**Names have been changed
We’ve all heard of the 5 love languages, right? Physical touch, words of affirmation etc etc (by the way, if you have yet to read my letter to boys concerning the love languages, relocate yourself here). If there were a set of love languages for friendship, I reckon there would be 15 of them, maybe more.
It was after reuniting with an old friend, Jamal, who I had fallen out with badly that I realised that love languages existed in friendship. After we fell out, I convinced myself that he was a bad friend and he didn’t care about me the same way I cared about him. I felt like the effort I was putting in wasn’t being reciprocated. Upon forgiving him for an incident that took place last Autumn, I came to realise that the effort was being reciprocated, but it was the way he expressed friendship that I wasn’t used to. See, I always had my own idea about what friendship looked like. For me, knowledge was the key. I’ve always been a private person so not a lot of people know a great deal about me and I like it that way, but when it comes to my closest friends, I want them to know me. I want them to know the things nobody else knows (excluding my brother because I tell him everything). And in the same way, I want to know my close friends, too. I want to know who they want to be in 5 years time and why, what their biggest fear is, what thing they’re most proud of. I want to know their opinions, controversial or not; their darkest thought and greatest shame. That’s the best way I know how to be there for them.
And so, I find it difficult to give anyone who doesn’t care about those things in regards to my life the title of friend. After Jamal and I had our fight, I found myself assessing the whole friendship and asking myself if he knew what I wanted to do when I graduated, or what course I was studying, or even what university I was studying at. And once I came to the conclusion that he probably didn’t, I felt so cheated. There’s no words to describe it, just cheated. Like I knew his whole life story and he didn’t know me at all.
I felt like that up until a couple of days ago when I saw him again for the first time since the fight. He reminded me of a lost dream that I had when I was younger, a dream that even during our period of dispute, he had been working towards to turn into a reality. In that moment, not only did I feel guilty but I felt I was seeing with new eyes. He had been paying attention but he was doing it through his own understanding of life. Things like education and career are so important to me and so I place great value on them, greater value than I place on childish dreams. But Jamal doesn’t value things like that in the same way that I do, so he couldn’t have understood that I wanted him to know that stuff. It’s like this: it’s easier to give what you know you’d want yourself. He couldn’t care less if I knew what he studied in school, so he didn’t expect me to care either. And this is why I am convinced that friendship has love languages.
Jamal didn’t know that my ‘love language’ is knowledge so he didn’t know to supply that. It doesn’t mean he didn’t care about the friendship; it means he expressed his care the best way he knew how. And for him, it is and always has been giving. He has always loved to give, to sacrifice, to buy. Meanwhile, I don’t like to receive. It’s actually making me crease how ironic this is. I remember a time he was constantly trying to give me stuff and buy things for me and I kept refusing to accept – all that time he was trying to be a good friend but it wasn’t reaching me because it wasn’t and isn’t my love language. I just feel like so many broken friendships could be reignited if we took the time to understand our friends’ love languages. But like I said, if there were love languages for friendship, there’d be more than 5. Because on the real, friendship is complex. I believe more complex than romantic relationships.
Jamal told me that I wasn’t the only friend he’d lost; that he had gotten into an argument with another friend. Initially, the argument sounded silly and easily resolved but then I realised why it was so deep. He didn’t realise it, and I know it wasn’t intentional, but he had somehow made her feel as if her problems were unimportant. He had minimised her pain and maximised his own. Now from what he told me, she tried to tell him this, but she said it in a completely ill and tactless way which, of course, escalated the whole situation. But had she expressed herself well, they may have never fought and might still be friends.
In the above situation, the love language is sympathy. She wasn’t looking for anything other than emotional support and sympathy. He misinterpreted this. Or rather, she didn’t tell him this. I think we have an irrational belief that our friends should just know our love language like telepathy. We’re so entitled that we expect our friends to adhere to a love language they don’t even know about. Like I said in the last post, if I’m on this transparency oath, I’m taking you on it with me. I’d like us all to get into the habit of being totally transparent with our friends, telling them what is important to you, and being straightforward about what your expectations are.
And in the same way, you gotta tell them what you absolutely will not tolerate as well. My friend Brodie is a few years older than me and accomplished, and sometimes, the way in which he talks to me is just belittling. Me, being so quick to end friendships, almost called it quits until I looked at the situation through my new eyes and considered the possibility that he was just trying to watch out for me. It seemed like he wanted to be a mentor to me and I have to appreciate that. It is a kind gesture. But trying to mentor someone who didn’t ask for mentorship is just risky especially if that person is as headstrong as me. I have yet to tell him that I can’t and won’t tolerate my opinion being dismissed no matter how good the intention. But I will. Here’s to transparency.
We all have love languages. Go tell your friend what yours are.
Live in Peace,