On “friendship”

In our conversations about norms, standards, desires, and expectations for relationships, such as in the conversations around queerplatonic and alterous, I’ve seen a lot of comparison against friendship as a familiar point of reference; it’s a term you’re supposed to be already familiar with, as groundwork for the mapping of other terms in relation to it. A lot of the times, when invoking it in this way, people will talk about “friendship” in ways that bother me with their implications. So, because I’ve gotten to thinking about that some more, I’ve returned to asking: what is friendship? We–

Wait– Hold on, wait– No, come back–

Darn. I think I just lost a reader.

Well, for those of you who are still here: in thinking about this, I’ve so far come up with about five (some potentially intersecting, some not) different models for what someone might mean by friendship — and I’m not even sure exactly which one I prefer out of the bunch.

Here are those five and how I understand them.

Friendship as a relationship component. This lends itself to your classic “my wife is my best friend” sort of talk. Under this model, friendship describes a bond and a way of relating, which can be mixed with other relationship components. Rather than being exclusive from other relationships, it has the potential to serve as a base layer or intersect and overlap with other relationship forms, including your traditional romance. Using this definition is how some people are able to say that “the best romantic relationships are also friendships.”

Friendship as any nonromantic relationship with sustained interaction (low threshold). Under this definition, a friend can be just about anyone that you know, especially if you have talked more than once (on purpose) and are about the same age (or are peers in some other way), as long as your relationship isn’t romantic. I’m including this one not just because people have friends they’re not very close with, but also because I’ve encountered some uses of “friend” where the speaker didn’t even like spending time with the person they were talking about. Friendship, here, would just mean “someone I interact with” or “someone in my social circle.” Accordingly, it would not necessarily preclude disinterest or distaste for the person. The specifics of where the friendship threshold lies here may vary, but for instance, it may range from “someone I’m willing to hang out with” down to “I prefer to avoid this person if possible, but because of other circumstances we still talk.”

Friendship as any nonromantic relationship with a positive bond (high threshold). If you’re using this definition, friendship exists as a distinct range of relationships, generally separate from traditional romance, which has its own components and requirements. These requirements may be idiosyncratic and may or may not be “high” in a more absolute sense. What I mean by calling this definition “high threshold” is relative to the previous definition — so that, for instance, under this model, when someone refers to you as a “friend,” it probably at the very least means that they like something about you as a person. That, or they could name something that they value about spending time with you socially. Naturally, there may be a range within this definition that distinguishes some friends from others as closer or more valued than others.

Friendship as a specific and limited status. This definition of friendship sets an upper ceiling on how “high” or “close” it can go, allowing for the distinction of “just friends” versus “more than friends.” Instead of modeling friendship as something underlying all positive/bonded relationships (or comprising that bond), friendship becomes an object against which to contrast more important or more central kinds of relationships. Ergo, affirming that status can involve saying “this is NOT a friendship, this is [blank].” This view generally accepts that “friend” means something casual and small, with a limited amount of emotional or logistical connection. By logistical connection, I’m talking about things which may include moving in together, coordinating legal or financial choices, and otherwise making joint decisions in those ways that we associate with the word “partnership” — that “integrating into the same domestic unit” sorts of stuff. And on that note, although this would be veering off course for this post, I’m wondering why people associate romance with necessarily involving all that — why people would just take for granted that pursuing “a romantic relationship” would entail logistical partnership (not just the other way around). But I digress. It could also be that this model could be separated into two different models — friendship as a limited amount of emotional closeness and friendship as a limited amount of logistical coordination — but I’m not sure to what extent anyone has already discussed separating the two.

