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Friendships First: Being a Better Friend

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized friendships are hard.

Friendships can be way harder than romantic relationships at times. People’s expectations for friendships and romantic relationships are often very different. Maybe they shouldn’t be.

When you’re a little kid, you tell your friends everything. Spending time with your friends is your favorite pastime. Things get more complicated as you get older. We all begin to separate due to our individual interests, goals, and schedules. As we all get caught up in our own lives, most of us become less and less intentional with friendships.

The focus on friendships from our younger years often transitions to a focus on romantic relationships. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Romantic relationships are important in our lives, and we should all focus on being good partners. The issue is when we form a disconnect between our behavior with romantic partners and platonic ones.

It’s much easier to recognize your “responsibilities” to a romantic partner. Most people feel that they need to be understanding and supportive with their partners, and exhibit their love and appreciation for them. But we often don’t put the same effort into treating our friends similarly. Consider this: What makes friendships that different from romantic relationships? Do your friends not deserve the same love and consideration? How can we apply theories for healthy relationships to our friendships?

The theory of Love Languages 

Love Languages have become a very common theory about the way we give and receive love in romantic relationships. The main idea is that we tend to give love in the way we would like to receive, and that often doesn’t line up with the way the other person likes to receive love. We usually do this subconsciously which leaves the other person not feeling as loved, while you feel that you are really showing your love. There are five love languages – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch, and you can find out your ranking of all of these here! Besides simply informing you of how you like to receive love, this theory aims to encourage people to attempt to understand and give love to their partners in the way they will appreciate it the most. After taking this quiz, it’s super easy to look back and see the huge disconnect between my love languages and those of my ex-boyfriends. It’s much easier if you’re compatible, but even if you’re not, being intentional about finding the best way to show your partner love is important.

Do friends have love languages?

It didn’t occur to until recently that love languages apply just as much to friends as partners. This past spring, there was some tension between a new friend that I’d met and become close with in college. While we got close very quickly, we hadn’t known each other all that long. I kept feeling like she didn’t ever ask about things that were going on with me, that she didn’t care, and that my problems weren’t important to her. Because I felt frustrated in this way, I wouldn’t step up and just tell her what was going on. I kept waiting for her to start asking. Can you guess how many tense and awkward silences were the result of my stubbornness?

Eventually, after several conversations between us, I understood that we simply process differently. She is a much more private person than I am, and as a result, it felt invasive to her to constantly be asking for updates about my personal life. She processes alone, and then can share about it when she feels ready. I often need to bounce thoughts off of someone in order to understand how I’m feeling or just get it off my chest. If I had understood her better, I wouldn’t have been angry with her for not asking me.

While this doesn’t separate us into the distinct categories of love languages, it is very much related to the concept, in my opinion.

It’s important to understand the purpose for an action.

Human beings have motives. Almost everything we do is driven by something inside of us. If you can understand why a person is acting a certain way, you can react with compassion, instead of anger. The other person is most likely equally misunderstanding you. Misunderstanding is one of the biggest blockers in relationships of any kind.

There is a wonderful (and very short) podcast from Gretchen Rubin’s show, A Little Happier titled: Little: There May Be a Very Good Explanation for That.   This episode touches on exactly this topic, and how we can better our relationships with others by simply taking a moment to think about why they are acting this way. Let’s stop letting misunderstandings and differences of character divide us.