14 April 2009

What Defines a Relationship?

I apologize in advance for the inane musings below.  I suggest not reading it.

What defines a relationship? Need it be mutual, or can you be true friends with someone who hates you?

I have been wearily considering this philosophical question for some time now. When I posed it to Lizzie, she said that it had to be mutual and real; were she secretly a robot, she proposed, then she would never have really been my girlfriend.  I differed, suggesting that while she might never have been my girlfriend in such a case, I would have remained her boyfriend.  The lack of reciprocated feeling wouldn't make the previous relationship any less real to me.

If you have a friend, and that person secretly loathes or loves you in terms incompatible with friendship on their part, then does that mean you really do not have a friend?  It seems to me that this would be allowing any side of a relationship to unilaterally redefine it as real or not.  But in no other instance would this make sense.  If Creepy Leonard from Nebraska writes Scarlett Johannson to tell her they are friends, that doesn't mean Scarlett has to call him up the next day and go admire his Limited Edition Wookie doll.  She gets to tell him that she doesn't consider him a friend.  He can think as he wishes and set up a lawn chair outside of her house, but he doesn't get to define their relationship in its entirety at will.

Further, the feelings and experiences one shares with a friend are not eliminated just because you discover that the other person didn't think themselves your friend.  The bond a friend provides were real to you, and revelations in the now can't alter the way you felt in the past.

If I go to Disney World with a pal and have a marvelous time, I might be saddened to learn later that they actually hate Disney and had a miserable trip.  I might wonder why they agreed to go, or why they didn't say something.  But that doesn't mean that I also had a terrible time.  A shared experience has meaning to you, be it friendship or Disney, and because it's shared, each person gets their own take on it.

1 comment:

  1. I both agree and disagree with you, if that makes sense.

    I disagree with you in the sense that I believe a relationship exists between two people. If both people don't believe in the same relationship, it doesn't exist. If I believe that I'm Johnny Depp's girlfriend, it goes to follow that I probably believe he's my boyfriend. If he's not believing the same thing (as is so unfortunately the case), there is no relationship, not in the sense that I'm viewing it--and I'm likely suffering from delusions.

    I agree, however, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't share an experience or be a true friend to another person. I have done many things in the name of friendship for someone I know, and I know I could probably not count on this person to do the same for me. I do it because I honestly care about his well-being, whether or not he considers me a friend.

    Do I consider our relationship to be one of good friends? No, because we don't both see our friendship the same way. Sometimes I don't know if we are even friends. But will I be his good friend? Any time within my power that he needs me to be.

    I know, you said not to read it... but I found it interesting. :-)