Friendship as determined by interior attraction. Under this definition, a relationship is a friendship when it meets certain affective criteria, not in terms of the relationship itself (in terms of what you do or how close you are bonded) but in terms of what you feel attraction-wise. This differs from the above, friendship as an emotionally-limited status, because (for instance) romantic attraction or limerence is not necessarily the same as being emotionally close with someone or having an established, actual, mutual bond. So that means that in the limited-status definition, a relationship leaves “friendship” territory through “getting closer” (or becoming more logistically intertwined), whereas in the attraction-based model, a relationship leaves “friendship” territory by introducing a different set of feelings, i.e. some (other) type of attraction. This seems to sometimes be the idea behind discussions of “queerplatonic attraction” and “fluitic attraction” as a basis for naming relationship types. Presumably, under this model, if two people are friends, but they both(?) start feeling another form of attraction, then that (itself) changes the nature of the relationship (as opposed to a change in bonds, behaviors, commitments, etc.). It is unclear to what degree this attraction needs to be mutual or needs to be openly acknowledged in order for this change to take place.

So that’s five different mix-and-match approaches to defining “friendship,” some of them compatible with each other and some not. When people talk about relationships using “friendship” as a point of reference or basis of contrast, it’s not always clear to me which definition they’re using, especially since it’s not often that people even think to answer that question explicitly. Consequently, as people in the ace and aro communities continue to discuss personal relationships and feelings, my wish is that people would more frequently say exactly what they mean, if not return to what I consider to be a core message behind the development of queerplatonic: that friendship doesn’t have to be “just.”


27 responses to “On “friendship”

  • Siggy

    I was hoping you’d write about this topic.

    I really don’t adhere to a consistent standard about who is or isn’t a friend. But I probably use the “low threshold” model most often. Because the main reason I’d ever need to label someone as a friend, if someone asks me how I heard about an event, or where I got something. I just say “a friend”, and does it matter whether they’re a good friend or not?

    And really, if I used a significantly higher threshold for “friend” I’d end up telling people that there are long periods in my life with no friends at all, and that would kinda give people the wrong idea. There are many people I hang out with and talk to, I’m not a total hermit.

    And yes, I’m even friends with a few people I don’t particularly like. Sometimes I have personality incompatibilities with people, but if it’s not their fault and doesn’t bother me too much, I don’t consider that a good reason to avoid a person or show dislike. If I dislike someone enough that I want to avoid them, I probably wouldn’t think of them as a friend.

    Naturally I take issue with saying that this is the worst model of the bunch. Gives me The Thinking Aro flashbacks.

    • Coyote

      Well, I am both glad to have written on something you wanted me to, and dismayed that it’d be giving you flashbacks. I certainly don’t want that for anyone.

      While I’m not sure yet what you mean by disliking someone but not avoiding them — which is to say, I know the difference but hadn’t really… thought about separating them, in a social context — I had in mind a particular example while writing where a speaker was, in fact, trying to avoid someone, because the idea of spending time with that person was that loathsome to them. So, that would fall even below your low threshold, correct?

      I can think about how to reword that part of my post, but I also don’t want any of the loose frameworks presented here to sound too exact, without becoming so vague as to be inscrutable. Hmm… Could be I could just draw it back into more general terms and leave that as an example.

      In any case, generally speaking, I think “that would give people the wrong idea” is a concern that both does and doesn’t make sense for an ace blogger.

      • Siggy

        So, that would fall even below your low threshold, correct?

        Yep, sounds like it. For me, I can think of just a handful of examples, and it’s usually something like “this person is too upbeat,” or “this person keeps giving me unsolicited recommendations,” which really aren’t character flaws in any objective sense, they’re just annoyances. I try to see past these because I assume that someone who is too upbeat isn’t therefore a terrible person unworthy of friendship. What can I say, I’m judgmental, but also agreeable.

        I was pleased with the post. It was just that one sentence that seemed to be passing judgment–on what exactly, I’m not sure.

        But it does remind me of The Thinking Aro, who believed in radical equality of all relationships, but who very obviously disdained both casual friendships and romantic relationships, which are the two kinds of relationships that I form. I have often wondered what people could possibly mean by leveling the relationship hierarchy when they obviously don’t take it to its logical conclusion of treating all friendships as equally important.

