5 Editors reveal the less rose-tinted truth about adult friendships, and put on paper the great life lessons they've learned in their early to mid-twenties. What are the relationship values that most resonate with the culture we live in today?
Collective article by Team Savant
How many real friends do you have now? Compare the figure now vs. your mid-teens.
Johanna Raudsepp (J.R.): I think I have around 10 real friends these days. In my teens, I had way more 'friends' than real friends. I guess that's because when you're in school, you spend pretty much your whole day around the same people in a similar environment, so it's more easy to connect. But as I get older, I spend more time on work and family, less on friends. But it's those real friends who always make you feel welcome. I don't need to talk to them every day, but when we do talk, it's as if nothing has changed.
Aleksandra Medina (A.M.): I would say that I have two REAL friends. A real friend to me is someone I can call any time to ask for help in the weirdest situation, or someone I can trust no matter what. In comparison, a couple of years ago, I definitely had more people I called my real friends. It could have been four to five people back then. Not many friendships have survived the challenge of long distance and busy, nearly opposite schedules.
Meri Frig (M.F.): In addition to my husband, I have only a couple of close friends in the city where I now live. I moved to a new country, a new city, and had to adapt to a new culture 3-4 years ago .At first, it was difficult for me to find close friends in the new city. I kept in touch with my best friends at home quite frequently via social media. After I had my first child, I spent a lot of time with a dog and a baby and realised (or my shiatsu therapist told me) I desperately need to find more close friends where I live. So one day I actually gave my phone number to a girl I talked to in the dog park: it almost felt like I was asking her out! All my youth I was dreaming of finding true love, and when I found it, I started looking for friends, and again texting and ‘dating’, but now to find friends, not love. Luckily these days it is easy to maintain friendships, even when you move miles away.
Mariam Sheikh (M.S.): As you get older, you definitely tend to lean towards quality as opposed to quantity in terms of relationships. Naturally, life also gets busier with friends progressing in their careers, starting families and even moving country. Currently, I would say that I have 3 to 4 really close friends.
Hanna-Amanda Pant (H.A.P.): I think the amount of real friends has always been a constant in my life, even though some people in the close circle have changed over time. I do get best along with about 3-4 people; these are people I can entirely rely on. Of course there are many other fantastic people around me, but I'd rather call them social friends, work friends or acquaintances, as our interactions are not so dynamic. Sometimes we are connected to a similar purpose, or connected through hobbies and similar schedules, like work, sports clubs, or similar creative ambitions. But I feel that way the interaction is much more superficial and often connected only to that particular purpose. So, these relationships rather come and go in waves. Funnily enough, there are friends who used to be a part of my close circle since childhood, but due to our lives being in different cities, we've grown apart over time. I feel our interaction is much more trivial these days. I'm not saying it's not sad, of course. But I also believe, as a natural part of 'adulting', we must accept these changes and understand relationship dynamics can change on many levels, too. Everyone is simply too busy focusing on their career and relationships or both.
"All my youth I was dreaming of finding true love, and when I found it, I started looking for friends, and again texting and ‘dating’, but now to find friends, not love."
Meri & Anna
What are the most important qualities and values in the friendships you experience in adulthood? How have the qualities evolved and changed over time?
J.R.: 5-10 years ago I valued having a lot of things in common with my friends. That's why most of my friends went to choir or art school; we connected through hobbies. I wanted people to like me, that's it. But I feel like the core values I find important in friendships now haven't changed much since then. Nowadays, I don't need people to have the same hobbies like me, or we don't need to like the same things. I have learned that it's fine to disagree with people, and that diversity is a wonderful thing. We can learn so much from people who are different from us. I have always valued honesty and integrity. If you screw up, admit it and learn from it. Have the guts to apologise. If you have a problem, communicate. I like people who know that they're not the best, who are completely aware of their own flaws. The friends who have shown integrity are the ones who have stuck around from my middle school days. And the rest have taken their own way. To sum up, what I value most in friendships is honesty, communication, and integrity.
A.M.: The qualities I value in my friends haven’t changed that much over time. It’s probably just easier to see through people now and realise if they actually possess these qualities. I still value trustworthiness and loyalty the most. The most important thing to me is to know that the person is going to be by my side, no matter what. Of course, kindness, good sense of humor and sharing similar interests is still very important to me, just like a couple of years ago. However, what I’ve learned to value more and more with each year, are people with strong motivation, purpose in life, passion and determination. It is inspirational to surround myself with people who chase their goals, not just “slide through life”. A couple of years ago, I didn’t realise that this is so important to me. I’ve also realised I find it difficult to bond with someone who has a closed mind, which did not seem as such a huge deal-breaker in middle school.
