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The evolution of friendships

They grow and change just like we do!

Written by Aidan McKiernan and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

"We can feel isolated or betrayed when we seem to ‘grow apart’ from our friends."

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Respect and dependability is to friendship as flour and water is to cake. That is, friendships, like cakes, have critical ingredients. Naturally, for each kind of cake there is a different recipe. Black forest gateau is made with, among other ingredients, chocolate. Carrot cake is not. Carrot cake is made with turnip (just kidding!). Just as each confectionary is baked using, sometimes wildly, different ingredients, so are our friendships born out of an array of curious mixes. Each has its own flavour and each offers something different.

Our idea of what is important in a friendship is influenced by our culture. For example, most of us would agree that respect is an important feature of any healthy friendship. However, in the mafia this is particularly so. In this culture, loyalty is sacrosanct because it is difficult to stay out of jail without it. This makes good sense. Being able to communicate feelings in the mafia is less so because for one thing, YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!

Our idea of what a friendship should offer and how it should operate is also informed by the things that are important to us at a given time. In our early teenage years, our friendships benefit from great intensity and exclusivity because closeness and sharing help us to develop a sense of belonging in addition to our sense of who we are. In our later teenage years and into our twenties it becomes increasingly important for friends to loosen their grasp as we begin to invest in our plans for the future.

And when romance features, there inevitably follows a marked change in the line-up. These changes are easy to write about but are sometimes not so easy to manage. We can feel isolated or betrayed when we seem to ‘grow apart’ from our friends. And, as with any experience of loss in our lives there is a degree of sadness.

Maybe a lasting friendship is one that can accommodate change, can adapt and allow for each friend to try new things, develop interests and realise their own goals. An American author wrote “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were.” Perhaps this is a little fatalistic. It is valuable to actively care for our friendships, to understand and persevere when there is change. The theory of evolution describes how the fittest organisms survive because they manage to adapt. This is true of the strongest friendships.

Without doubt, the friendships we enjoy in our teenage years and into our twenties are special if only because it is during that time that we experience so many firsts. It is in the context of these friendships that we experience our first kiss or have sex for the first time. It is at this time that we first connect with music and earn our first wage packet. For better or worse, it is with our teenage friends that many of us first try cigarettes and alcohol and kebabs. Sometimes the choices are good ones. Other times, we miscalculate or fail to calculate at all the effects of our choices. Whatever the outcome, our experiences are more dear when they are shared with a friend.

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Published January 21st, 2013
Last updated February 12th, 2014
Tags friends relationships
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