        • Coyote

          Yep, sounds like it. For me, I can think of just a handful of examples, and it’s usually something like “this person is too upbeat,” or “this person keeps giving me unsolicited recommendations,” which really aren’t character flaws in any objective sense, they’re just annoyances.

          Ah, I see. I’ve had comparable (I think) experiences to that. I’m thinking of someone I once knew, for instance, who generally needed a lot of emotional reassurance a lot of the time (+ had a lot of general sensitivity to people’s vibes) — which I can’t blame her for at all, and at the same time, I could see that becoming a problem if we had spent more time together. It was an aspect of her personality that didn’t mesh well with mine, that’s all. But she was also very sweet and I’d say likeable in other ways and we got along, so I considered us loose friends.

          Whereas in my other example, the person I was thinking of actually did say something very much like “yeah she’s basically a terrible person.”

          It sounds like what you’re talking about maps somewhere in between.

          I was pleased with the post. It was just that one sentence that seemed to be passing judgment–on what exactly, I’m not sure.

          I am, generally, of the opinion that “friend” should mean… something positive, somehow. Doesn’t have to be a super close, emotionally charged thing or anything — I don’t expect people to reserve “friend” for “kindred spirit, light of my life” passionately bonded partnerships etc. etc. — but… on the flip side, something like, say, “she’s my friend but I kind of hate her” is a concerning dynamic to me. On a personal level, if I were to get referred to as “a friend” but later find out that I’m not liked by that person at all, that would feel like mixed signals and be upsetting to me.

          On an ideological level, meanwhile, I see people grappling with how to express a nonromantic relationship is important to them (see: tons of stuff being said about queerplatonic, alterous, appromour, the list goes on) and approaching that by trying to assert a space “between” friendship and romance, whereas I think the more effective approach would be to come at it from the other side. Instead of talking about what’s “closer” than friendship, I want to acknowledge what’s *below* friendship. I want to separate out being a friend from being just an acquaintance, or just a colleague, or just a neighbor. And to clarify, I think having those more distant relationships is important and good — you’ve said similar things, I think, about the importance of strangers. Still, I think it’s fair to make the distinction. And I think it’s more strategically advantageous than the other ways I’ve seen people try to get basically the same thing accomplished.

          But it does remind me of The Thinking Aro, who believed in radical equality of all relationships, but who very obviously disdained both casual friendships and romantic relationships, which are the two kinds of relationships that I form. I have often wondered what people could possibly mean by leveling the relationship hierarchy when they obviously don’t take it to its logical conclusion of treating all friendships as equally important.

          I don’t know if you’re asking me to distinguish between myself and that. For the record, though, I am not of the perspective that people should try to treat every single relationship exactly the same.

        • Siggy

          I think the issue isn’t that people are focusing on the upper bound of friendship rather than the lower bound, but that people aren’t really discussing friendship at all, and are just assuming everyone draws the same bounds that they do. I’d really like to hear people explain what is a “best friend”. How many people even form best friends in the first place? Do people in queerplatonic relationships also have best friends that they can easily distinguish?

          I am not of the perspective that people should try to treat every single relationship exactly the same.

          I didn’t say “treat the same”, I said “treat as equally important”. Consider: if I form casual friendships, but don’t form best friendships, that’s because I prefer it that way. Or in other words, casual friendships are important to me, best friendships are not, even though best friends are unambiguously closer and more emotionally involved.

          But it seems like “relationship hierarchy” wasn’t about importance in that sense. It was about importance in the sense of emotional involvement. So in order to fight the relationship hierarchy, people would always talk about how close they were with friends, qpps, etc. This is only a strategy that could only possibly work for aromantics who actually form such close relationships, i.e. not me. So I always thought of it as hot garbage.

