It was just recently that I made the connection of reciprocity in relationships. For years I had a certain idea, or belief, about being reciprocal. I equated it more with paying it forward. But I began to think about reciprocity more so because of a perceived friendship. Over a course of six months I have reached out to a person considered a friend. The word friend is often used loosely, and it’s subjective. Generally, no two people enter into a friendship bothering to agree on what “friend” even means to them. It’s as though the word “friend” is a universal agreement (but more like an assumption). It’s only after the relationship is formed–and if someone isn’t living up to our expectations–do we begin to determine the value, or lack thereof, of that relationship. Sometimes a “friend” is no more than an acquaintance.
Friendship is, like life itself, nuanced. But if there is one thing that should be understood in a friendship: reciprocity. It’s a natural give and take. Undoubtedly, it will not be 50/50, but it should have some form of give and take, and that give and take should be reasonably balanced. I doubt any two people enter into a friendship with the idea that they will give 80 percent while the other person gives 35 percent. But the bottom line: how that works depends on the two people who enter into the–let’s say relationship.
This particular “friend” I previously referenced is someone I met years ago. However, there had been a break in our friendship when I relocated to another city. We lost touch. But when I returned to L.A. we reconnected and hung out regularly for several months: going to bars for drinks, having lunch and meeting for coffee. We even went to see several films together. In time, we stopped doing these things, and it was probably because we both were involved in other things in our lives.
Since she was not reaching out, I took the initiative by sending the occasional text or e-mail–just staying connected. I’d share an article I read on HuffPost, and something I thought she’d appreciate. But she would not respond; never even a flippant “thanks for sharing!” Eventually, I’d say something like, “You have to read this. I’d like your thoughts.” It was a way to engage her. It was a way to get her to respond. Not a word from her. When I was younger I would personalize someone’s silence, but I feel proud to say I’ve evolved. Thus, I decided that something was going on in her life and she was shutting me out. Although I doubt it was consciously or intentional. I was simply not the person she needed in her life at that time. Most of us don’t say to someone: I can’t use you in my life right now. They just stop reaching out to you; they subtly disconnect. It’s a way of saying you aren’t giving me what I want/need.
Eventually we met up, but it was because of something we both were attending. Several of us were sitting on these really cute ball-shaped ottomans talking, and she began to discuss a co-worker. As her story developed, it became clear to me that the very experience she was having with her co-worker (whom she had begun hanging out with) was what she had been doing to me: not getting responses from texts; not getting retweeted (which the co-worker used to always do but suddenly stopped doing); the co-worker wasn’t communicating through Facebook. Etc. At work, the co-worker brushed my friend off with something about being “too busy.” When I asked my friend why she thought this co-worker/friend stopped communicating with her, she said, “She’s flighty. She’s not accountable.” I asked in what way was she not “accountable.” She said this (although I paraphrase): “We’re friends; she needs to honor and respect that. You don’t just not respond to people. You show up, you reciprocate!”