“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”
-Elie Wiesel, author of ‘Night’.
I have this very beautiful passage from Goodreads about the definition of friendship. Contrary to romantic relationships, friendship is sharing all what you have. It is where you care for people genuinely without asking anything in return whilst love needs to be reciprocated for it to grow. Many people often confuse ‘friendship’ and ‘relationship’ as the same thing, these two worlds cannot merge as one. By definition according to Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, ‘Friendship’ means a ‘mutual regard cherished by kindred minds’. For me, Friendship is the affection we had for other people of both sexes without having a physical and emotional attachment to each other. Relationship, is two parties having a mutual sexual attraction, which involves deeper feelings. In addition, Love plays an important role in the relationship to survive, although friendship requires the same, the emotion is nothing than being kindred spirits. Friendship usually involves a certain concern for our friends, a concern that can be confused as a form of love. As quoted online in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ancient Greek philosophers traditionally have three notions for love namely: Agape, Eros and Philia. Agape is the love that does not have any responsive emotion from the object of its affections or in nonprofessional’s term, ‘selfless love’ that we feel for nature, and humanity. In contrast to this, Eros, means a passionate feeling or desire for one person based on looks, attitude and sometimes these affections can be sexually in nature. Philia is much different because this is the friendly regard towards our friends and in some cases on our family members. Both Eros and Philia receive the same affections from their objects. Based on the three definitions of love, ‘Philia’ best describes the emotion we feel for our friends whereas Eros is the driving force of relationships. People believe that when friendship between a man and a woman becomes stronger, this will lead to them having a relationship with each other. The misconception occurs because people often judge them based loosely on their actions, and because of this, many people suffer from heartbreak and disappointment. For example, I have this friend back in high school. He was a charming and kind lad and he is very dear to me, not in the romantic aspect but more on the kinship. I always hang out with him because we share the common sentiments, hobbies and attitudes. For over five years, we have been friends and I daresay that both of us are happy on that set up. Until one day after the graduation ceremony, he went to me to have a small talk. Gone was the face of a young lad I have known for my entire life. His expression was very serious and his eyes spoke a deeper though which I failed to analyze at that time. We excused ourselves from our classmates, ignoring their teasing. My friend Anthony and I went to the secluded spot in a garden of the stadium and sat on a bench. I felt weird and tensed at the same time because I am not used to his seriousness. Anthony was a cheerful and funny person. He hates being serious. I asked him "What is the problem?" but he just looked at me strangely. After ten minutes of quietly watching fanciful flowers in the garden, he held my hand and caressed it tenderly before he revealed his true intent. Anthony’s eager face is hopeful when he told me that he loves me and cares for me. I hate to see him sad, but I cannot lie to myself either. I love Anthony, but I only see him as the elder brother that I never had; I do not feel any attraction for him. I felt so sorry for him and I do not intend to break his heart or ruin the romantic mood or whatsoever. I told him what I truly feel about him and although he told me, it is okay if I do not reciprocate his love, as his friend I did not want to hurt Anthony by telling him that I will learn to love him later in our relationship. For me, it would be dishonoring his good nature and the friendship that we shared. I frankly told him that I cannot and will not be able to reciprocate the love he had for me because I only see him as a brother and we do not want to have a relationship with our brother. I knew I hurt him a lot, but I prefer to be true with what I say and I would rather hurt Anthony by the truth than to hurt him by a lie and after that summer, we are still best friends and I am happy with his newly found love.
Friendship grows between two people until both of them becomes closer. Four different levels of friendship often begin with the simple ‘acquaintance’. An ‘acquaintance’ is the person we meet or interact occasionally or on a regular basis, but they are not your actual friends, e.g. a person of my acquaintance. ‘Close buddies,’ these are the people we hang out and play with, they might be your colleagues, classmates or neighbors. This type of friendship exists only for having fun and some people only hang out because they share common interests. The third level is called the ‘advisors’ are the people who gave you advise on anything like your love life, family issues and other whilst the fourth are your ‘dearest friends’. These people know you since your childhood and they are always with you in difficult times. To simplify, these people know us inside and out. Relationship also has different levels, which includes, romantic relationship, sexual or no strings attached relationship and blood relationship. Romantic relationship is a situation wherein a man and a woman express the same affections towards each other. No strings attached relationship is similar to Aristotle’s ‘friendship of pleasure’. This is only a romantic liaison between a man and a woman and not a romantic relationship because there is no commitment, love, trust and loyalty.
