Best friends: We all have one. That one person we go to for everything. The person we value above everyone else. The person we would drop everything for and do anything for. The person we don’t remember life before, and the person we can’t imagine life without. The person we love more than we ever thought was possible.
But what happens when your best friend isn’t really your best friend, when all the love you have for them isn’t mirrored by the love they have for you?
This is what I like to call a “favorite friend.”
Favorite friends are the best friend that you care so much about, but they don’t feel the same about you. They’re a blast to hang out with, and know all of your secrets, but think of you as more of a friend they see and talk to when the mood strikes. They’d never wish you harm or intentionally cause you pain, but they don’t always have your best interests in mind, and often don’t think how their actions will impact you.
Favorite friends are great, but sometimes, when we mistake them for our best friend and rely on them too much, it can lead to a lot of emotional distress, or even a toxic relationship.
So, how does this happen? How does a friendship that began so fun and innocently turn into something so negative?
When one person is heavily dependent on another who does not feel the same, it opens up opportunities for emotional abuse from both sides. For the person being relied upon, it is easy to feel guilty or coerced into talking to the dependent friend. They might feel pressured to act a certain way or hide parts of their life. For the dependent friend, it might mean being taken advantage of because they’re willing to drop everything for the other person. The other person may not feel the need to make plans ahead of time, and simply expects the dependent to be available to him/her. If the dependent person is insecure about the friendship, he/she might increase efforts to reach “best friend” status, putting him/herself in an even more vulnerable position.
Essentially, this type of friendship can sometimes be likened to that between friends with benefits, or people who are “talking” but not in a relationship. Guilt and insecurities act as poison, killing the friendship instead of letting it thrive.
When the poison sets in, what do we do? When we have problems with our favorite friend, whom do we go to?
This is where our real best friends come in.
Our real best friends – the ones truly deserving of the title best friend – are there for us. These are the friends who are there not only when they need us, but when we need them. The friends who answer your calls in the middle of the night when you can’t handle life and need an ear. The friends who drop everything to help when that special someone breaks your heart. The friends you can stay up all night talking to, but also can stay up all night studying with. The friends who never forget your birthday, even if you haven’t been able to see them in months. The friends who will sit out in the cold and rain with you to watch a football game. The friends who pay for coffee when you don’t have your wallet on you. The friends who unconditionally hate the same person as you for no good reason at all, simply because they want to support you. The friends who tell you you’re an idiot for going back to that special someone over and over, but also genuinely hope it works out between you two. The friends who totally think you can become rich and powerful, and even want to help you do it, but would be totally cool if you dropped out and decided your passion was custodial work. The friends who support you and love you no matter what; even if you’re being a complete moron.
Some people are lucky. For some people, the best friend and the favorite friend title belong to the same person. But, for some, it takes a serious wake-up call to realize who the friends that matter the most are, and who cares deeply enough about us to be there always.
So, for everyone, this is not an encouragement to go out and drop your “favorite friend.” Those people are great for having a good time, and as humans, we should have as many people’s best interests at heart as possible. Unless these people are having a greater negative impact on your life than a positive one, keep them around.
But also, take notice of those who truly belong in the “best friends” category. There are probably more of them than you think, and you are likely loved more than you even realize.