Part of the confusion around friendship and love is that Western media has created a many-headed monster out of the latter.
We are taught that ‘love’ should be all consuming and exciting, that it should arrive perfectly formed, and completely change us. That if you are ‘in love’ you should then do everything together, and it should always feel ‘good’. We are also taught that we should suffer for love, that it should hurt sometimes, but is ‘worth it’.
So if we don’t feel the earth shudder beneath us, or feel tortured, we think it can’t be love, and decide we are just friends.
[In a relationship that is starting to control you, or losing sight of yourself in it? Book an affordable Skype therapist and get the help you need.]
What is healthy love?
Looking at the above modern ideas of ‘love’ from a psychological perspective gives a very different take.
The ancient Greeks felt there were many kinds of love, and that love could evolve. To generalise the main three of what are quite complicated concepts (Greek philosophers weren’t known for brevity), ‘Eros’ was erotic love, based on attraction, and ‘Philia’ a sort of love between equals, friendship (which they valued more). ‘Agape’ was unconditional love of a higher nature.
Modern day science sees love as a chemical process that starts with lust. Harvard University claims the science of love is composed of three stages, of ‘lust, attraction, and attachment’, each releasing its own set of chemicals into our brains.
So if you go with philosophy, friendship is simply a different kind of love. If you go with science, a love relationship starts with being sexually attracted. Of course that lust has to evolve into attachment, or else it’s just lust. If it is only attachment, it’s friendship.
But take note – the same Harvard article also confesses that, “the scientific basis of love is often sensationalised, and as with most science, we don’t know enough to draw firm conclusions about every piece of the puzzle.”
So the truth is that love and friendship are NOT an exact science. Your own definitions might be influenced by your personality, values, beliefs, and sex drive. To understand if a certain relationship is a friendship or more means asking good questions, then coming up with the right solution for both you and the other person.
Should we break up and just be friends?
It’s a big question that depends on many factors. But we can keep in mind the three ingredients science proposed above – lust, attraction, and attachment.
Were you once very attracted to each other, and also able to be yourselves?
First of all, ask this when you are BOTH available. If you are obsessed with a friend and secretly ‘in love’ but they are in a relationship, make sure it’s not just your own way to avoid real intimacy with someone who is free.
Second, it’s only a question when you both feel the same way. If you are trying to push a friend into a relationship when they just want to be friends, it’s time to step back and ask if you are even a friend at all. Remember, friendship is about respect and support, not manipulation.
In a relationship that has gone wrong and not sure what to do? Or can’t stop obsessing on a friend? Harley Therapy connects you with top couples counsellors and therapists for individuals in central London. If you aren’t in London, find a therapist UK-wideon our sister site, along with Skype therapists you can call from any country.
Have a question we haven’t answered about love and friendship? Use the comment box below. Note all comments are monitored to protect our other readers and we do not allow advertising.
Article by: Andrea Blundell. Andrea is the editor and lead writer of Harley Therapy Blog. She has trained in person-centred counselling and group coaching, and her fave subjects are trauma, relationships, and ADHD.