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Old 07-16-2019, 05:47 AM
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"Friendship should be mutually beneficial"


I came across this sentiment yesterday on Reddit in a thread about whether a friendship should be abandoned due to one party being so ill for the past few years that they are unable to socialize beyond perfunctory texts. The statement makes total sense to me and I agree with it. And yet the comment was downvoted a bunch of times. So what do you think?

I agree it would be unfair to abandon a long-established friendship just because a person's hardship keeps them from being able to meet up for weekly Happy Hour. It would also be crappy to cut off ties just because someone's dealing with a chronic illness that sometimes makes them emotionally unavailable.

But it also seems to me that if someone's burdens are so intense that they are unable to offer you anything in return and the situation doesn't appear to have an end in sight, then it should be OK to step back from that relationship. If I became a long-term invalid, I wouldn't want someone to feel obligated to keep tabs on me out of pity or guilt. I would want them to keep tabs on me because--despite it all-- I'm still able to elicit good feelings in them and provide them with something they wouldn't otherwise have. If there aren't good feelings between us, I wouldn't consider that a real friendship. So I wouldn't blame someone for noping out of the relationship with me until I'm able to elicit good feelings in them again.

What do you think? Do you think friendship should be mutually beneficial in some shape or form? Or do you think friendships that are fueled solely on good feelings are "fair weather" and that loyalty is more important?
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:23 AM
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I think that dumping someone because their health has declined makes you a piece of shit.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:00 AM
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I think that dumping someone because their health has declined makes you a piece of shit.
Hypothetical.

You bond with someone over a shared hobby. Let's say, hiking. You guys are hiking buddies. Hiking is pretty much of all the two of you do together since you don't share other interests.

One day your friend severely injures himself. He is no longer able to do the hiking thing or anything else that is physically intense.

You hang out with him a few times. All he wants to do is sit in front of the TV and watch football and drink beer. You hate both football and beer. You would rather be out in nature, but your friend isn't about that life anymore. Probably because being outdoors reminds him of what he has lost. Your friend declines to do any of the activities you suggest, even those that aren't physically demanding. Being crippled out in public embarrasses him. So that means no movies, no shows, no museum visits, no music festivals, no bar hopping, no nothing. Just TV and beer and superficial conversation.

Are you a shitty person for letting this friendship fade?

Would you be dumping him because his health has declined? Or would you be dumping him because you no longer have anything in common?



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Old 07-16-2019, 07:12 AM
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Hypothetical.

You bond with someone over a shared hobby. Let's say, hiking. You guys are hiking buddies. Hiking is pretty much of all the two of you do together since you don't share other interests.
It may be that the issue is one of definitions- because if I only do one thing with someone ( hiking, bowling, playing chess, whatever) to the point where I might call them " my X buddy" , I don't really consider them a friend. Just like I don't consider my neighbors "friends" simply because I chat with them on the stoop and people at work aren't my friends just because I sit with them at meetings and have lunch with them. There are all sorts of social relationships based on a shared activity/interest/circumstance that end when that activity/interest/circumstance ends. Friends are the people I hang out with unrelated to any activity , go on vacation with, invite to my kid's wedding, continue to communicate with even though they've moved hundreds of miles away and we can no longer hike together. They're the people I visit when I travel to the place they now live, and the people who visit me when they come to NYC.

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Old 07-16-2019, 07:23 AM
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It may be that the issue is one of definitions- because if I only do one thing with someone ( hiking, bowling, playing chess, whatever) to the point where I might call them " my X buddy" , I don't really consider them a friend. Just like I don't consider my neighbors "friends" simply because I chat with them on the stoop and people at work aren't my friends just because I sit with them at meetings and have lunch with them. There are all sorts of social relationships based on a shared activity/interest/circumstance that end when that activity/interest/circumstance ends. Friends are the people I hang out with unrelated to any activity , go on vacation with, invite to my kid's wedding, continue to communicate with even though they've moved hundreds of miles away and we can no longer hike together. They're the people I visit when I travel to the place they now live.
I guess I don't have friends, under the definition you are using. And lest it sound like I am being a sadsack over here, I am 100% OK with this. I have always considered myself a loner and it is only recently when I have felt comfortable describing others as "friends". But they are friends of circumstance. Take away those circumstances and I don't think there would be anything there.

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Old 07-16-2019, 07:26 AM
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Dumping a friend because they are unwilling to reciprocate in making you feel happy seems very different from dumping them because they are unable. Granted there's not a sharp line between the two, but then, much of the time there's not a sharp line between being friends and not-friends.

I've certainly had friendships that dwindled to annual 'Happy birthday! messages for years on end, due to practical reasons, which then restarted up again when circumstances allowed. I might well cut back when someone's barely responding, but that's not the same as cutting them off.

A friendship I'm no longer getting any pleasure from, with someone who damn well could put their fair share of effort in to improve it but isn't, that one I might cut off.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:39 AM
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I think that dumping someone because their health has declined makes you a piece of shit.
I would only add that it also makes the dumper an almost textbook sociopath.

