What are friends for?

Let’s say you have a friendship with a person who is not the same gender as you (and you are both heterosexual). Let’s say there may or may not be some spark between you. Let’s say the friendship is platonic and continues to be this way and is mutually accepted as such.

Let’s say both parties are looking for something grandiose outside of their friendship. A romantic experience with a person that affects connections on multiple, maybe even all levels.

I know a thing or two about this stuff because I came across it while getting to know the romance and erotica writers over the past couple of years. Some of these people are living in alternate, non-traditional relationships, and some of them spiced up their existing, long-term relationship by introducing things like power-exchanges, swinging, poly or some form of kink into their connection.

Point is, they already have what many people don’t – a core relationship that connects them on multiple levels and prevails in mutual love, passion and respect probably because they explored, together, alternate ways to inject some spark into the ordinary, mundane life that happens when people are together for a very long time.

About a year ago I ‘met’ online a man from the east coast in the USA who went through a horrible divorce. He met someone new and fell into the kind of passionate love affair that movies are made of. It didn’t last, there were red flags that pointed to narcissism, yada yada, and he is now, as far as I know, still single and still looking.

There are friends in his life with whom he has (had?) both platonic and sexual relationships with. They were fun and easy and the dialogue flowed both ways, but neither party was in it for the elusive ‘last and forever committed love’.

Here’s the thing:

These friendships helped each individual learn about relationships from the other. For the man, he gained insights and experiences from the female friends he spent time with, both platonically and sexually. There were insights, there were different perspectives, there were a lot of things that fueled the soul and spirit. Neither party felt used because communication remained open, and when one or the other developed ‘deeper’ feelings, there was immediate and continued dialogue between them addressing things head on.

But many people struggle with communication. Men struggle with it, in terms of volume coming from the women (I think). Women struggle with it in terms of sudden silence, ghosting and the like (I think).

A lot of times, when people who are seeking, and not finding, the passionate love they want, they turn inward. Just today a story about ghosting came up again in my feed… there were multiple dates, open dialogue, a request to meet again and then… Nothing. Silence.

The woman in this case sent another text requesting a respectful ending if in fact it has ended. The man in that case obliged and told her he met someone else.

Now, why couldn’t he have just done this right away instead of leaving the woman, who was invited to a third date by him after a successful second date, hanging with nothing?

It’s cowardly, disrespectful and not nice.

Now, you may say, two or three dates doesn’t require explanations, that they don’t owe anyone anything. I disagree. I realize people date multiple people while trying to figure out with whom they want to be exclusive… I still believe in etiquette. Politeness. And again, respect.

You had fun together, then you had more fun with someone else, now you have to choose.

You’re allowed. But why not do the nice, polite thing and tell the first person goodbye so she (he) isn’t left hanging not understanding why?

If you don’t practice manners, politeness, common courtesy with someone you liked enough to go on repeated dates with, what does this tell you about the kind of relationship you will have when you fall for someone? What does this tell you how you will treat someone whom you may feel love for?

I’m on a roll here so I’m going to keep going:

Say you have a friendship you enjoyed for a period of time. Say you like the person, feel emotion and respect toward them, yada yada, and then, suddenly, you drop them without an explanation.

If the friend was a true friend, they will recognize patterns and behaviour and understand the reason for silence and need of solitude. Sometimes, one doesn’t want to talk (or text, or chat) – I get it.

But to just drop off indefinitely without a word?

It’s kind of cruel. And yet, it happens to so many people…

(Ok I’m off the soap box now.)

Back to the friendship.

On the one hand, having a friend to rely on to ‘practice’ for future romantic relationships can’t be a bad thing. (I don’t mean use the person and lead them on, I mean in terms of communication. Share insights and perspectives with the other person for the purpose of gaining insights and perspectives about relationships.)

I get that there is possibility of pain for both. I do. I remember having written a letter once to someone who appeared to want something more than friendship from me back in my University days, a time before texting and internet. I wanted to keep the friendship but wasn’t sure where his head was at, so I wrote him a letter and left it in his mailbox.

It cleared the air and we managed to stay friends for many years after that. (We grew apart since then, he moved far away and our lives have not crossed in over twenty years now.)

But I remember the lesson. Or, I took it as a lesson.

Point is, friendship is important. Friendship, especially if it was nurtured and mutual over a period of time, is a crucial element in mental and emotional health.

Don’t you agree?

The only thing that works for both parties is mutual respect. If you claim to have respect in your repertoire, then act respectfully. It’s not really that difficult.