        • Coyote

          I think the issue isn’t that people are focusing on the upper bound of friendship rather than the lower bound, but that people aren’t really discussing friendship at all, and are just assuming everyone draws the same bounds that they do. I’d really like to hear people explain what is a “best friend”.

          Certainly questions I’m interested in hearing people’s answers to as well. ….On a completely separate and unrelated note, do you know who’s hosting the next Carnival of Aces?

          I didn’t say “treat the same”, I said “treat as equally important”.

          Ah. I was thinking of the latter as a subcategory of the former. I think I follow, though.

          But it seems like “relationship hierarchy” wasn’t about importance in that sense. It was about importance in the sense of emotional involvement. So in order to fight the relationship hierarchy, people would always talk about how close they were with friends, qpps, etc.

          I don’t think that’s the only thing it might involve. But, since you mention it, it could be that “relationship hierarchy” is a concept worth revisiting, or re-exploring, or renegotiating. I’ve been thinking about this some since this post of yours on importance, but I’m not sure yet where to go with those thoughts.

        • Siggy

          Nobody’s volunteered for the next Carnival of Aces.

          I will probably eventually expand that post on relationship importance into a blog post myself. Or maybe two? One thing I’d like to talk about is separating “closeness” from “importance”, and “societal importance” from “personal importance”. The other thing is talking about what it’s like to be on the other side of that common complaint about friends dropping out of contact.

  • Siggy

    What if we had something like the sandwich alignment chart?

    Structural purist, affective rebel: a person you loathe but still hang out with is a friend.
    Structural rebel, affective purist: a creator that you like to follow is a friend.
    Structural rebel, affective rebel: a creator you hate-follow is a friend.

  • Elizabeth

    I think I tend to use the first two definitions the most often. When I’m talking about friendship itself, I’m often talking about a certain manner of amicable interactions, which can also be a component of romantic, familial, or other types of relationships. I think this is incompatible with the “friendship as specific and limited status” idea of friendship.

    When I’m defining whether someone is a friend or not, I also tend to go with a lower threshold. In defense of low thresholds, I think for me this is really a much better choice, mental health-wise, than having a higher threshold for who counts as a friend. Because when I was young, I would be constantly thinking things like, “Is so-and-so really my friend?” and “If x was really my friend, wouldn’t they ___?” I did this second-guessing all the time because I had a significant number of frienemies in middle school, who were both friends and bullies, and then eventually they said they were only pretending to like me and they wouldn’t do that anymore. So after many years of constantly questioning all of my friendships, I realized that doing that was counter-productive and ultimately driving my friends further away. And then I decided it’s better to have a very loose and forgiving definition of friendship, and not worry about how close I am with any particular friend. They can still be friends, even if it’s a very casual friendship and we drift apart.

    I’ve found this especially important for adult friendships, because drifting happens quite often, usually unintentionally by both parties. If I’ve already decided that a certain level of closeness and regular contact is what makes someone a friend, then it would be much more difficult to reconnect with friends that I haven’t seen/spoken to in a long time, because I would have already gotten resentful and upset at them and demoted them in my head to “former” status. It’s more likely that no ill will was meant, their life just took them in a different direction. I’m not entitled to time/attention and should not expect anyone to prioritize me over others. It’s better to keep this sort of open and flexible attitude rather than getting bitter about friends who seemingly dropped off the map because they got in a romantic relationship… when really, it’s just an assumption that the romantic relationship is the reason, and there may actually be other things going on that I don’t know about. Could be family issues, abuse they don’t want to talk about, a miscarriage, a chronic illness, financial hardships… all sorts of things.

    Fun fact: there was once a third draft in my “On Friendships” series talking about all of this stuff, but I didn’t want to deal with The Thinking Aro, whose bitterness partly inspired it, so I scrapped it.

