Abigail Ruhman is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
Sometimes it can be easy to forget that friendships take time and effort to build. Even though society recognizes a certain level of work for romantic relationships, platonic relationships tend to lack the same level of commitment despite the fact that they are vital to people’s overall health.
As a social species, there are components of our lives that depend on other people. The concept of friendship exists because we want information and resources. It sounds less warm and fuzzy than the friendships society pushes us for, but it is the main reason people want that connection. The emotional payoff is worth the awkwardness of making friends, so people put up with it.
The lack of value society places on friendship isn’t balanced with how they are treated. William Rawlins, Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University, explained to The Atlantic, “I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course. Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on and someone to enjoy.”
The three expectations people have for their friends are all linked to how the friend makes them feel. When people think of friendships, the act of giving back and participating in the other person’s life can be put on the backburner. While you may share commonalities with the friends you surround yourself with, part of being a friend is exploring what they find interesting outside of your relationship.
Beyond showing that you care about the things they enjoy, it also shows that you want a deeper understanding of your friend. A friendship may have blossomed out of a mutual need to study or because you both like the same TV show, but in order to create a deeper, more fulfilling relationship, you have to be willing to invest in some of their interests.
This doesn’t mean that you have to become the biggest fan of what they like, but putting a little effort into understanding it can go a long way. If they’re really into a webcomic that’s not your favorite thing, just reading it can mean the world to them. Putting effort into their interests shows that you want to invest in that relationship. Friendships are active relationships that require attention and time. People want someone to talk to, depend on and enjoy, but that doesn’t just happen without effort. In order to maintain the desired benefits, you have to give something to the relationship.
Even if it’s something you don’t enjoy, giving it a shot is worth the effort. The impact of giving someone a place to discuss their passion can deepen the connection you have with that person. As much as society values romantic relationships, friendships allow you to find emotional support in different areas with different people. In order to establish the emotional relationship that benefits you, you have to show that you are worth the benefits. Everyone is worthy of love, but you can’t just take advantage of someone’s emotional support without providing them similar support.
Just investing in something they enjoy shows that you want to be an active part of the relationship. The delicate balance of a relationship means that each person has to give something in order to get something. Paying attention to their interests is just one important way to show that you care about them.
Listening to them rant about whatever they’re passionate about shows them that you truly care about what they love. You may hate the book or movie they’re talking about, but you love them. In the grand scheme of things, what is one hour spent talking about Love Island compared to the friendship they give to you?
Edited by Bryce Kolk | email@example.com