Just friendship and talking

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This post was originally published on Wait But Why. For a bunch of years, you're in a certain life your parents chose for you, and so are other people, and none of you have that much on your plates, so friendships inevitably form. Maybe they're the right friends, maybe they're not really. But you don't put that much thought into any of it — you're still more of a passive observer. But once student life ends, the people in your life start to shake themselves into more distinct tiers.

All photos are from the original Wait But Why post and used with permission. At the top of your life mountain, in the green zone, you have your Tier 1 friends — the people who feel like brothers and sisters. These are the people closest to you, the ones you call first when something important happens, the ones you love even when they suck, who make speeches at your wedding, whose best and worst sides you know through and through, and whose relationship with you is eternal; even if you go months or years without hanging out, nothing has changed when you find yourself together again.

Unfortunately, depending on how things went down in your youth, Tier 1 can also contain your worst enemies, the people who can ruin your day with one subtle jab that only they could word so brilliantly hurtfully, the people you feel a burning resentment for, or jealousy of, or competition with.

Tier 1 is high stakes. Pretty Good friends are a much calmer situation than your brothers and sisters on Tier 1. You might be invited to their wedding, but you won't have any responsibilities once you're there.

If you live in the same city, you might see them every month or two for dinner and have a great time when you do, but if one of you moves, you might not speak for the next year or two. And if something huge happens in their life, there's a good chance you'll hear it first from someone else. Toward the bottom of the mountain in the orange zone, you have your Tier 3 friends: your Not Really friends. You might grab a one-on-one drink with one of them when you move to their city, but then it surprises neither of you when five years pass and drink 2 is still yet to happen.

You may also try to sleep with one of these people at any given time. The lowest part of Tier 3 begins to blend indistinguishably into your large group of acquaintances the pink zone : those people you'd stop and talk to if you saw them on the street or would maybe for professional purposes but whom you'd never hang out with one-on-one.

When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don't actually care. And depending on who you are and how things shook out in those first 25 years, the way your particular mountain looks will vary. And Phony Phoebewho tries to be everyone's best friend and ends up with a lot of people mad at her:. Whatever your particular mountain looks like, eventually the blur of your youth is behind you, the dust has settled, and there you Just friendship and talking living your life.

As time goes on, you start to realize that the year frenzy of not-especially-thought-through haphazard friend-making you just did was the critical process of you making most of Just friendship and talking lifelong friends. And since you matched up with most of them A by circumstance, and B before you really knew yourself yet, the result is that your Tier 1 and Tier 2 friends — those closest to you — fall in a very scattered way on what I'll call the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph:.

As time goes on, most of us tend to have fewer friends in Quadrants 2 through 4 because A people mature, and B people have more self-respect and higher standards for what they'll deal with as they get older. But the fact is, friendships made in the formative years often stick, whether they're ideal or not, leaving most of us with a portion of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 friendships that just don't make that much sense. We'll get to the great, Quadrant 1 friendships later in the post, but in order to treat those relationships properly, we need to take a thorough look at the odd ones first.

You'll be having a good day. You'll be having a bad day. You'll be happy at work. You'll quit your job. You'll fall Just friendship and talking love. You'll catch your new love cheating on you and murder them both in an act of incredible passion. And it doesn't matter, because none of it will be discussed with The Non-Question-Asking Friend, who never, ever, ever asks you anything about your life.

This friend can be explained in one of three ways:. Giving you the benefit of the doubt here, we're left with two possibilities. Possibility 1 isn't fun at all and this person should not be allowed space on Tier 1. The green part of the mountain is sacred territory, and super self-absorbed people shouldn't be permitted to set foot up there.

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Put him Just friendship and talking Tier 2 and just be happy you're not dating him. Possibility 2 is a pretty dark situation for your friend, but it can actually be fun for you. I have a friend who I've hung out with one-on-one about four times in the last year, and he has no idea Wait But Why exists.

I've known him for 14 years and I'm not sure he knows if I have siblings or not. But I actually enjoy the shit out of this friend — sure, there's a limit on how close we'll ever be, but without ever spending time talking about our lives, we actually end up in a lot of fun, interesting conversations. In almost every group of friends, there's one pair who can't ever be alone together. It's not that they dislike each other — they might get along great — it's just that they have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever.