    Anyway, one other reaction I had to your list is… I really don’t get the idea of friendship as determined by attraction. Like I just really, REALLY can’t understand it. I mean, isn’t it fairly common for people to fall in love with their friends? Is this definition of friendship saying that if that happens, you suddenly stop being friends and then it’s something else? Even when it’s unrequited, and never confessed or pursued? I mean, not to knock anyone who feels that way or anything, I’m just confused. (And to be fair, I also fundamentally do not get “queerplatonic attraction” and I never have, even though I know that the term was introduced exactly that way. For me, it has only ever made any sense as a descriptor of a type of relationship, not a type of attraction.)

    • Coyote

      Is this definition of friendship saying that if that happens, you suddenly stop being friends and then it’s something else? Even when it’s unrequited, and never confessed or pursued?

      I have no idea. It’s something I’ve had to infer from how people are talking (with qp and alterous, you’ve got numerous cases of people defining the feeling by contrasting it against friendship) but someone who uses it themselves would have to fill me in on further details. I’m hoping this post will make it easier to ask for clarification, next time.

    • demiandproud

      As demisexual I feel the falling in love with friends. A big part of the reason I distinguish in the first place between friends and friends-I-have-feelings-for and dating is to demarcate my own change in feelings… And then if that happens the label for our connection (in this case, friendship) also becomes a guide for how I continue to interact with them, if for whatever reason I decide not to act on attraction (they’re married, they’re hetero, I’m insecure). Even while I’m aware that line in the sand is one I drew.

  • luvtheheaven

    This whole post is so great. I think I’ve used all these definitions/models at some point in my life?

    When you talk about “Friendship as a specific and limited status” though and discuss the possibility that it could be separated into two different models — friendship as a limited amount of emotional closeness and friendship as a limited amount of logistical coordination — but I’m not sure to what extent anyone has already discussed separating the two, i feel though that roommates of various kinds might fit in here and roommates aren’t even necessarily emotionally close enough to be friends, roommates can certainly be close friends and yet friend is the correct term, etc… And conversely you can be dating someone romantically for a long time without coordinating finances or moving in or any other logistical arrangement and I feel confident people would accept they’re not friends but rather romantic partners nonetheless??

    Regarding #5, “Friendship as determined by interior attraction.”

    I recently rewatched all of The O.C. in which had me dwelling on scenes about how Ryan & Marissa “were never friends” like here: https://youtu.be/CTgvX9JCHFA
    (then watch 4 more minutes of “attempts to be friends after their breakup” in those one episode if you want:
    https://youtu.be/v2jslNOjTTw )
    And here at the end: https://youtu.be/2ga9YRt3Usw?t=177

    And I’m just like… Yes they were definitely friends when they “were spooning in Tijuana” because they weren’t dating at the time, they were just sleeping platonically in a bed together and woke up to find themselves cuddling or something.

    When they first met they had internal feelings of flirting/I’m attracted to you sexually I suppose from both of their ends. And both were intrigued to get to know the other better. They spent quite a few episodes building a friendship of some kind as they didn’t go out on dates but rather just casually interacted and got to know each other. She had a boyfriend and it took time before she and Ryan were together as a couple. To imply they are never friends is similar to the heteronormative attitude that (straight) men and (straight) women simply can’t be friends ever because apparently if there is any attraction involved then it’s the wrong internal feelings to be friendship (and supposedly it is so rare to not be attracted to the gender you’re interested in it’s not even worth considering that possibility??). I guess?

    • Coyote

      i feel though that roommates of various kinds might fit in here

      Maybe. I considered it, but I figure “we live together for now, temporarily” didn’t really fit the bill for what I meant by logistical coordination, which I was thinking of as more of an intentional commitment to that person in particular. Maybe people do that with roommates they don’t necessarily like much? I wouldn’t know.

      I recently rewatched all of The O.C. in which had me dwelling on scenes about how Ryan & Marissa “were never friends”

      Yeah, I… don’t like this.