I’m not claiming to be perfect at this, frankly, I am not good at relationships of any kind, but I’m working on it (and writing about it, which helps me.) I’m just saying… at a time of years like Christmas, when everyone wants love and companionship, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to count on friendship to see you through the lonely times?

It all begins with communication.

It all begins with words.

In terms of dating apps and the stories I was going to tell, I deleted them. I have been browsing them for a few months now and I cannot tell you how sad my demographic (over 50) appears on these apps. I found little fodder for my stories there, so I will stick with my imagination and personal experiences.

I know this post sounds a little convoluted, but I’m just trying to work through some things, gain a deeper understanding about relationships which often, at least for me, begin with friendship. And my friendships, the real ones, are rooted in words.

Sadly, not all of my friends understand how central, primal, the written word is to me. If we’ve grown apart, this is probably one reason why. But I won’t stop writing, so the ball is in your court.

Thank you for reading this post. If you have anything to contribute, I welcome your opinions and perspectives.

See you in the comments.

30 thoughts on “What are friends for?

  1. One thing completely tangential here. Somehow your blog stopped showing up in my feed. It was about the same time you said you were going to publish on Medium so I thought you weren’t blogging here anymore. Doh… I’ve missed your thought-provoking posts like this one and am glad I spent the time to make it show up again. I’ve missed reading you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoy having friendships with a diverse group. I like having guy friends, female friends, gay friends, diverse ethnicities, race, etc. It makes me a better person. However, I still feel like I struggle with the communication part. How often to reach out or get together? Are we truly friends or strong casual acquaintances? I love this post because it really has me thinking…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lots of takeaways here. Communication is key in any relationship. One of the things that makes my current relationship so strong is when we have a miscommunication, we talk about what happened (more communication) and we learn from it. We also have shared what triggers us, what is important, things from the past that made other relationships fail. It’s refreshing to feel the sense of trust that whatever we communicate is being received and considered.
    Regarding ghosting, I think it’s sometimes ‘the easy way out’ for the person doing it, but obviously it’s bad form and harder to take when we all have a device that makes it easy to text a goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The thing about open marriages and such is that people need to be secure in what’s happening. Spicing something up should happen when both parties are into it. I am and will forever be a fan of monogamy and my husband knows this. However if I come across other relationships in fiction, that doesn’t bother me. Fictional characters can’t hurt you.
    As for etiquette. Let me take you back to 2005 when I lived in a basement apartment and was sort of seeing real casual. I wanted something more and he didn’t. And because he didn’t want to “hurt my feelings” he kept stringing me along for a couple of weeks before flat out FINALLY saying it. And I wasn’t about to turn all crazy if he said no. There was never any danger of me stalking, checking up, or texting, so I don’t get why he wouldn’t be done with it in the first place and save us both some time.
    So much for regrets.
    Needless to say he was not the one for me and I learned a lot about honesty with him. I am much better off in my marriage then I would be out in the dating world. Your trip through the dating apps is proof of this. As much as we envision a sexy scenario the truth is more then a little hard to swallow in reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s wonderful that you’re in a secure and a happy relationship with your husband. As I’m sure you noticed while reading all of my travels through midlife that things have been a little volatile for me. 🙃

      As far as friendship is concerned, at every level including the precursor into romantic relationships, the main thing is open communication. Seems to be a struggle for most people at least some of the time.

      Then there’s me hurling unfiltered words into the internet 😎😛

      Thank you for the comment Holly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Etiquette is important online! I was always reply ‘thanks but no thanks’ even after short random chats with men (or women) while online dating. Emotional intelligence & courage to communicate clearly are hard-won skills, & precious. We need to teach it in schools, workplaces, & college! But we can always choose to be kind, firm, & respectful to self & others, that’s my basic policy at age 55 now ✅

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post and I agree with everything you say here, 100%. I was even thinking earlier over how it’s changed over the years when it comes to internet dating or communication. We seem to increasingly live in a throwaway world when it comes to dating and friendships 😦 I too don’t grasp the mindset of someone who just ghosts over just gently saying they don’t want to date/be friends anymore. It’s bizarre and hurtful to think you’re connecting with someone and then the next day, you’re tossed aside like a piece of rubbish! It leaves us wondering what on earth we did wrong!

    When it comes to dating over the years, I’ve always been quite an emotionally open, straight shooter over random guys getting to know. It’s harder if I like them though lol. If I’m chatting to other potentials, I will say and communicate thoroughly over how I’m seeing things. There’s guys who wanted to date me and I didn’t have feelings for at this point and was honest and open about giving it a go seeing them going on dates but I didn’t know if things could have growth into a relationhip or not? Often the guy seemed to just appreciate my honesty along the way, would choose to keep seeing me and give it the time they wanted to over it. I guess my overall experiences showed me if I’m going to be interested in someone from online in person then I already know it from online and don’t tend to feel differently after a couple of meets. But it’s experiences I needed to have whilst being honest all the way in the process.

