Lifestyle Fashion

Circles of closeness: friendship and intimacy

There are different levels of closeness in friendships. Some people become friends because circumstances bring them together. Maybe you worked with someone and had lunch together quite often, but when one of you left work, the friendship did not survive. Or you were friendly enough to a neighbor who moved in and your contact ended.

You probably know what it’s like to be with a close friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s like they never parted. Their connection is based on many shared experiences, values, and feelings, and it remains strong. Situational friendships don’t provide the same kind of bond, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.

When you enter a new environment, you will likely meet people you enjoy, but do not feel a deep connection with. These friendships are like pleasant comforts, where both parties benefit from the contact, but neither has an interest in pursuing the friendship. The relationship may feel vaguely awkward or wrong, as if there is something “fake” about it.

You may enjoy having lunch with colleagues at work, chatting with them about work problems and gossip, and you may even meet some of them before class to exercise. But when he changes jobs, most of those friendships are replaced by connections with colleagues in the new office.

There is no need to feel guilty if one or more of your friends feel circumstantial. It is very helpful for both of you to have each other right now; you can enjoy what you share and move on when it’s over. Chances are, your friend has similar benign friendly feelings towards you, and parting is just a little sad for either of you. Do not deprive yourself of this pleasant touch because it does not meet some expectations and do not try to force it to be more than it is. There is no reason to walk away from a nice, temporary connection.

Circles of friends

Every friendship is different and you deserve to have a full spectrum of friends in your life. You can imagine your friendships as a series of concentric circles, one inside the other. In the outermost circle are people you like but haven’t gotten to know well: people you’ve met at work, church, or other groups; friends of friends and other nice acquaintances. Some of these people will never be closer to you than they are now. Some of them, however, move closer to you and move on to the next circle. These are people that you see quite often and that you quite like. They can be circumstantial friends who are important to you at the time, but don’t stick around. Or they may be members of a group you spend time with, but not special friends of yours. If you really like a casual friend, it’s worth making an effort to get closer. Let an acquaintance know that you would like to have a more personal contact by inviting them for coffee after a meeting or a party at your house.

Perhaps your relationship will move into the third circle: developing friends. Both of you will take the opportunity to get to know each other better and find out if you have a lot in common. With some effort and some luck, friendship can eventually move to the fourth circle: close friends. It usually takes some time for a relationship to develop until now, but when it does, the two of you will share a long-term connection.

Nothing enriches life like friendships. You probably remember the old saying: “Make new friends, but keep old ones. One is silver and the other is gold.” As your life unfolds, you learn how true this is. With many friends around you, you can ensure that you get their full satisfaction, support, and companionship.

Different strokes

We all have different categories of people in our lives. There are family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and acquaintances. And within each of these categories, there are levels of closeness. In your family, for example, you may feel closer and more comfortable with one sister or cousin than with another. Or, in your circle of friends, some may be much more trustworthy and warm than others. Even in business, some colleagues can be true friends, while others are more distant. The differences in these relationships determine how much distance or closeness will work in them. Knowing how to differentiate the levels of friendship will make a big difference.

Closeness circles

To create a mental picture of how the various types of intimacy exist in your life, you can imagine your relationships arranged in a series of concentric circles, with you at the center of all of them.

The central circle: intimacy: The people you consider most important to you, who are your closest friends and family, fill the central circle, the smallest. The circle is small because relatively few people qualify to enter the “inner circle.” It is reserved for those who are special: your closest friends, your spouse or partner, and your family.

The second circle: warm friendship: The circle just outside that, the second circle, is for warm friends and family that you like, but may not know enough to fully trust, or who have some characteristics that make it impossible to be closer. This may be true for people you really like, but are far away or cannot be trusted to keep your commitments or respond when you need them.

Third circle: friendly connections: This circle is for people you know and like, but don’t know enough yet to consider them good friends. These people may be friends of your friends or family, or other people you like and enjoy spending time with, but with whom you have not yet established an individual connection. Some of these acquaintances may move into their second circle after time and experience, others may drift away.

Fourth circle: circumstantial friends: These people can be neighbors, co-workers, other parents at your child’s preschool, or people who are fun to talk to while working out at the gym, but who aren’t much closer in your personal life. These people are friendly and convenient to do certain things together (for example, a co-worker you have lunch with) but if circumstances change (you change jobs or move), the friendships don’t last. Every now and then, a circumstantial friend becomes a personal friend and moves to the third circle, or even closer.

Fifth circle: acquaintances: This final circle is for people you have recently met who have not had the opportunity to search for inner circles, friends of friends, or other people you hardly know but consider friendly. You may get to know some of these people better as time goes on.

Be selective

Each of these circles demands a different level of privacy. If you have carefully considered who to allow into the inner circle, for example, it will contain the people with whom you are most comfortable being intimate. These are the people with whom you share your personal thoughts, secrets, sexuality, and living space (closeness depends on your personal preferences and how considerate and loving they are).

With each successive circle, the level of intimacy and sharing of your private self decreases. A new work colleague in the outermost circle, for example, will probably only know general information about you and very little about your personal life.

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