Humans are social creatures, so the simple answer to the question is yes. We do need friendship – very much so!! However this would be a very short post if it really were that simple.
What I have learned so far in this life, is that while we do indeed need friendships, it is unwise to ever convince yourself that you need any one friendship in particular. You do not, and a friendship will never be satisfying to you if you feel you need a certain person in your life and they only consider you an option in their life. In return the person you need may begin to feel pressured, cornered, smothered by your need for them. Remember that the true beauty of friendship lies in the choice. If you choose each other for no other reason than love, it is a beautiful thing. If one of you feels trapped or obligated and the other feels insecure, you’re on a road to nowhere!
What about our emotional needs? Is there room in friendships for emotional needs? Hmmm. That is where it gets really tricky. As social creatures, it is also ingrained in our nature to have emotional needs and I am certainly not about to deny this or say it should not be. We do have needs whether we "should" or not!
As I reflect on all the ended friendships in my past I can honestly say needs were at the core of each of them.
I recall times where my own needs were not being met. During these times I either pulled away, or had a tantrum because the other person had pulled away and stopped meeting my needs. I can reflect on times where I was meeting someone’s needs…. Until someone else came along and met their needs better than me, and they pulled away. Similarly there have been times when someone came and met my needs better and pulled me away from the original person. There have even been times when my needs, or the needs of the other party, suddenly changed, leaving one of us suddenly unsatisfied by this new unmet need. Often, in effect, leaving the other person baffled as to what changed and why, and if they even have the capacity or desire to meet this new need!
Essentially if a friendship is ending, I now believe the key is needs. If you are worried that a friendship is at risk in your life, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:
Have your needs changed? If so, can you identify what you now need, and how you or your friend can meet that need?
Have her needs changed? If so, can you identify what she now needs, and how this new need can be met?
Does one of you need more? If so, can you give more?
Does one of you need less? If so, can you accept/give less?
Have you been clear about what your needs are?
Do you know what her needs are?
How is she meeting your needs, and how could she be better?
How are you meeting her needs and how could you be better?
In friendships we all like to feel like the person who adds value to our life also receives value from having us in theirs. However we often get so caught up in our own needs that we fail to question what she needs and if we are meeting her needs. How can we expect to be valuable to someone if we don’t know what she actually values or needs to feel cared for?
Don’t assume that your friend values the same things, or that she knows what you value either. It’s possible that you feel valued when someone brings food to a dinner party and offers to help you get organized first, and she feels valued when you remember to call after that doctors appointment. If she is meeting your need you may never even realise that you are not meeting hers. That is especially true if you are offering her the same type of support that you yourself would value.
I can identify at least 2 friendships that ended because I offered only the same support I found valuable and as a result unwittingly left my friend feeling uncared for. I couldn’t understand because I had remembered to call, I had made time for her?! Except she didn’t want time. Matter of fact she felt my offer of time was demanding when all she wanted was for me to cook her a meal when she was stressed about her exams and drop it at her house. On the other hand, I felt neglected by the same gesture and that her offer of food was a cop out when what I wanted was time to talk and vent and bond.
See how each of us gave what we wanted to receive without really thinking about what the other person needed?
I still need time from my friends, and I need them to show that they care by remembering the small details and asking for more information on how I feel about things I share. However I am now aware that those same needs don’t always translate to love on the other side. I am still not great at meeting those more practical needs over emotional ones, but I am practicing this within my own limits. Similarly I am more aware of the limits of my friends and try to manage my expectations of them to meet my needs accordingly.
Long story short? If you feel your friendship is at risk of fracture – ask her what she needs. Tell her what you need.
Your needs are important. Just don’t get bogged down in the idea that only one person can meet them. If you are at odds and unable to feel completely satisfied, you are within your rights to find someone else to meet your needs. Your friendship may still fracture, or become less close, but I promise you that it wont feel as bad if your needs are still being met.
Do you even know what your needs are? How about your friends? Worth some thought!
Your Best Friend ForNever