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Old 07-16-2019, 08:16 AM
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Dumping a friend because they are unwilling to reciprocate in making you feel happy seems very different from dumping them because they are unable. Granted there's not a sharp line between the two, but then, much of the time there's not a sharp line between being friends and not-friends.

I've certainly had friendships that dwindled to annual 'Happy birthday! messages for years on end, due to practical reasons, which then restarted up again when circumstances allowed. I might well cut back when someone's barely responding, but that's not the same as cutting them off.

A friendship I'm no longer getting any pleasure from, with someone who damn well could put their fair share of effort in to improve it but isn't, that one I might cut off.
I guess I don't see a meaningful difference between letting a relationship fade because you think a person isn't willing to reciprocate versus letting it fade because they are unable to. Like, if over the past few years, a long-time friend only calls me up when they need help and is never there for me when I need help, that is going to wear on me. Even if they have very good reasons for not reciprocating.

I don't think I would ever tell someone "I don't want to be your friend anymore." But if I don't get any enjoyment being with someone, I will probably stop accepting invitations to hang out with them and stop initating conversations with them. I think the question for me would be how long to give a relationship before doing the fade-out thing. I think holding out for a couple of years is reasonable, but I could see holding out longer if the friendship used to be really deep.

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Old 07-16-2019, 08:25 AM
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Would you be dumping him because his health has declined? Or would you be dumping him because you no longer have anything in common?
Does it have to be all or nothing?! Sure, no expects you to sit and suffer for hours, but that doesn't mean that you can't call or text to inquire how he is doing and offer other suggestions for things you might do together.

I'm sorry, but your "hypothetical" strikes me as a massive effort to contrive a scenario that would make it okay to abandon a friend simply because he isn't entertaining enough anymore.
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Old 07-16-2019, 08:47 AM
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Does it have to be all or nothing?! Sure, no expects you to sit and suffer for hours, but that doesn't mean that you can't call or text to inquire how he is doing and offer other suggestions for things you might do together.



I'm sorry, but your "hypothetical" strikes me as a massive effort to contrive a scenario that would make it okay to abandon a friend simply because he isn't entertaining enough anymore.


It doesn’t strike me that way - but that may be because of the “definition” issues.Let’s say I know somebody from bowling. For the past X years, we’ve bowled in the same league and we socialize on bowling night. Maybe we even have a drink after the league. I hear that s/he’s sick or injured. I don’t call or text or visit because I don’t have this person’s phone number because I have never needed to contact them before. And I wouldn’t offer other suggestions for things we could do together, because if our relationship hasn’t deepened over the past X years, I feel no obligation to work at it now.

But this situation is very different from the situation of a friend who I bowl with and go to baseball games with and I invite to my superbowl party and whose family I know and he knows mine and so on. And if he got sick or injured, of course I would call/text/visit. And if course if he could no longer bowl, we could continue doing the other things that we were already doing.


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Old 07-16-2019, 09:05 AM
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Okay, so the friend in the example has become unable to offer much, but they don't seem to demand much either. If I fall ill I would like my friends to keep in touch occasionally, I think that would contribute to my mental health.

So to contribute to this staying the social contract in my culture I will offer the same to any friend who falls ill. Friendships are mutually beneficial, if you integrate over everyone's relationships as a whole, which in my view is the better approach than making your personal interactions wholly transactional.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:06 AM
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I guess I don't have friends, under the definition you are using. And lest it sound like I am being a sadsack over here, I am 100% OK with this. I have always considered myself a loner and it is only recently when I have felt comfortable describing others as "friends". But they are friends of circumstance. Take away those circumstances and I don't think there would be anything there.
Similar here, also part of the situation with me is a heavy focus on relationships with my nuclear family, also extended family. But I've found in virtually all cases when I don't have the original activity/setting in common with former classmates, co-workers and activity-sharers we fall out of touch. And my current friends are really more my wife's friends or wife's friends' husbands than mine.

Assuming it was a person I was long term or lifelong active friends with, then they got sick and I 'dropped' them because of it, I could see other people thinking poorly of that and me feeling bad about my own actions. But some of us for better or worse don't have those kind of friendships outside their family, where a different set of obligations and expectations kicks in.

And there are lots of other cases where people politely call themselves 'friends' that don't reasonably require a permanent relationship when the reason for the original relationship is gone. Although in other cases one might restore or expand contact with somebody in that category if they have a difficult time. I'm thinking of people we've visited at home or in the hospital when they were sick who we only ever said said a casual 'hello' to previously (note: anyone is free to 'deconstruct' any apparent kind act into 'well you just did that to make *yourself* feel better' and who knows?, it's not worth debating IMO). Also I guess if a coworker I was once close to but fell out of contact with when we no longer worked together fell seriously ill and I learned of it, that would be a reason to reestablish contact at least for a visit, v zero contact now.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:19 AM
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Does it have to be all or nothing?! Sure, no expects you to sit and suffer for hours, but that doesn't mean that you can't call or text to inquire how he is doing and offer other suggestions for things you might do together.
Sure, but at some point it should be OK to admit to oneself that he or she is only going through the motions and not really engaged in a sincere relationship. Like, if a person is motivated to call or text someone just to keep up appearances (i.e. not wanting to be perceived as a shitty psychopath), then are they really being a friend?