This leaves both of them petrified of the lumbering elephant that appears in the room anytime they're alone together. They're way too on top of shit to ever end up in the car alone together if a group is going somewhere in multiple cars, but there are smaller dangers afoot — like being the first two to arrive at a restaurant or being in a group of three when the third member goes to the bathroom.

The thing is, sometimes it's not even that these people couldn't have an individual friendship — it's just that they don't, and neither one has the guts to try to make that leap when things have gone on for so long as is. This is a friend who's terrified of having an earnest interaction, and as such, your friendship with him is always in some kind of skit — you always have to be on when you're interacting.

Sometimes the skit is that you both burst out laughing at everything constantly.

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This type of person hates earnest people because someone being earnest dares him to come out from under his ironic safety blanket and let the sun touch his face, and no fucking thanks. Of course, she doesn't really think you're perfectly great at all — if she were with someone else, you'd be one of the voodoo dolls on the table to be dissected and scoffed at.

The key here is that the two of you must be on a team at all times while interacting. The only comfortable mode for this person is bonding with you by building a little pedestal for you both to stand on while you criticize everyone else. You can either play along and everything will go smoothly, even though you'll both despise yourselves and each other the whole time, or you can commit the ultimate sin and have the integrity to disagree with the friend or defend a non-present party the friend criticizes.

I guess. What these all have in common is the friend has tall walls up, at least toward you, and Just friendship and talking she builds a little skit for you two to hang out in to make sure any authentic connection can be avoided. Sometimes that person only does this out of her own social anxiety and can become a great, authentic friend if you can just stomp through the ice.

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Other times, the person is just hopelessly scared and closed off and there's no hope and you have to get out. In any case, I can't stand these interactions and am in a full panic the entire time they're happening. Think of a friend you Just friendship and talking together with from time to time, which usually happens after a long and lackluster or text exchange during which you just can't find a time that works for both of you — and you're never really happy when these plans are being made and not really psyched when you wake up and it's finally on your schedule for that day.

Maybe you're aware that you don't want to be friends with that person, or maybe you're delusional about it — but what you're most likely not aware of is that they probably don't want to see you either. There are lopsided situations where one person is far more interested in hanging out than the other we'll get to those laterbut in the case we're talking about here, both parties often think it's a lopsided situation without realizing that the other person actually feels the same way — that's why it takes so long to schedule a time.

When someone's excited about something, they figure out how to get it into their schedule; when they're not, they figure out ways to push it farther into the future. Sometimes you don't think hard enough about it to even realize you don't like being friends with the person, and other times you really like the idea or the aesthetic of being friends with that particular person — being friends with them is part of your Story.

But even in cases where you're perfectly lucid about your feelings, since neither of you knows the other feels the same way and neither has the guts to just cut things off or move it down a tier, this friendship usually just continues along for eternity. Somewhere in your life, you're probably part of a friendship that would be a marriage if only the other person weren't very, very, extremely not interested in that happening.

You might be on either side of this — and either way, it's one of the least healthy parts of your life. If you're on the if only side of things, probably the right move is to get your fucking shit together? Ya know? This friendship is one long, continuous rejection of you as a human being, and you're just wallowing there in your yearning like a sobbing little seal.

Plus, duh, if you gather your self-respect and move on with your life, it'll raise their perception of your value and they might actually become interested in you. If you're on the Oh yeah, definitely not side of the situation, here's what's happening: There's this suffering human in the world, and you know they're suffering, and you fucking love itbecause it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath every time you hang out with them.

You enjoy it so much you probably even lead them on intentionally, don't you — you make sure to keep just enough ambiguity in the situation that their bleeding heart continues to lather your ego from Just friendship and talking to toe at your whim. A Historical Friend is someone you became friends with in the first place because you met when you were little and stayed friends through the yearseven though you're a very weird match. Most old friends fall somewhat into this category, but a true Historical Friend is someone you absolutely would not be friends with if you met them today.

You're not especially pleased with who they are, and they feel the same way about you.

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You're not each other's type one bit. Unfortunately, you're also extremely close friends from when you were four, and you're both just a part of each other's situation forever, sorry. Throughout childhood and much of young adulthood, most people your age are in the same life stage as you are.

