Relationships: Reciprocity, and Expectations

I have many differing degrees of relationships with the people in my life. To split it up crudely, I have some best friends (I apply that term to more than one person), a larger group of friends, an even larger group of acquaintances. On a separate plane, I have my family.

I have been giving some thought to what separates out these differing degrees of friends. I always believe there is room for more people in my life, which is probably why I enjoy meeting new people so much. Some may think they don’t have time for more friends. I agree that there is a limit to how much time I have in the day, and therefore I have a limited amount of time I can spend with my friends. With some friends, this seems to limit how close we can become, while other friends I feel close to, despite not being able to spend a lot of time together on a regular basis. I truly value all the friends I have moved away from, or do not spend time with regularly, but with whom I can immediately fall back in step with, when we are together.

I used to believe that common interests were one of the most important attributes of my close friends. However, I am slowly changing my mind on this opinion. I have a friend now, who could be considered my complete antithesis in terms of interests. However, I believe we have a strong mutual respect for our interests, and in many ways, I find the differences between us to be just as engaging. I am definitely attracted to people who show a passion for what they spend time on, and I have a hard time being friends with someone before I find something to admire about them. I’ve also learned that if I’m committed, I can find something to admire about just about anyone.

Lately, I’ve realized that perhaps more important than any of that, is the expectation of what it means to be a friend. I find that the people I am closest to, have the same expectations that I do, with regards to our friendship. I think this can be extended out to other, more intense, relationships… such as a girlfriend or a spouse. If the expectations of the relationship are not the same, the chance of it crumbling at some point is very high.

I think a good example is asking a friend for a favor. Friends who have the same expectations as myself would do the favor without thinking much of it. I feel that I give in this way, and while I don’t expect the favor to be returned 1 for 1, I feel that if the roles were reversed, my friend would return the favor without thinking, as well. This is an important distinction, because I think most ‘friends’ would do their friend a favor, but some might look on it as being a much bigger deal. It is this difference that shows the differing expectations between friends.

You might be able to apply this example to borrowing money from friends, as well. The expectations have to be the same.

I should point out that no ones set of expectations is not in any way ‘better’ than anyone else’s… just different. If two friends expect a hug everyday as a greeting… that’s fine, and they’ll both get along well if they both expect it. That doesn’t make them any better or worse than a different set of friends who both expect a handshake. A trivial example, perhaps, but it highlights my point.

Examination of this idea has changed how I view new people in my life. I think I always gravitated towards people with similar expectations of friends, but now I am a bit more conscious of it. Thankfully, it has also helped me understand the friendships I have right now.

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