Bonds that Last

-Amar B Shrestha

No man is an island. This is something that we need to realize, especially in today’s world where we have become much more individualistic. However, we need others just as much as they need us, therefore, nurturing relationships is vital. The question then arises: which is more important, family or friends?

Family is blood; friends, many of them, can be said to be fair-weather friends. So, there is no question really—family above all else. At the same time, family can sometimes be pretty embarrassing too; you might change and evolve, but don’t expect your family members to do likewise for your sake. Still, all said and done, family is something that you can make demands on, just as they have a right to make demands on you. You cannot say the same for friends. Friendships, no matter how close, are relationships that are forged, most often due to necessity, even if you might not be aware of this aspect. And, yes, while both relationships require a certain degree of tact to be kept on a smooth track, the latter (that is, friendship) requires a bit more. And, when on the subject, it must also be kept in mind that relationships are given different priorities at different stages of one’s life.

Now, all that’s said so far is only one man’s opinion; there are as many views about whether family is more important in one’s life or friends, as there are differing views on most other things. For young adults, family is secondary; more of a bother. Friends are everything; one swears undying loyalty to one’s friends. For more mature adults, family takes on a new meaning; family is important, and one needs to make a conscious effort to maintain smooth relations. Friends? Well, one will probably keep in touch with a few, and some will of course be needed to spend some Fridays with. And, anyway, one will probably be making new friends as one goes through life’s roller-coaster ride.

Yes, life does take on a circular path with age. Just as family is everything when one is a child, similarly, family is very important during the later years of life. Friendships, many of them, will have fallen by the wayside, mostly due to the divergent paths taken in life’s twisted journey. If one has just a couple of old friends to spend some time with regularly in the waning years, then that is something very fortunate. Not all people can be so lucky. As said before, friendships take a lot of nurturing to be kept alive; it’s easy to get out of touch. Fortunately, in the case of family, the situation is different; the ties are much stronger and quite binding in nature, so one really can afford to take it a bit easy as far as maintaining relations are concerned. And, anyway, one is likely to meet many family members at one time or another during family celebrations like marriages and so forth.

For Surya Tamrakar, an executive at a bank, family is the most important aspect of his life. He says that he will sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of family. This is no doubt a feeling shared by many people. Friendships are all well and fine for him, but in no way do they compare with his connection to his family. That is not to say that he does not take care to nurture his friendships. In fact, he admits that he has gone out of his way many a time for the sake of pleasing his friends. He also believes that comparing family to friends is really not a fair thing to do, since the two entities are completely different. He agrees that both are very important in his life, but if he had to give priority, it would undoubtedly be to his family.

Bimal Shrestha is a program officer in a non-government organization in Lalitpur, and he says, “I have a lot of friends and some of them are childhood friends. No doubt, I used to give much more importance to them when I was young, sometimes even neglecting my family. I remember once when the family was going for a picnic, I declined to go because I had plans to go to a movie with some friends. This might seem to be a small incident, but I tell you, even today, I really am sorry for not having gone along with my family.” He admits that there could have been other such episodes in his life, and now that he is more mature, he feels that he unconsciously tries to make up for his past shortcomings by being extra tactful now in things to do with his family. He adds, “Maybe these are the kind of life lessons we learn that teach us true values and make us realize the importance of correct behavior so as to have happier and more fulfilling lives.”

All said and done, life demands more from us today than ever before, and this is as true of relationships as anything else. Today, when people are becoming more individualistic, it is all the more important to recognize that no man is an island. We all are social animals and need to have people in our lives, people with whom we can share our joys and sorrows, even if we might sometimes think that we can get along fine by ourselves. This is self-delusionary, and sooner, rather than later, everybody realizes that we have to make efforts to maintain and sustain relationships that we value. This is why it is less important whether family is more important or friends, the thing to keep in mind is that these two have crucial roles in our individual lives if we are to live fuller lives. One can even go so far as to say that, without these integral aspects in our lives, one cannot really be happy.

Dr. Mita Rana, Psychologist
Q: Do men prefer spending more time alone or with friends? How does their psyche work?
A: The personality characteristics would determine if a man likes to be alone or enjoys being with friends. It’s a common misunderstanding that introverts are not social, but that’s not true. It simply means that when their energy is running low, they recharge by spending time alone, whereas extroverts like to recharge by spending time with others. However, in any personality system, there are always types that need their space—their “alone time.”

How a man relates to others is determined by seven attributes of the male psyche, according to Alon Gratch, PhD: shame, emotional absence, masculine insecurity, self-involvement, aggression, self-destruction, and sexual acting out. Men want to be independent and don’t like to be smothered. So, when a man is emotionally present, he is wonderful. When he retreats into his cave, he is still a wonderful person, but confused and confusing. Men want to have friends to express their macho side. They look for companionship in which they can trust and open up.

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