5 Key Roles To Understand In Order To Save Friendships


Once I defined who I was and who other people in my life were, my circle of friends became smaller, stronger, and I found less chaos in my life. This was my key to understanding the roles we all play in each’s others live. And this is how I keep long-lasting friendships.

In high school, relationships were very black and white. Either we were friends or we weren't. Friendship in high school meant encompassing all levels of trust, communication, openness, and support. I was wrong.

When we’re younger we’re more open to forgiveness, though. I had a girlfriend from 8 p.m. on Tuesday night until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon because of "friends." I told them during second period I had a new girlfriend and not to tell anyone. By fourth period everyone knew. Like Alanis Morissette sings, "You live, you learn." And although I was upset, two days later it wasn’t a big deal and I forgave them. If that happened in my late 20’s or 30’s, I’d never speak to that person again for betraying my trust.

Friendships Are About Awareness Of Self And Others

As I got older I became more aware of friendships and the roles people played in my lives. Through constant trial and error, I've learned that everyone can't embody every role I need at a given time. Think about all the frustrations you have when you need support from a friend and they don't support you the way you’d had hoped for at that moment.

Saving friendships starts with knowing who you are and what you want. Think about a situation in the past when you’ve gone to a friend for comfort and they’ve ended up talking about their own problems. You end up feeling like you wasted your time and you resent that friend for a while. 

Yes, they didn’t give you what you needed, but what’s your ownership in the situation? Did you tell them what you needed at the moment? Did you think back to previous times you needed something similar and ended up with the same frustration? 

You’ll get over it eventually, and although it's not necessarily their fault, it's frustrating and adds on to your already chaotic situation. Once you’re able to know what you need in a situation and think about which one of your friends can support you the best, you’ll find yourself less frustrated with people during your times of need.

Once I started becoming more aware of myself, I realized everyone doesn't play the same role in my life. Initially, it's difficult to pick, choose, and define people because we’re conditioned to believe the general idea of someone being a friend means you want to involve them in all aspects of your life. You don’t have to. I’ve learned that certain conversations only happen with certain people based on past experiences. I learned to pick and choose who to approach regarding certain topics or situations. And I’ve stuck to that until it became second nature. 

Without knowing who offers what, you’ll constantly put yourself in a position of disappointment. And although you may love someone dearly, the resentment and frustration they keep causing you will build-up to the point where you rather not be around them. Now that friendship is over.

Who’s Who: Saving Friendships

Awareness is one of the keys to happiness in life. The more you’re aware of who you are, the more aware you’ll become of others and attract the right people in the right situations. These are the five roles I've defined in friendships and how each one is beneifical. 

Emotional Friend

Some people can't handle emotional unrest. I used to be like this. Someone would start crying and I would just freeze because I wouldn't know what to do. I’d stare at them uncomfortably and slowly back up while they swept their hands out in the air like a zombie looking for a hug. I had my own emotions bottled up and only dealt with them when I was alone or drunk. I couldn’t deal with other’s emotions because I didn’t know how to deal with my own.

I’ve matured, gave up heavy drinking, learned to tackle my frustrations head-on (non-violently and as politely as I can), and I’ve made peace with myself. This has allowed me to learn how to support people in their emotional times of need. 

Now I just hug it out and let them cry and yell. It's cool. Do what you need to. Sometimes people just need to release some physical, soul-shaking energy. This friend will gladly take the brute force of all of this with open arms.

Financial Support Friend

This is someone you can depend on if you're ever in financial trouble. Whether it's $5, $50, or $1000, this person has no issue sliding cash to you to help solve whatever’s going on. Some people have busy lives and don't have time to offer love and support by way of time. Instead, they provide love and support in other ways, such as money, lending you their car, or letting you bum it on their couch. When you the overdraft hits you with that $35 uppercut because you went $1 over your balance, reach out to this friend.

Presence Friend

This is someone who is just there when you need them. A presence friend just lets you sulk in your own energy and doesn’t try to steer you in any direction. It can be anything from being able to watch Netflix in silence or just spending the night at your place because you want the company. Sometimes you don't want to talk about what’s wrong, you just want the presence of love and this friend provides just that.

Drinking Friend

This friend is an unlicensed psychologist. If you tell them something is wrong, their idea is to head to a bar and talk it out. They know getting some drinks in you will relax your mind, help you open up, and get to the cause of some of your issues. 

This friend always stays in control of the situation, which is important. They make sure you drink enough to feel liberated, but that you also end the night with a revelation to get out of your funk. Whether it’s, “You know what, you’re right F her/him,” deciding to take a high risk, quitting your job, or having a tough conversation with a parent, the night doesn’t end until that epiphany hits you.

Unhelpful Friend

For all the pros there is a negative. This friend really isn't that helpful. They give bad advice, turn the conversation into themselves, habitually lie, or just have nothing relevant to offer. I'm not saying this friend is useless on all accounts, but maybe this friend isn't the best person to go to if you need clarity or support. 

Big Picture Friendship

Know who to go to for what the situation calls for. Some friends can fill one role, some multiple roles, and some can fill all. You can't go to a friend who is financially burdened all the time and ask them to borrow money. Just like you can't go to a friend who loves to talk all the time and ask them to just be in your presence. 

The same principals can be applied to your family; parents and siblings especially. It’s not always easy to be friends with your parents or your siblings. For one, your parents are older, have had unique experiences, and have defined who they are while in most cases if you’re under 30, you’re still figuring it out. If you know your parents are retired and live on a tight budget or aren’t the best communicators, going to them for money or a heartfelt conversation might not be the best idea. 

While you learn what type of people are in your life, figure out what kind of person you are and can be in their life. Is there more you can do for the people in your lives? Understanding both sides will make for better relationships with people.