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I'm sorry, but your "hypothetical" strikes me as a massive effort to contrive a scenario that would make it okay to abandon a friend simply becausejt he isn't entertaining enough anymore.
I will be the first person to admit to not seeing the point of a friendship if there is no entertainment or any other positive experience involved. I can definitely see myself being there for a loved one even if circumstances make it hard to be around them. But it wouldn't be friendship keeping me bonded with them but rather love. I don't know whether I can say I actually love (rather than like) my friends. Maybe that makes me a shitty psychopath. I don't know.

I can also see myself staying committed to someone out of a sense of duty and social obligation. Like an older neighbor who lives alone and needs some looking after. Or someone who was once a friend but is now a shadow of their former self for whatever reason. But in such a case, I would not consider this person a friend of mine. If a sense of duty is the only thing driving me, I wouldn't feel like they were my friend.



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Old 07-16-2019, 09:26 AM
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Dumping a friend because they are unwilling to reciprocate in making you feel happy seems very different from dumping them because they are unable.
Pretty much this. Business relationships should be mutually beneficial. Friendships can be beneficial to one or both - and beneficial in completely different ways. Friendship, like love, doesn't have to make sense to anyone outside of the people involved.
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It doesnít strike me that way - but that may be because of the ďdefinitionĒ issues.Letís say I know somebody from bowling. For the past X years, weíve bowled in the same league and we socialize on bowling night. Maybe we even have a drink after the league. I hear that s/heís sick or injured. I donít call or text or visit because I donít have this personís phone number because I have never needed to contact them before. And I wouldnít offer other suggestions for things we could do together, because if our relationship hasnít deepened over the past X years, I feel no obligation to work at it now.

But this situation is very different from the situation of a friend who I bowl with and go to baseball games with and I invite to my superbowl party and whose family I know and he knows mine and so on. And if he got sick or injured, of course I would call/text/visit. And if course if he could no longer bowl, we could continue doing the other things that we were already doing.
You have defined the difference between "acquaintance" and "friend".
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:54 AM
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It's always seemed to me that there's a sort of hierarchy.. friendly acquaintances, friends, and then Friends (with capital F). Friendly acquaintances are people you've met, maybe hung around with a bit. An example might be a good Friend's co-worker who shows up to happy hour every Friday. You're friendly with them, and may chat with them, but your interactions are constrained more or less by happenstance- you happen to be at happy hour at the same time and know some people in common.

Then there are lower-case f friends. These are the people you typically hang around with most of the time- you are reasonably intimate with their lives, you make sure and invite each other to big life events like weddings, etc... If they asked you to help hide a body, you'd call the police right away.

And then there are capitol F Friends. These are your boon companions, your lifelong friends who stick with you, and you stick with them through hell or high water, good and bad, etc... You'd help them hide a body, no questions asked.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:55 AM
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Pretty much this. Business relationships should be mutually beneficial. Friendships can be beneficial to one or both - and beneficial in completely different ways. Friendship, like love, doesn't have to make sense to anyone outside of the people involved.


If a friend of yours told you that they hang out with you solely out of guilt and not because they enjoy being around you, how would you feel? Because I would feel rotten if I learned people were only connecting to me out of guilt or pity. I would rather be alone than have friends like that.

I don't think a friendship has to be equally reciprocal or be mutually beneficial at all points in time. But I am having a hard time imagining a real friendship where one party doesn't get anything out of it except possibly a feeling of virtuousness.



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Old 07-16-2019, 10:02 AM
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It's always seemed to me that there's a sort of hierarchy.. friendly acquaintances, friends, and then Friends (with capital F). Friendly acquaintances are people you've met, maybe hung around with a bit. An example might be a good Friend's co-worker who shows up to happy hour every Friday. You're friendly with them, and may chat with them, but your interactions are constrained more or less by happenstance- you happen to be at happy hour at the same time and know some people in common.

Then there are lower-case f friends. These are the people you typically hang around with most of the time- you are reasonably intimate with their lives, you make sure and invite each other to big life events like weddings, etc... If they asked you to help hide a body, you'd call the police right away.

And then there are capitol F Friends. These are your boon companions, your lifelong friends who stick with you, and you stick with them through hell or high water, good and bad, etc... You'd help them hide a body, no questions asked.
I guess my friends are small caps. I think I would probably help them hide a body as long as they give me the dish afterwards. And that dish had better be good.

