After leaving my first full-time job, I was about to turn nineteen. I messaged the girls I use to work with and invited them to celebrate with me. Most gave silly excuses for saying no, some responded blasé: “I might be able to.” I was shocked by their reactions. More than colleagues, these “friends” had revealed their lives to me, the family dramas and boyfriend troubles. Though reflecting now, I realise work glued us together. How do you know if you’re friends or acquaintances?
Establishing the difference
Studies suggest only half of your friends feel the same way you do about them. Which means a significant amount of people in your life could probably cut contact and not feel regret. While we’ve come to expect ghosting dates and several romantic breakups, friends have always seemed more permanent. Especially once reaching your twenties and waving bye to classmates who use to like the same coloured gel pens.
Acquaintances are people who you know on friendly terms. They make ideal coffee dates and light-hearted conversation, some great for a fun night out. But you wouldn’t reveal your deepest secrets and expect them to attend every function you organise. Whereas with friends, you require a deep connection and level of emotional support. If the differences between the two are so vast, why do we struggle to always know which side a person is on?
Could it be because we don’t know how to end friendships? Google searches indicate many of us need help deciphering the best approach. Instead of facing the awkward conversation and admitting we now find someone uninteresting or too dissimilar, it’s easier to play along and send the odd message and arrange the occasional meet-up. And as our lives have become busier, it’s not strange to go weeks or months apart from friends. I went years before finally arranging to meet a friend I speak to regularly. We live hours away and work on different schedules.
Friends or acquaintances – love vs. memories
If distance and opposing life circumstances affected a friendship of yours, would the relationship be able to survive? Surpassing 10 years of BFF status, despite disagreeing on religion, politics and overall lifestyle ideas, me and my old “bestie” experienced the biggest strain when she married and fell pregnant. We tried to preserve our bond, making calls short due to her baby waking, yet it grew clear we weren’t going to be sitting on rocking chairs together in our eighties. All our teenage conversations on how we’d be as parents and how our children would copy our behaviour started to read like fiction.
I’m not sure whether we went 10 years because we enjoyed each other’s company or whether we kept close due to our memories. It was a bittersweet ending and still gets to me at times, regardless of the gradual separation that happened towards the end. Another ex best friend of mine slowly drifted from her BF status and soon became an acquaintance upon heading to university. There was no animosity and no arguments, we simply slowed communication and got caught up in our new lives.
Often, one friend changes and stops being able to relate. Divides seamlessly occur without a friend knowing. An obvious example is changing how you spend a weekend. If you choose to stop clubbing and quit getting drunk when your favourite Saturday night friend hasn’t, you’re forced to either compromise some weekends and party or hope your friend can situate seeing you somewhere else. And then you’re left trying to find new topics and activities to discuss away from what you both formerly enjoyed.
We rarely wave goodbye to friendships like we do lovers, and I think that’s strange. A girl’s girlfriends aren’t as replaceable as a date. I’ve never had the ability to replace a friend, I can merely add a new one and create further moments to reminisce. With that said, why do we craft polite so long messages to exes but avoid telling friends it’s over, preferring to reduce convo until they realise we’ve moved on?
The true friend tests
There are ways to distinguish between friends or acquaintances. For instance, would you be a reference? If it was down to you to describe a person’s temperament, skills and qualifications, how well could you form an answer? Do you know a person well enough to conjure a scenario where they’ve shown excellent character?
If a person urgently required a loan, could you forego your opinions and mix money and friends? Could you trust them using guarantor loans for bad credit, if you were their guarantor? If your landlord requested your eviction and you were left wondering where to go, would a friend happily suggest their place – would they offer?
And night time calls, could you ring a person at 3am if you were desperately in trouble? If grief struck, would a person listen to your thoughts at 1am, or would they just send a card noting their condolences? These scenarios help separate how much promise we place on others. If a friend isn’t reliable, trustworthy and honest, does that confine them to a colleague type category?
So, are we friends or acquaintances?
I’ve always found it peculiar how effortlessly we can reveal ourselves on first and second dates. As a blogger, I share secrets and difficult truths, yet I wouldn’t define readers as friends who’d provide a shoulder for me to cry on. Friendship doesn’t always equate to what you tell and time spent on activities.
Rather, it’s a balance. Friends put in an equal amount – they match your intimacy and effort. Which doesn’t mean they always want to speak on the phone as much as you do. Friends find ways to demonstrate support and make time for both good and bad in your life. When you’ve realised who those people are, you’re then left to figure how many of those are close.
Friends or acquaintances – how easy is it for you to always know the difference? How some people in your life switched amongst the two?
Some links are sponsored. Photos of me and a close friend.