M.F.: I think I value the same things in friendship now as an adult, as I did as a young girl - to be able to be yourself, to speak honestly and from the heart. To be understood and accepted as you are. Being with friends is the best kind of therapy. I have learned so much from my friends.
M.S.: Respect for time and the ability to really listen. It's an increasingly fast-paced world we live in and being able to spend your time in the company of people who are wiling to listen to you with awareness and compassion is unfortunately a rarity.
H.A.P.: If you're one of the first ones I want to call when something significant happens, whether I feel joy I want to share or have been part of an accident, then I'd expect my friends to be there for me in every way. I want someone to rely on as a friend. The most important is that I'm a part of their first priorities, just as much as they're mine. It is extremely tricky to accept when these dynamics change. I've always highlighted that they should accept me just the way I am and not try to change me as a person, or go against my belief system. Also, sharing the same values (note: it's different from sharing the same passions and life path) has become extremely important for me over time. Perhaps, I couldn't word it to myself years ago how important this factor is. Before, it was important to have some similar interests, but much of my friends had become naturally friends with me because we went to the same school or lived nearby, so we just spent a lot of time together, connected through hobbies and grew together like sisters. A real friend also never forgets your birthday. Trust, dedication and the ability to have a dialogue are the most important qualities, however. And have always been.
"It is inspirational to surround myself with people who chase their goals, not just “slide through life”. A couple of years ago, I didn’t realise that this is so important to me."
Hanna-Amanda & Diana
How often do you see your real friends? What could be defined as quality time spent with them?
J.R.: Some a few times each week, some a couple of times a month. I see my best friend every few months. We like to go to cafes and try new food or grab some drinks and just chat the night away. And sometimes we just gather at someone's house and make food, chat, play board games... We don't need much to be happy together. It's the good company that matters. And with real friends, you're always in good company. Sometimes we don't even need to say much. There's this quiet mutual understanding that comes with real friendships.
A.M.: Because of the lifestyle I have chosen to live, I see them very rarely. We live in different countries, and I keep moving around, without a specific ‘home’ location. One of my real friends still lives in my home country, while the other one keeps moving around, just like me. With her, we keep trying to adjust our schedules to be in the same country for a couple of days; with the other one, I only see her when I go back home to see my family, which is twice a year: summer and Christmas. Because we see each other so rarely, we swear by WhatsApp audio messages, FaceTime and Skype.
Quality time is basically every minute we spend together, since it’s so rare. Even though, these people know everything and are updated about all the details of my life on a daily basis, just seeing them and hugging them makes a huge difference. So, for me it can be anything - just grabbing a coffee and talking for 3 hours, cooking a homemade meal, skydiving, clubbing or going on a road trip. I always make the effort to not to touch my phone, when I’m with these people, because I truly cherish these moments. Just to be next to them in real life is too precious.
M.F.: I see my friends in the city every week. Quality time does not need to entail anything spectacular, just maybe a cup of coffee or tea or a stroll in the park. I do love to host dinner parties, go to museums or exhibitions with my friends, discover the city and sometimes get out of the city to see and experience something new.
M.S.: I see friends once or twice a month, and our engagements are often enjoyable, because we know how busy everyone is and try to make the most of our time together. Outings usually entail travelling to new parts of the City and having long meaningful conversations over a good meal.
H.A.P.: As I have lived abroad for 5 years already, I spend more time with all the interests-related people and work friends, and less with real friends, if I may so state. But I do try to see them every couple of months or so. The most important thing is that, whenever we meet, it feels like nothing has changed. Or everything! But we don't feel like it has. We don't feel the need to 'fill in the gaps'. Me and my friends also embrace that change; we don't try to challenge the change and keep people in the same static framework, just 'because it's always been like that'. The ability to accept change is vital.
"I know someone is a real friend, when the first thing I want to do after something crazy has happened to me, is to call them and tell them all about it."
Johanna & Snorri
What might be some possible reasons for arguments that take place now in adulthood with you and your friends? Have you had any serious rows with them?
J.R.: I'm not really a person to argue. I am always honest and my friends know that. And I never mean to say things in an offensive way. They are similar to me, in that sense. So, we haven't had any serious rows, I think. It's more like serious heated discussions, but we always part as friends. Arguments these days can arise from more serious discussions, such as on politics, world views...things on the news. As we grow older, we have a clearer idea of who we are and what we want from life, and we're willing to defend our outlook. But, at the same time, we are more accepting of differences.
