I don’t make close friends

What is a friend? In ace communities, most of the time when we’re talking about friendships, it’s in order to differentiate it from other kinds of relationships, such as romantic or queerplatonic relationships. Of course, this puts a strong emphasis on the kinds of friendships that are most difficult to differentiate from queerplatonic/romantic/etc. It puts an emphasis on very close friendships.

I don’t form those kinds of friendships.

Wellll… there’s a big question mark at the end of that statement. It depends on what counts. There are many individuals that I’ve spent an extensive amount of time hanging out with, that I would consider close. But eventually, it slows down or we stop seeing each other–a change that suits me just fine, and does not cause me concern. Not to say that my time with my friends isn’t valuable, it’s just, there are other friends to be had.

And to the extent that I’ve had close friends, they are not representative of my friendships in general. The more common pattern for me, is to hang out with large friend circles. Within these circles, I’m a friend to all, but I’m not close to anyone in particular.

I think this might be a common experience–with many variations on the theme. We won’t know until we start talking about it!

Here are a few examples from my life:

  • I loyally attended atheist student group meetings for 9 years, throughout undergrad and grad school. Nobody else does that; most people participated for one or two years at most. It was a constant stream of friend circle after friend circle, so this is really more like 9 examples rolled up in one. Sometimes I run into a few of them but we don’t otherwise keep up.
  • I had a best friend who was a classmate in physics.  We did all our homework together, and one time I stayed at his parent’s house.  After graduation, I saw him only once, at his wedding.
  • One year, I spent a lot of my idle time in the lounge of a queer-themed house. I would say I was friends with most of the people in the house, but only two of them would I actually consider close. I lay drunk on their floor more often than I’d care to admit, and we’d complain to each other about the rest of the house. We continued hanging out for a few years, and occasionally we still invite each other to board games–mixed with other friends.
  • I dated a guy briefly, then broke up. We became friends again, and he introduced me to my current husband. He is currently our best friend, and we hang out every month or two. Although, I think a lot of that is more motivated by him and my husband more than me. One thing I really like about him is that he is great at friendship networking, and I am always meeting new people through him.
  • One time I really hit it off with a guy, and we started hanging out for hours every day, with a third person, a girl. It collapsed after a few months; the girl suddenly disappeared because she got a boyfriend, and the guy and I slowly stopped hanging out after that. With more distance I realized that I didn’t actually like him, nor did I care for the experience of having such a close friend. I saw the girl one more time–ten years later, we had lunch together.

This is maybe a quarter of the stories I could tell about completely separate groups of friends, but it’s enough to get the picture. I form friendships with individuals, with groups, with individuals within groups, and with groups through individuals. And I’m a bit apathetic towards actually keeping up with friends.

If I were to place my friendships within Queenie’s five factor model of relationships, I would say they have low commitment and low priority, and varying degrees of intimacy. But what matters to me is time, not intimacy. I like spending time with a few close friends, but I also like spending time with lots of friends whose names I can’t quite remember.

So. Why am I telling you this?

Honestly, it’s because I want to complain about the way we talk about relationships, and I felt it was necessary to first establish where I was coming from. But I’ll leave those complaints for next time.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in Articles, personal experience, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to I don’t make close friends

  1. Sennkestra says:

    I also do the friend circle / social group thing! For me, while there are some friends that I count as friends on an individual level, there’s a lot of people I consider ‘friends’ (maybe even most of them?) who I mostly have a relationship to as part of wider relationship to a social group – things like some old high school classmates, fellow members of various hobby groups, internet blogging friends, fellow members of the local ace group, etc.

    I often find it useful in some ways to think of some of these friendship type relationships as not relationships with individuals, but relationships with groups or communities – for example, when I go out to a dinner with friends who were all in the same college group, I sometimes think of it less as a collection of 8 separate relationships, and more a single relationship with a group that has 8 people in it, more or less – the exact set of people might change.

    I feel like the relationships-with-groups in addition to relationships-with-individuals is something that David Jay actually used to talk about a lot way back in the day when I first started following local ace conversations, though I’m not sure if ti ever got formalized into anything easily searchable like a blog post.

    • Sennkestra says:

      Also, I think a big connected thing for me is that I just…don’t like 1-on-1 socialization and find it much more uncomfortable and unsatisfying – I much prefer interacting with people in group dynamics where I can step into or back from the main conversation as needed. However, I know that many people feel exactly the opposite about their relationships!

