This week’s readings have really given me an insight into what everyone has probably been doing since young, no matter where they go – making friends.

According to Oswald & Clark,

Friendships, unlike other types of relationships, are completely voluntary in that they do not result from familial ties or formal commitment decisions (such as marriage). As such, friendships are possibly the most tenuous type of relationship.

In addition, Devito also says that the nature of friendship is such that it must be mutually productive: friendship cannot be destructive to oneself or the other person.

Once destructiveness enters a relationship, it cannot be characterized as friendship anymore. Lover relationships, marriage relationships, parent-child relationships, and just about any other possible relationship can be either destructive or productive. But friendship must enhance the potential of each person and can only be productive.

I guess this was something I did not realise till today. Thinking about it, the way our best friends willingly stick by us through thick and thin (when they are not obligated to do so – we’re not bound by blood or anything) is really quite magical. Friendships are voluntary, yet they thrive only under the most stringent conditions, so to speak. Once destructiveness creeps in, the friendship is most likely terminated.

Friendships must benefit both parties, which is probably why some people can live with being single all their lives, but probably nobody can tolerate life without friends. This condition of mutual productivity makes it all the more harder to sustain a friendship compared to romance, where the relationship may be physically and mentally destructive to one party but yet it is not terminated. (stories of the loyal girl hoping for the bad boy to mend his ways, or the mother clinging on to the abusive husband in order to let her kids have a complete family come to mind)

The part about gender differences in friendship was also interesting. It is really true that most men’s friendships are built around shared activities like sports, games, catching a movie and so on, and they don’t often share intimate details with other male friends. (fortunately for me I’ve met some guy friends who are comfortable about chatting at length, but they’re like rare gems)

Women’s friendships are however built mainly around communication: self-disclosure and sharing of confidences and intimate details. Given what we learnt back in Chapter 1 – that communication is so important that its presence or absence affects physical health – I think most guys must feel thankful for the existence of platonic friendships. Otherwise, given the social suspicion of male intimacy and therefore men’s reluctance to admit having (or actually having) close bonds with another man (e.g. having man-to-man talk), I think all the guys will have to keep all their emotions and frustrations to themselves until they explode and die. 

(I’m exaggerating here, but you see my point.)  

Friends are really important to everyone, and the unique quality that sets it apart from other kinds of relationships we have really makes it all the more amazing. I end off with a quote from the book that first taught me about friendships:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

-The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne

(That’s how friendship is: we don’t have to say anything – the simple fact that a friend’s always there is comforting enough.)