Why and How we Form Friendships


                                                                                                   The what and why’s of friendship

Do you often wonder why you are connected to some people and not others? The answer to this question in the subject of friendship has been studied by numerous psychologists and the research also elaborates on some consistent issues, is often different and conflicting.
According to “Psychology Today,” (February, 2010) a multitude of characteristics are intertwined that draws you to or away from another individual.
In order to discuss the extent of a given friendship you may have with an individual you must first understand characteristics and components that constitute a close relationship.

Characteristics and Components

Characteristics include such issues as history, family, interests, trust, respect, and class. These are some of the major characteristics, although there are others. And yes, one was class or social and educational status does relate to their respective friendships.

The longer you have known or have a long-term history with an individual, the more two people will be drawn together. This could include a friend you grew up with from your neighborhood and may have even attended the same schools. When people grow up together in the same neighborhood, many times they have mutual cultural values and shared activities over many years. These values and activities have stories and incidents that occurred that are told over and over again through the years. Therefore, it is unlikely that individuals who moved several times during their adolescent years do not have childhood histories with many people.

Sometimes histories do not take an extended number of years to develop. In my late 40s I developed a passion for mountain biking which led to adventure racing. I met several people that I began to race with as a team. We traveled, trained and endured the trials of competition together that led to a unique bond. But history was not the only characteristic in play here as mutual interest, also was a contributing factor. And the fact that the competition training and travels created numerous stories embellished over a beer, further enhanced bonding. It is therefore not unusual that all but one of my friends that remained from high school and college relate to team sports in some manner.

Family ties and blood generally draw two people together because there is a distinct mutual interest, history, and for the most part an equal or near equivalent social – economic status. While the extent of friendship relationships very, individuals sharing holidays, birthdays and other family events enhances the bonding process.

Many psychologists believe that interests is one of the most important characteristics pertaining to friendship. Many friendships for example, begin in the workplace because there is a common interest. Other friendships exist because individuals have a common hobby, similar interests in sports, cooking or other activities.

For me, trust is a characteristic that has personally disrupted my relationship with many friends. While my wife and I were going through a difficult period in our marriage, I confided in a friend whom I would eventually find out not only told members of our consistent close friends but also to people with whom I did not have a relationship with. At first, I told the individual of my disappointment in their actions but over the next several years, I eventually ended the relationship. It turns out, this individual related every comment made by any member of the group and often embellished circumstances. At one point, every member of the group had issues with him and today, fifteen years later most remained friends.

We’ve all had friends that cannot be trusted. The one’s that could simply not keep their mouth shut. The use their knowledge in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with others.

Respect is considered the most complex and contradictory characteristic of friendship. For the most part, if you lack respect for an individual then you are unlikely to have a close bonding relationship with them. However, many people in a close relationship often overlook respect issues within a friendship for which they have disdain for other individuals with whom a relationship does not exist.

You know that friend that we still socialize with who constantly cheats on their spouse and we typically ignored this indiscretion because of the friendship. In some cases, especially among men, we even envie the person and can’t wait to hear the next episode. So sometimes we ignore whom and what we respect in order to maintain a relationship.

Components include such matters as commitment, spending time together, showing up when needed, communication, compromising and accepting individuals for who they are. Although, I have major issues with the last component as it effects respect and could also relate to social issues. Needless to say, the above list of various components represents only a very few of the items that can’t define a relationship.
In order to have a close relationship, one must make a commitment with another person. Commitments almost always overlap with other components such as making time for each other. Going to lunch one Sunday a month is a good example of commitment.

The more time you spend with a friend, even in the workplace, the more likely a close friendship will develop. The opposite of this we have all experienced when a close friend moves and overtime interest, history, and other activities bonding us together become more undefined.
Many years ago, a group of people generally hung out together and had very similar interest. If asked, I would tell you that we were all close friends. However, when a member of the group father died, I was shocked to see only one other person attend any of the events. And oddly, since the funeral was held on a Saturday, the excuse of not being able to leave work, was not an issue. Although the individual whose father died was quite disturbed by the fact that only two showed, I noticed no difference in their relationship with other members of the group over the next several years. In fact, this individual even attended funerals for relatives of various group members. You can see, the issue of friendship is complex and the many articles and papers written by psychologists that I have read through the years openly state same. Even the experts who study and write about the concept of friendship have no magical formula as to why friendships exist, are created and sustained.

Class, is often considered one of the most controversial characteristics of friendship relationships. But in all truth, when was the last time you saw a neurosurgeon hanging out with the lawn man at an upscale restaurant. And while this may be an extreme example, make no mistake that social economic and educational status significantly impacts who your friends are. And according to an Atlantic, April, 2013, article, 71% of all college graduates marry other college graduates. Studies have shown that the later a woman gets married in life and who possesses a college degree is more likely to have partnered with an equivalent or higher degree. And I believe the same can be said about friendship relationships.
Like most people, I have good and bad habits. I often write things in my daily journal but unfortunately I often don’t know the source and this is significant for two reasons. I can’t return to reevaluate any issue and second I cannot cite the source. Such is the case with the story below.

About 15 years ago I wrote this down on the concept of friendship as described in a research paper I found on the Internet. As I remember the circumstances, the lady had sought counseling after her son unexpectedly died in an automobile accident. For the purpose of this story I will refer to her as Kathy. Two years earlier she and her husband were divorced and he and her family lived on the other side of the country. She did not move closer to her family because of her job as a comptroller for a private growing company and her son had another year of college. She lived in an upscale neighborhood and was not very close with any of her neighbors. At 2:45 in the morning she was awakened when the doorbell rang to find two police officers standing at her door. They informed her that her only son was killed in an accident when a truck crossed the median.

