The Lessons I’ve Learned About Friendship: My Experience
The phrase “opposites attract” is a cliché at this point, but perhaps it’s because there’s at least some truth to it. It’s commonly heard when talking about romantic relationships, but what about platonic ones? Though romance and friendship can be two completely different things, I’ve learned throughout my life that a close friendship needs just as much thought put into it to really work. I only realized this after years of struggling with maintaining friendships, until my current best friend–let’s call him Gaq–came along.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My friendship with Gaq was part of the struggle, and I’m sure he would say the same about his experiences with me back then, but now I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world; some of them are pretty hilarious to look back on. Before I get into that, however, I want to talk about our first meeting.
Gaq and I met coincidentally through a mutual friend back in 2014. I went to this friend’s house to hang out and chill, and he happened to be there. My first impression of him was that he seemed nice and open to both people and their interests. His first impression of me… Well, more than a first impression, all he can remember about our first meeting is that our mutual friend’s ginger cat, Simba, immediately attacked my leg as soon as the front door was open. He still laughs about it to this day.
Anyway, we hit it off that day because I found out Gaq was interested in the same artists and video games I was into, and we bonded over that. After I left our friend’s house, we texted that it was great meeting each other and that we should hang out again sometime. It was a great first meeting… but what came after wasn’t so great.
After the first meeting, we would chat through WhatsApp from time to time, but we ended up arguing about 90% of the time because of little petty things. I still remember how one of the first ever arguments we had was because he was trying to convince me to come over to our mutual friend’s house again that day, but I was on the first day of my period, and that always means major cramps. I told him I was in too much pain to go anywhere. His response was to send me a picture with a caption that said something like “Girls think periods hurt? Try getting kicked in the balls!” or something juvenile like that.
To be frank, I still have issues dealing with strong emotions presently, but back then? I wouldn’t even try to restrain myself when someone did something that would hurt or anger me in some way. So, I don’t remember what I said, but I went off on him, and we argued for a bit until one of us stopped replying. We ended up not talking again for at least a month, and the only reason we did speak again is because he messaged me out of the blue and spoke like everything was fine (something I was usually way too petty to ever do after having an argument with someone).
To this day, I’m so glad he did that, because I would have missed out on something truly special if we had never spoken again after that moment. See, in certain aspects, Gaq is so similar to me that it’s almost scary. In others, we literally couldn’t be more different. For example, one of the shared interests that let our friendship blossom is music. We both love rock music, but I also love electronic music and dubstep whereas he prefers things with pianos and violins in them. (We always make fun of each other for this. He calls my electronic music construction noise and I say that a single random piano note is all it takes for him to fall to his knees and cry.)
When it comes to fashion, we both also love pastel colors, but he likes plain white dresses whereas I find them boring, and I like bold neon colors whereas he finds them tacky. We joke that when there’s a design we both agree is fantastic, it must be objectively so! My opinions on things that interest me usually stay pretty consistent as well, but his mind changes all the time.
It was a bit difficult to get used to being close to somebody whose tastes and opinions could seriously clash with mine at times, and it was the source of a lot of bottled-up resentment because of my own insecurities at the time. It turned out to be the case for him as well, since he thought I was a bit too stubborn while I thought him a bit too fickle.
Instead of communicating this properly, though, we’d both hold in our complaints and not change our actions, and the frustration would gradually build up inside the both of us… until it was unleashed in the form of a heated argument. This would happen three or four times over the course of three years because we didn’t choose to learn anything from these experiences, and simply pretended everything was totally fine now that we were able to let it all out. But the problem was always only temporarily solved because we’d go right back to bottling things up again.
Communication is always important in any sort of relationship, whether it’s romantic, familial, or platonic. But it’s also scary because we’re always worried about how the other person will react to us saying we don’t like something they did, even if we say it with the utmost kindness. The truth is, though, that no friend or partner, no matter how great, will do nothing that hurts or irritates us, even unintentionally. And the second truth is that, if the person lashes back to valid, thoughtfully spoken criticism, we’re better off without them anyway. Those little realizations are what have improved my friendship with Gaq tenfold.
We were both going to therapy at the time, a bit after another one of our big arguments, and we both had to accept things that were difficult to hear because they seemed like potential threats to our “closeness.” One of those things, for example, was that boundaries are essential and an absolute must to any relationship, no matter how close. Another is that it’s important to be upfront about something someone did that hurt you the moment or a little after it happens, instead of secretly holding it against them and weaponizing it in future arguments, because that’s not fair to either party.
Though our big arguments were few and far inbetween, they still impacted the both of us when they did happen. Not to mention the tension clearly drumming up until boom! The time I thought our friendship was officially done for came right before therapy, and it was over emojis, of all things!
The gist of it is that Gaq received a figurine as a gift after seeing that I’d recently bought the same figurine for myself. Excited, he let me know, but instead of being happy for him, I was bitter. This was after a string of incidents where he would “copy” me in certain things, like how much ketchup I put on food or how I had my game discs set up. Long story short, I was insecure about those things because of a toxic ex-friend who would also copy me in certain things with bad intentions. But Gaq probably didn’t remember that, and it’s not like it was his fault that he received the same figurine as a gift. Instead of telling him I was happy for him and expressing my thoughts on the whole “copying” thing later on, I simply sent three clapping emojis.
That might not sound like a big deal if you don’t know me, but anyone who does know me knows that I don’t text like that. And Gaq wasn’t dumb, he knew me too well to not get that I was irritated. He took it as jealousy and changed his WhatsApp status to “she’s that nasty green,” which only reinforced my resentment towards him. Instead of talking it out with each other, we stopped messaging each other for months out of stubbornness. Pretty dumb, right?
Thankfully, we both went to the same university and, though we would ignore the hell out of each other when we bumped into each other there, we coincidentally ended up making the same new friend who voluntarily became our middleman. With therapy and this new friend, Gaq and I finally sat down together and talked everything out. Literally everything. It was so cathartic. We both finally knew what things we did or said that the other didn’t appreciate, so that we could avoid doing so in the future, and we promised to be more honest with each other from that point on.
So far, we’ve kept that promise. It’s been years since then, and we’ve grown up a lot, of course. The things I’ve talked about in this article are things we bring up sometimes and laugh about, because they’re so ridiculous in hindsight. We also know what’s okay to joke and not joke about, and where each other’s boundaries are. And if one of us does something the other doesn’t like, we just voice our concern, because now we’re more than confident in our bond. There’s no need to be fearful of backlash or defensiveness, because we 100% know each other’s intentions and love for each other.
There are things about Gaq that will probably never change that might annoy me sometimes, and vice versa. But that’s the beauty of us as flawed human beings. It’s up to us whether we want to accept those flaws or not, and our flaws are nothing compared to all the love, support, understanding, and enthusiasm we have for each other. Gaq is the only friend I’ve truly been through such a rollercoaster with, and I’m nothing more than grateful to have been his partner during all the good and bad times. We fought and cried, but we also learned and grew, and all that arguing really ended up being the foundation of our wonderful friendship today.
Thanks to Gaq, I’m much more open-minded to different tastes and opinions, and I give things a try that I never thought I would. I also end up liking them a lot of the time! In return, Gaq has told me how I’m his rock when he needs objective advice or just some comfort.
So, the moral of the story? Don’t let arguments be the end of the story if you see something special in them. If they’re willing to work with you, like Gaq and I were willing to work with each other, take it as an opportunity for growth. It’ll strengthen your friendship all the more. And remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect friendship, but that’s what makes them so great.
P.S. Gaq, if you’re reading this… cat in sock sticker.