Friday, 10 September 2010

Mysteries of friendship

Even at my grand old age, friendship is still a big mystery. How is that we can click with some people instantly, while with others there's no spark whatever?

How remarkable it is when I've met someone and straightaway there's something flowing between us, some vigorous connection as if there are no personal barriers and we might have known each other for years.

Even if you don't meet for months, as soon as you do it's like you saw each other yesterday and conversation comes easily and naturally as if it never stopped. You simply pick up where you left off as if you merely paused for a cup of coffee.

With other people that psychic "ping" just never happens, however much I'd like it to. We can talk about the most intimate subjects without any actual intimacy. We can be utterly frank but there's still an invisible boundary between us, as if I'm talking to a doctor or a therapist.

I may know someone for 20 years, I may have shared all sorts of experiences with them, but still I don't feel close to them, there's a hovering sense of reserve and distance despite everything.

I can meet someone and think they would be a wonderful friend, they have some sort of quality that immediately attracts me. I do everything I can to ignite a friendship, to get something going between us, but somehow it never works. We meet up occasionally, we chat, we share things, but it never makes that final leap to long-term devotion.

How lucky you are if you have a handful of really close friends, a select few you get on with effortlessly, a seamless communication with no restraints. It's a rare thing in a world of distrust and caution.

25 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

Nick:
This set me to thinking. A lot. I've got a friend since I was 5 who lives in Dublin. The gift of her friendship is something I never take for granted. We email each other every single day. We both write as if talking and anything goes.
Other friends with whom I've shared incredible intimacies have come and gone.
The element that has destroyed those other friendships has been neglect and carelessness. It has been very painful to let them go.
Friendships are like gardens, they need attention: watering, feeding, fertilizing. Without that, they wither and die.
And yes, I too feel that instant connection with others, a certainty that these are good friends and have been forever.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - I agree that friendships generally need nurturing, and some will die rapidly without it. But if the friendship is strong enough it can survive even without the nurturing. You can take it up after a year and there's just the same closeness and empathy as always.

Eryl said...

I have less than a handful of close friends. And only one friend with whom I can be unreservedly myself. She is the only person I've ever met who accepts me exactly as I am, she actually seems to embrace every aspect of my character, even the silent, neglecting bit. We can go for months without any communication yet, as you say, the second we meet or speak on the phone it's like we've never been apart. Her husband is convinced we are one mind shared by two bodies. My son comes a very close second but, obviously, there are some things a young man doesn't want to hear from his mother!

On odd occasions throughout my life I've met people with whom I've had what can only be described as non-sexual flings. Incredibly intense, almost passionate, friendships where we seem to agree on everything: same values, tastes, aims, etc. They're always terribly exciting but they never last.

Now I've joined the arts community I have met a few more people who seem to think along the same lines as me, so maybe I'll find a few more friends, which would be nice.

Nick said...

Eryl - One mind shared by two bodies, that sounds amazingly close. And how liberating when someone accepts frustrating negatives along with the easy positives.

I've had plenty of non-sexual flings as well. As you say, they seldom last but they're very inspiring at the time.

kylie said...

i struggle to make and keep friends but when it happens its a beautiful thing

conortje said...

I think sometimes even good friendship takes a bit of work. I've noted how little contact my friends have made with me since I've been travelling. I guess they all think I'm having so much fun on the road that I don't need them but the opposite is true it can get very lonely travelling...

Leah said...

Great topic, something I often muse on. What Eryl said is so familiar, the passionate intensity of the nonsexual friendship fling...these can be quite real, while they last, I think.

I'm lucky to have kept some very dear friends over the decades, and even more so, to have met a number of magical folk through Ella, surprisingly enough ( parents of her friends).

But I know what you mean too about being intimate without the intimacy. I've experienced that too, and it is most uncomfortable...

tattytiara said...

Interesting observation, and of course you're totally right. You know, I've read more than once that a greater indicator of whether a romantic relationship will succeed has more to do with the two people involved being at a similar point in life than it does with any commonalities between them. I wonder if there's something like that determining the success of friendships as well?

Nick said...

Kylie - Isn't it just? A little miracle.

Conor - That's it, they probably think you don't need them and you've forgotten all about them. But you could have done with some friendly words in your hellish Peruvian lodgings!

Nick said...

Leah - Parents often find new friendships with other parents, one unexpected bonus of having kids! Talking intimate without the intimacy is totally weird....

Tattytiara - Two people at a similar point in life? Interesting idea, I must ponder that.

secret agent woman said...

I have a number of friends I am comfortable with and always enjoy seeing, but a smaller group that I feel are soulmates - I never feel judged, always supported, always loved. I think the chemistry part of it is much the same as with lovers you instantly click with. And I wouldn't trade those true friends for anything.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Great that you have a little band of soulmates. I agree, it must be the same kind of chemistry that pulls us together. Or magnetism? We're all fizzing with electricity, after all.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have always had people with whom to socialize if I chose, but few really close friends. I used to think there was something wrong with me, but finally realized that it was often a matter of semantics -- what someone else considers a friend, I call a friendly acquaintance or a playmate.

Nick said...

Heart - Yes, "friend" can mean different things to different people. I suppose the only real distinction is between a slightly detached friend and one who's genuinely close and whom you can share absolutely anything with.

Rummuser said...

I am blessed with some very dear friends of both sexes. I too have often wondered how it is that with some I hit off and with most I don't. I have decided that it is all a divine plan and have left it at that. Coincidences!!

Nick said...

Ramana - I don't think it's anything as grand as a divine plan. I think chemistry is a much more plausible explanation.

Liz said...

I consider my husband to be the only one who fits in with your definition of a close friend and I don't even share everything with him. I think it's my problem rather than anyone else's though.
I'm like heartinsanfrancisco in that I think of most people as acquaintances.
I certainly have no-one who fits the idea of a close friend as seen on television, someone you can be yourself with, can call on, cry on, laugh with.

Kate said...

I have just two now - although there have been many before and they have fallen by the wayside through no fault of their own - although should they get in touch - it would be as if we had never been apart....
My true friends (and my family) know me, and I them, if they hurt , I hurt - if they are happy I am happy and vice versa.. we have more than just friendship, it goes deeper.... much better than the fair weather kind!!!

Nick said...

Liz - I'm in a similar position. I share a hell of a lot with Jenny (though not everything), but nobody else remotely qualifies as a close friend in that sense.

Kate - You're lucky to have such deep friendships. They don't happen easily. Don't let them slip away!

Terra Shield said...

I have many acquaintances, but very few friends... I think we are closes to those who have gone through the thickest and thinnest with us.

Nick said...

Terra - I think that's often true. If you've been through something very traumatic together, and given each other support and encouragement, it can create a very close bond.

Macy said...

A thought provoking post Nick. We tend to overlook and under praise friendship.

Nick said...

Macy - Oh I don't know, I think most of us are well aware that close friends are truly precious and we should hang on to them and appreciate them.

Val said...

Good post!

I've friends who I see and speak to very rarely but when we're in touch it's like we've never been out of contact. You know that thing, "you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family"? Well, they're more like 'chosen family' than friends, really.

That said, I don't have a 'best friend' as such apart from my husband. I've always wished I had a close female friend, but I'm very much a loner and I can't see it happening now! (And yeah, it's possible to be a loner when one's married when one's partner is too!)
;)

Nick said...

Val - Yes, a great shame we can't choose our families. I guess we all have our share of amazingly incompatible relatives! I know what you mean about married loners. Jenny and I are a bit like that, we're quite happy with our own company if the occasion arises.