of friendships and not have to worry? Well, couples do this all the time, but sometimes there are elements of friendship that can obscure that feeling of fidelity in a relationship regardless of having appropriate behavior. New relationships will deal with this the most, but even a couple who is completely committed to each other can still run into trouble.

To better see how the complications arise, lets first take a look at our own friends, the ones who tend to create that level of anxiety in our partner. Whether they’re acquaintances we’ve just met or best friends we’ve always had, they’re going to have an influence on how our partner feels. From this perspective however, we don’t think much about that influence, and we justify not thinking much about it with the fact that we know we have an honest committment to our partner. Furthermore, we may even find ourselves cherishing the anxiety that our partner experiences because it makes us realize how much we mean to them, and how much they don’t want to lose what they have with us. In any case, when we know that we are committed to our partner, we usually just dismiss the anxiety that they may feel toward our friends and comfort them by saying that there’s nothing to worry about. But even though that may be true, reaffirming our commitment is not a course of remedy. When we change perspectives to that of our own anxiety and take a look at our partner’s friends, we’ll see that there’s more to the issue, and more to the resolution.

It goes without saying that sometimes we are unfair, because we tend to concern ourselves more with our own anxiety rather than our partners’. Why do we do this? Well, it’s because we generally don’t know our partner’s friends as well as they do, and whenever there’s a situation that gives us anxiety, we have a predilection to distrust anyone whom we don’t know, especially if they’re exhibiting a position of animosity. That is to say, we would rather not give our partner’s friends the esteem that we give our own friends, or the benefit of any doubts that we have of them. This is because we often believe there to be certain aspects of their personalities that our partner might not be aware of, ones that we don’t like, and we want to protect our relationship from anything that serves to undermine it.

What aspects are we talking about? Well, these could be anything. We sometimes think that certain people wont behave appropriately around our partner, or maybe that they wont respect our relationship. We might even think that an individual is trying to have an affair with our partner or steal them away from us. In any case, whenever we have these concerns, we’ll usually end up sharing them with our partner. After all, sometimes these circumstances may be true, so we like to let our partner know how we feel regarding certain friends of theirs. But what we become better aware of in this case though is that a reassurance of commitment from our partner is beside the point, because depending on the nature of the friendship, our feelings may be in a destructive state of affliction. The simple nature of a friendship may be comprimising that feeling of fidelity we have, and our partner may not even realize it. Even the amount of time they spend with someone can put a strain on our emotions. The dilemma we encounter here is that we are always trying to limit and control the circumstances that make us feel this way, but by doing so, we are basically asking our partner to give up what they are accustomed to. In some cases, we are basically asking them to give up an entire friendship.

Now we have a puzzle. As much as we would like things to be the way that we want them to be, we still have to respect our partner and the friendships that they have. Overstressing our concerns about friends can be a detriment to the relationship as well, because we may be disregarding what’s important to our partner. This of course is something that we don’t want to do, because respecting what’s important to our partner is a relationship value that we can’t do without. But where do we draw a line in situations where our relationship is suffering because the nature of a friendship is not being disciplined? And to what extent can we expect our partner to abide with our feelings before we start a conflict? These questions are sometimes hard to answer, because it’s always a matter of discretion, and not every friendship carries the same implications. As we consider some of the typical realms of friendship, it doesn’t take long to see why this is the case, and just how distressing the circumstances can be.

One of the first reasons we will begin to fear a friendship is because we don’t get to see it. Certain friendships we will never be there for because they only exists elsewhere. Most of the time this means school or work, but they can manifest anywhere. When our partner has friends in this manner, they’ll see them on a habitual basis, and sometimes it’s even more than we see our partner. Not only does this make for unyielding friendships, but it also makes for an environment where those friends can encounter our partner in seclusion. When this happens, we’re gonna realize that our ability to safeguard is indefinite, and our anxiety will begin to build. That alone is bad enough, but it can get even more difficult. More often than not, existing friendships will predate our relationship. Someone will always have known our partner much longer than we have, and maybe for years or even decades. At first, this is a straightforward and expected element in a new relationship, but it wont be as comfortable as it seems. Even if long time friendships make way for a relationship, they can carry a strong precedence of attachment and loyalty, despite an absence of romance. This is okay at first, but there will often arise a clash between the solace that stems from the relationship and the solace that stems from a friendship. When this happens, the friendship can consume what is normally the function of the relationship, especially if the relationship is problematic. In translation, this means that ‘being there’ for our partner is a contingency, because depending on the circumstances, we may not be the indispensable companion that they will turn to for anything. Realizing this is discouraging, and yet, it can get even more difficult than that. Sometimes, our partner will have remained ‘just friends’ with someone whom they had been in a relationship with before. In this notoriously unwholesome scenario, our worries will encompass just about everything. Hopefully, for our sake, neither of them still wants to be more than just friends.

So what’s the answer? Well, the answer is that the quality of a relationship may be predestined unless a couple can recognize this trouble to the point where they can actually appreciate each others concerns. Even then, the more difficult task of what to do with these concerns is still a deal of trouble. One thing we might find ourselves doing is trying to change the nature of a friendship ourself, but it wont get us anywhere. Aside from the mess of dealing with confrontation, this isn’t an initiative on the source of the problem. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp, but the problem resides within the relationship, even though it’s discovered through external catalysts. Manipulating our partner’s friendship would only be an affirmation of the problem, and at that point, we would be trying to protect an integrity that we don’t even have.

This is one of the most difficult areas of compromise for many people. It’s not just because of disagreements on what’s fair, but because couples don’t want to explicitly impose limitations on their friendships; neither person will think they need to. But lets look at the perspective of being that friend. It’s easy to see just how customary and essential this is in a relationship. If we are the friend of someone who starts a relationship, we know that there’s going to be an expexted manner in which we will now have to behave towards them, and generally, we’ll tend to discipline ourselves. But as we consider the reality that not everyone likes to respect a relationship, we have to contend that a couple is always responsible for imposing those limitations, as unnecessary as they may seem. Whether or not anything changes is a good indication of how sincere the relationship may be at that time, and how hard it may be to live with.

Now, although it seems like a grim situation for those who wish for a trouble free relationship, it’s not always as bad as it appears. Since the problem isn’t necessarily an issue of trust, we may find that an apparent lack of uprightness in our partner may actually be just a personality trait. Our partner may have a different outlook on what the distinctions are for relationships and friendships, and accordingly, they may tend to treat one of them more like the other based on how they discern social attachments in general. If our partner’s line between being in a relationship and being just friends is not as solid as we want it to be, we may want to consider adjusting to those distinctions as opposed to feeling hopeless. After all, in any relationship, there’s always the potential for something simple to turn into something meaningful, and we want to give our partner that chance. An attachment like this might not satisfy us as much as something that’s deeper would, and we might have a hard time learning to live with it. But, as far as avoiding a worthless relationship altogether, we can at least deliberate on our partner’s concerns and make our own friends know just who’s important to us.

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