Relating to others is not easy. We are constantly striving to be liked, to get attention, to persuade and to conquer perhaps. There are so many different types of relationships that we are involved in, starting from the ones in our home with our family, to the ones with our friends and other people out in the world. As we grow older, new bonds are formed, may we like it or not. Newly-weds constantly find themselves face to face with other couples, as both they and their children grow up and evolve. We struggle to keep our friendships alive and healthy, losing many along the way. Yet, the adventure of friendship is a never-ending story that can only get better in time.
Personally, I have always focused on group dynamics versus individual ones. When I was a child, I would hang out with a few close friends, individually, and be in a group only at parties and events. But then, once in middle school, I started being part of a group. As me and my friends transitioned from adolescence into adulthood, our group grew in number, ultimately including people that I do not really relate to. Being in this mix of very close friends and occasional acquaintances has always been disturbing to me. When in private, you get into deep conversation with your best friends, but then in public everything changes. You can feel this “group dynamic,” as I call it, where everybody is trying to be funny and smart, and just hide any sort of weakness or struggle within them. This always results in superficial or trivial conversations, plenty of jokes, and none of the stuff that make friendship valuable: intimate confessions, and really being there for each other in times of need.
As the years went on, I found that I was better drawn towards individual friendships. I thought that being one of a group was just not in my nature. I crave for deep, personal, private conversations: for this is when I express myself at my best. When in a group, I always feel somewhat hindered. Yet, I know that you need relaxing times too, where you just let go of the tension and the frustration within you, healing through hearty laughter.
Then I came to realize what my psychotherapist told me: that groups may be superficial, but they are the means through which we interface with the larger society. This is so true, and I now feel that one has to learn how to be in a group, as well as how to be a good friend in private. Both faces of the same coin are equally important.
As life goes on, we learn so much about friendship and relationships. We patiently watch our friendships go through a sort of natural selection. Our best friends come ever closer. New friendships are formed, some of them stay, some of them disappear. Sometimes new groups are formed, and we find ourselves experimenting with people we do not know and who do not know us, trying to explore different dynamics and understand ourselves better.
It is often said that friendship is a selfish act, yet I believe it is an exchange: we are all trying to fit in, all trying to understand. Friends help us do this, voluntarily or not. They tell the truth to our face, and they lie to us. We struggle with them; we love them, we fight them. It is a mutual communication, and a very mysterious one. Sometimes, after a lifetime of friendship, something happens and you see—as if for the first time—what’s inside the other person. Life has a way of showing you things. Growing up near your friends teaches you to understand the struggles within others, just as clearly as you see your own struggles: it is only when that light hits you that you do start learning about relationships.
Edoardo is an Italian native and has lived and studied both in Italy and abroad. He graduated with a B.A. in Modern Languages and Economics from the University of Milan and with an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of London. He now lives and works in the city of Bologna.
The views and opinions expressed in Community are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.