It was suggested recently on twitter that I write a blog post about friendship. Having friends is essential to my happiness, particularly now that I am no longer living with someone, having friends stops me feeling isolated. As I’ve got older my friendships have changed a great deal. Over time my small group of friends are in many ways self selecting. All my friends share my interests and passions. I have friends that are really acquaintances because we grew up together but I see them less often, if at all, because we no longer have have the same interests. My friends in the past have reflected my interests, when that interest passes so does the friendship. Some people have found that difficult but I don’t really understand why people stay friends just because they once shared an interest, went to school together, worked together.
When I say that my friends, as I’ve got older, are self selecting. I mean that we have always reached a point in our relationship where we’ve hit a blip caused by their interpretation of my behavior and we have had to talk about it. My true friends are the ones that are able to understand and ultimately feel that being my friend is worth the effort and occasional misunderstandings. I know that these things happen with all friends but if you are friends with an Aspie, there is every chance that issues with reciprocity, empathy and special interests, will at some point need discussing. My friends have learnt that I am not offended when they highlight an issue to me. A friend told me the other day that she likes the fact that if she asks we how I am, I will tell her and not just say I’m ok if I’m not. She also knows that if she asks me about a shared interest, she may have to tell me that she doesn’t want to talk about that subject anymore as I may not notice I’ve been talking for too long, or I need to take on someone else’s view.
I feel very lucky to have the friends I do. I was very angry once with a friend because they were late and I was already upset about something else. Often I am not good at moderating my moods and struggle to change my demeanor to fit in with a social event or interaction. On this occasion I was short tempered, rude even. My friends told me at the time that I had stepped out of what was expected of an adult friend. I had behaved more like a petulent child. They explained that friends wouldn’t want me around if I was behaving like that. They explained that there is an unspoken social contract that people enter into, a set of values and beliefs that reflect respect for the people you spend time with. I had crossed this line and they were able to tell me. It took me quite a while to process what they were saying and make sense of what had happened. It was an event that, although painful at the time, allowed me to grow and understand my responsibility to be more self aware, as best as I’m able. Sometimes friendship requires us to admit when we’re are wrong, when we need to take on board the feelings of others. Sometimes as an Aspie I struggle to do that, if you have good friends they will allow you a few slip ups and will understand your struggles. The people that can’t do that, don’t want to do that, won’t do that, they aren’t people an Aspie needs as friends. If you are honest and open, people will be open and honest with you. Friendships are tough but if we are prepared to listen and adapt and our friends are willing to do the same, they will become our true friends.
© Paul C Siebenthal Aug 2012
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