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Friendships are Conditional
...even if the conditions are unspoken
This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here:
Friendships are Conditional
This week, I will be experimenting with a ~500-word piece to test whether longer or shorter pieces work better. Let's go!
The song I listened to the most this week got me thinking a lot about friendship (see bottom of this newsletter) and the conditions that uphold them.
Most of us say that we're friends with people just because we connect with them or that they make us happy. We strongly deny that we expect anything from friends of ours, not even in the form of reciprocity.
Basically, we argue that our friendships are unconditional and that expecting to gain things from our friendships would make them disingenuous. But is that really true?
In the song I was listening to this week, Ella Henderson sang in the chorus:
"Friends, with you 'til the end
Fix you, help you mend, when it gets tough
And when you're scared, they're gon' be right there
So hold onto your friends, friends"
That verse so beautifully captures the value of great friendships. In the second line, it hints at what Ella values a lot in her friendships—emotional support.
A few weeks ago, I posted a tweet challenging the idea of loving your friends with just words without backing up those words with tangible action:
I got some flak about it from people who argued that such capitalistic thinking misses the point of friendship in the first place. But does it?
What is a friendship if not a mutually beneficial relationship between people who care about each other? If there’s no benefit to either person in the friendship, what’s the point of it?
One mistake we make is to assume that because we simply want friends we can “chill with,” we don’t have any expectations of our friendships. By assuming that, we fail to see the underlying expectation of our friends to be interesting enough for us to enjoy being around them.
We also expect them to be similar enough to us for us to have common ground upon which we can build our conversations around. It’s not as fun to “chill with” someone we disagree with on a lot of things. So, we expect some degree of conformity from our friends. Is that not, in itself, a subconscious expectation?
There are different things that shape the expectations that underscore our friendships, which also vary with each person.
For some people, the condition of their friendship is that you provide them with emotional support. For others, it’s that you be in the same social class, or that you be someone who’s on a similar path to greatness, or that you be someone they can learn from, or that you even be someone who actively invests in them.
Basically, different strokes for different folks. But either way, the truth seems to be that no friendship is built without terms and expectations, spoken or unspoken.
For our friendships to last, we must identify what matters to our friends and figure out how we can meet as many of their expectations as we can.
Friendships are valuable because they rejuvenate us and give us a space to be our realest selves. But they also often come with additional conditions that, if not clarified, could jeopardize those friendships.
It's our responsibility to communicate those expectations with our friends and also try to live up to our friends' expectations. That's how friendships stay alive: by giving everyone in the friendship a reason to stay.
Currently reading 📖
‘Chaos Monkeys: Mayhem and Mania Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine’ – Antonio Garcia Martinez (still reading)
A song I’ve been playing on repeat this week 🎶
Friends - Ella Henderson
An article that got me thinking 📜
didn’t find anything interesting this week 😤