The awkward ambiguity of friendship

Illustration by Darian Maroney

Ah, relationships. They make life worthwhile, don’t they?

And I don’t mean just romantic relationships here. Although those are great. I’m actually talking about all types of relationships: from familial to romantic to friendships.

They all have the potential to provide support, comfort, understanding, happiness and connection.

While the various types of relationships are similar in this way, they are all completely different in nature.

Family are the people no one chooses. No matter how hard anyone tries, no one can ever get rid of that connection. It’s true that not all families are supportive and accepting. But when they are, it can be comforting to know they’ll always be there — and sometimes very annoying.

Romantic partners are completely different. They are definitely chosen. It’s all about choosing the perfect person. These relationships are the most temporary, though. As most people are searching for “the one” to spend the rest of their life with, it’s guaranteed that the majority of them will end.

That leaves friends.

Friendships, oddly enough, are a combination of both.

They’re a bit like partnerships because they’re chosen. At the same time, friendships don’t get the opportunities that romantic relationships have. Because like familial relationships, they have the same sort of unspoken obligations.

Think about it.

When’s the last time someone has sat down with a friend and discussed the relationship?

Has discussed boundaries or rules?

Has discussed what each person wants and expects from the relationship?

What about breaking up? What if one person wants something different, is heading in a different direction, has connected with different people. Do they break up with this friend?

Probably not.

More likely, they both just stick it out, no matter how unhealthy or awkward the relationship is or how unhappy someone may be.

Granted, not all romantic relationships have these conversations either. But at least it feels like there’s an option to have them. Not friendships.

What’s strange about this is that people are the most bound to friends.

It’s like friendships have some weird expectation of familial relationships to always be there, to be accepting and supportive, without the option to end it if one person isn’t happy or satisfied.

Still, friendships can be better than family because they’re chosen, and safer than romantic relationships because no one has to pick the perfect one for the rest of their lives.

But friendships can also be just as abusive, broken or unhealthy as romantic or familial relationships.

Am I obligated to stick with a friend even though the relationship is not working?

Friendships really are the only type of relationship that has to wait for natural mutual drifting for it to end.

But frankly, some relationships are just not fixable — friendships included.

Allison Galbreath can be reached at [email protected] or @agalbreath19 on twitter.