How Many of These Odd Friendships Are You Stuck In Right Now?


Frandz. You know the deal: Easy to make. Hard to keep. Even harder to make after a certain point so you better hope you have some good ones now. There is perhaps no better way to take stock of the “good ones” than by looking at all the weird or even unhealthy friendships you’re in right now.

Tim Urban over at WaitButWhy has a glimmering post about friendships currently — specifically the 10 types of odd ones you’re probably participating in. It covers a lot of good friendship ground. It talks about friendship tiers, which are pretty self-explanatory. Tier 1: Close friends. Tier 2: Pretty Good friends. Tier 3: Not Really Friends. Fleshing out Tier 3 are also acquaintances, whom Urban succinctly sums up as When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don’t actually care.

LOL. (I think I would still care, but LOL.)

There are graphs-a-plenty of mountains of friendships — the mountain is your life, you built it! — and the point, basically is this. Writes Urban:

Whatever your particular mountain looks like, eventually the blur of your youth is behind you, the dust has settled, and there you are living your life—when one day, usually around your mid or late 20s, it hits you:
It’s not that easy to make friends anymore.
Sure, you’ll make new friends in the future—at work, through your spouse, through your kids—but you won’t get to that Tier 1 brothers level, or even to Tier 2, with very many of them, because people who meet as adults don’t tend to get through the 100+ long, lazy hangouts needed to reach a bond of that strength. As time goes on, you start to realize that the 20-year frenzy of not-especially-thought-through haphazard friend-making you just did was the critical process of you making most of your lifelong friends.

Well, shit. That means most of your lifelong friends are made, and that some of the people closest to you are somewhat arbitrary! And might even be people you don’t all the way like at this point anymore!

Here is a graph to ponder:

Even though you’re likely to focus more on good, enjoyable, healthy friendships as you get older, Urban reminds us that the way friendships are made all but guarantees you’ve got some garbage friends you’re spending way too much energy on.

They are:

  • The Non-Question Asking Friend (Super self-absorbed; does not understand how friendship works)
  • The Friend You Can’t Be Alone With (Because you literally have nothing to discuss except mutual friends)
  • The Friend You Always Have to Be On With (No earnestness allowed or actual chilling/being yourself)
  • The Double Obligated Friendship (Neither of you really wants to be buds but you keep on rescheduling that coffee)
  • The Half Marriage (“This friendship is one long, continuous rejection of you as a human being.”)
  • The Historical Friend (Friends since you were lil’ tots; still friends for some odd reason)
  • The Non-Parallel Life Path Friendship (You had a baby — they didn’t; they like deodorant — you don’t)
  • The Frenemy (:/)
  • The Facebook Celebrity Friend (Not an actual celeb; rather, whichever FB friend’s life you are way too into checking out regularly and giving massive thumbs up to)
  • The Lopsided Friendship (One-sided therapy; anything more than 65%/35% mutual)

I love this paragraph for The Lopsided Friendship because I know these people:

Another interesting litmus test is what I call the “mood determiner test.” This comes into play when two friends get together but they’re in very different moods—the idea is, whose mood “wins” and determines the mood of the hangout. If Person A is in a bad mood, Person B is in a good mood, and Person B reacts by being timid and respectful of Person A’s mood, leaving the vibe down there until Person A snaps out of it on her own—but when the moods are reversed, Person B quickly disregards her own bad mood and acts more cheerful to match Person A’s happy mood—and this is how it always goes—then Person A is in a serious power position.

So come correct: Everyone has one or more of these going on literally as we speak.

I would add to this:

The One-Issue Friend

Like the one-issue voter whose connection to democracy only revolves around one connecting point, this could be someone you only see at yoga and mock the instructor together, a coworker you can only discuss work with, or, say, if you’re both parents, whom you can only talk with about your kids. The thing is, if this friendship knows what it is, it’s fine! Or if it organically becomes more than just a one-issue connection, that’s fine too. Great, even! The problem is that too often these friendships are forced by one side or the other into more, when it isn’t mutual, i.e., THIS DOG THINKS ITS PEOPLE. And then you’ve got, well, another Lopsided Friendship on your hands. For this reason I sometimes find these one-issue friendships super anxiety inducing because I never know when it’s teetering over against my will.

But Urban’s main takeaway here, and it’s worth a full read, is that friendships should improve both people’s lives. So many do not, and it’s worth examining why that’s the case, and why we continue to invest in these draining discomforts.

We could and probably should put that energy into untangling ourselves, but we must get something out of these odd friendships: Some company, some small aspect of that person we enjoy, a way to pass the time, or perhaps the deep-seated hope that the friendship might some day straighten out, get its shit together, and really be something. Prolly not gonna happen, so in the mean time, it’s always better to put your money where your actual friends are.

Image via Getty.

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