Why do some friendships last, while others are temporary, contextual, or on and off?
As time goes on, the friendships we form with others can prove to be stronger than that of even our family members. While in comparison, some friendships cannot withstand the test of time due to factors such as distance, “growing apart,” or even witnessing our previous beloved relationships transition from a pleasurable bond to an exhausting chore.
As I embark on my own journey, from having some of my favorite people down the hall in college, to currently having my closest friends being a minimum of 2 hours away BY PLANE, I am curious to see what my own relationships will look like as the years go by.
Why do some friendships last a lifetime despite the distance, age gaps, major life transitions, and everything else life throws at us?
Science! The Quality of the Friendship
While discussing friendships, we can all agree on the idea that every bond we create will vary from person to person. What our friendships provide us with in life will change depending on the relationship. Although, in the end, the “quality” of what this person provides is what is necessary in sustaining a friendship.
“Denworth makes the argument that our friendships provide us with something a spouse, sibling or even parent cannot always provide.”
In a Ted Talk entitled “The Science of Friendship,” Lydia Denworth, a scientific journalist whose pieces have been featured in publications such as Psychology Today, Scientific American and The New York Times, discusses what exactly quality in a friendship means. Denworth bases some of her findings on a study done by two primatologists who explored the relationships of baboons in the early 2000s. They studied two primates – Sylvia, and the relationship with her daughter, Sierra. Prior to the untimely death of her daughter, Sylvia did not associate with any of her peers, primarily being viewed as the “mean” primate of the group. Following Sierra’s passing, Sylvia made noticeably different attempts to socialize herself with others. And what caused this change?
The need for “social bonds” (or friendship) in survival. Bonds formed that were noted as “stable, positive and cooperative.” The bonds created were not solely due to a familial bloodline, and more so about companionship in a now foreign space.
Now how does this relate to human friendships? Denworth makes the argument that our friendships provide us with something a spouse, sibling or even parent cannot always provide.
In my own experience (or hearing from my friends), I have heard about significant others that provide more instability than anything else, co-workers who are the least cooperative people on the planet, and relatively toxic relationships with family members. While many can make the same argument for some friendships not providing us with those positive attributes previously discussed, Denworth believes differently. We hold our friendships to a different standard in comparison to other relationships.
Friendships are typically formed less out of an obligation and through something we actively seek with select people. And in this search, we look for those who impact us positively, providing more “quality” to our lives. While in comparison, those who do not meet our personal needs as a friend, will more or less be forgotten or “dropped” along the way.
In Even Simpler Terms…
We all want someone (other than our parents or significant other) to be our unconditional “cheerleader” but what exactly does this mean?
William Rawlins, Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University, says that close friends are typically viewed as “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy.”
Despite the complexities of distance and life constantly changing, our close friends will not cease to provide not only this important support system but endless adventures, smiles and overall, joy.
Things to Take into Consideration
While doing my research for this article, coupled with my own friendship fears for the future, I learned a few lessons other than what my friends should be providing me – and vice versa, for longevity.
A rather large point made in the endless articles and studies done on friendship hammer down the idea that life is going to change, and so are your friendships. And those you want to stick around will require mutual effort, just like any other relationship. Honesty, appreciation and making time for each other is a staple of the most successful friendships.
We will not be young forever, important jobs will come along, we might fall in love (maybe even have children) and possibly move countless times. Amongst all of this, making time for your besties – through even just a text – is a simple gesture that will go a long way.
Friendships for the Future
With this insight, I hope you find some comfort, like I did, in the strength of some of your friendships and just how wonderful these bonds can be. On the other hand, maybe some perspective was given on which relationships are not as fun or beneficial as they really should be.
All relationships should be a two-way street. Especially a relationship that is defined by the fact that we willingly choose to engage with this person in an effort to bring mutual happiness to one another.
It is sad to see some friendships go – but sometimes, people change, and relationships adapt not only to provide qualities we seek out for making our lives more meaningful, but in the most scientific way, arm us with the emotional and social toolkit we need for survival.
Those that are meant to stay in our lives will make efforts to maintain those positive, stable, fun, and mutually beneficial relationships we seek, need and most importantly, love. – DW
Danielle is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she studied Mass Communication. While a student, Danielle was a part of BUtv10’s pop culture game show, Pop Showdown! and interned for WTBU’s Love is on the Air. Prior to graduating, Danielle also interned with Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York and the Academy of Country Music in Los Angeles. Since graduating, Danielle started interning at Big Machine Label Group In Nashville. When she is not working within the country music stratosphere, she enjoys reading Young Adult novels, listening to dating/relationship podcasts (S/0 Nicole Byer!) and journaling.