Of course Kathy broke down and fainted. The police officers carried her into the living room and after she somewhat recovered, they instructed her to call someone, she informed them her family lived 3000 miles away and there were no close relatives. They suggested she call a friend. She had one close friend and two others she periodically socialize with. She called her closest friend first  who attempted to console her but said she had a court appearance at 10 AM in the morning and would try to get the judge to postpone the hearing. The friend made no offer to come over but did ask if anyone was with her.

She was extremely shaken so one of the police officers called another friend whom did not answer the phone. He left a message on the answering machine. While he was leaving a message the doorbell rang and the other police officer went to answer it. Standing in the doorway was the crazy lady who lived next door. She was wearing sandals, cut off jeans and an extra-large T-shirt that hung down to the edge of her pants. When the police officer told her what happened she marched through the door over to Kathy and embraced her.

The police officer making the calls phoned the third friend who said she would quickly get dressed and be over as soon as possible. When her friend arrived, the police officers left. The crazy lady from next-door made phone calls to Kathy’s family and helped with arrangements for their arrival. She even offered the use of her home. The next day she drove Kathy and around making arrangements and helped to pick up family at the airport. She never left her side until family arrived. The third friend who owned a realty company, canceled her appointments the next day to help Kathy.

The closest friend called the next morning on the way into the office to ask how everything was going. She stated that as soon as the hearing ended she would try to get away and coming over to the house.
The second friend also called the next morning and said she did not hear the message until she got up. Although Kathy reluctantly accepted her excuse, she knew the answering machine was located in the bedroom as her friend frequently complained about her daughter’s friends calling at all hours of the night. The closest friend did not come over until the next evening after work.

When all the family members had departed two weeks later, the crazy lady from next-door dropped in every evening and her third friend frequently stopped by the house unannounced. On many evenings the third friend who was engaged to a man she was living with, would stay over. Kathy frequently commented that it was reassuring to know someone else was in the house. She had trouble sleeping and often cried off and on through the night.

The mother and her friends would refer to the lady next door as crazy because she was typically playing in the dirt, planting and her backyard looked like a Japanese garden. There were fountains and fancy archways throughout the property and a large vegetable garden. She typically wore knee pads, gloves, cutoff pants and a scarf draped over her head. Kathy avoided talking to her because she thought the lady was odd and had a strange sense of humor. Kathy rarely went into the backyard without the crazy lady yelling at her from 100 or more feet away concerning the weather, the terrible tomatoes the plants were producing. One afternoon the mother arrived home to find Mrs. crazy spray painting the back of her husband’s old beat up pickup truck. The next day when she arrived home from work, he noticed a rainbow painted on the truck. Kathy wondered how these people could afford living in the neighborhood. She had nothing in common with this person. The people who lived on the other side of her were in their early 70s and spent half of the year out of town.

Turns out the crazy lady had a PhD in agriculture and taught at a university for a little over 10 years. She and her husband owned one of the largest vineyards in the state. But the crazy lady has something more in common with her than anyone else she knew. Her two daughters drowned in a boating accident while at the lake with their uncle. They were 11 and 13 respectively. To save for nine-year-old son from the dramatic impact, she adopted two Thailand orphans whom she met while over there on a three-month sabbatical for her university. Her two adopted children and her son were currently in college.

And at the end, it turns out that she and Mrs. crazy became good friends along with the third friend. Although she maintained a friendship with the other two ladies, the relationship was always somewhat strained. So maybe your closest friend is a crazy person next-door and you may not realize this until there is a crisis in your life that separates people from one another. And the mother was surprised to learn that the crazy lady had numerous close friends throughout the neighborhood, including many of the children. And what about that old pickup truck. Well, one evening when the crazy lady and her husband went out to eat and to a movie, the two young daughters painted rainbows on both doors of the truck. The daughters rooms was covered in a rainbow theme which remained many years later. So painting the truck was a tribute to her daughters.
There is more. A few months after the funeral, Kathy confessed to the crazy lady about her past attitude toward her. Mrs. crazy just laughed and said she understood. If you remember, this short story began when the mother was in counseling a few months after the death of her son. Each session the counselor asked how she was doing. The mother responded that it hurts every day but at least she had good friends who were helping her through the crisis. On one visit, Kathy, handed the counselor a page out of a magazine. The magazine had a contest of the top five answers to the question; “what makes a good friend and how would you define friendship.”

The crazy lady was judged to have the best answer. “When my friends have a crisis at 4 AM in the morning, I take my toothbrush and headed over to their house without hesitation. I expect the same from them. There are a few exceptions for not turning up when you needed.”
Unfortunately, I did not copy or write down all of the questions and comments the crazy lady wrote to the magazine. However, if you ever ponder why and who are your friends, think about the statements.
A friend is someone you can call at 4 o’clock in the morning when a loved one has died and comes over to help.
A friend is someone you can tell your deepest dreams, secrets and even misdeeds and never repeats them to a soul.
A friend is someone you admire for what they are instead of losing our. Don’t maintain a friendship he cause someone as popular or because what they can do for you.
How do you choose your friends and what kind of friend are you?

If you have a friendship story, write about it and we will publish it.                                                                                                              yz188j