This is my third and final submission for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Relationship Stages”. I’m a day late with this one, yes. Oh well. 😛 For more information on the Carnival of Aces, click here.
One thing that I think, traditionally, is so special about friendships is that they aren’t supposed to have stages, rules, limits, ultimate end goals, none of that. There are still ways friendships can go wrong, ways you can feel like you don’t have any friends or not enough, feel like you feel more attached to your friendships than your friends feel attached to you, etc. But it’s nothing like the distinction between being “single” vs “in a relationship”.
There are a ton of things that are special about friendships. They’re a kind of relationship that spans little kids (even toddlers) through old age. They aren’t relationships where you need to have a conversation about if you count as friends or not — you can just sort of let it happen and decide that you consider someone else your friend, regardless of how they feel about you. And there is a large array of different ways for friendships to play out that still feel “acceptable” in our society – there is not just one script for friendship.
If you Google “stages of friendship”, sure, plenty of things come up, often about the stages before reaching “best friend” status, and weirdly some results about specifically “female friendship”. But there isn’t a checklist for friendship the same way there is for romantic relationships. There isn’t a list of experiences most people expect to reach when they consider their own friendships, or consider entering into a new friendship. And when a friendship ends, there isn’t usually a need for a big significant “break up” — in fact most friendships just fade and these people couldn’t tell you the day they stopped being friends with that person. 😛 You don’t really feel like your relationship “Failed”, just that it “ended”, because in general, there is no goal for “success” when it comes to friendships the same way there is that kind of “goal” in traditional monogamous romance.
There are other kinds of relationships that, to me, don’t feel like they have stages either. Something like a relationship a person has with their sibling, their aunt, their uncle, their cousin, their grandparent — most of their family members (except not their parent/guardians) these are bonds that may or may not really be bonds at all, you can have a family member and not know them, never spend any time with them, etc, but if you do have a relationship with them… there isn’t really a progression, a set of common experiences that is easy to generalize among all families… there are just so many differences in how people experience these relationships. And often, there is constancy in these bonds. It doesn’t feel like they go through stages. I could be wrong and other people do experience what seem like stages in their familial relationships of these types, but the general cultural narrative I’ve picked up from living the the USA is that there aren’t general ‘stages’ one is expected to go through in these relationships.
Also, temporary relationships, as in, ones meant to not last. A job that you know you’re only at for a summer and your relationships with your coworkers there. A year in high school where you develop a kind of relationship with most, if not all, of your teachers but you know after you leave their class, the relationship will be over. These also are definitely types of relationships that don’t really seem to have “Stages”. True there is the “first meeting”, a period when, if you’re lucky, you feel like you know them better and they know you better, and maybe a “Goodbye”, but… but I feel like these types of relationships are not usually considered in terms of separate stages, that people usually think back on it in simpler terms than that.
Does this make sense to anyone besides me?
Anyway I enjoyed thinking through these things for the Carnival of Aces this month. 😛 I used my blogging as a way to help me think through the issues. I hope maybe someone enjoyed reading my thoughts.