    • Blue Ice-Tea

      luvtheheaven, did you ever watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? There’s a scene in Season 3 where Spike tells former lovers Buffy and Angel, “You’ll never be friends” because their romantic feelings for each other are too strong to allow for friendship.

      Oh, look, there’s a clip on YouTube!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6flzJ0m8GpM

      I remember finding this scene very depressing, because, well, what is love if not friendship? Saying Buffy and Angel couldn’t be friends sounded, to me, like saying they didn’t really love each other. And that they couldn’t, because of their romantic feelings for each other. It set up a conflict between romance and love/friendship where the two were mutually incompatible.

      This friendship/romance dichtomy was consistent with how the show presented other relationships, too. For the most part, in the Buffyverse, people could either be friends, or they could be romantic interests, but they couldn’t be both. And, given how popular and iconic the show was, I suspect that attitude was not uncommon at the turn of the millennium.

      Come to think of it, the fact that Buffy and Angel never really acted like friends, even before they started dating, is probably why I never cared about their romantic relationship.

      • luvtheheaven

        I never could get into BtVS. I first was shown a season 3 ep by a friend of mine, then watched like the first 3 episodes of season 1 on Netflix but I can’t quite get into the show for some reason or another.

        That clip is fascinating because it’s so popular though. It’s exactly what the two scenes I linked to in The O.C. were going for but apparently it wss used out of context as a universal accepted concept of how romantic feelings work in various fanvideos for other fandoms. One comment from 3 years ago got 68 thumbs ups and said: “adore this scene, I’ve actually got spikes, “you’ll never be friends” speech Tattooed <3 always x" and another person who commented 2 years ago with 71 thumbs up had said, "I love that Speech because it's true once you fall in love with someone you can't go back to friendship because its impossible knowing what you've been through knowing the things you've done together." And just that many people loving those comments and no comments clearly having more thumbs ups makes me think those attitudes are still quite prevalent today.

        I think yeah if you don't think you'd be friends – like the first Ryan/Marissa scene because they literally have no stayed activities they'd enjoy doing together, they imply – then all you really have is this weird sexual relationship where you enjoy the presence of the other person because the experience of sexual attraction is so intense?? I don't know. Or maybe it's whatever that nebulous concept of romantic attraction is. Ryan wanted to save Marissa and take care of her and many guy rescuing girl tropes and I guess some of that is romantic to people. Idk the whole thing is just weird. I found Ryan and Marissa genuinely cared about the other even when they weren't together and dating. I don't know enough about Buffy and Angel's dynamic but yeah maybe having trouble ever seeming like friends is an issue there that would hinder caring about their romance to me too, I don't know.

        I tended especially growing up to love Will They/Won't They tv couples like Bones, Castle, Ross/Rachel on Friends, Jim/Pam on The Office, JD/Elliot on Scrubs, etc where for large chunks of the show the two characters do interact as friends, for whatever that's worth. They try hard to be friends in times when not together. They care maybe "too" deeply about the other but they put the other's happiness above selfishly begging to get together, at least for a stretch of time. And i don't know. A lot of that hasn't even aged well, it becomes "nice guy" friend zone toxicity but. Idk. It's all interesting to me. And it gave me some models of straight male/straight female friendships, even if they were skewed or even toxic models, it's what I had to look toward.

      • Coyote

        Oh man I hated that scene too.

  • demiandproud

    The low-threshold definition you list here didn’t used to be part of the list of things friendship could mean in Dutch. We would have said acquaintance. But I’ve heard my younger family start using that definition more and more over the past years. Influence of English, perhaps.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Satsuma

      In English too this definition is newer, and mostly used by younger people. The generation above mine still often uses acquaintance but people around my age (20) almost never do.

