Best Friends Forever?
I guess it’s no surprise that my expectations for friendships in my thirties are different from what they were in my teens. But in thinking about how my friendship norms have changed over time, I notice some patterns that might have been alleviated by better education around friendship at a young age — a kind of relationship that’s prioritized much less than romantic relationships in the collective imagination, but is actually more important for many people.
When I was a kid, my primary models for friendship were my mom’s two best friends–one woman she’d known since high school, and another she met while pregnant with me. This idea of close, lifelong friends stuck with me and was definitely an aspiration. As a kid, I was always looking for a “best friend,” and fantasized about growing up and attending college together. I was desperate enough for a BFF that my closest friendships tended to have a cost, either of manipulation and borderline abusiveness in the friends who took advantage of that need, or of a neediness that I found overwhelming in friends who were just as desperate.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood my ideal friendship didn’t necessarily look like a mutually-recognized, do-everything-together-for-years “best friends” model. My closest relationships in school, college, and law school tended to drift off, and I’m only still really in touch with one of those people, a friend from high school whom I seem destined to meet up with about once every 5 years in a random major city. At this point, none of my close friends are people I’ve known more than 6 years. Often, this means that I’m not my best friend’s best friend. Other people have friendships they’ve been in much longer, that are the most important in their lives. And I’m… pretty okay with that!
As it turns out, “best friends” doesn’t have to be a two-way street. In fact, I’m really digging an asymmetrical model of friendship these days, where the few people I consider closest don’t in turn consider me closest to them. That’s okay because I tend to be a low-touch friend: I don’t actually want to spend tons of time together, or have regular in-person contact obligations at all. My own needs around introversion and social anxiety mean that I can feel incredibly close to someone and still only talk to them once or twice a month. Those folks might not feel the same way–they might need “higher touch” from those they consider closest–but I’m much happier than I was as a kid or teenager, without the manipulation or neediness that came from trying to push myself into a cookie cutter friendship mold.
What about you? Are your friendships symmetrical? How have your friendships changed over time? Let me know in the comments.