Last night, I watched this video and it really got me thinking. (Particularly the first 2/3 of the video).
Definitely as part of my 40’s I find myself reflecting on my life, my circle of friends, and what is important to me. How am I spending my personal time, and even where I am willing to pull time away from my family.
I think we are aware of the dangers of toxic friendships and relationships. But, I found her perspective on ambivalent friendships very interesting. I don’t think there is a single person who doesn’t understand there is a hierarchy to our relationships. We have our “besties” and then our “tribe”. These are words we hear a lot more of today, but even with new titles the relationships are the same. This is the couple of people whom we consider our best friends, and then the core group of people that make up our closest friends. Then we have friends and acquaintances, which range from people we consider friends but are not sharing every detail of our lives with, and those who were interact with occasionally.
I wonder in that hierarchy where the ambivalent friends fall. Is this somewhere between acquaintance and friend, or friend and tribe?
I like how the gal in the video broke it down when she identified the way we feel about when they call. Or, the question that she suggested as the litmus “are you every doubting if they are happy for you”. I think these are great suggestions, but possible not the only things we could ask.
Is this person understanding of my life circumstances?
Does she care about me, or does she care about advising me?
Does she really listen to hear me, or does she listen to respond?
Has she proven to be respectful of my boundaries, or does she cross at will?
Does she have my best interest at heart?
Is she honest with me because she loves me, or is she honest with me because she is looking to tear me down?
There was a point she made in the video about how she does have friends that she can call and pitch business ideas to and will get honest feedback. But, she knows those are not the friends who are going to be excited for her. Confession, I know that can be me. My brain naturally goes into business mode, and my intentions are to help the person think through their opportunity fully. I would hope that my friends would know this about me, and understand that I mean it with good intentions. Not everyone does, and this is why it is important to know who our friends are. Just as much as I recognize I may not be the first one they are going to call to share their exciting news. I’m ok with that. We can have friends, besties even, who fulfill different roles in our lives.
That is why I think we have to look at the larger scope, and ask multiple questions. But I do think this video opened my eyes to a feeling about friendships that I had no considered, ambivalence.
When we have a litmus of questions we ask, instead of depending on the answer to just one question, we can see more clearly. One question alone isn’t going to be enough to determine if this was just a one time issue or a pattern of behavior.
But, if we are constantly gauging whether or not this person cares about us, or questioning their intentions, we have to ask if this is an ambivalent friendship. We very clearly know who is for us, supporting us, because their overall actions show us that they care. We also very clearly know who isn’t for us, because they have a pattern of behavior that isn’t healthy or helpful. But ambivalent friends are dangerous because they steal our time, joy, and energy; because we never know where we stand with them.
Do you really enjoy spending time with me, or are you hear to exercise authority over me? Am I hear just because I am someone who is available? Am I a project you are working on? Are you trying to change me? Do you care about my well being?
Not that long ago, I met someone for lunch. At the end of the lunch she made a very passive aggressive statement to me. I caught it immediately, but was in shock that she said such a thing to me. When I got home, I replayed the days conversation and realized this wasn’t the first time… she made little jabs during our lunch date. Then some things said at previous lunch dates came to mind. This is a pattern for her.
I couldn’t help but wonder, if she doesn’t like me (or if I bother her, annoy her, etc) then why does she call me in the first place? Why does she even have lunch with me? And then of course I had to ask myself why would I want to continue to put myself in that position, now that her patterns were clear to me.
Once your eyes are open, you begin to notice a lot of things. I reflected on previous lunch dates where this woman would answer phone calls from other friends. I questioned myself, how important of a friend am I to her that she interrupts our conversation to take a call that she knows can wait? Yes, that is a more superficial question but it led me to ask deeper ones. If she would make a passive aggressive comment to me when she knows I am in a vulnerable place, how important am I to her?
Patterns will reveal more about a person than just one question will answer. But, this one question from the video definitely led me down a trail to really evaluate friendships that I have and what I want for the future.