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Old 07-16-2019, 10:22 AM
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If a friend of yours told you that they hang out with you solely out of guilt and not because they enjoy being around you, how would you feel? Because I would feel rotten if I learned people were only connecting to me out of guilt or pity. I would rather be alone than have friends like that.

I don't think a friendship has to be equally reciprocal or be mutually beneficial at all points in time. But I am having a hard time imagining a real friendship where one party doesn't get anything out of it except possibly a feeling of virtuousness.
You give an example that is not friendship, but obligation. Can you not fathom, for example, an able bodied person being a true friend to someone confined to a wheelchair with limited ability to communicate? It happens, fortunately pretty frequently. I guess all I can do is share one of my favorite quotes - "The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good." The original author is likely lost to time, perhaps it originated with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but it applies well to this thread. Sometimes one is a friend to another who cannot and never could reciprocate in kind. I, for one, am glad of it.

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Old 07-16-2019, 10:25 AM
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Growing up, growing different, growing apart--that's totally natural and good and healthy. I don't even know where any of my childhood friends are. They all grew up to become rednecks and we gradually lost respect for each other. We parted on good terms, but there was a mutual understanding our happiness lay down separate paths. What DIDN'T happen was one day my hiking/kayaking/shooting buddy decided to bag all that and take to the couch & NFL. Just not a realistic scenario.

If a hanging out-type friend gets laid up with an injury or illness, and becomes "boring" during their convalescing period well that's the test of your bond isn't it. If you ditch, you are the definition of a fair weather friend and your sick friend will remember the depth of your loyalty. No need to face judgment for that, but you need to know that about yourself if that's how you roll.
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Old 07-16-2019, 11:05 AM
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All relationships, including friendships, should be a net positive in your life. But 'good feelings' is a benefit, and I think most of the terms in the OP are being used in a way that are different than I would use them. In the example given, if all the person can do is occasionally text, then I'd just occasionally text them and text them back. I don't see why I'd want to abandon the friendship with the person, as I'm still staying in touch with someone I like and it's not holding me back from my own life. I have a friend (former partner) who has moved a long distance away and who is bad at staying in contact, but I'm still happy to see them when they have energy for communication or are visiting where I live.

It's also important to establish boundaries and limits. My parents had a long-time friend who had a stroke and was highly incapacitated. They helped out a lot, taking care of bills and cleaning while he was out, and a decent number of their mutual friends talked about how they expected to move him in with them and provide long-term care for him. But they had to gently explain to people that while he was their friend and they were willing to do quite a bit to help him out, they weren't prepared to give up the rest of their lives as caregivers, and that if he didn't recover enough to regain independence then they'd help get him into a nursing home. Some people might say that's abandoning a friend, but I certainly wouldn't agree.
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Old 07-16-2019, 11:27 AM
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You give an example that is not friendship, but obligation. Can you not fathom, for example, an able bodied person being a true friend to someone confined to a wheelchair with limited ability to communicate? It happens, fortunately pretty frequently. I guess all I can do is share one of my favorite quotes - "The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good." The original author is likely lost to time, perhaps it originated with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but it applies well to this thread. Sometimes one is a friend to another who cannot and never could reciprocate in kind. I, for one, am glad of it.
Sure, I can imagine a true friendship where one person has limited communication. I can totally see myself enjoying the company of someone who can make me laugh just by their humorous facial expressions. My cat entertains me on this level and that is why I enjoy being around him.

But if that person is in a vegetative state and has been in that state for years with no hope of coming it of it, it would be hard for me to feel like our relationship is a true friendship. I might still care for that person, though.

You seem to be drawing a different inference from that quote than the one I have formed. Or maybe you are giving it more relevance to this conversation than I think is warranted. It is very easy treat a person well without feeling any fondness for them, without ever thinking you are their friend. I have given panhandlers on the street fairly handsome monetary donations despite finding them a bit of a nuisance. Am I being a friend to those people? Or do I simply enjoy doing random acts of kindness and sharing my wealth with the less fortunate? Several years ago I used to spend my weekends giving my artwork away to any stranger who happened to show an interest. Was I doing that out of sense of personal connection and love for them? No. I just enjoyed seeing the happy shock on their faces. I don't know if I am a good person, and yet I regularly meet the criterion established by that quote. I really don't think that criterion is that hard to achieve.

My definition of a friend is perhaps not as lofty as doreen's, but it is perhaps not as basic as yours. I have been treated very kindly by lots of people in my life for no apparent reason at all. But the number of people I claim as friends doesn't come anywhere to close to the number of people who have blessed me through the years.

I totally agree that being able to show kindness with no expectation of reciprocation is indicative of a non-sociopathic person. But I don't think it is reasonable to expect a friendship between average human beings (as opposed to virtuous saints who love all of humanity, no matter what the condition) to be sustainable over a long period of one-sideness. I think we can disagree on what constitutes "long period", while still agreeing that a person who feels like a friendship has ceased being emotionally beneficial to them is not the worst person in the world.

