Making friends

Making friends is one of the most difficult and worthwhile experiences of human life because it requires time and effort and patience and understanding and acceptance and honesty. Many people confuse friendship with acquaintances, and they're not the same at all. Acquaintances are people you hang out with; they're convenient but interchangeable. Friends are people you actively seek out, people with whom you have something in common, and the link is deeper and stronger. It is very possible for one to become the other, and everyone who becomes a friend had to be an acquaintance first. (Friendships can be downgraded, for example, when two people move apart geographically or emotionally or situationally — changing jobs, marital status, and so on. Of course, this section focuses on getting friends, not losing them.)

If you've taken yourself off house arrest (see the preceding section "Taking yourself off house arrest" for pointers), you've begun making acquaintances. The question then is how to turn an acquaintance into a friend.

A friend indeed

The place to start is with an acquaintance that you really like, who seems to have some time available, and with whom you have something in common. Adult friendships are based on characteristics that you share or with which you're compatible, not overall similarities, so your friend to be may be older or younger than you, taller or shorter, smarter or slower, richer or poorer, or more or less energetic.

gVURF Beware of using the same criteria for adult friends that you used when you person because they have everything in common: boys, parents, braces, new breasts, bratty sibs, geometry, and zits. Also, 12-year-olds don't have a fully developed personality structure intact yet either; they are still a less solidified version of the person they will become: less rigid, less defined, less sure. You will never again feel as close to another living soul (unless you happen to be an identical twin). If you look for that same degree of intimacy, you're going to spend your whole life being disappointed for no good reason.

Are you friend material?

A friend can be an important part of your life, but not the totality of your life as it was when you were a kid, so don't try to take over your friend's life or let your friend take over yours. (Just because your best pal hates your hair-do, thinks your career is in the dumps, or isn't as fiscally adventurous doesn't mean you need to change hairdressers, go looking for another line of work, or choose a different investment counselor.) If you're old enough to date, you're old enough to be self-reliant, and the same characteristics that make a good friend make a good potential date. Not to mention, our friends sustain us while dates often come and go. Don't be discouraged; just understand that making friends is important whether or not your dating works immediately. Who couldn't use the practice in building and maintaining relationships?

Friends grab our heads as well as our hearts, and most of us have heads that are a lot harder to fool than our hearts. Friendships employ less chemistry and much more sense. Good friendships are also based on give and take, without preordained roles of what one should do. You might expect your date to pay for your meal, but you certainly wouldn't expect a friend to; similarly, you would never expect a friend to read your mind, even though you may expect your date to ("If you loved me, you'd know"). A good friendship is based on reality, not fantasy; equality, not dominance; and rationality, not romance. The healthier both participants are, the better — and healthier — the friendship will be.

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