FRIENDSHIP 101 by ELLIN CURLEY

I can sum up what I’ve learned over the years about successful relationships in two sentences:

  1. Understand the other person’s basic personality and perspective.
  2. Accept these qualities, work with or around them, but don’t expect them to change.

With friends, I use my rules to create three broad categories of friends. Loyal ones, fun ones, and the ones in-between. For example, I have a friend from childhood who shares priceless memories of parents and grandparents, old friends and school days. She is the kind of person you can call at 3 AM and she’ll be there for you, no questions asked. But our interests have diverged over the years and we have little to talk about except family and common acquaintances. I don’t expect scintillating conversation or a great times when we’re together. Yet she is a valued and loyal friend who I know I can count on for big as well as small things.

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At the other end of the spectrum, I have a fun friend who is fascinating to talk to and entertaining to spend time with. She is also very absorbed with her own life and family. I know that she is only available to me when it is convenient for her. I’m not saying that she’s a bad person. I just know that I will be disappointed if I count on her to always be available for me whenever I’m having a family crisis or personal meltdown.

These are the two ends of the spectrum of my friend categories. However most friends fall somewhere in-between. They are interesting and also will at least try to be there for you. I have found that it’s harder to manage expectations with this group because all friends have their own lives. You are only a piece that has to fit into their overall life puzzle.

So with this middle group, when do I allow myself to be disappointed when they fall short of what I wanted from them? I always initially give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume good intentions and motives. If negative behavior goes beyond that threshold, I will talk to the person and/or lower my expectations for the future.

I think with all friendships, expectations must be periodically reassessed. I think most misunderstandings and hurt feelings occur when I expect something more than I should reasonably expect.

Here is an example of adjusting expectations to current reality. I might have expected a particular friend to come over to comfort me when a beloved dog dies. But if she has a demanding job and is having a tough work week, maybe I should graciously accept the half hour she spends on the phone with me as the best offering of love and support she is capable of at the time. Maybe I should accept the love and not question the form in which it was given. I have to accept her for who she is and where she is in her life.

You may have already figured out that I just let myself get very upset about a friend’s behavior towards me. I wrote this blog as a reminder to myself – accept a person’s limitations and temperament and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Lesson learned. Again.

17 thoughts on “FRIENDSHIP 101 by ELLIN CURLEY

  1. Marilyn, I have just learned today that Frida seems to be in a serious decline. She is no longer eating or drinking and can’t move her hind quarters or leave her bed for any purposes. My lovely and concerned house sitters are taking her to the vet tomorrow but it is Ian’s feeling that it may be that she won’t recover from this decline. I’ve been sad of course but also glad Frida has supporting friends with sound judgement. and perhaps as she has before, she will do a big swing and be greeting me with swinging tail when I get home. Sweet Frida. She’s been with me for twelve years.

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      • Ellin, a timely post and VERY GOOD, since we just spent too short a visit with you and Tom. I’ve known Tom some 50 years but you a relatively few years. I’m enjoying the hell out of the time I spend around you. As I’ve said previously, I’m not a very sociable person. Basically shy. I feel very relaxed around you and enjoy sharing things. That’s a rarity in my life.
        Good friendship is to be treasured. You and Tom are jewels.

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  2. Complicated topic – friendship. When we are young our friends are our lifelines. Each stage of our development our friends may change and so do we. When one marries they are sometimes taken away to other destinations and you may lose touch with those friends. At a later stage we sometimes reconnect to see how each of us has fared. There is still a bond there.
    Leslie

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    • I have lost touch with many friends from many periods in my life. Some I have reconnected with and others not. Many friends are situational friends and only stay friends as long as you are sharing whatever aspect of life brought you together. Like the parents of my kids’ friends. Some I am still friends with but most I am not.

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