10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of

A note about listicles: So we know a lot of people hate listicles and associate them with cheap, low-quality, traffic-driving, link-bait articles. But here’s the thing—a list is a great format for an article, and a format I was using on my old blog almost 10 years ago. In fact, my first listicle, 19 Things I Don’t Understand, was published in August of 2005, a year before Buzzfeed was even founded. Then, over the last few years, I watched in horror as one of my favorite formats decided to prostitute itself all over the internet as the default format for lazy articles. Anyway the point is, A) I was doing listicles before they were cool, and B) A list headline doesn’t mean it can’t be a high-quality article, so C) Wait But Why will make a listicle when it’s the best format for that post, and don’t be mad at us cause it’s not what it looks like.


When you’re a kid, or in high school, or in college, you don’t really work too hard on your friend situation. Friends just kind of happen.

For a bunch of years, you’re in a certain life your parents chose for you, and so are other people, and none of you have that much on your plates, so friendships inevitably form. Then in college, you’re in the perfect friend-making environment, one that hits all three ingredients sociologists consider necessary for close friendships to develop: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.” More friendships happen.

Maybe they’re the right friends, maybe they’re not really, but you don’t put that much thought into any of it—you’re more of a passive observer.

Once student life ends, the people in your life start to shake themselves into more distinct tiers. Something like this:


At the top of your life mountain, in the green zone, you have your Tier 1 friends—those who feel like brothers and sisters. These are the people closest to you, those you call first when something important happens, those you love even when they suck, who make speeches at your wedding, whose best and worst sides you know through and through, and whose relationship with you is eternal—even if you go months or years without hanging out, nothing has changed when you find yourself together again. Unfortunately, depending on how things went down in your youth, Tier 1 can also contain your worst enemies, the people who can ruin your day with one subtle jab that only they could word so brilliantly hurtfully, the people you feel a burning resentment for, or jealousy of, or competition with. Tier 1 is high stakes.

Below, in the yellow zone, are your Tier 2 friends—your Pretty Good friends. Pretty Good friends are a much calmer situation than your brothers and sisters on Tier 1. You might be invited to their wedding, but you won’t have any responsibilities once you’re there. If you live in the same city, you might see them every month or two for dinner and have a great time when you do, but if one of you moves, you might not speak for the next year or two. And if something huge happens in their life, there’s a good chance you’ll hear it first from someone else.

Towards the bottom of the mountain in the orange zone, you have your Tier 3 friends—your Not Really friends. You might grab a one-on-one drink with one of them when you move to their city, but then it surprises neither of you when five years pass and drink #2 is still yet to happen. Your relationship tends to exist mostly as part of a bigger group or through the occasional Facebook like, and it doesn’t even really stress you out when you hear that one of them made $5 million last year. You may also try to sleep with one of these people at any given time.

The lowest part of Tier 3 begins to blend indistinguishably into your large group of acquaintances (the pink zone)—those people you’d stop and talk to if you saw them on the street or would maybe email for professional purposes, but whom you’d never hang out with one-on-one. When you hear that something bad happens to one of these people, you pretend to be sad but you don’t actually care.

Finally, acquaintances gradually blend into the endless world of strangers.

And depending on who you are and how things shook out in those first 25 years, the way your particular mountain looks will vary.

For example, there’s Walled-Off Wally:

mountain wally


And Phony Phoebe, who tries to be everyone’s best friend and ends up with a lot of people mad at her:

Mountain phony


Even Unabomber Ulysses has a mountain:

Mountain unibomber

Whatever your particular mountain looks like, eventually the blur of your youth is behind you, the dust has settled, and there you are living your life—when one day, usually around your mid or late 20s, it hits you:

It’s not that easy to make friends anymore.

Sure, you’ll make new friends in the future—at work, through your spouse, through your kids—but you won’t get to that Tier 1 brothers level, or even to Tier 2, with very many of them, because people who meet as adults don’t tend to get through the 100+ long, lazy hangouts needed to reach a bond of that strength. As time goes on, you start to realize that the 20-year frenzy of not-especially-thought-through haphazard friend-making you just did was the critical process of you making most of your lifelong friends.