      • im the same way. theres only ever really been one person ive ever felt comfortable interacting with one-on-one for extended periods of time back in high school but unfortunately our schedules never matched up and we didnt get to develop that relationship anymore 😦 . they definitely gave me a bunch of good memories of one field trip though!

    • Coyote says:

      You’ve heard of metamours, now get ready for… metafriends.

  2. demiandproud says:

    Really thoughtful post.

    On this topic I’d argue for community as an important part of a healthy support system. Definitely underappreciated these days.

    I define close friends very different though. For me it’s not so much frequency of contact but a combination of whether our relationship holds up out of the context we met in and how much I’d trust someone. I’d call some of the people on your list close friends. Interesting. Thanks for the critical thinking.

  3. DasTenna says:

    Some of my relationships are to groups rather than to individuals.
    But I prefer meeting on one-on-one basis or in small groups of three or four people, since it´s difficult for me to concentrate on people and conversations, even participate, when there are too many people and too many conversations among them. In small groups, there´s normally only one conversation going on.
    It occured to me in my Twenties that most of my friends aren´t part of the same group. They have their own groups but there´s usually no relationship between me and members of said groups.

    Thinking about relationships by taking a look on their basis and contexts of relationship interaction is interesting.

    I´d define close friends similarly to the way demiandproud does. Time spent together is important to intensify the bond but it´s not what makes a friendship close. It´s intimacy, trust and dedication.

  4. luvtheheaven says:

    When you say, “But eventually, it slows down or we stop seeing each other–a change that suits me just fine, and does not cause me concern. Not to say that my time with my friends isn’t valuable, it’s just, there are other friends to be had.” I definitely have had that kind of close friendship that fades and sometimes it’s really ok and not a huge deal because I do have other friends. I had a period of my life when I was not very social at all though so one of the few friendships I had fading was more painful, more isolating, they were more important to my well being. It is frustrating too that sometimes close friendships fade without any rhyme or reason other than usually a change to them being less in proximity to you and you might wonder if you’d still be close if it wasn’t for such arbitrary circumstances as someone going off to college or moving away or changing jobs. Sometimes there is a part of me that wishes I had gotten closer to a colleague or classmate before it was too late to exchange contact info, etc. This wish usually goes hand in hand with not having enough friends in my life at that point in time. But even when i do have contact info, navigating when it is reasonable to want to pursue deepening the friendship, being sure to ask to spend time together, etc is tricky. Is the other person not as interested in it as you are? Would you be bothering them? Sometimes it’s easier to let it fade because it’s less scary than rejection or the fear of actively bothering someone. But sometimes it’s also missing out on a powerful chance for great connection and finding that balance is hard.

    In this article: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/12/10-types-odd-friendships-youre-probably-part.html I see a lot of truth in the tiers of friendship described and most of what you, Siggy, described in the post above are Tier 2 and 3 in my mind. That’s i think where tons of adults I’ve met, especially married ones, hover. Their spouse and other family might be the only tier one level people in their life which also correlates to societal expectations and privileges etc. A parent with their adult child being tier 1 level “friends” with each other often seems in my circles more expected than for a married with kids 40 year old to want to tell their friends as soon as possible when they get a promotion at work or a cancer diagnosis. Or you know, when anything important happens. But most people can imagine what it would be like to feel that close to a friend, can appreciate it in fiction, and sometimes have periods of having it.

    I think most of the time Tier 2 friends could become Tier 1 of one of the two participants wanted to try, and tier 1 ones can fall by the wayside if no one bothers to try, Tier 2s become Tier 3 as well. It’s a fickle and fragile thing.

    I don’t know.

    I like hanging out in groups as seeing them as lots of potential new friends but I am not really friends, just friendly acquaintances, with most of the actual people in the group. And others on the group I maybe even am uncomfortable around and am just cordial for necessity’s sake but they are merely an acquaintance. But I’ll still love the group dynamic. I think in order to consider people friends though I need to be more comfortable sharing more sensitive parts of who i am with them, and feel like they would be welling to do the same for me, at least to some degree. That usually only happens if a group conversation was good enough that we try to keep talking one-on-one after. Not from group stuff alone.

  5. Pingback: When unimportant relationships are important | The Asexual Agenda

  6. Pingback: Relationship =/= Partnership | The Ace Theist

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