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Old 07-16-2019, 11:55 AM
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Pretty much this. Business relationships should be mutually beneficial. Friendships can be beneficial to one or both - and beneficial in completely different ways. Friendship, like love, doesn't have to make sense to anyone outside of the people involved.



You have defined the difference between "acquaintance" and "friend".


I have - but an awful lot of people don’t actually make that distinction.


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Old 07-16-2019, 12:00 PM
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I guess I don't have friends, under the definition you are using. And lest it sound like I am being a sadsack over here, I am 100% OK with this. I have always considered myself a loner and it is only recently when I have felt comfortable describing others as "friends". But they are friends of circumstance. Take away those circumstances and I don't think there would be anything there.
I think I understand this set of feelings. But you might be surprised if you knew how they feel about their relationships with you. Maybe not all of them are circumstantial at their core.

Building a friendship is an act of commitment on both sides, in my opinion. The length of time and the number of shared experiences create a kind of momentum that keep the friendship going. For me, emotionally, a friendship is rather like a marriage in that I have made a relationship based on mutual positive feelings. When I am your friend I like you for who you are not just what you do. So if you become ill or unable to contribute much from your side, the biggest favor you can do for me is to allow me to continue to express my friendship for you in deeds as well as in thoughts, secure in the knowledge that anything I do is done out of positive feelings, not guilt or shame.
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:00 PM
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Hypothetical.

You bond with someone over a shared hobby. Let's say, hiking. You guys are hiking buddies. Hiking is pretty much of all the two of you do together since you don't share other interests.

One day your friend severely injures himself. He is no longer able to do the hiking thing or anything else that is physically intense.

You hang out with him a few times. All he wants to do is sit in front of the TV and watch football and drink beer. You hate both football and beer. You would rather be out in nature, but your friend isn't about that life anymore. Probably because being outdoors reminds him of what he has lost. Your friend declines to do any of the activities you suggest, even those that aren't physically demanding. Being crippled out in public embarrasses him. So that means no movies, no shows, no museum visits, no music festivals, no bar hopping, no nothing. Just TV and beer and superficial conversation.

Are you a shitty person for letting this friendship fade?

Would you be dumping him because his health has declined? Or would you be dumping him because you no longer have anything in common?
For one thing, I'd recommend he see a doctor for depression.

For another, I'd consider the possibility that he didn't like me all that much, and that he wanted me to go away.

For a third, I'd try to think of something he might be interested in that we could do inside the house besides watch football. Staying home doesn't mean no movies; hasn't for years. It never meant no board games, no card games, no music.

If none of that worked, and I didn't think the problem was that he wanted me out of his hair, I wouldn't spend hours on end there. But I'd stop by or at least call/email/text/whatever occasionally, because I'd think he was probably feeling pretty miserable, and he'd helped me have some good times, and maybe if he kept having some connection with people it would increase the chances of his coming out of the state he's in.


It's normal for relationships with people you haven't much in common with to fade out over time. Nobody's got time enough to keep up contact with everybody in the world; and nobody's required to keep up contact forever with somebody just because they knew them once. Plus which, there are in most people's lives a number of people who they're friendly with but not friends with -- workmates, neighbors, the regular clerk at a regular store. Such people can become actual friends, of course; but that requires going further than just seeing them at work or in the elevator, or even having a drink after work if it's the kind of workplace where that's expected. But not keeping up contact with such people when one of you moves or quits, or not keeping up contact with the high school friend who's on the other side of the continent, or not keeping up with the high school friend who now refuses to talk about anything other than how you should join their religion or even refuses to talk about anything other than their kids or golf game for years on end, isn't the same thing as dropping contact because somebody's ill or injured, or can't afford to do the things you like doing, or has to visit with you at their house instead of going out on the town because their ill mother can't be left alone.
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:07 PM
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If a hanging out-type friend gets laid up with an injury or illness, and becomes "boring" during their convalescing period well that's the test of your bond isn't it. If you ditch, you are the definition of a fair weather friend and your sick friend will remember the depth of your loyalty. No need to face judgment for that, but you need to know that about yourself if that's how you roll.
How long would you give a relationship after a "storm" before "fair weather" doesn't apply? I would think giving a relationship a couple of years to reach a new equilibrium would be fair, so that if you starting fading out after that point you wouldn't be a fair weather friend. You would just be someone who is looking for something more in a friendship.

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Old 07-16-2019, 12:54 PM
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I guess I don't have friends, under the definition you are using.

Honestly, that's what it sounds like.
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:59 PM
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I will tell my "acquaintances" that when they take me out to celebrate my birthday this week.

They sure seem like friends to me. But I guess you know better. :shrug:

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Old 07-16-2019, 01:12 PM
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I will tell my "acquaintances" that when they take me out to celebrate my birthday this week.