A.M.: At least for me, most of our arguments arise from not having enough time for each other. However, these disputes never arise with my real friends. I don’t even remember having an argument with them in the past couple of months. On the contrary, that has been the reason why some of my friendships have drifted apart ever since I moved away. It is difficult to find time for your friends, when you are in a different country, different time zone and trying to build a new life. It is a true blessing to find people who understand that, and are confident enough in your friendship to not get upset about not being able to meet up, Skype or talk all the time. Sometimes a ridiculous argument could start, because we miss each other too much and haven’t seen each other for a really long time. But this actually applies more to my relationship with my sister.
"There's this quiet mutual understanding that comes with real friendships."
M.F.: To be honest, I generally tend to avoid disputes and confrontation, but perhaps luckily, I have not ended up in any major arguments with my close friends now in adulthood. Of course friendship with your life partner is of different kind: on one hand, your life partner can be your best friend, and the connection is so strong that you truly get to see a wide range of emotions and behaviour. On the other hand, I have learned the importance of having close friends outside your relationship. It probably can do miracles for the relationship, too.
M.S.: Although i have never experienced such a scenario, rows could arise out of misconceptions, bad communication and being too reactive.
H.A.P.: That's tricky. The more I've seen the insides of adult friendships, the more I'm convinced that they get more and more complicated with age. They can be quite ugly at times. Mostly, it's about minor things, like the frequency of meetings or different expectations from the friendship. People sometimes believe that if you don't see each other often, they cannot rely on you. Yet you don't forget them even for a day. Although I do understand why it might be argument-worthy when a friend is going through difficulties and she cannot rely on you, I believe a true friend accepts that and doesn't cause a fuss. I have had arguments related to relationship dynamics, sometimes about boys and relationships (but that the least!). And also because we're in different cities and cannot find enough time for each other due to hectic schedules. However, a true friend can overcome all these things.
"We don't try to challenge the change and keep people in the same static framework, just 'because it's always been like that'. The ability to accept change is vital."
Aleksandra & Camille
What's the one lesson about friendship you'd like to highlight?
J.R.: One quote I try to live by, and it's a classic: "Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself." Honesty is the building block of every relationship, because it builds trust, and trust builds the bond you have with the other person. Friends come and go, but true friends stay for life, no matter the hardships. And true friends don't linger around you 24/7, they give you space. You know they're there for you even if you don't talk every day or every week.
A.M.: What I have learned is that a real friendship is not about how often you see each other, how much time you spend together or even how much you have in common; it is about the way you feel with this person. I know someone is a real friend, when the first thing I want to do after something crazy has happened to me, is to call them and tell them all about it.
M.F.: I think the best-ever quote, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” applies to friendships, too. Although you know more about the battles your friends are dealing with, the most important thing is to always be kind and spread the love. Friendship and love come in a myriad of different forms. We may think of friendship as something seen in Sex and the City, but it does not need to be. Your best friend can also be your mother, or your cat (as seen in Murakami novels), or the silent older man sitting on the park bench (such as the one Nick in New Girl considers his best friend). The Muslim girl and the gay boy can be best friends, as in Skam. But it is important to have someone to talk to and always be kind to them.
M.S.: Friendships can be seasonal, especially in youth. But commit your time and energy to those few people who really understand and see you. Most importantly, develop a deep and unshakable friendship with yourself. As unconventional or scary as that sounds, you are the one constant in your life and learning to champion your own company for me is a real seal of maturity and wisdom.
H.A.P.: Again that people change. Their dreams change. Their career paths change. Their priorities can change... relationship statuses, religion, you name it. But as a friend, you accept these changes no matter what and still remain each other's support network. No matter what. It has a huge meaning. You simply shouldn't lose that connection and trust that took years and years to build.
"True friends don't linger around you 24/7, they give you space. You know they're there for you even if you don't talk every day or every week."
What brings you joy in friendships?
J.R.: Simply having good company, interesting conversations, and lots of laughter. And no matter how difficult the day might get, knowing that you'll always part as friends, because your differences do not matter. The differences make life richer.
A.M.: To be able to share my highs and lows with someone and to be able to feel like someone really, really cares about my opinion, relies on me and wants me in their lives.
M.F.: Talking and listening, simply. Being important for someone, being there for someone, bringing joy to someone. Sharing thoughts, being puzzled about life together. Learning to be a better friend, a better human.
M.S.: Connection. As children we often feel very pressured to be in the company of our age groups, while feeling awkward and uneasy. But, as adults, we willingly choose to spend our time with other people who we have cultivated trust and respect for. When you can connect with others over a good film or through unique experiences, that bond remains for a lifetime and is its own reward.
H.A.P.: Shared moments. Sitting in cafes over a cup of coffee, and feel that entire lifetimes go by when you talk. Ability to see them in different cities all around the world on some occasions. Conversations that carry some substance. Really good moments are rare. Shared humour is key... right, you just have to laugh a lot and be real.