Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Why do we expect reciprocal friendships?

The notion of (full) reciprocity in friendships will create false expectations because it’s an illusion. Some friendships may indeed come quite close to reciprocity. In most friendships, someone is leading (eg, pull & push) the friendship. The other friends are more responsive. Hence, my blog title’s question.

Many articles claim reciprocity is a cornerstone of friendships (eg, NIH-2008, MIT-2016, PsychCentral-2016, PT-2021). A 2021 Medium article relates to my question: Stop Expecting Your Friendships to Be Completely Reciprocal (title); It only sets you up for failure and resentment (subtitle).

“Friendships between two individuals are commonly assumed to be reciprocal in nature. When I say someone is “my friend,” the implication is that this person also thinks of me as a friend. In general, reciprocity is one of the expectations about affective relations (e.g. Laursen, 1993). However, not all friendships are created equal, and certainly not all friendships are reciprocal by default.”

Do You Like Me as Much as I Like You? Friendship Reciprocity and Its Effects on School Outcomes among Adolescents (NIH)

Hence, my revised question: why do we assume friendships to be reciprocal in nature?

A cynical answer is that the theory of social exchange (or reciprocity in relationships) assumes “that most people prefer a balance in social reciprocity (i.e., both parties give and receive about equally)” (ie, PT-2021). This assumption of equality (eg, friendships, relationships) is wrong, in my view.

All societies, all relationships, and all friendships display various degrees of inequality (ie, low-high). The notion of equality is a human concept and illusion, similar to everything, nothing, utopia, dystopia, etc. Hence, inequality makes reciprocal friendships the exception rather than its default.

The notion of equality was once a legalistic one: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law” (eg, UDHR, Wiki). Today, the notion of equality is a philosophical one that is (increasingly) defying natural differences (eg, men vs women).

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”

A quote by Aristotle (384–322 BC), an Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath

Friends (1982) by Shalamar
band, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-album+song

Vriendschap (1983) by Het Goede Doel
band, lyrics-NL, lyrics-UK, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-album, Wiki-song

Een keer trek je de conclusie / One time you’ll draw the conclusion
Vriendschap is een illusie / Friendship is an illusion
Vriendschap is een droom / Friendship is a dream
Een pakketje schroot, met een dun laagje chroom / A package of scrap, with a thin layer of chrome

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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