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The relationship continuum: From “It to Us”: Part 4 of 5 – Because we’ve got to have Friends

We’ve got to have friends

Like the song says, “we’ve got to have friends”. Continuing this series about the “It to Us relationship continuum”, this week we’ll move along to the third level and talk about the stage I call Friendships. If you’ve read part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this series already, you’ll no longer be asking: What the heck is an “It to Us Continuum”? If you haven’t read them yet, please go have a look at them now as this blog will make a lot more sense if you do. In brief however, the “It to Us continuum” is my own little method for evaluating any given relationship and for determining how much personal commitment those involved have to each other, what brings them (and keeps them) together, and most importantly: the level of intimacy they share. In part 4 of this 5-part series, we’re going to discuss “Friendships”.

In the simplest terms, Friendships (level 3 relationships) are the opposite of the Situational Relationships (level 2) described in last week’s blog. Whereas in situational relationships the situation or event is more important than the people in them (as well as the fact that the people in them are essentially interchangeable), a friendship specifically exists because we have chosen to be involved with that person in some manner regardless of the situation we’re in. This is a person with whom we feel have a chemistry, a kinship or an affinity (this is not necessarily sexual or romantic – see next week’s blog!).

Most people have only a few relationships with people that would truly fall into this category throughout their whole lives. These are the people we reach out to (whether daily or every few years) simply because we both enjoy connecting with them. Sure, we may well have met initially by being in a particular situation with them (think back to the school playground discussed in part 1 here), but a personal connection has since developed and even though we no longer share that situation we still desire to be in each other’s lives.

Friendship relationships are deeply fulfilling – there is a mutuality and balance to them that feels good when they are active. These are the people with whom we share a variety of life experiences, and with whom we begin to develop a trust that opens up the possibility for a bit more personal information to be shared between us. In this regard, occasionally friendship relationships are totally open, each sharing every last little bit of experience and feeling with the other. In the vast majority of instances however, despite the number of shared life experiences or the time we may spend together, there is a certain point at which personal privacy begins. There is a space within ourselves that is not necessarily open to the friendship and a boundary exists behind which we keep certain aspects of ourselves private.

If you are reading this and are thinking to yourself: “I’m totally open with my friends, they know everything about me, this guy is talking rubbish!!!”, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I share all my sexual fantasies with my friend?
  • Would I tell them if I had fears of bankruptcy or the bailiffs coming to my door?
  • Would I talk about an embarrassing infection?

If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, I also suspect that those answers wouldn’t apply to each and every person you categorise as a “Friend” and there are likely to be some people who have greater access to your inner self than others. The truth of it for most people is that each of us has a private psychic life and inner dialogue (no matter how close others may be to us) that we keep to ourselves. Certainly, we are far more likely to share some of this inner world with a “Friend” than we are with anybody with whom we have a situational relationship, but ultimately there is a boundary. It is the crossing of this boundary that takes us to the final level of relationship along the “It to Us continuum”, that is the level that I call “Us together”, or “You and me”. It is the characteristics of this level that are the topic of the next blog in this series.