They sure seem like friends to me. But I guess you know better. :shrug:
You are the one that said it--don't blame me for saying that you sound like you are right. We'll see what happens if you get sick--will they remain at your side, or will they dump you because you no longer provide an equable entertainment transaction?
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:12 PM
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monstro is very eloquent and able to defend her position. I am less articulate and there is work I ought to be doing right now. However, I just wanted to say that I agree with and understand all she has posted.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:15 PM
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monstro is very eloquent and able to defend her position. I am less articulate and there is work I ought to be doing right now. However, I just wanted to say that I agree with and understand all she has posted.
Thank you so much for this.

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Old 07-16-2019, 01:17 PM
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Different people have different kinds of friendships and feel them differently. There's no "rule" here.

I have had lifelong friends fade out of my life for all sorts of reasons; geography, diverging interests, diverging lifestyles . . . who knows.

Some of them I'd still sacrifice a lot for . . . maybe they'd do the same for me. Maybe they don't need me as much as they used to, or I them. Maybe we'll never find out or have to put that to the test.

Relationships are always changing, even married relationships. The idea that one is committed to a lifelong friendship because one was once a friend is nonsense.

That said, if I met someone who said "my best friend of 30 years has been bedridden for two years and can't hang out, so I've just kind of stopped thinking about them or trying to communicate," well, I'd question whether or not that person was the sort of person I'd want to develop deep relationship with.

On the other hand, if someone said, "my best friend of 30 years has been bedridden for two years and has trouble communicating. I've tried but it's really been taxing as attempts to communicate are almost completely one-sided and leave me stressed and upset. I just couldn't deal with that kind of emotional effort while working two jobs since my wife lost her job, so I've kind of dropped that friend. I feel bad about it sometimes, but I also needed to take care of myself," well, I'd understand that.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:19 PM
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You are the one that said it--don't blame me for saying that you sound like you are right. We'll see what happens if you get sick--will they remain at your side, or will they dump you because you no longer provide an equable entertainment transaction?
I wouldn't want them to dump me. But I wouldn't think they were a shitty sociopath just because they couldn't hang in there with me for years on end without me doing anything to make it worth their while. I am not that awesome of a person to feel entitled to such unwavering, unconditional support.

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Old 07-16-2019, 01:25 PM
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I wouldn't want them to dump me. But I wouldn't think they were a shitty sociopath just because they couldn't hang in there with me for years on end without me doing anything to make it worth their while. I am not that awesome of a person to feel entitled to such unwavering, unconditional support.

Do you feel the same way about your sister? Because close friendships are like family relationships.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:27 PM
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I think with all relationships be they casual, platonic, romantic, etc. both parties must get something out of it, even if it's something that is ultimately bad for them, there is still something they are getting out of that relationship, but there is also usually some power differential, and the person with less investment is usually more likely to walk away when things go south.

With casual friendships it doesn't take much to make a friendship not worth sustaining, morals don't really enter into it much, but everyone has their ups and downs and things are never completely equal. I'd feel less judgmental about someone abandoning a casual friend over a health issue than their wife of 20 years for instance.

Real relationships take work and investment from both parties, that's why they are also more fulfilling than superficial ones. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:29 PM
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The theme song for this thread.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:41 PM
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Do you feel the same way about your sister? Because close friendships are like family relationships.
I have a bond with my sister that transcends all intersteller space and time. I can't imagine loving anyone as much as I love my sister.

Having said that, I don't feel like I am entitled to her unconditional support. If I was dealing with severe mental illness that turned me into a horrible person and I was like this all the time with no end in sight, I would like to think that the sane part of me would totally understand why my sister wouldn't want to hang out with me. I certainly wouldn't think she was a sociopath for staying away. Sure, I would want to know that she still cares about me. But I wouldn't want her to put up with me only out of a sense of duty. I would want her to look forward to our visits, not see them as a chore.



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Old 07-16-2019, 01:43 PM
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This sounds like a simple case of fading out of one another's lives, and simply being straightforward about what you define as a "friend". I have come to see all friendships as temporary; everyone leaves eventually, so don't get too hung up on the concept of friendship, is my personal stance. So if someone could not communicate with me any more, there's nothing left to form a friendship off of. They were my friend. If they get better and call me again some day, they can be my friend again. But while we are incommunicado for years; no, we're essentially not friends. It's quite simple.

I basically never say this when talking to someone else about people like this. Sometimes I define them by a period in my life, "one of my college friends--", but most often I just say "my friend used to--". I don't bother going into explaining, "this person I used to be friends with once, but stopped talking to me for one reason or another, so now we're not really friends, you know" because nobody else cares. And there's lots of people who define mere acquaintances they met at a couple parties as "friends" (that's weird but you do you). They'd never get it. So I just don't go into all the friendships that have ceased to be over the years.

I think there's some people in this thread getting a little too defensive about never "abandoning" a friend, but if you never have a conversation with someone for years, how can they even be a friend anymore? It's not a matter of you deciding they can't be your friend. It's just that there isn't a minimum basis of friendship anymore. They can come back anytime, but they're not here now. It's not like you looked at them and said, "nah, get out". It's not an active choice. It's just a thing that happens.