    One thing I have a nightmare with is trying to befriend other females. I need friendships more than most but seems like other women are often the first to vanish out, ghost, block or get a new social media, or whatever. I have a recent story on this I may post about.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This is one story in a million an I think the exception rather than the rule but I feel it is worth mentioning here. While we were travelling we met up with a young(er) man; The Second Mate if you are interested in looking up some details of our shenanigans. We parted company and as he left he explained he is not the kind of guy who texts regularly. We exchanged a couple of messages and then I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. I honestly did not think I would ever hear from him again. then yesterday, about three months on, he messaged, “I am in Brisbane and would like to catch up!” So sometimes people surprise you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. One would think that, after all these millenia of evolution, we’d be better at being human. Sadly, not so. And we fail terribly in teaching these “interaction basics” to our children. It’s like every generation has to invent it all over again. You’d think there’d be a class in school or something…no, not dating basics, more like human ethics. I already think that Psych 101 ought to be taught in middle school–just to get the topic of deviant behaviors on the table. Friendship 101–find person with similar values/perspectives…respectfully share good times and laughs. If misunderstandings or hurts arise, deal with them–openly and honestly. First, apply this to friendships–then later in relationships. Not so hard, right? And yet, I fear that as long as we treat opportunities (the planet) as extractive resources, I don’t think we have the gentler, long-term mindset to bring to our interpersonal arenas. We’re not going anywhere long term, so long as our perspective is “what we can get out of it.”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I agree that ghosting is rude. How hard is a text saying “I’m moving on. I wish you well.” It may leave the receiver of the message confused but lots of things in life are left unsatisfactorily resolved, or unresolved… whatever.

    Being honest in communication is something I had to learn. Not that I wasn’t honest, but (and I’m generalizing) women in our age group were brought up to be “nice”. Dont rock the boat, don’t cause problems, it’s okay to be strong, but be nice about it… It took me a while to simply say “No. I’d rather not” without a justification/excuse.
    It has definitely made life easier though.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is such a relatable post! You’re right, communication is key. But some folks just can’t pull on their big-boy pants (or big-girl pants) and have uncomfortable conversations, even in text form. It’s a shame, but not going to change. One of the most freeing things for me in over-60 dating is no longer wasting time trying to figure out someone’s actions or get closure.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I ghost in the context of depression. I’ve done it with friends and with family. It’s not something I use as an offensive strategy; it’s purely defensive. I do it when I’m out of resources, and trying to smooth it over and make it prettier for the other person’s sake would take more resources than I have.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I acknowledge this. I also have a friend who has occasional depression (his words) and I suspect the ghosting falls in with that.

      I ALSO hear and see ghosting among friends and the dating community. Much more so than I was ever aware before… did things change or did I change?

      Maybe tech makes us feel more tethered to each other thereby expecting more immediate gratification.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Online dating probably facilitates it by allowing one to meet people with no mutual connections, so there aren’t third parties to motivate performative politeness. Whereas if you went on a date with someone you met through a mutual acquaintance, there would be a little extra social pressure to overcome that desire to avoid conflict.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. There’s that.

        Also, the apps are a business designed to keep you single. I can unsubscribe or delete as often as I want, within a few weeks, here come the email reminders, the price reductions, the top pics.

        It’s quite fascinating. And maddening, especially because I e never paid or subscribed.

        No wonder people ghost given the volume they’re sucked into (not that I’m excusing the behaviour). It’s overwhelming.

        Meeting people organically removes some of that by degrees. They can still ghost, but it’s less… pronounced maybe? I don’t know if that’s the right word.

        All I know is people suffer when they’re being ghosted.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s so true about apps’ motivations.

        I guess it’s kind of like Twitter brings out behaviour that people would be too embarrassed to exhibit i the offline world. The online thing gives that extra bit of removal that makes it easier to pretend the other person isn’t an actual human with actual feelings.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. There are always signs. We just choose to ignore them as long as we are getting something good from a relationship. Most of the time others will see what’s happening but we ourselves are blind to it. People don’t look too deeply into things they’re happy with. This is good, but leads to being mystified when something bad happens. How many times have you seen a friend be in a relationship, platonic or otherwise, and just know the other person is going to treat them badly. We all wear goggles to a certain degree

    Liked by 4 people

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