Sunday, October 22, 2006

Reciprocity

I’ve been thinking of an old friend who I have not had any contact with for some time. I’ve been mulling over why I have not called or otherwise gotten in touch. For several years, this friend of mine and I had wonderful times together. We shared in grand adventures. We laughed often and pondered deeply. But somewhere along the line, it started to bug me that I was always the one who initiated these get togethers. I consistently was the one who called her to suggest some outing or just to meet for pizza and conversation.

Every single time we met, my friend appeared genuinely happy to see me. She and I mutually shared information about our respective families, jobs, and life details. Our time BEING together felt balanced with a soothing give and take. But PLANNING thoses get togethers was always up to me. If I did not reach out to her, we would go weeks without even speaking. After a while I got it in my head that if she really wanted to spend time with me, or cared about what was going on in my life, she’d pick up a phone. So I decided to wait for her to call me for a change. Much to my chagrin, it was a rather long wait. I’m still waiting.

So now I have mixed feelings. Because there has been such a long lapse since my friend and I had any contact, I’m wondering what that means. Granted, the phone does work both ways and she COULD call me. But she hasn’t. At this point I’m guessing she probably will not. Does that in and of itself mean she does not value the friendship? Maybe. But I’m not so sure. Every indication I had back when we used to spend more time together was that she enjoyed the bond every bit as much as I did. She simply does not, for whatever reason, initiate the contact. I used to say to her from time to time – “give me a call, ok?” She would just smile and say she would, but I honestly can’t count a time that she did.

In my mind, that puts me in the position of choosing between a friendship where I do all the intitiating or not having the friendship at all. Honestly, I don’t like either alternative. But as it sits, I’m leaning toward the latter. I’m not exactly sure why – but that’s where I’m at. I’m reasonably sure I could call her up even now, after all these months, and she would be genuinely happy to hear from me. But I want a pal that will reach out to me sometimes to. Is that so unreasonable?

So I’m giving some thought to what it is I expect from my various friendships and what I am willing to contribute. I’m wondering if I have sufficiently expressed my appreciation for the people I care about and let them know without question the value they are in my life. .Friendship doesn’t have to be a tit for tat ping-pong game of social obligaltion with the participants scrupulously tallying up who owes who. But I think the strongest relationships which endear trust and deep sense of connection DO have a sense of reciprocity, with both parties extending themselves in the other person’s behalf.

Believing that, I’m doing a bit of soul searching as to how well I’m holding up my half of the bargain in my various relationships. When did I last call my sister in Colorado? What about my old college friends? It’s so easy to get caught up with busy lives… I think today I will spend much of the afternoon writing a few notes and making some calls. I have some people that are precious to me. It is high time I let them know.

7 comments:

Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Yes, she could pick up a phone and it's not fair that you have to initiate everything. I agree.

I am terrible at keeping up my end of relationships. It's not that I don't love my friends or family - it's more that I'm so busy thinking about what's going on with me, my family, my life, etc., that time slips by unnoticed and I think, gosh, it's been a while since so-and-so called. Maybe I should call/email her back. Then more time slips by.

Maybe if you had a chat with her about it? She might not be aware of what she's doing.

This is a good reminder for me. Thank you.

Spoke said...

You know, my wife always mentions this too...so do ALL of her friends. We male humans are somewhat different, most of us don't need too much physical interaction with each other. I have 1 or 2 tight buddies, the rest are just kinda there you know? If I see the 2 guys a couple times a month...I'm good. Men are very surface. When we get deep, we get vulnerable. Society tells us men folk to never get vulnerable. Its a shame really...we hurt too!

Kirstie said...

I agree with Millie. You should have a chat with her about your feelings, if you choose to get back in touch with her. If you need some suggestions on how to handle it, I find hispeace.org to be an excellent resource for figuring out how to talk about things with people that are a little sticky.

Pondering Pig said...

Spoke's got it right about us guys. We don't call, we don't write. Even though I miss my old friends dreadful sometimes. You call somebody and what have you got? A phone call. It's not the same as getting in the car and riding around the hills together and laughing and making up jokes. Just relaxing and being friends.

I've got an old pal named Gypsy Girl. We've been friends since she was sixteen and I was eighteen. I haven't seen her in seven years, but every few months the phone rings and it's Gypsy Girl just calling to check up. And you know what? I am so grateful to hear her scratchy voice again. Thank you! And would I call her? You bet I would! I just have to get around to it, that's all. But first I have to peel this onion.

juliana said...

I remember on one of the surveys going around it asked if you would want you as a friend. I answered no. The reasons: I hate talking on the phone and always have, I rarely return phone calls if I can email instead. I get all self absorbed and tend to hibernate in solitude. I'm a homebody and don't like being away from Herman or my family very long, so when he's home I don't like to go out. I don't typically like girls night out. I don't have extra money and feel obligated when asked to go out but then feel bad about having to spend the money. I run "hot" and "cold", I go full speed with friends, then come to a complete halt. I expend so much energy in interaction with people I relish being alone and sitting in silence. I feel too trapped and confined when asked to do a weekly thing, (like playdates).
I don't see my friends very often unless it happens to be at church or in passing. The times I DO see my friends, however, I love them as much as I always have even when I'm being a hermit. And the times spent together are truly injoyable and as if time hadn't passed since the last meeting.
I'm not a very good friend.

Forgive me

Belladonna said...

You guys have all given me food for thought. The whole gender difference in communication & how relationships play out is something I will definitely throw out to my SOC class to explore further!

Juliana, since you are the only one of the crew I know in real time and space - I would offer this counter perspective: while your availability may have its limits, you are consistently clear, direct and honest about what you can give and what you cannot. I trust you enough to believe that if there is a concern between us, you will let me know. That makes all the difference in the world.

I guess that's the piece that concerns me with some other people...they feel socially obligated to make nice when we are together but their actions lead me to believe they don't truly value the bond. I feel uncertain where I stand with them, and I don't like that.

With you it is different. From the time we first met there has been a refreshing degree of authenticity that has helped me feel confidant about what I couold expect and what I could not. Do I wish it were different? Sometimes. But I for crying out loud, we don't live in the same town, we don't go to the same church, our day-to-day lives are very, very different. It makes sense to me that with you there are sweet islands of friendship that are rare and brief.

What bothers me about the person I've pretty much lost touch with is the mixed signals. Your signals have always been clear and true. You are a blessing to me!

juliana said...

You humble me dear friend, better to be two anchored islands then two ships that pass in the night. ooooh, profound huh? :+)

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