Posted by: whimsigal | September 26, 2008

Friendship – My Truth

What exactly is friendship? Dictionary.com defines it this way:

“The state of being friends; friendly relation, or attachment, to a person, or between persons; affection arising from mutual esteem and good will; friendliness; amity; good will.”

and these words are synonyms:

“harmony, accord, understanding, rapport.”

It is at this point that I must ask the question, Can you be friends with your family? I believe the answer to that is no and the path to this thought is fraught with interesting perspectives. EDITED TO ADD: perhaps the proper way to phrase this is, “Can I be friends with my family” as I cannot speak to anyone else’s truth. Only my own. Please consider this post not to be a sweeping generalization but a statement of my own personal truth regarding my capabilities in relationships.

    When you are born, your parent/parents are there to love you, feed you, raise you. If you’re lucky, they bring into the world other people like you and you become a family with mother, father, brothers and/or sisters and so begins the long narrative of your life. During your formative years, you share experiences with all of these people, some good, some bad. You compete with your siblings in various arenas and sometimes you win but sometimes you lose. You each develop a persona and role in your family. You dream that one day, you will grow up and go off on your own, develop relationships with other people and, if you’re lucky, that’s what happens. In my own experience, I have relied too heavily on familial relationships, and have in the past forsaken the idea of having friends outside of my mother and sister. Until recently, I really only had one or two girlfriends, and I had no friendships remaining from high school or anything like that. Thankfully though, all that is beginning to change and my world of friends has grown exponentially in the last year. Most of the credit for that goes to our decision to homeschool because it forced us to look for others who were doing the same thing, who held the same ideals as us. Part of the credit must also go to my new found passion for photography. In my search for information to strengthen my skills, I have met many wonderful people along the way and my circle of friends is blissfully large. For the first time in my whole life, I feel connected to a group of people to whom I share no blood relation and it’s nice. Why? Because you don’t choose your family. You are born into it. Friendship though is a choice. People meet you and decide whether or not they like you and want to continue to have a relationship with you. It really is a beautiful thing.

    Family relationships are hard, especially with siblings. There are many years of fighting combined with years of sibling rivalry that can strain even the best relationships. I think it’s important to recognize that your family is there for you when things get tough but it’s a mistake to rely on them as “friends”. They can never be your “friend” in the truest sense of the word and I don’t mean to make it sound like that’s a bad thing. But neither is it bad to keep your friends and your family separate. It’s still a wonderful, beautiful relationship, it just has it’s own designation – family. Family is complicated but no matter how complicated they’ll always be there to support you when the chips are down. Well, if you come from an abusive situation then that’s different but generally speaking, family is there. It’s important to be able to stand on your own and develop relationships outside of the people to whom you are related. If you don’t you will find yourself in a very lonely situation should an argument arise and, even in the friendliest families, they do pop up.

    I am very fortunate to have close relationships with my mother and sister. I know better now than to say they are my friends because they are not. But the familial bond we share is strong and important and something I treasure greatly. They are my touchstones and I’m incredibly thankful I have them in my life. I’m also very fortunate to have friends. Friends are who I can share my true self with, without fear of reprimand, friends are who I can share my passions with, who I can share my greatest joys and lowest lows with, without fear of judgment. Friends provide something that family never can, an unbiased ear. I know from my own experience that it is hard to listen to a family member complain about something without offering up some pearl of wisdom or an opinion. Many times I’ve upset my mother by doing that very thing. After much thought and reflection on the subject, I know now not to rely on my family for friendships. It’s not fair to them to expect that. All my life, I have shared myself openly with them and I think it’s time for me to stop doing that. It just seems like the right and prudent thing to do. When family and friendship mix, things get emotional and twisted and relationships get strained. I have my friends and I have my family and I’m good with keeping them categorized just like that.

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Responses

  1. Well, I’m not certain where you’re coming from, so I’m not certain that I agree.
    But maybe I’m a really lousy friend to offer help, too! That’s something that I struggle with – just allowing another to express frustration without offering solutions. I”m dense that way, I guess.

    Not that I feel toward my family the same way that I do my friends – that isn’t so. They difinitely have their own category.

    Have to think about this some more.
    Steph

  2. Basically, in a convoluted way, I’m saying it’s a burden on a familial relationship to impose the same expectations as a friendship. Your family is your family and your friends are your friends. Your family giving advice in a situation is going to hit you differently than a friend who does it. Family relationships are built upon many things and our interactions therefore reflect that. Friends don’t bring the same things to a relationship that a family member does. They can say the tough things without causing hurt feelings because it doesn’t feel like there is something else behind it.

    Is that any clearer? Probably not. LOL seems lately I’m not very good at communicating.

  3. I agree. I am very close to my parents, but they are not the SAME as friends. You cannot even compare the two. I feel that there are unsaid expectations and such with family. I have no expectations for my friends and nor do they for me. That changes everything. DRAMATICALLY.-K

  4. I keep things separate but then again I have a brother not a sister. That makes a big difference. I’ve found in the past when I’ve tried to be real close to family members I set my expectations too high. Something always happens. I’m sure it is partially my fault.

  5. K- That is exactly what I was attempting to say but just wasn’t able to! I’m glad you said it so succinctly! You’re right when you say that they’re not the same. Apples and oranges!

    Joan, I think I do the same thing and have high expectations or even a pre-conceived notion of how the relationship is going to be. I know, too that I am equally responsible when things go awry. It’s such a tough balancing act. I bet with a brother it’s a bit easier to keep things separate.

  6. I was coming from the other side.
    Imagining not being friends with my children.
    That’s sooooooo hard for me to take. Trev says all the time “Best Friend, Mom.” “Best Friend, Dad.” We Are good (best) friends, and it makes me sad to think that he won’t in the future want us to be on his “friend” list.
    make sense?
    xxoo

  7. Steph, I totally hear what you’re saying and can relate to it, too. My boys also tell me all the time that we’re best friends and I appreciate it but I also feel that once they’re older, that designation will probably change. Relationships within families are inherently different than the ones between friends. It IS friendship, just different than the one you share with people to whom you’re not related.

    You’re different than me so we will probably always see this differently but I think, in spite of the fact that they’ll be grown ups, I will always see my boys as my kids. That in and of itself changes the “friend” part of the relationship to me.

    Having said that, I don’t doubt for a minute that if anyone could have a best friend relationship with their kids it would be you!!


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