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Old 07-16-2019, 03:17 PM
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Do you feel the same way about your sister? Because close friendships are like family relationships.
OK but this gets back to the usual problem with multi-sided discussions like this on the internet: different people are relating it to their real experiences in life and everyone is on a different page.

I don't have any friendships that approach family relationships in their importance to me. Whether that's because I have 'inadequate' friendships or am especially family-oriented doesn't really matter. That point while hypothetically valid doesn't apply to me.

And the whole thing tends to revolve around who the friend is and what the person means to you, before the change. Like I said before I could imagine a case where a person had a lifelong close friend and 'dropped' them in time of need, and others thought poorly of them for doing that and/or it bothered that person on reflection. But more likely real case in my life would be one among many people I was kind of friends with (just introducing the word 'acquaintance' doesn't magically resolve it either), drifted apart from when what we had mainly in common ended (same school, same workplace). Then they got sick. I might then visit them, and thus go from zero contact back to some. OTOH likely situations with me where I hiked, biked or whatever with some people they wouldn't really be close friends, and if health issues made them drop that activity then OK they wouldn't be in the hiking/biking group anymore. We might go over and visit a time or two.

It's just pretty vague IMO. I could see cases where I had to resist my human inclination to judge other people (something the internet *really* needs to work on in general ) because one friend dropped another. Or where I understood it (again as if they should care what I think). Or hypothetically where it was me, or where it was me in real life with people who aren't really close friends. But there's nobody outside my family with whom I have a comparable to family relationship and that's probably not *so* rare. There's nobody I'd think for a split second about saving in lieu of saving someone from my family if it was one or the other, for example.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:02 PM
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I have BEST friends I haven't seen in several years and might text sporadically or talk to on the phone once a year at most. Also, many other lower-tier friends I know I could talk to or hang out with or whatever out of the blue with no expectation of staying in touch regularly. So, the entire premise of this thread is beyond me.
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:29 AM
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The problem here is, as others have noted, the lack of a simple agreed-upon definition for the term "friend". If a person's really important to you, I don't think that goes away just because through no fault of their own they're unable to keep in touch the way they used to. Someone you only knew through participating in one shared interest, on the other hand, would naturally drop out of your life if that interest became no longer relevant to them.

If I missed communicating with a friend and I knew they could still read and enjoy what I wrote, I'd still want to write to them even if they couldn't write back to me. Not as an obligation but because I missed them.

If it was a close personal friend and the incapacitating factor wasn't illness but, say, being wrongfully imprisoned and not allowed to send non-trivial communications, although the imprisoned friend could still receive them, would you drop them then? I think part of the issue with illness is that we are liable to try to avoid even temporarily and curably ill friends just because illness scares us on a fundamental "it could happen to me" level.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:39 AM
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If it was a close personal friend and the incapacitating factor wasn't illness but, say, being wrongfully imprisoned and not allowed to send non-trivial communications, although the imprisoned friend could still receive them, would you drop them then?
I would not drop them if the communication I had with them was two-way and wasn't totally emotionally distressing. If I still feel some connection with that person and that connection elicits good feelings, then I'm still benefiting from the relationship.

But if they never communicated with me? They never answered my letters and never called me and refused to put me down on the visitation list (or whatever they call it)? And this radio silence has been going on for years? Unless I suspected they had a good reason for their lack of correspondence, I would eventually stop reaching out to them. I might still think about them, but I'm not going to exhaust myself keeping up a connection. However, that doesn't mean I'd shut the door on them if they came looking for me after they were released.

I share Macca's philosophy towards friendship. For me, if we aren't in regular communication, then the friendship is non-existent. It becomes activated upon re-establishment of meaningful communication. So if I'm repeatedly reaching out to you and I'm not getting meaningful communication back, then I'm eventually going to stop reaching out. And for me, this equates to stepping back from the relationship.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:43 AM
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There are levels of friendship, like anything else in life. A friend you see a few times a year can be as valuable or even moreso, than one you see everyday.

I am not very keen on everyone who feels a need to analyze everything to death. Even a one sided relationship that is giving you some joy isn't as one sided as you think it is.

If someone dumps you because you are in ill health, well perhaps it's better for the dumpee, that they found out.

There's an old saying, "What's the difference between a friend and an enemy." "With an enemy you know where you stand."
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:56 AM
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The problem here is, as others have noted, the lack of a simple agreed-upon definition for the term "friend".

This is true. Who is the better "friend"?

A group of coworkers I go out for drinks with every week, but largely don't care if they leave the company and I never see them again

A friend from college I only get to see maybe once a year or so, but are always there for major life events
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:41 AM
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Hypothetical.

You bond with someone over a shared hobby. Let's say, hiking. You guys are hiking buddies. Hiking is pretty much of all the two of you do together since you don't share other interests.

