Friendships vs Relationships

Here’s the conversation that has been ruminating through my mind the last week or so: “But Britany, it can’t be all bad to be a perpetual relationship-jumper. It is through these relationships that I meet new people, am introduced to new experiences, expand my horizons”. Touche.

At first, I was inclined to rebuttal that jumping from relationship to relationship is bad because you never quite allow yourself to be a solitary, independent figure–you are constantly validating your existence and bouncing your identity off someone else. But, certainly we do the same thing with friends, right? I meet new friends, they introduce me to new experiences, expand my horizons. One of my favorite parts of being a 20 Something is this ability to adventure and explore myself and the world in which I live in. I love going to European excursions, and upon my returns, I am always reminded of just how American I am: I love my ice, my ‘Rolla, and my CostCo. I love participating in new activities, like softball, because I learn just how competitive I am. I love meeting new people, because I learn what kind of lifestyles I do like, and what kind of lifestyles I don’t like. So, this conversation made me contemplate how finding yourself through relationships/dating is ‘different’ per-say than finding yourself through friendships. Certainly, in each situation, there are people who are introducing you to these new ways of the world–why would it differ if they were a friend versus a potential partner?

I’ve often wondered why, as humans, we spend so much time invested in relationships. The most scandalous stories are always of those having affairs on other people (not of someone stealing a wrench from the store or someone lying about their qualifications to get a job–which could be argued is just as immoral). When we turn on the radio, 98% of the songs are about breakups, divorces, falling in love (even though there are plenty of other things that we can sing about–hunting and fishing, being in an existential crisis, your dog). When we converse with our friends, our conversations most predominantly revolve around our new secret crush, what little tiff we just got in, our plans for the holidays and whether or not we like our mother in laws (like, we sometimes talk about our friendships, but our conversations about our potential partners always trump those conversations). And, while losing a friendship also burns, breaking up with a potential partner stings much more. For some reason, as humans, we were built that relationships–not friendships–become the core of our existence.

The difference, I think, between a friendship and a relationship is that a relationship has much more at stake. If I believe in The Universe, then I might also believe that who I marry in my Earth life will also be attached to me in my After life. So, the stakes are higher there as well. Or, if I play the numbers game, I’m technically only supposed to have ONE significant other, but I can have many friends. Not to say that my friends as indispensable (because I have some pretty unique ones!), but if I screw things up with one of them, there’s potential I can find a replacement; if I screw things up with a potential partner, I might be S.O.L. The stakes are higher, because the numbers are lower.

While friendships certainly do have their rules and expectations, those rules and expectations can be a little looser than those in a relationship. For example, my best friend and I sometimes see each other three times in one week, and sometimes see each other once in three months. Because its a friendship, there is not necessarily that time restriction that you might see in a relationship (unless you are dating me of course, and we only see each other once a month, when its scheduled on the Google calendar). Because I can have multiple friendships with people, I can be a little more lenient and accepting of bad habits and traits. Like, I don’t necessarily want to date someone who doesn’t brush his teeth regularly, but if my friends don’t brush their teeth, its likely I’m not kissing them so it doesn’t matter. Or, I’m probably not sharing a bank account with you, so if my friends do some frivolous spending on unnecessary lotions and body washes, I’m probably not going to say anything, but if my potential partner does, then that might be a deal breaker.

But, with all of that set aside, as humans, relationships serve a very important function  Relationships simply make us better people, that we can’t necessarily gain from just a regular friendship. For one, knowing that one single person is responsible to check in and make sure we are still alive validates our lives. With my friends, I might check in with them every once in a while, but if I went missing and only had friends, it might take someone a few days to realize I’m gone. Relationships cause us to think outside of ourselves. I think one of the hardest, and most important, lessons for us to learn as humans is selflessness. It’s not until we can purely and inherently put others before ourselves that we have reached supreme emotional enlightenment, and can experience the most contentment and happiness. While I can display flickers of selflessness in my friendships, it is not until I enter into a relationship that I am asked to bend my own individual desires, to compromise my own tastes, to do what’s best for the greater good of everyone involved–and I can truly practice selflessness–and receive those moments of enlightenment (which is why marriage is such an important union).

So, to get back to the original conversation: when I explore myself through friendships versus relationships, I’m allowing myself a little more flexibility in the self-discovery. It’s easier for me to say no, I don’t want to hang out tonight. If there is something about them I don’t like, I can excuse it, because I won’t be attached to them for eternity in the After life. If I want to call off the friendship, I can easily ghost without as much criticism or backlash. Friendships are safer, they require less attachment, more mobility, and when I’m at a stage in my life where I’m constantly moving, growing, and changing, friendships allow me to absorb my identity in other spaces, rather than something so serious as a Relationship.

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