Friendship Essay Example

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Discussion comparing friendship to romantic love relationships in Western culture

Prior to making comparisons between romantic love relationships according to the Occidental culture and friendship, it is necessary to point out what is meant by friendship, and give a similar treatment to the former. Whereas nowadays romantic love is not the purview of members of opposite sexes only, this paper discusses it on the premise that looking at it in a different light is an adulteration of that institution. Therefore, this paper takes friendship as an interaction that may involve members of the same sex or members of different sexes, but as regards romantic love relationships, it shall maintain the traditional (conservative) point of view. It may be seen right from the beginning of this treatise that there is a difference between the two, one lending itself to universal societal acceptance, while the other would be quite expensive given that many a conservative community would frown upon it if or when it tends to go against conventional interpersonal relationships.

When someone is asked who a friend is, careful people would ask the enquirer to reframe that question because there are many types of friends. According to Blieszner ( 2014, p. 24), the emotional closeness, feelings and activities with which people people interact determine the type of friend one person is to another. Blieszner (2014) also adds that the characteristics that define friendship (regardless of which type of friendship one might be refering to) include voluntariness, reciprocity, companionship, trust and affection; but friends can be categorized as casual, close friends or even best friends. About this categorization, Paine (1969, pg. 506) says, “… there exist, besides different versions, entirely different alternatives.” As this discussion unfolds, it would be necessary to look at romantic love relationships in terms of voluntariness, reciprocity, companionship and categorization, and to analyze the two relationships with respect to freedom and costliness.

Friendship, in the context of the modern world, is not only a private institution, but also a personal one. It is private in the sense that nobody is under the obligation to disclose that they are in such a relationship with somebody else. Compared to other relationships, and particularly the romantic love relationship, friendship enjoys unfettered relational freedom, but when the issue of cross-gender friendship is brought into the picture, then one sees how difficult it would be to maintain friendship between a man and a woman or a boy and a girl without contravention of conventional mores (Blatterer, n.d., 128). Nevertheless, when two people befriend each other, society somehow takes a backseat, and the friends take the freedom to decide the direction in which their relationship shall go, depending on their ideas freindship and the things they practice while in that relationship.

The normal path that relationships take with regard to man-woman relationships is that friendship may lead to romantic love (Blatterer, n.d., 143). Therefore, the precursor of romantic love is friendship between a man and a woman. Given that friendship flourishes when mutual trust is present, it may be said that romantic love also does flourish with mutual trust. However, whereas one may categorize a friend as has been discussed earlier on, romantic lovers are expected to maintain fidelity, one to the other. Otherwise, society looks down upon infidelity, expecting romantic relationships to be maintained between two people of opposite sexes, without the interference of a third party. Therefore, the institution of romantic love does not have asmuch leeway as friendship does, because an individual having many simultaneous romantic love relationships is branded as promiscuous.

In some cases, trust between romantic lovers is eroded by multiplicity of partners. It is often in such situations that people revert to the status of just being friends. Therefore, the contravention of the societal norm of being trustworthy when in a romantic love relationship bears an expensive price tag. However, promiscuity is not a vocabulary that is found among friends. Being the freest interpersonal relationship of all, one person can have as many friends as they are willing to have, from either of the sexes, without fearing that they shall be branded as such. Taking that for granted, it is not usual for heterosexual relationships to remain platonic without an element of romance in them. Blatterer (6 The Love-friendship paradox and cross-sex frienndship, p. 148) shows how rare platonic cross-sexual friendships are, and the fact that these will oftentimes end in romantic love relationships.

It is quite clear that trust may imply different things to different people, but Markus (2010, pp. 6-7), gives the relationship between trust and freedom as the belief that when one is in a relationship, they trust the other party to use their freedom in such a way that it shall be beneficial and not detrimental to the perpetuity or longevity of the relationship. Taking the idea of reciprocity into account, and considering both friendship and romantic love relationships, it may be said that reciprocity may take divergent connotations. Friendship is the embodiment of respect, trust, reciprocity and equality. It is expected that friends should be equal to each other, should trust each other and reciprocate the good things that their friends do to (and for) them when the opportunities to do so present themselves. Trust is broken when friends do things that endanger their relationship with each other, and where there is such a breach, the situation is escalated by the need to reciprocate. In effect, what was once a virtue that kept the flame of friendship burning becomes a snare that threatens to quench the same flame.

The detrimental effect of reciprocity amid betrayal is not only felt among friends, but also among romantic lovers, but whereas it affects both relationships, its effect is more strongly felt where romantic love is involved, because of the inherent jealousy that characterizes this type of relationship. Generally, a man becomes jealous when the woman he is courting attends to another man, and for the woman, a similar attitude is held against the man with regard to his relationships with other women. Misztal (n.d., pp.177-8) writes in relation to the value placed upon trust in the context of friendship, and shows how important it is, above other virtues, in ensuring that the relationship continues to flourish.

In conclusion, when friendship is pitted against romantic love, friendship still maintains the status quo of being the freest relationship. It embodies voluntariness, and autonomy which are alien to the romantic love relationship that begins with coercion and continues under the watchful eyes of society, who expect its culmination in the two being married.


Blatterer. 5 Gender and the Love-Friendship paradox. In Everyday friendships (pp. 127 — 146).

Blatterer. 6 The Love-friendship paradox and cross-sex frienndship. In Everyday friendships (pp. 147 — 173).

Blieszner, R. (2014). The worth of friendship: can friend keep us happy and healthy? Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging, 38 (1) , 24 — 30.

Markus, M. R. (2010). Lovers and friends: ‘Radical Utopias’ of intimacy. Thesis Eleven 101(6) , 6 — 23.

Misztal. Trust and Friendship. In Trust as Passion (pp. 176 — 196).

Paine, R. (1969). In search of friendship. An exploratory analysis in ‘Middle Class’ Culture. Man, New Series, 4 (4) , 505 — 524.