And since you matched up with most of them A) by circumstance, and B) before you really knew yourself yet, the result is that your Tier 1 and Tier 2 friends—those closest to you—fall in a very scattered way on what I’ll call the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph:


So who are all those close friends in the three non-ideal quadrants?

As time goes on, most of us tend to have fewer friends in Quadrants 2-4, because A) people mature, and B) people have more self-respect and higher standards for what they’ll deal with as they get older. But the fact is, friendships made in the formative years often stick, whether they’re ideal or not, leaving most of us with a portion of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 friendships that just don’t make that much sense. We’ll get to the great, Quadrant 1 friendships later in the post, but in order to treat those relationships properly, we need to take a thorough look at the odd ones first. Here are 10 common ones—

1) The Non-Question-Asking Friend

no questions

You’ll be having a good day. You’ll be having a bad day. You’ll be happy at work. You’ll quit your job. You’ll fall in love. You’ll catch your new love cheating on you and murder them both in an act of incredible passion. And it doesn’t matter, because none of it will be discussed with The Non-Question-Asking Friend, who never, ever, ever asks you anything about your life. This friend can be explained in one of three ways:

1) He’s extremely self-absorbed and only wants to talk about himself

2) He avoids getting close to people and doesn’t want to talk about either you or himself or anything personal, just third-party topics

3) He thinks you’re insufferably self-absorbed and knows if he asks you about your life, you’ll talk his ear off about it

Giving you the benefit of the doubt here, we’re left with two possibilities. Possibility #1 isn’t fun at all and this person should not be allowed space on Tier 1. The green part of the mountain is sacred territory, and super self-absorbed people shouldn’t be permitted to set foot up there. Put him on Tier 2 and just be happy you’re not dating him.

Possibility #2 is a pretty dark situation for your friend, but it can actually be fun for you. I have a friend who I’ve hung out with one-on-one about four times in the last year, and he has no idea Wait But Why exists. I’ve known him for 14 years and I’m not sure he knows if I have siblings or not. But I actually enjoy the shit out of this friend—sure, there’s a limit on how close we’ll ever be, but without ever spending time talking about our lives, we actually end up in a lot of fun, interesting conversations.

2) The Friend in the Group You Can’t Be Alone With Under Any Circumstances

group friend

In almost every group of friends, there’s one pair who can’t ever be alone together. It’s not that they dislike each other—they might get along great—it’s just that they have no individual friendship with each other whatsoever. This leaves both of them petrified of the lumbering elephant that appears in the room anytime they’re alone together. They’re way too on top of shit to ever end up in the car alone together if a group is going somewhere in multiple cars, but there are smaller dangers afoot—like being the first two to arrive at a restaurant or being in a group of three when the third member goes to the bathroom.

The thing is, sometimes it’s not even that these people couldn’t have an individual friendship—it’s just that they don’t, and neither one has the guts to try to make that leap when things have gone on for so long as is.

3) The Non-Character-Breaking Friend You Have to be “On” With

no break character

This is a friend who’s terrified of having an earnest interaction, and as such, your friendship with him is always in some kind of skit—you always have to be on when you’re interacting.

Sometimes the skit is that you both burst out laughing at everything constantly. He can only exist with you in “This is so fucking hilarious it’s too much!” mode, so you have to be in some kind of joke-telling or sarcastic mode yourself at all times or he’ll become socially horrified.

Another version of this is the “always and only ironic” friend, who you really bum out if you ever break that social shell and say something earnest. This type of person hates earnest people because someone being earnest dares him to come out from under his ironic safety blanket and let the sun touch his face, and no fucking thanks.

A third example is the “You’re great, I’m great, ugh why is everyone else so terrible and not great like us” friend. Of course, she doesn’t really think you’re perfectly great at all—if she were with someone else, you’d be one of the voodoo dolls on the table to be dissected and scoffed at. The key here is that the two of you must be on a team at all times while interacting. The only comfortable mode for this person is bonding with you by building a little pedestal for you both to stand on while you criticize everyone else. You can either play along and everything will go smoothly, even though you’ll both despise yourselves and each other the whole time, or you can commit the ultimate sin and have the integrity to disagree with the friend or defend a non-present party the friend criticizes. Doing this will shatter the fragile team vibe and make the friend recoil and say something quietly like, “Hm…yeah…I guess.” The friend now respects you for the first time and will also criticize you extra hard next time she’s playing her pedestal game with a different friend.