The bond we feel from our family members is the one called as ‘blood relationship’ and this pertains to the relationship a person has within his own family. As argued by psychologist Frederic Neuman (2013) on the website ‘Psychology Today’ the three things we must know about ‘friendship’ enumerated below:
- Friendships tend to grow up over for a long time and blooms when people are together, either in school, college and work.
- Misunderstandings are the most common reason some friendships do not last, however, in other situations, friendship ends when one party transfer to another location thus making the communication difficult.
- In adulthood, friends who are so close to one another might ask for the other party’s help when situations become difficult.
Because of the romantic relationship contains the same elements similar to friendship, it has often misunderstood by many people which results in disappointment, heartbreak and others experience an emotional breakdown. As cited in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “sexual intimacy enters into romantic love through passion and one’s desire for physical union, however, friendship yearns more on psychological identification.” (Badhwar, 2003, p.65-66). Quoted on the same website again, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Aristotle classified the idea of ‘friendship’ into three: friendships of pleasure, utility and virtue. However, though it is difficult to understand these categories, simply he points out the reasons why we love our friend. “People love their friends because of the pleasure I acquire from her, their usefulness or rather we love our friends because of the virtuous character that they have.”
‘Friendships of pleasure’ prior to what Aristotle argued, suggests that people tend to love their friends based on the ‘pleasure’ they get from them. The context of pleasure does not imply only physical pleasure, but the ‘pleasure of company’ people receive from their friends. ‘Friendship of utility’ is the situation, in which people love their friends because of their usefulness whilst, on the other hand, ‘friendship of virtue’ is when people love their friends neither because of their usefulness nor because of pleasure of their company but based on their attitudes and virtue. As the saying goes, we cannot have both worlds. Friendship and relationship are two different things although it can merge into one, sometimes the problem occurs. Sometimes, persons who started as best friends and jumped into a relationship often ends up in failure because one of them realizes that they lack the ‘spark’ or ‘chemistry’ to make everything work out. Frigidity in women as said by men happens when there is no mutual affection or sexual desire formed within the romantic relationship and most of these cases ruin the friendship they have started. The lack of love is also one of the main factors why most of the relationships fail and the chemistry between a man and a woman often plays a great role in keeping the relationship strong. Although friends care about one another, the care in the romantic love is quite different too. Romantic love requires a much deeper understanding of other person’s thoughts and fears. When we interact with our friends, we are always open, uninhibited and conversational. We always say to them our failures, expectations, fears and goals without being too conscious. We always proceed on saying whatever we had on mind to our close friends. In short, we do not hesitate to tell and solicit advice from them. However, this is not the case for the people in an intimate relationship. For example in the nature, in order to get a mate, animals, display their best appearances and fight each other and do everything within their power to attract a mate which similar in masking their personality so the mate they wanted will be attracted to them. Like the animals, we often try to eliminate or somehow reduce the flaws we had by means of impressing our partners by hiding all of our failures, real attitudes and keeping secrets from them. Compared to friendship, one’s personality changes to attract a possible partner or mate. These particular differences sums to the conclusion that jumping from ‘friendship’ to ‘in a relationship’ status is impossible. As I have explained earlier, one cannot proceed from openness to secrecy. In an intimate relationship, people interact to their partner in a very calculated manner. They are not vocal to express opinions freely whereas the close friendship allows us to do everything we want without thinking of ruining each other’s feelings. Charles Lamb, an English writer and essayist also wrote a quote pertaining to this argument: “This is the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.” (qtd. in Goodreads.com, “The Life, Letters and Writings of Charles Lamb”)
Love as I have mentioned earlier, is the driving force of all relationships to work. Love, is a complex emotion, and a combination of mutual understanding, and passion. Philosophical accounts for love and relationship by Solomon (1988), cited online in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he argues that love is a union of two souls and lovers change their identities within a relationship. “Love defines the concentration and the intensive focus of mutual definition on a single individual, subjecting virtually every personal aspect of one's self to this process.” (Solomon, 1988, p.197) Relationships cannot be formed without love whilst Baier (1991) argues that, “Love is not just an emotion people feel toward other people, but a complex binding of the emotions of two or more individuals and it is a special form of emotional interdependence.” (qtd. in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Because of this, couples share common interests, and other from two separate individuals thus becoming a unified identity and because of this, to avoid relationship failures each of the parties within the relationship must allow each other to establish his own identity. Romantic relationship is unpredictable. The “love at first sight” phenomenon is when a person falls in love with someone else without going to the friendship stage first. Such unplanned bonding considered as ‘impulsive’ would be more prone to breakups later in life. In the discussion proper, the five important aspects of a romantic relationship listed in sequence according to the website, ‘Psychology Today’ from an article of Fredric Neuman (2013):
- In today’s modern world, young people decide to get married at a later age because\ it is more likely these people will fall in love a number of times before settling down. These premises often imply a committed sexual relationship. If casual sexual relationships are included, the number is much higher.
