A couple of nights ago a good friend of mine slept over on my floor. Before we fell asleep, he mentioned that he wanted to see Watchmen.
“I want to see it with this girl, but I also want to go see it with the guys… maybe I will just go with her first and again with you guys later.”
“Uh, why?” I asked.
“Because friends are more important… right?”
Hm, one of those too-often asked questions that really don’t have an easy answer.
Actually, this is one of the questions that call for the “it depends on this, and you have to weigh in that, and before all those you need to define these, and finally maybe roll the dice for those” responses that don’t really count as a concrete answer.
Anyway, I think we have to first define “importance.” How is friendship or a relationship important? I think in this context, “importance” means a mixture of things:
- impact on our life’s goals, happiness, and growth,
- intimacy and trust,
- a sense of duty and loyalty,
- a simple, general liking
Importance can also be prospective; the expectation that a friend or a relationship can lead to the above also make it important to us.
This is how we decide which friend is more important than which other friends. We value friends who we’ve known for a long time, who we can trust with our secrets. We value friends who are positive influences on ourselves, who are generous and kind. Friends who are fun to be with, who we feel compelled to help. Also, of course we value friends who we just like more than others. These may constitude “important” friends.
But a definition of importance is not enough to answer the question “What’s more important, friendship or relationship?” because both friendship and relationship are too general. A war comrade who saved your life, or even, who sacrificed himself for you and whose family is now dependent on you is probably more important than a girl you just met in the bar. On the other hand, a girl whom you’ve fallen in love with is likely more important than your poker buddies.
So the question is oversimplified; we cannot compare friendship with relationship, much like we cannot compare which is better, Chinese food or French food. There are some Chinese restaurants better than some French ones, and vice versa. Besides, some people like their Shark Fin soup, and some people like their Foie gras.
However, we can still talk about the tendency of the difference between an average close friend and an average relationship. I chose to compare a relationship to close friendship instead of just any friendship because to enter an relationship is already declaring a kind of bond that’s closer to most, if not all, other types of friendship.
Now, I think it is quickly apparent that a typical relationship will win on much of the criteria for importance; you are happy with your partner, working together towards the future may be a mutual life goal, and the relationship should be teeming with intimacy, loyalty, and love. Seems like the answer to the question is pretty obvious in this light!
But while a passionate relationship may seem to dominate one’s mind, friendship may be more steady and constant. Besides, a group of supportive friends can add much happiness and sense of belonging that cannot be found in a relationship alone.
So I think whether a particular relationship is more important than a particular friendship depends on what you want and what you need at the time you asked that question. (Which is to say, I refuse to give you a definitive answer! XD)
At 2am in the morning after some liquid conversation facilitation, though, I was unable to provide any insightful response to my friend.
“Just go with the girl, man! How often do we go out for movies anyway? When’s the last time we went to a movie together?”
“Oh shit! You’re right. Hahaha…”