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I’ve been ruminating on my favourite subject of soliloquy, that ubiquitous institution that is friendship, with its nuances and complications, and I’ve come to some understanding that explain a little more to me and make me feel that I’ve got some tools that help me understand what I perceive to be as anomalies in some of my deepest and longest friendships. I’ve come to the understanding that there are three components at play in a friendship. They are history, trust and interaction.

The trust component is the simple how much you trust and would share with the other person, it reflects how open you are to them and how much mutuality there is in the relationship. It’s a great measure of how strong the relationship is. The second component of interaction is a more mediate component. It’s about how and how often there is interaction and what kind and of what quality it is. The final one of history represents a more prosaic concern. It’s about how the passage of time cements both these attributes, and eventually becomes self sustaining and enduring in and of itself. By time, I do mean significant time. Four or Five years are probably on the quick side of the time periods I’m talking about.

How all these tie together is instructive, because I believe that you can have a friendship that is based on only one of these attributes, and not as I was under the mistaken interpretation that they must be coexistent to have an enduring relation. The reason this is the case is that they are actually all self sufficient and enduring grounds for friendship, but they do not give rise to the same quality of friendship and friendships that are based on different grounds fade away and die in different ways and at different rates.

I have friends who I have long history with, people I have known well since I was in primary school and who are a constant fixture in my life, but in reality these relations while nostalgic and encouraging when they are renewed are largely just that, the historic sparks of a fire that has in reality faded and is not nearly as potent as it was once. We’re friends but probably only because no one really expects that the word still contains any meaning, we’re following the paths because they’re comfortable. The true interaction is limited, and the trust is circumscribed because the person has changed and my reliance on them is no longer sustainable or perhaps never was.

There are friends that my interaction with is diminishing and my history with is short, but the trust quotient is high and enduring. We don’t talk very often, and we don’t get to talk very long, but there is a qualitative difference in this interaction that means that just a half hour of this quality is sufficient to keep me running for long enough to live months on, and to revel in the strength that they give me. They are the friendships that are of the most interest, and are the one’s that you want to keep alive and enduring, because they are necessary to make life worth living and enduring. These are the friendships where doing stuff together is not necessary, the person’s company is more than sufficient to make the day, and the conversation and interaction with the person becomes of itself the goal.

Finally there is the interactive relationship. These are the ones that are made up of the people that you are dealing with in every day life, and are the growing and developing relationships. Everyday interaction, or connection causes a connection that can grow into the highest quality of friendship, but they are developing relationships and are tentative in their own right, neither viable nor long term yet, and it’s a matter of doing things with people that build the common experiences that can build a bond. These are the friendships where you have to ‘do’ a lot of stuff.

I understand that these are interrelated factors that can change. They connect to each other, and are mutually interlinked. One person can have different weighting in each of these categories, and people fluidly move from one to another. This just gives me some of the conceptual tools to understand what’s going on with my friendships, and why some of them are going in different directions and while they are heading in different directions.


One Comment

    • Dom
    • Posted May 29, 2006 at 2:46 pm
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    This is a very interesting idea. Trust is probably the most important component in all of this. Without it, a relationship will eventually collapse when interaction becomes less frequent. So perhaps a more crucial question is how one can build up that trust with another person.

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