Is that person really your friend?

Friends, how many of us have them? Hopefully, you were singing along as you read that line. It is helpful to start this conversation by emphasizing “friend.” The word “friend” seems to have become a catch-all phrase for reoccurring interactions with people. It looks like the way people describe friendships these days falls into two categories. The first group is filled with the people we absolutely love and couldn’t imagine doing this thing called life without, while the second group has the people we have known for a long time and may talk to, but we could really take them or leave them. It might sound a little harsh, but there’s some truth there. I am not saying that the latter relationship is terrible. I just think it would be more appropriate to accurately describe that relationship.

When thinking about non-romantic relationship structures, there are five types of interactions that are most common:

  1. The stranger is a person you don’t know or have very little familiarity with.
  2. The acquaintance is a person you may know through frequent interactions, but you and that person are not close.
  3. The friend, a person you know, there is a mutual bond, you like this person, there is trust, and likely similar interests.
  4. The close friend, there can be a number of them. They have all the qualities of friend and more. In the case of a close friend, you can talk to them about anything (including when they have hurt you), you can speak to them without fear of judgment, and they are there for you (even if you don’t speak to them every day).
  5. The best friend builds on the elements of the close friend. A best friend is usually the first person you want to call when something amazing happens in your life. There are usually a limited number of people in this category. People who hold the best friend title are in the top spot because they accept your flaws and all, and the love is undeniable.

Consider these five types of interactions as a ring of closeness. Think of the outer ring as your relationship with a stranger. As the relationship deepens, the rings move closer, and the more access you give the person. As the relationship grows or deepens, your expectations of that relationship also grow. For some, it is clear that as the relationship changes, so do the expectations but for others not so much. I don’t think it is necessary to announce the change in the relationship title. Still, I believe there is value for you to know for yourself. It only leads to frustration and resentment when you think someone is your close friend, and you find out they behave more like an acquaintance. They say, in all things, get an understanding. Once you understand it, you will realize it and move accordingly.

Another thing to note is that relationships are not set in stone. A person may have been your best friend from the ages of 5 to 17, but the role no longer fits as you’ve gotten older. The change doesn’t have to be associated with age, but it could be related to the phase of life you’re in or your needs at the time. All of this to say, change is nothing to fear. You can still maintain love or deep feelings for a person even if their position in your life changes. It can be helpful to talk to the people in your life about how your needs are changing. Sometimes people need to know what support or friendship looks like for you in your current phase of life. No judgment zone has been activated. Now ask yourself are those people you call friends really your friends, or is there another term that fits better?

About Janee V. Henderson

Janee' V. Henderson is a licensed professional counselor, coach, and consultant. She is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and holds a license to service those located in Missouri, Texas, and New Jersey. Janee received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hampton University and a Master's in Counseling Psychology from Temple University. She is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology. Janee has certifications in Anger Management and Trauma-Informed Care.