What these all have in common is the friend has tall walls up, at least toward you, and so she builds a little skit for you two to hang out in to make sure any authentic connection can be avoided. Sometimes that person only does this out of her own social anxiety and can become a great, authentic friend if you can just stomp through the ice. Other times, the person is just hopelessly scared and closed off and there’s no hope and you have to get out.

In any case, I can’t stand these interactions and am in a full panic the entire time they’re happening.

4) The Double-Obligated Friendship

double obligated

Think of a friend you get together with from time to time, which usually happens after a long and lackluster email or text exchange during which you just can’t find a time that works for both of you—and you’re never really happy when these plans are being made and not really psyched when you wake up and it’s finally on your schedule for that day.

Maybe you’re aware that you don’t want to be friends with that person, or maybe you’re delusional about it—but what you’re most likely not aware of is that they probably don’t want to see you either.

There are lopsided situations where one person is far more interested in hanging out than the other (we’ll get to those later), but in the case we’re talking about here, both parties often think it’s a lopsided situation without realizing that the other person actually feels the same way—that’s why it takes so long to schedule a time. When someone’s excited about something, they figure out how to get it into their schedule—when they’re not, they figure out ways to push it farther into the future.

Sometimes you don’t think hard enough about it to even realize you don’t like being friends with the person, and other times you really like the idea or the aesthetic of being friends with that particular person—being friends with them is part of your Story. But even in cases where you’re perfectly lucid about your feelings—since neither of you knows the other feels the same way and neither has the guts to just cut things off or move it down a tier, this friendship usually just continues along for eternity.

5) The Half Marriage

half marriage

Somewhere in your life, you’re probably part of a friendship that would be a marriage if only the other person weren’t very, very, extremely not interested in that happening. 1 for 2 on yes votes—just one vote away—so close.

You might be on either side of this—and either way it’s one of the least healthy parts of your life. Fun!

If you’re on the if only side of things, probably the right move is to get your fucking shit together? Ya know? This friendship is one long, continuous rejection of you as a human being, and you’re just wallowing there in your yearning like a sobbing little seal. Plus, duh, if you gather your self-respect and move on with your life, it’ll raise their perception of your value and they might actually become interested in you.

If you’re on the oh yeah definitely not side of the situation, here’s what’s happening—there’s this suffering human in the world, and you know they’re suffering, and you fucking love it, because it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath every time you hang out with them. You enjoy it so much you probably even lead them on intentionally, don’t you—you make sure to keep just enough ambiguity in the situation that their bleeding heart continues to lather your ego from head to toe at your whim.

Both of you—go do something else.

6) The Historical Friend


A Historical Friend is someone you became friends with in the first place because you met when you were little and stayed friends through the years, even though you’re a very weird match. Most old friends fall somewhat into this category, but a true Historical Friend is someone you absolutely would not be friends with if you met them today.

You’re not especially pleased with who they are, and they feel the same way about you. You’re not each other’s type one bit. Unfortunately, you’re also extremely close friends from when you were four, and you’re both just a part of each other’s situation forever, sorry.

7) The Non-Parallel Life Paths Friendship

off-line life

Throughout childhood and much of young adulthood, most people your age are in the same life stage as you are. But when it comes to advancing into full adulthood, people do so at widely varying paces, which leads to certain friends suddenly having totally different existences from one another.

Anyone within three years of 30 has a bunch of these going on. It’s just a weird time for everyone. Some people have become Future 52-year-olds, while others are super into being Previous 21-year-olds. At some point, things will start to meld together again, but being 30-ish is the friendship equivalent of a kid going through an awkward pubescent stage.

There are darker, more permanent Non-Parallel Life Path situations. Like when Person A starts to become a person who rejects material wealth, partially because she genuinely feels that pursuing an artistic path matters more and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling envious of richer people, and Person B’s path makes her scoff at people who pursue creative paths, partially because she genuinely thinks expressing yourself is an inherently narcissistic venture and partially because she needs a defense mechanism against feeling regretful that she never pursued her creative dreams—these two will have problems. They may still like each other, but they can’t be as close as they used to be—each of their lives is a bit of a middle finger at the other’s choices, and that’s just awkward for everyone. It’s not always that bad—but to survive an Off-Line Life Situation, friends need to be really different people who don’t at all want the same things out of life.

