I can count the number of close relationships I have on one hand. I struggle meeting new people and most of my friendships in the past were made out of proximity – they were there, we got along, but our aspirations and values weren’t always the same.
A friend texted me the other day:
F: Did I miss your birthday…
Me: It’s okay, I don’t really like birthdays anyway. Just happy to have you in my life!
F: I’m a shitty friend.
Don’t worry, I didn’t let her feel this way (or at least I reassured her that I was not offended, I hope she believed me). This brings up an important point I’ve often fallen victim to – the zero sum game (yes, a concept reiterated by The Minimalists).
When you try to keep score in relationships, you will always find a way to be unhappy. If I kept score with a friend who never texted first and I always had to initiate conversations, I would constantly feel unhappy in the relationship.
Say I started at a score of 10 with my best friend. I give her a fantastic handmade gift for Christmas. In return I get a gift I don’t actually have any practical use for, so I subtract 2 points from our friendship. Now she is at an 8 and I am unhappy. But what if she also kept score? What if she looks at this handmade gift and thinks “What a horribly made thing. This sucks.” Now I get subtracted points from our friendship. The eventuality is that we will both soon be at 0 (or negative points) if we continue along this path.
The same thing can be said in any relationship. So, my decision to include relationships as a higher value in my life is, first, to focus on not playing a zero sum game with anyone, and second, to make sure I cherish the relationships. Relationships are not about what I can get from it but what I can give and share with the people in my life.