Disjointed thoughts on friendship

A recent topic suggestion for the post-a-day was (loosely) about the meaning of friendship.

I know people, I think I used to be one of them, that called everyone with whom I was friendly, a friend. It didn’t matter if we’d known each other for years and spent time together every day or if I’d only recently met you and spent only a short time in the same room, you were my friend.

I am much more strict with the definition these days. I think I have numerous acquaintances, relatively few friends, and only a handful of good friends. For me, several things are contribute to the state of existance called friendship. Shared interests, ongoing maintenance, common history, reciprocity in attention and effort, mutual caring about and for each other. The more elements a relationship has, the stronger, and more likely, the friendship.

There are people in my life that exhibit only a couple of these characteristics. Truly, these people are not really my friends. If you are never interested in what is going on with me, you are not my friend though I might be your friend. If we haven’t seen each other or communicated in years, even if we are ‘friends’, the friendship is unlikely to be very strong.

A couple of years ago, I posted some thoughts regarding one’s (my) capacity for relationships. I reprint it here.




I have a particular way of conceptualizing my capacity for relationships. I see it as a zero-sum game. I have a finite amount of attention, energy, and interest in pursuing, improving, and maintaining relationships. If one person’s allocation of my time is to increase, that portion must come from somewhere. And if a new person is to enter my life, other relationships must be downsized in order to make room. Here’s an illustration.

This graph shows how much of my attention is spent on the various members of the Brady family. The numbers add up to 100%. Now, when I am forced to add another person to this pie, the numbers have to shift.

In discussing this imagery with friends, I have had some respond by saying that they don’t need to reduce what they have in order to add a new person to the mix. Poppycock, I say. I do think that people have differing capacities for relationships. 100% to one person is a different quantity than 100% to another.


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