Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 19: Friendships

For my write-up today on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, I'll highlight something that Sean Barron says on page 265:

"I now realize that friendships and social relationships are not black and white, that they don't follow some prescribed set of rules that exist only in my own head, and that people are human, subject to mistakes and missteps just as I am. I have had people in my life who have hurt me several times, but who also possess attractive qualities and are otherwise kind. I have kept these friendships, but have modified them by sharing less time together or by having a friendship that is more casual. Like most everything in life, friendship can exist in degrees or along a spectrum. It wasn't until I was coming out of my autism and I was able to think in more abstract ways that this made sense to me. Today, some people are good friends, some are acquaintances, and some are individuals with whom I will never have more of a relationship than one defined by social small talk. That works for me because I've learned that not everyone who is nice to me is my friend."

This is a rich passage. I have a bunch of jumbled-up thoughts right now, so I'll just write and see what comes out.

I'm told that I need friends. Getting through life alone is hard. It's nice to have people to talk with and who can help you out (and, conversely, whom you can help out). But some people have difficulty making and keeping friends. I think that's why they latch onto unhealthy relationships, or assume that anyone who gives them the time of day is their friend. Personally, I can easily find myself going the opposite route: resenting a person being nice to me, not because he or she is attracted to my qualities, but rather because that's their job (as a clerk, a waiter, etc.). But I should not see the situation that way. If I am a clerk and am paid to be nice to people, I appreciate it when customers are nice to me. It brightens my day. Consequently, I, as a customer, should either brighten the days of those who serve me in a work-related capacity, or I should at least not darken their days.

I've had issues with having friendships. I just get to the point where being around people does not make me happy. Perhaps I feel that they do not respect me or my intelligence, or I simply have difficulty coming up with things to say to them when I'm around them, or I don't like them shoving their opinions down my throat. Should I end the friendship? I suppose I can, but perhaps a better solution is to have a friendship that is more casual.

I've also found myself feeling hurt if someone likes another person better than me. I'm like, what's wrong with me? In that case, maybe I should enjoy the friendship for what it is rather than beating up on myself or being angry at someone else. As Sean says, friendship is a spectrum. There are some people with whom I click better than others, but that doesn't mean that those with whom I don't click are bad people. People click or don't click for a variety of reasons----personality compatibility, interest, shared history, etc. I should work to be a pleasant person, but I should not be hurt if someone likes another person better than me. That doesn't mean I'm a bad person, the same way that those I don't click with are not necessarily bad people.

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