Are We Friends?

therose-2

Main Entry: 1 Friend
Pronunciation: \ˈfrend\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English frend, from Old English frēond; akin to Old High German friunt friend, Old English frēon to love, frēo free
Date: before 12th century
1 a : one attached to another by or esteem b : acquaintance 2 a : one that is not hostile b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group 3 : one that or promotes something (as a charity) 4 : a favored companion […]

According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, as listed above, the word “friend” seems like such a simple term. Especially 2a. But as someone with Aspergers and an individual like anyone else, I think I can safely say that each person has a different definition of this word.

When I think about what the word “friendship” means to me, the most basic definition I could come up with would be 1) A relationship in which both parties share a genuine interest in each other’s welfare

However, most of my relationships (by my definition) would not truly be friendships. I tend to seek out people who I admire for one reason or another and not people who genuinely care about me (although I do occasionally get lucky with this) I think this is where I set myself up for failure on a consistent basis.

Now, I also think that when I break down the meaning of “friendship” even more, it gets much more complex than it necessarily needs to be. All of my life, I have been searching for “deep meaningful relationships”.

What does this mean? To me, it means that I am always looking for people that I do not have to hunt down constantly to make sure they’re alright (because they’ve already let me know and asked me how I am as well) I don’t have to sit and worry if I’m bothering them (because they seek me out just about as often as I seek them out), and that I can share thoughts with that go beyond the realm of “How are you? (Fine, and you?)” and “Oh boy, it’s sure cold outside today isn’t it?” because I can’t stand small talk.

So for years I have been going about seeking out friends the wrong way. I’m not sure how I’ve been “choosing” these people, but they tend to be leaders or have strengths that I admire whether artistically, spiritually, or socially. They tend to be leaders or “protectors” as I’ve described in my “Can I Hug You?” blog post.

The thought occurred to me tonight that maybe if I stop seeking people out so much and just set an example of what I want in a friend with people that seek me out, I might have a much better success rate. This theory doesn’t sound as appealing to me for some reason but that might be because I am afraid of letting go of the people I have stamped as “friend” in my book, that might need to be re-evaluated.

So how do I go about this? What does this mean for me? This means I need to be a better listener. It means I need to listen without the intent of guiding the conversation in a direction I necessarily understand or desire to discuss.

It means setting aside time for others, as I would want them to do for me. It means I need to be a liiiittle bit more open to other topics. Hey, if people are willing to listen to me quote episodes of Seinfeld then I need to be okay with listening to their stories too.

I have always thought that being a leader meant knowing how to speak, but maybe a great leader knows how to speak in a way people can relate to them because they first knew how to listen first.

So, that’s enough rambling. Let’s try this out, shall we?

How would you define the word friend?

I am all ears.

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About Gretchen Leary

I am 30 years old, I live in the Boston area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Are We Friends?

  1. My kids found this topic very difficult while growing up. The only way I found to explain it is that there are different “levels” of friends, a spectrum ranging from someone who is simply an acquaintance or workmate (common) to someone you can trust absolutely (very rare and greatly valued). My grandfather always said, “If in the course of your whole life, you make enough true friends to count on the fingers of one hand, you will have been very lucky indeed.”

    True friends are rare and precious. You can always be yourself with them, don’t have to camouflage yourself or do the social thing, and they won’t ever let you down. I’m 54, and I have three true friends whom I value beyond rubies. I didn’t meet the first of them until my teens.

    My kids all wanted true friends. So-called friends who talked behind their backs, lied to them. used them and/or let them down in other ways, caused them great pain and soul-searching. The best advice I could come up with was: people grow and change, and they earn different amounts of trust. A good relationship should be equal. So, you put yourself out there and meet lots of different people, trusting a little at a time, and setting and enforcing your personal boundaries. A friend for now may not be a friend for later, or in a different context. Think of friends as experiments in contact: relationships make a pattern, and you can trace it as it happens. Use your analytical skills, and think spectrum instead of binary. Above all, you can only truly be loved if you learn to love yourself.

    Put your toe in the water, then decide if you want to splash your feet, then maybe paddle. Don’t dive in at the deep end. Here be sharks (fast workers) and poisonous jellyfish (the deceitful), as well as playful and loyal dolphins.

    I hope you find some dolphins. 🙂

    • I have recently found that I have no idea what “work friends” mean because it seems to mean different things to different people. I have always been a sort of “all or nothing” person. I either don’t talk to you or I tell you everything. This concept seems to be a much bigger issue in real life versus on-line. But when the words collide and I talk to people I know online in person and vice versa I get very very confused.

      I try to find “best friends” in people who would like nothing more than for me to shut up or “get over” my social issues and for some reason, because I admire their ability to navigate the social realm, I can’t seem to let go. Basically this, I get emotionally attached or I don’t. Most often I trust those who I admire which doesn’t work out well for me because I often put people on pedestals that they don’t belong on. It doesn’t mean they’re mean or bad people- they just have zero to little emotional commitment- does all of this make sense?

      My Aspie brain doesn’t do “grey friends” well.

  2. Anna Kennedy says:

    A friend to me is someone i can completely trust share my thoughts with and totally feel comfortable being around them . We can listen to each other and not judge each other and soneone that even if we have not seen each other or spoken for a while when we do it feels like it was only yesterday we last met or spoke to each other.

  3. Pamela says:

    A timely post for me, Gretchen. I have a friend who likes to take up all my extra time, and now that I have pulled away some they seem put off with me. I am not a teenager anymore, and I feel a bit awkward with them now. I still adore them, and I wish this hadn’t happened.

    Pamela

    • I think people see me that way, when I meet someone new or someone I really want to be close to, I come off as needy. Maybe if you set boundaries it would help. Like set a time that is JUST for the two of you maybe and then the rest of your time is for other things? Im no therapist but I know that would help me if I was in that situation. Id still feel special but boundaries would make things more clear 🙂

  4. Natalie says:

    Hey Gretchen, I just wanted to say that your blog is actually inspiring – as in I have taken from it things that I can actually use in my daily life. In this post, for instance, your point about needing to listen without the intent of guiding the conversation really got to me like a little lightbulb you turned on in my head. (The good thing for me about Asperger’s, which is also the bad thing about Asperger’s, is that one has a lot more oppurtunities for these magical moments of a light being turned on. It’s a nice expereince, even though too often turning on a light means also means having to see how I’ve done a lot of stupid (or mean) things throughout my life without even realising it…) Anyways, I just thought you deserved to know that your blog is something I appreciate. I hope you keep sharing!

    • Perfect timing 🙂

      I can’t sleep and I was thinking about this blog post and my phone went off. I really needed the encouragement. It’s been hard thinking through all of these things. I’m glad someone finds this inspiring 🙂

  5. Natalie says:

    Happy to hear that. I’ve been following your blog for a while, but I’ve been too shy to comment on it before. After reading this post, it seemed rather unfair that just because I was being shy you wouldn’t be able to know that it was appreciated, so I felt like I had to say something and I’m glad now that I did 🙂

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