      I’m never sure if I like it or not, because it feels like it somehow devalues both friendships and acquaintances? But also there’s not really a clear line between the two so I understand how it can be hard to decide when to switch, or to know which to use, so its easier to just have one word for both things

      • luvtheheaven

        I suspect it has something to do with in the age of the internet, we had the word “friend” foisted upon any and all online acquaintances you wanted to continue interaction with. MySpace, Facebook, early YouTube, LiveJournal etc all had ways to “Add Friends” from the very beginning. If you want to be connected to your family on Facebook, you’re told they’re your Friends whether you even particularly know that family member well or like them. If someone wanted to add you as a friend on YouTube i think you had to accept the request if I remember 2006/2007 etc when I started doing that, or not, but it became a weird subculture in my fandom circles to be “friends” with everyone in that vidding community for a certain TV show in order to… Well feel like there was a community at all. You didn’t really know these online acquaintances well yet but they counted in your list of “friends” nonetheless. Etc etc.

        I don’t know how much that influenced it but I feel like it certainly might’ve had an impact in some way.

  • epochryphal

    Hmmm. Friendship as a positive ongoing relationship [regardless of romanticness because wtfisromance] with… a certain point over which it becomes, like, Extra Friendship? Best Friend-ship.

    Like I use “best friend” to refer to people (more than one, but few; like, three) who I really really want to continue to be in my life and feel emotionally intimate with. (Of course I’m thinking about Queenie’s v good model and the components of relationships.)

    “Partner” is more reserved for that actual commitment having been made (and I could conceive of a partner I’m not emotionally intimate with, actually). And yeah I think my paragraph up there allows for partners/Romancers(whatever. words) to also be friends (and Best Friends) by pretty much definition, and I think that’s what those people who wax on about partners as friends generally mean?

    I think I also tend to qualify, like, “good friend” to indicate a degree of closeness or trustedness. Whereas “friend” is a general positiveness but not an especially strong conviction.

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  • Blue Ice-Tea

    I’d definitely go for the first model of friendship, especially the part about romantic relationships also being friendship. I wouldn’t want to (romantically) date anyone I wasn’t already friends with, and once we started dating, I wouldn’t stop viewing the relationship as a friendship. It would just be a friendship with additional features.

    Actually, this is where I find myself wrestling with whether or not to use the phrase “just friends”. Because I firmly believe we shouldn’t dismiss friends as lesser, but I can also see that some friendships are “just” in the sense of “solely”, without any addition. So, for example, if I had a spouse I would think of them as my “friend” + “lover”, whereas another friend would just be my “friend” (i.e. without the “lover” part). That doesn’t mean I’d view them as lesser, but there would be fewer aspects to our relationship.

    I’m familiar with the second model, but I’m also uncomfortable with it, and I always have been. As an adolescent, it used to really bug me how people would use the word “friend” to mean casual relationships, whereas I had a pretty high threshold for what “friendship” meant. I tried to use other words, like “acquaintance”, “companion”, “pal”, “mate”, or “buddy”, and to reserve “friend” for the really close relationships. As an adult, I’ve mellowed out a bit, and I’ll use “friend” in a broader sense, but there’s still a threshold, like that in model #3.

    I definitely resist the “specific and limited status” model of friendship. I don’t view friendship as lesser, and seeing it used in this negative sense appalls me.

    I don’t really go for the “interior attraction” model. For me, a friendship is a relationship, rather than a feeling. Although feelings are certainly a big part of what make up the relationship, I would generally refer to the feelings as “love”, “affection”, or “attachment”, rather than “friendship”.

    Anyway, if you were to illustrate my view of friendship, it would probably look like: Sea -> Tidal Area -> Land. At one end are people who are definitely not my friends (Sea), followed by people who might be my friends depending on how loose a definition we’re going for (Tidal Area), followed by people who are definitely my friends (Land). Once you get to Land, you may find regions with different features: forest, mountain, city, in the same way as a friendship may also involve sex, romance, cohabitation, etc. But the land is always there, underneath.

    Like you, I don’t think we should be talking about what’s more than friendship. Friendship is at the top. What we need is a greater acknowledgement of what’s less.

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