Anthropologists tell us that mutual needs have been responsible for indviduals banding together in search of mutual support and protection.. (“I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”). Underneath it all there’s kinship selection at work, another motivation for bonding with others. Today, if we can bring ourselves to honestly look around us at the quality of our relationships, we might be led to reassess them or at least to assess them for the first time. True, there are various levels of relationships. One’s closest relationship–the husband—unfortunately does not necessarily carry with it a high level of trust. Too many conflicting needs, too much “keeping the peace.” Many of our relationships , to coin a phrase, don’t hold much water.
To be absolutely fair, let’s start with ourselves before throwing stones at other dear friends. How many acquaintances drive you up the wall by their manner of speaking or repeating topics to speak about? Are you honest and forthright with them about their annoying habit? (You don’t if they’re still an “acquaintance.”)
To what extent do you trust them? Well, there’s everything from trusting them not to shoot you or burn down your house to running off with your husband to not molesting your child or, for all that, not to commit patricide, matricide, infanticide. There’s cheating at poker or bridge, not keeping a secret you’ve confided, not gossiping behind your back, not buttering you up to their advantage, and not swindling you. And all the things left unsaid due to “politeness,” or is it just cowardice? We call it “non-assertiveness” these days.
To what extent do you even like or enjoy them? What reservations do you have about them? Do you respect them? Look up at them or down upon them? Do you “pay your own way” in the relationship—that is, give as much as you take? How about flattering a friend while feeling critical? How high do you rank the need for honesty? In graduate school we actually had a habit, when someone expressed displeasure to us, of saying, “Thank you for the gift of your anger.” Incredible to remember it, but I kid you not.
Well, I’ve raised enough questions and probably hackles for today. One word of what I consider wisdom before I close, however: If you can neither feel real enjoyment, empathy or respect for a “friend,” drop them, (if they haven’t already dropped you).