Bob and I have known each other for at least 8 years. We became friends slowly, and to this day if you ask either of us how we became friends, neither of us knows how. Oh, we have our theories to be sure, but we’re not really positive just how it happened. It’s not that we don’t remember interactions with each other from that long ago, though the memories are distant. It’s that, by all accounts, it just doesn’t make sense. Our interests are pretty different, though the overlap here and there and for some time our practical moral stances were quite different. We lived at literally opposite ends of the country soon after becoming “friends” and now we only see each other in person about twice a year; and that’s a good year.
Yet he is closer than a brother to me. We have been there for each other during the 4am phone calls, the family problems, the relationship disasters, likewise through the jokes, the drunk dials, and some of the best times of our lives. As rare as face-to-face interactions are, we keep in touch and both benefit from a very healthy friendship, one uniquely unlike my others.
And for some time I’ve been trying to figure out why. Why is it that in my friendship with Bob we manage to be such good friends, even though so many factors seem to work counter to that result.
And then it hit me: the reason we maintain such a functional friendship is because we do not base our friendship upon obligation. From very early on we both understood, without needing to formally establish, that being friends does not automatically make us obligated to one another. Over the years, we watched other friendships come and go, at times losing most close friends. But our friendship maintained a healthy, functional growing rate. “How does it work?” you may ask. It works by not getting angry because you haven’t gotten a phone call in three months. It works by not maintaining an obligation based mindset that claims that your friendship is conditional. We shared experience when we decided to do so of our own volition. I chose to answer my phone at 4am. He chose if and when to call me back. And both of us have lost dear friendships because other people did not understand the functionality of such an arrangement.
This past evening my husband and I visited with this dear friend of mine, and he is doing exceptionally well. We have truly watched each other learn and mature through the years. Speaking with him is still as easy as it was so long ago, and interactions in person are just as comfortable and entertaining. And we still hold a friendship on self-volition. He did not get angry when I did not contact him for almost a year due to an abusive relationship. I did not get angry when he did not contact me for months while deployed. We missed each other, but there was no hostility due to a lack of communication.
Thus I give you readers an example of how very functional relationships can be when they are not formed around obligation. Most relationships are like this. Relationships with family and friends. The only relationship that merits any obligation is that of a husband and wife, for they have sworn obligation to each other.