This friendship is a distant cousin of The Morally Off-Line Friendship—

morally off-line


8) The Frenemy

root agains

The Frenemy roots very hard against you. And I’m not talking about the friends that will feel a little twinge of pleasure when they hear your big break didn’t pan out after all or that your relationship is in bad shape. I’m not even talking about someone who secretly roots against you when they’re not doing so well at some area of life and it hurts them to see you do better. Those are bad emotions, but they can exist in people who are still good friends.

I’m talking about a real Frenemy—someone who really wants bad things for you. Because you’re you.

You and the Frenemy usually go way back, have a very deep friendship, and the trouble probably started a long time ago.

There’s a lot of complex psychology going on in these situations that I don’t fully understand, but my hunch is that a Frenemy’s resentment is rooted in his own pain, or his own shortcomings, or his own regret—and for some reason, your existence stings them in these places hard.

A little less dark but no less harmful is a bully situation where a friend sees some weakness or vulnerability in you and she enjoys prodding you there either for sadistic reasons or to prop herself up.

A Frenemy knows how to hurt you better than anyone because you’re deeply similar in some way and she knows how you’re wired, and she’ll do whatever she can to bring you down any chance she gets, often in such a subtle way it’s hard to see that it’s happening.

Whatever the reason, if you have a Frenemy in your life, kick her toxic ass off your mountain, or at least kick her down the mountain—just get her off of Tier 1. A Frenemy has about a tenth of the power to hurt you from Tier 2 as she does from Tier 1.

9) The Facebook Celebrity Friend

fb celeb

This person isn’t a celebrity to anyone other than you, you creep. You know exactly who I’m talking about—there are a small handful of people whose Facebook page you’re uncomfortably well-acquainted with, and those people have no idea that this is happening. On the plus side, there are people out there you haven’t spoken to in seven years who know all about the new thing you’re trying with your hair, since it goes both ways.

This is a rare Tier 3 friend, or even an acquaintance, who qualifies as an odd friendship, because you found a way to make it unhealthy even though you’re not actually friends. Well done.

10) The Lopsided Friendship


There are a lot of ways a friendship can be lopsided.

Someone can be higher on their friend’s mountain than vice versa.

Someone can want to spend more time with a friend than vice versa.

One member can consistently do 90% of the listening and only 10% of the talking, and in situations where most of the talking is about life problems, what’s happening is a one-sided therapy situation, with a badly off-balance give-and-take ratio, and that’s not much of a friendship—it’s someone using someone else.

And then there’s the lopsided power friendship. Of course, this is a hideous quality in many not-great couples, but it’s also a prominent feature of plenty of friendships.

A near 50/50 friendship is ideal, but anything out to 65/35 is fine and can often be attributed to two different styles of personality. It’s when the number gap gets even wider that something less healthy is going on—something that doesn’t reflect very well on either party.

There are some obvious ways to assess the nature of a friendship’s power dynamic—does one person cut in and interrupt the other person while they’re talking far more than the other way around? Is one person’s opinion or preference just kind of understood to carry more weight than the other’s? Is one person allowed to be more of a dick to the other than vice versa?

Another interesting litmus test is what I call the “mood determiner test.” This comes into play when two friends get together but they’re in very different moods—the idea is, whose mood “wins” and determines the mood of the hangout. If Person A is in a bad mood, Person B is in a good mood, and Person B reacts by being timid and respectful of Person A’s mood, leaving the vibe down there until Person A snaps out of it on her own—but when the moods are reversed, Person B quickly disregards her own bad mood and acts more cheerful to match Person A’s happy mood—and this is how it always goes—then Person A is in a serious power position.

Not All Friendships Are Grim…

In the Does This Friendship Make Sense graph above, the friendships we just discussed are all in Quandrants 2, 3, or 4—i.e. they’re all a bit unenjoyable, unhealthy, or both. That’s why this has been depressing. On the bright side, there’s also Quadrant 1—all the friendships that do make sense.

No friendship is perfect, but those in Quadrant 1 are doing what friendships are supposed to do—they’re making the lives of both parties better. And when a friendship is both in Quadrant 1 of the graph and on Tier 1 of your mountain—that friendship is a rock in your life.

