Amigos para siempre means you'll always be my friend...sang Sarah Brightman and Jose Carreras - and I loved that song. I believed it as well...but then I was 17.
Saying that however, when my mum passed away last year in the back of one of her address books, she had the phone numbers of "Audrey's Friends" - the very people who were there to support me at her funeral. Some friends are for life - others, although they may be very close for a time, are not, and that's ok. The difficult part is distinguishing before you have your heart broken.
While a number of magazines discuss the different groups of friends you may have eg. "Old friends", "Work friends", "Family friends" and so on, I still believe that friendships are better distinguised by their purpose as defined by Aristotle because where you meet the friend does not necessarily determine the "type" of friends they are or become
Aristotle's 3 types of friendships:
- Friendships of UTILITY
- Friendships of PLEASURE
- Friendships of the GOOD
These friendships are those that are formed because of use. In other words, you may be friends because you benefit each other in some way. This may be work friendship, a neighbour whose plants you water, or in my case the friends I make during shows. These are not unusual, after all people are generally nice, and have a tendancy to seek company. If you are going to spend some time some where, then you (both) may as well make it as enjoyable as possible. These tend to end when the thing you have in common ends.
These friendships exist because you like the qualities of the friend and you may enjoy doing more activities with them outside the ones you are committed to attend. They may be the person you like to have a coffee with, or share a hobby or interest with. Perhaps they may include "friends with benefits" - but I'd argue that they are more likely a friendship of utility!
These are friendships which are formed because of shared values. Aristotle also adds that you are likely to have a mutual admiration for each other, support each other, know each other's vulnerabilities, and stand by each other anyway.
While it is more common that friendships of utility or pleasure can be easily made and as easily ended, and friendships of the good tend to be those formed in childhood as they have had the time to take root, that is not to say that friendships which begin in the first two categories cannot form into the third. AND it is possible to nurture friendships of the good at any point in your life.
The problem comes in when we mistake friendships of Utility or Pleasure for those of the Good.
Good takes effort from both parties
Good friendships endure. They take effort. They require people staying in touch as lives diverge and change. They need to travel distance, they need to keep aligning - they need input from both parties. If you find your efforts are one sided, try not to get angry or resentful, simply appreciate that the friendship may have been either one of utility or pleasure and refocus on those which have endured.
By it's very nature, you cannot force the good
Good friendships are mutual. Both shoulder the work. This may be as simple as (working day excepting!!) responding in a timely way to messages; understanding that sometimes you will do a little more to help them through a tough period (and remembering and appreciating those times they did they very same for you); returning favours. They cannot be bought, they cannot be demanded.
They are to be respected and valued
Good friendships offer love with no expectation, simply because the people making the offer do not need your approval or anything in return. They know their own value. The opinions of these good people are to be heard and held. If you do not, you will find they will soon see you as falling into category one or two and withdraw.
You need to reach out for the good
In simple terms this may be asking someone for a coffee. Alternatively it can be sharing a secret...and ensuring it is kept. It is being honest and gracious. It is about saying no when you cannot manaage something, yet appreciating the thought. (Good friendships respect each other enough to be truthful - they don't have time nor need to play games). It is about connection - and you cannot do that if you are too guarded. It is about saying what needs to be said - because you may be the only person who will say it out of love. It is about knowing if you do hold out your hand - someone will take it.
Finally, the other friendships are ok too!
This post is not to say only seek "good" friendships. All friendships are wonderful things. I am blessed to have many in each category. I just respond to, and expect from, each differently.
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016, Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and offers psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.