But when it comes to advancing into full adulthood, people do so at widely varying paces, which le to certain friends suddenly having totally different existences from one another. Anyone within three years of 30 has a bunch of these going on. It's just a weird time for everyone. Some people have become Future year-olds, while others are super into being year-olds.

At some point, things will start to meld together again, but being ish is the friendship equivalent of a kid going through an awkward pubescent stage.

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There are darker, more permanent Non-Parallel Life Path situations. Like when Person A starts to become a person who rejects material wealth, partially because she genuinely feels that Just friendship and talking an artistic path matters more and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling envious of richer people, and Person B's path makes her scoff at people who pursue creative paths, partially because she genuinely thinks expressing yourself is an inherently narcissistic venture and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling regretful that she never pursued her creative dreams — these two will have problems.

They may still like each other, but they can't be as close as they used to be — Just friendship and talking of their lives is a bit of a middle finger at the other's choices, and that's jst awkward for everyone. It's not always that bad — but to survive an Off-Line Life Situation, friends need to be really different people who don't at all want the same things out of life. The Frenemy roots very hard against you. And I'm not talking about the friends that will feel a little twinge of pleasure when they hear your big break didn't pan out after all or that your relationship is in bad shape.

I'm not even talking about someone who secretly roots against you when they're not doing so well at some area of life and it Just friendship and talking them to see you do better. Those are bad emotions, but they can exist in people who are still good friends. I'm talking about a real Frenemy — someone who really wants bad things for you. Because you're you. You and the Frenemy usually go way back, have a very deep friendship, and the trouble probably started a long time ago.

There's a lot of complex psychology going on in these situations that I don't fully understand, but my hunch is that a Frenemy's resentment is rooted in his own pain, or his own shortcomings, or his own regret — and for some reason, your existence stings them in these places hard. A little less dark but no less harmful is a bully situation where a friend sees some weakness or vulnerability in you and she enjoys prodding you there either for sadistic reasons or to prop herself up. A Frenemy knows how to hurt you better than anyone because you're deeply similar in some way and she knows how you're wired.

She'll do whatever she can to bring you down any chance she gets, often in such a subtle way it's hard to see that it's happening. Whatever the reason, if you have a Frenemy in your life, kick her toxic ass off your mountain, or at least kick her down the mountain — just get her off of Tier 1. A Frenemy has about a 10th of the power to hurt you from Tier 2 as she does from Tier 1.

This person isn't a celebrity to anyone other than you, you creep. You know exactly who I'm talking about — there are a small handful of people whose Facebook you're uncomfortably well-acquainted with, and those people have no idea that this is happening. On the plus side, there are people out there you haven't spoken to in seven years who know all about the new thing you're trying with your hair, since it goes both ways. This is a rare Tier 3 friend, or even an acquaintance, who qualifies as an odd friendship because you found a way to make it unhealthy even though you're not actually friends.

Well done. There are a lot of ways a friendship can be lopsided: Someone can be higher on their friend's mountain than vice versa. Someone can want to spend more time with a friend than vice versa. And then there's the lopsided power friendship. Of course, this is a hideous quality in many not-great couples, but it's also a prominent feature of plenty of friendships. It's when the gap gets even wider that something less healthy is going on — something that doesn't reflect very well on either party. There are some obvious ways to assess the nature of a friendship's power dynamic: Does one person cut in and interrupt the other person while they're talking far more than the other way around?

Is one person's opinion or preference just kind of understood to carry more weight than the other's? Is one person allowed to be more of a dick to the other than vice versa? If Person A is in a bad mood, Person B is in a good mood, and Person B reacts by being timid and respectful of Person A's mood, leaving the vibe down there until Person A snaps out of it on her own — but when the moods are reversed, Person B quickly disregards her own bad mood and acts more cheerful to match Person A's happy mood — and this is how it always goes — then Person A is in a serious power position.

In the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph above, the friendships we just discussed are all in Quandrants 2, 3, or 4 — i. That's why this has been depressing. On the bright side, there's also Quadrant 1 — all the friendships that do make sense.

Just friendship and talking

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