There are lots and lots of advice columns about if you should stay friends with someone you’ve been dating if one or both of you have decided not to take things further romantically. They go through all kinds of scenario’s where it is/isn’t the right thing to do, and ask all sorts of question which can have you sieving through the minutia of every interaction. One thing I am yet to read through is an in depth analysis of what is really the most important part of the “Should I be friends with them?” question. What friendship really is, and what it means.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me friendship is something that in the right package can come close to the sacred and can be very profound. Five years ago I was introduced to a woman twenty years my senior and with quite a different personality to mine. She’s now become one of my closest confidants, has guided me through several life events and at no point has made me feel anything less than utterly worthwhile and incredibly interesting. This is what real friendship feels like.
Friends are not the same as acquaintances. Acquaintances are people who you know, who you occasionally spend time with, but with whom you have not yet formed (and may never) the sort of close emotional bond that you need for a real and true friendship to take place. That’s the thing, friendship is a close emotional bond, not just happenstance or the culmination of a handful of good dates and physical encounters.
Like any bond it needs time, respect, empathy, forgiveness, sense of humour, kindness, and a desire from both of you to make it work. There will be some added extra’s that are individual for each person, but these are the basics. Kinda like a relationship really, and you wouldn’t get into it with just anyone who comes along.
Often in a dating scenario when someone is saying “Let’s be friends” there are three things they can mean. 1. I’d like to feel less guilty about giving you bad news. 2. I’m more interested in someone else, but I’d like to keep you as an option in case it falls through. 3. I really like you, let’s be friends. If the real motivation behind the request for friendship is one or two, it’s worth noting that none of those statements include anyone other than the person making the request.
True friend is an important role in your life. There are loads and loads of people out there who are possible fits, and no limit to how many you can have. Not everyone who makes the grade will become your true friend, there is time, children, studies, carers, ill health, ill family and many other things that mean some friendships never quite come to fruition. But that never means it was a waste of time, you’ll both have enjoyed each others company, and who knows, one day circumstances may change and make it easier for you to carry on that building work. Friendships can be built in fit’s and starts, the work abandoned and then come back to. Relationships however can’t, they need consistent attention and dedication.
We all need friends in our life. We don’t need bad friends, false friends, toxic friends, ignoring friends, superior friends, negative friends, energy sucking friends, friends with hidden agendas or pretend friends. If someone is showing signs of being one of those types of friend by say, offering friendship as a way to make themselves feel less guilty, or suggesting friendship as a way of still keeping you in reserve while they give it a shot with someone else, they are never going to make the leap into the true friend category. No one ever got in the true friend category by doing anything other than treating the other person with respect.
If your trying to decided if you want to carry on a friendship with someone you’ve dated you need to ask yourself some questions. “Does this person meet my criteria for friendship?” and most importantly “Have they treated me with the respect I expect my friends to treat me with?” Once those two questions have been answered you will know what to do.
These decisions are best made with: My chocolate lime coconut milk ice-cream. Because handled badly it can come across as bitter and acidic. Handled well it’s self love.