>Why we keep some friends but not others (MNA July 07)

Posted: July 13, 2007 in Columns

Associate Editor

I have known my best friend for over 30 years. We’ve kept in touch despite what parts of the state or country we’ve lived in, throughout each stage of our lives since grade school.
That is a long time to maintain a friendship, and it has had every chance to falter, fail, or fall to the wayside, but it hasn’t.
With email, cell phones, and instant messenger, it isn’t so hard to keep in touch with those we care for — or so it would seem.
There are friends I had in high school, or college, or in other cities I’ve lived in, that I have since Googled and can no longer find.
Some of these are friends I saw every day at work, or even roomates I lived with for a couple of years.
And forget about finding old friends of the female persuasion. Most change their last name when they get married and become almost impossible to track down.
So what makes us keep some friends but not others?
What is the glue that holds some friendships together, but doesn’t bind them all?
There appears to be different classes of friendship. We have the one best friend, or group of good friends, the ones you would take a bullet for or hide a murder weapon for if asked, and then there’s whole other classifications of friends.
There’s the work friend, who, you might hang out with once in a while, or get a beer with after work, but once you get a new job, the tie is lost and you dont’ really talk anymore.
There’s the high school and college friends who tend to move away, move on, and lose touch, scattering into the wind like dry leaves after graduation.
The friends who tend to drop off of the radar the fastest are the “friends of a friend.” These are acquaintences who we only know through someone else. Occassionally, we hit it off with one of these folks, and they graduate to a friend first-class, but usually they fade away once the mutual friend you both share moves on.
This is similar to the friend through marriage. These are the people you hang with because they are your spouse’s friends, or the boyfriend/girlfriend of your friend. If you want to chill with your buddy, you have to endure their romantic partner, whether you like them or not. Break-ups or divorces end these acquaintences quickly.
What really gets awkward is when you hit it off with this third party friend, and continue to stay friendly once the relationship is over. Divorce the spouse, and the friends go with him/her.
I guess the big questions is: What makes us keep in touch with some people, but not make the extra effort with others?
With me, it’s often a three strike process. I move to a new town, maybe share a few phone calls or emails with a friend from the old town, and once they don’t return a call or an email three times, they fall from the frequent friend list.
Pretty soon months and years pass, and they’re ancient history.
My really good friends will call back, and I will call them back. It just isn’t worth the effort to keep up a one way friendship.
There is an exception to the three strike rule, however. We all have those friends who are just lazy, or scattered, who aren’t really good at getting back to us, but once you do connect with them, you both feel as if you’ve never lost touch. These friends require extra care and feeding, and patience, but usually are worth it.
That old saying really does apply. Good friends can go a long time without speaking or seeing each other, and just pick right up where they left off.
So, the answer to why we keep some pals and lose others really boils down to how much we want to work to keep in touch, and how worthwhile it is. And how good we feel when we keep in touch with them.
So, if you haven’t touched base with a friend in a while, call, or email, or instant messenger, fax, or do whatever you have to do to keep the lines of communication open.
Don’t let them fall into the abyss of ex-friendshipdom. It’s a lonely place, populated by old work friends, friend of friends, and other assorted characters who didn’t cut the mustard.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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