Rock friendships don’t just make us happy—they’re the thing (along with rock family and romantic relationships) that makes us happy. Investing serious time and energy into those is a no-brainer long term life strategy.

But in the case of most people over 25—at least in New York—I think A) not enough time is carved out as dedicated friend time, and B) the time that is carved out is spread too thin, and too evenly, among the Tier 1 and Tier 2 friendships in all four quadrants. I’m definitely guilty of this myself.

There’s something I call the Perpetual Catch-Up Trap. When you haven’t seen a good friend in a long time, the first order of business is a big catch-up—you want to know what’s going on in their career, with their girlfriend, with their family, etc., and they want to catch up on your life. In theory, once this happens, you can go back to just hanging out, shooting the shit, and actually being in the friendship. The problem is, when you don’t make enough time for good friends, seeing them only for a meal and not that often—you end up spending each get-together catching up, and you never actually get to just enjoy the friendship or get far past the surface. That’s the Perpetual Catch-Up Trap, and I find myself falling into it with way too many of the rocks in my life.

So I think there are two orders of business:

1) Think about your friendships, figure out which ones aren’t in Quadrant 1, and demote them down the mountain. I’m not suggesting you stop being friends with those people—you still love them and feel loyal to them, and old friends are critical to hold onto—but if the friendships aren’t that healthy or enjoyable, they don’t really deserve to be in your Tier 1, and you probably shouldn’t be in theirs. Most importantly, doing this clears up time to…

2) Dedicate even more time to the Quadrant 1, Tier 1 rocks in your life. If you’re in your mid-20s or older, your current rocks are probably the only ones you’ll ever have. Your rock friendships don’t warrant 2x the time you give to your other friends—they warrant 5 or 10x. And keep in mind that seeing one of them for an hour-long meal isn’t really enough—your rocks deserve serious, dedicated time so you can stay close. So go make plans with them.


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If you liked this, check out:

How to Pick Your Life Partner

10 Types of 30-Year-Old Single Guys

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

The Great Perils of Social Interaction

  • first!

    anyway, historical friend is BY FAR the one i relate to the most.

  • Djyo

    Damn, I’m totally Walled-off Wally

  • yeyeye

    slowly becoming unabomber ulysses. very spot on topic, you know a lot about friendships. very good observations

  • Kevin

    Any advice for those of us who have become Walled Off Wally in our mid 20s?

    • Rob

      Travel, travel, and some more travel. Start with the less touristy parts of Europe, would be a good choice, and most places where there’s an established backpacker scene. You can’t help but meet and make friends, and some will be for life. I misquote often, but “the iron of the strongest friendships is forged in the fiercest of fires”. Test yourself in the company of others doing the same.

  • Parth A

    Great post! Definitely proves the declaration at the top of the page. It had me evaluating and assessing my own friendships, and I realized I’m more or less a Walled-Off Wally with most of my friends being group friends who I don’t have individual friendships with. Any tips on how to avoid/repair this sitution?

    • Santa Fox

      As long as “Walled-Off Wally” means that you’re somehow doing something to sabotage potential close friendships by having your barriers up, I’d think that, after the first step of acknowledging that you’re doing it, it would be a good idea to try and understand why you have those barriers up in the first place. Once you have a better idea of why you might be in the situation you’re in, then taking steps of appropriate size outside your comfort zone seems like the general direction to go. You could try to find similarities with one or two of the people in your groups of friends so that you can more easily establish a closer relationship, or you could seek out other groups based on your personal interests to attempt to make connections. Eventually, you’ll have to go out on a limb and open up (and be genuine) to someone if you want there to be the possibility of a healthy friendship. Keep in mind that people are different and you just gotta keep trying until there is mutual interest while also being prepared for the possibility of it not working out, or worse, the other person trying to take advantage of you in some way.
      Anyway, good luck!

  • Volksgasmaske

    I believe that during growing up losing friends is quit normal.
    Expecially after meeting your wife, former friends will be substituted by that one special/ precious person which will be your friend for your whole life.
    This is a natural selection process since spare time becomes a limiting factor and you are driven by other forces.
    The other reason is, life becomes very complicated when animals are running the show and producing fog. For this reason one have to concentrate on the stuff which really counts and this is the deep friendship to your better half.