- “Friends with benefits,” which is the current euphemism for couples who sleep together without much emotional involvement with ‘no strings attached’ basis, and these people are not likely to end their relationship in good terms.
- Whether or not a couple has sex very early in their relationship, this will not determine the hundred percent success of that relationship.
- The intensity of a relationship measured not by the length of time the relationship will last. The fact that it has lasted for a long time is an indicator but does not assure couples that their relationship will last in the future.
- Failure of many marriages usually creates negative thinking and depression to one or both parties. This causes bitterness in a person and possibly both partners. That bitterness tends to subside with time, and most former marital partners become indifferent to the actions, and even the welfare, of their former spouses. Some, however, end up friends.
Friendship without the presence of physical union and can have a bitter or happy ending depending on the expectations of both parties. Having sex will make a people feel united both physically and emotionally although this often marks the expectations of one partner to his own. A possible breakup might happen because sex sometimes makes the relationship more fragile. The failure of the relationships is due to lack of communication and interests of each person and, therefore, psychologists recommend maintaining communication and transparency to each other. Trust comes first and physical bonding is just a matter of bonus included in a romantic relationship. Uncertainty is also one of the reasons why ‘relationship’ fails. People who are unconsciously has fallen into the sweet world of love has a tendency to lose his rationality as well as the mood change which makes the behavior difficult to predict. Honesty is always the best approach if one wants to break the ‘friend zone’ level. Vocalizing feelings is essential to avoid becoming heartbroken due to false assumptions. Trust, honesty and loyalty, which are an essential foundation of friendship, can help a person break through the limits of the friend zone. By using the three building blocks of friendship and with the addition of love, a relationship can last up to a very long time if both parties will agree to the terms laid by each other. In addition, one essential to the friendship and relationship premise is respect. Respect means accepting your partner or friend without ado regardless of flaws, both physical, emotional and sometimes the status on the society. If a romantic relationship failed, it depends on the couple if they will continue their friendship. Possibly, this situation will test the couple’s maturity in handling things like maintaining the friendship aside from the fact that both of them have a failed romance. Another source of misunderstandings between former friends turned to lovers is the concept of physical intimacy. Transitioning from the comforts of ‘friendzone’ to the excitement of being in a relationship is not an easy thing. There will be instances wherein two former friends will be uncomfortable holding hands so the best way to remove the anxiety is to give space to one another and wait until each of you are both comfortable with physical contact. While some people consider that rushing intimacy with a former friend-turned-into-lover can be disastrous as this might ruin the established connection or bond that is why psychologists and relationship experts advise their patients to take things slowly, one-step at a time. It is also important to savor the newly discovered affection and take time in rediscovering each other’s interests and personality. It does not matter how couples started becoming friends first or having a relationship, the latter will not succeed without trust and loyalty to your partner, love that is the principal emotion that binds you together and lastly, respect to each other’s opinion. Having time to talk is also essential for couples in relationship know each other. Talking to your partner increases not only each other’s trust but also the spirit of camaraderie within the relationship.
Intimacy, communication, trust and love these are the main factors that build up a relationship. Intimacy does not imply sex alone. A couple can be intimate by means of cuddling, sleeping, kissing and embracing. Trust is the ability of one person to put his beliefs, on his or her partner without doubting the statement of the other. Love is not too similar to the intimacy. Many people want an intimacy because of their raw sexual desires and it would be more beautiful if couples put a respect with each other’s sexual preferences. On the other hand, other people in some relationship manipulate their partners for the sake of their own. Manipulating or controlling their partners is the biggest mistake one can ever do. Avoid controlling or dominating partners as this promotes happiness and good attitude from your partner. While being in a relationship, the issue about the third party is a big deal. Many people tend to forget the value of commitment and because of peer pressure, a relationship can fall when the other became weak and defenseless to it.
Helm, B. (2005). Friendship. [online] Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/ [Accessed: 25 Feb 2014].
Neuman, F. (2014). Friends and lovers?. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201306/friends-and-lovers [Accessed: 25 Feb 2014].
Helm, B. (2005). Love. [online] Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/love/ [Accessed: 25 Feb 2014].
Goodreads.com. (2014). The life, letters and writings of Charles Lamb quotes by Charles Lamb. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/16484576-the-life-letters-and-writings-of-charles-lamb [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].
Goodreads.com. (2014). Quotes about Friendship (2468 quotes). [online] Retrieved from: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/friendship?page=2 [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].