One day your friend severely injures himself. He is no longer able to do the hiking thing or anything else that is physically intense.

You hang out with him a few times. All he wants to do is sit in front of the TV and watch football and drink beer. You hate both football and beer. You would rather be out in nature, but your friend isn't about that life anymore. Probably because being outdoors reminds him of what he has lost. Your friend declines to do any of the activities you suggest, even those that aren't physically demanding. Being crippled out in public embarrasses him. So that means no movies, no shows, no museum visits, no music festivals, no bar hopping, no nothing. Just TV and beer and superficial conversation.

Are you a shitty person for letting this friendship fade?
I don't know that I would call you shitty but you certainly wouldn't be me. I have a friend I originally met through motorcycles; he crashed, was crippled, and can't even talk about or look at a bike now. We're still friends as far as I'm concerned. Yeah - I have to avoid certain subjects and make sure to use the car when I visit. Do I get anything out of it? Yes; the pride of knowing I have stood by him the last 20 years when many other drifted away. Nothing against them; some of them are friends as well. But I'm just wired different. In today's terms: I'm OK if you want to un-friend me but I'm not one to un-friend you.
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:09 AM
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I don't know that I would call you shitty but you certainly wouldn't be me. I have a friend I originally met through motorcycles; he crashed, was crippled, and can't even talk about or look at a bike now. We're still friends as far as I'm concerned. Yeah - I have to avoid certain subjects and make sure to use the car when I visit. Do I get anything out of it? Yes; the pride of knowing I have stood by him the last 20 years when many other drifted away. Nothing against them; some of them are friends as well. But I'm just wired different. In today's terms: I'm OK if you want to un-friend me but I'm not one to un-friend you.
Is that the only thing you get out of the relationship?

Would you tell your friend this feeling of virtuousity is the primary thing you get out of the relationship?

Because if I were in your friend's shoes, I wouldn't want to hear this. I would want my friends to hang out with me because they like spending time with me. It would hurt my feelings to know they were coming by just because their own self-pride.


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Old 07-17-2019, 08:16 AM
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I'm more with kopek's point of view. I also agree that the definition of friend, or lack thereof, makes it a bit more difficult to compare views on an apples-to-apples basis. I have many acquaintances, but very few friends. To me, a friend is someone that I would take a bullet for. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, one never really knows how they would react in that type situation, but my "friend" bar is very high. I can't describe how exactly a person makes the transition from acquaintance to friend, but it's pretty much an organic process - it just happens. Once you are at that level with me, though, there is no situation that I can think of - short of actively harming me or my family - where I would abandon that friendship.
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:16 AM
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A friendship should be mutually beneficial, but that doesn't mean that the benefits go both ways all the time. Sometimes, you're the one helping your friend, and sometimes, your friend is the one helping you. A serious injury or the like might mean a very long stretch where you're the one helping your friend, but that doesn't erase all the times in the past (and hopefully, in the future) where your friend will help you.

Which is not to say that relationships where the help only goes one way aren't also valuable. They are. But those relationships are something other than friendship.
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:39 AM
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I can definitely see how someone can be in a true friendship where they are always in the "helper" role. That happens a lot when the two parties have different financial circumstances and levels of maturity.

But if the "helper" is only helping out of a sense of social propriety (Only a shitty person wouldn't help, so I gotta help so I won't be a shitty person) rather than genuine care and love, then I don't see how this is a true friendship.

It seems to me that if a person is committed enough to stay with a person through thick and thin, they are getting something positive out of the relationship. Even if it is just a sense of pride and self-satisfaction.

But if a person fades out on someone who is emotionally out of pocket for a long stretch of time, that doesn't mean the person is shitty or that they were never a real friend. To me, it just means that there is not enough fuel there to keep that particular relationship going. Whether that fuel be love, good feelings, hope, or whatever.

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Old 07-17-2019, 09:45 AM
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What the OP is saying is true for many if not most people. Stories about losing friends following serious life events would be a lot rarer, if that wasn't the case. I'm not saying there isn't something sad about this phenomenon, but it happens too often to chalk up to only sociopathic types.

The amount of emotional labor it takes to maintain a relationship with someone who is not paying into the "love bank" shouldn't be downplayed or ignored, especially if the person taking on this labor has other relationships and issues they have deal with and/or is not particularly gregarious to begin with.

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I have a bond with my sister that transcends all intersteller space and time. I can't imagine loving anyone as much as I love my sister.
I read this and immediately thought of this scene.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:19 PM
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If someone dumps you because you are in ill health, well perhaps it's better for the dumpee, that they found out.
I'm still curious about what 'dumps you' means in this context - how much time and energy are you expecting the friend to spend on the person in ill health? There's a pretty broad gap between 'you are no longer able to physically hang out with us so I'm ignoring your texts and cutting contact' to 'I am spending all of my free time and energy taking care of you', and I'm not really sure exactly where people are drawing the line here.
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