  • Jason

    When you add in the “pack mentality” of many friendships (particularly among males), things get even more
    “odd.” The need to be a part of a pack can easily trump the rational realization you’re continuing unhealthy relationships in your life. The pack is stronger than the individual relationships within it.

    The easy answer is, of course, to find another pack, but any animal can attest to how hard that truly is. I think the real way to go is to pinpoint those in your pack that are truly healthy Tier-1 friendships and keep them in Tier-1 while at the same time work to change the rest of them from unhealthy Tier-1’s to healthy Tier-2’s. They can all still be labeled “Best Friends;” it’s just a label, after all.

  • M1zzu

    I don’t think I’m a deep-friendship kind of guy. I’ll make out 2-5 people who float my boat in whatever daytime activity (school/job) I’m invested in, and when I change school/job, the people I hang around with also just switch around.

  • Simon

    As always, jam-packed with astute observations!

  • George

    There’s only a few comments so far but there seems to be a trend of Walled-off Wallies/people who don’t have deep friendships in general. I feel the same about my own relationships and this is by far the post I’ve related to least on WBW. I’m wondering if it’s a common personality trait in the WBW community to find the development of a friendship contrived and requiring effort? I certainly feel that way the majority of the time.

    • Santa Fox

      Seems to me that these topics are typically designed to be very thought-provoking, which can appeal to anyone, but can really take off in the minds of people who are more introvert-ish. Those of us who easily get lost in our thoughts and reflections tend to have more difficulty, due to inexperience from allocating less personal time to it, with initiating and maintaining social interactions. There will always be exceptions.

      • George

        Definitely a good point, but I only agree with that in part. The fact that the style of the posts are long and delve deeply into subjects when compared to something popular like Buzzfeed definitely attracts people who spend a lot of time in their heads like you said. But I wouldn’t put it down to inexperience in social interactions. I’d say I’ve spent a normal amount of time talking to people I know well, people I don’t know well, and meeting new people, but still feel uncomfortable talking to most people. If anything I’d say it’s the other way round; ‘introverts’ tend to spend less and less time socialising because they feel disconnected with others, rather than the other way around.

        • Santa Fox

          I’d like to think that one of the biggest differences between introverted people and more extroverted or more socially-comfortable people is the “spending more time in our heads” part. The amount of time we spend thinking about things ends up becoming a double-edged sword, since we can have difficulty turning it off and just living in the moment. Sure, we’re perfectly capable of doing it, but due to being introverts, we eventually will need to escape in order to recharge, which leaves us open to extended retrospective speculation. I’m just suggesting that it’s because we are what we are that we are inclined to think about such possibilities as being “disconnected” from others, which may or may not contribute to the feeling itself, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. As introverts, however, there are plenty of amazing things that we can accomplish using our talents for contemplation, that, in my opinion, can more than make up it.

          • George

            Very well said. Thank you Santa Fox

  • d

    Great post, definitely one of my favourite top 10.
    I’m also glad it’s not just me, this sort of thing happens to other people and it helps to know that. I am no longer in my 20s or 30s but back then, my life mountain was very resembleful of the example up top. Nowadays I am more of a Walled-off-Wallie but also, I have another type of friend – an occasional acquaintance or a complete stranger I will have an out of the blue heart to heart with. And also online friendships. Some endure some don’t, but either way they can be super intense and Tier 1 quality. Historical friends are still around but as they live far away it’s easy to avoid them. Also, not having a Facebook helps a lot in general quality of life stakes, and especially as a deterrent to making certain people my personal celebrities (shudder).

    Another thing I am finding in my 40s is that age groups have changed from when I was a kid. As a six year old, I had fully expected to be at the death’s door by my mid 40s, but now, being middle aged feels unexpectedly lively and I find myself doing fun things I had been too intimidated to try in my 20s and 30s. As a consequence, I’ve found myself interacting with people much younger than myself who then treat me as if I am their age. But I am not. It gets very confusing. And lopsided. Now that I no longer feel the pressure of social panic all the time, I find that there is hardly anyone out there I have anything in common with or feel genuinely interested in. I wonder if this is just me, my age or the age we live in.

  • enstein

    I wish Tim was this person who can give me life advice whenever I need it.

  • Tim Ryan

    Given what I read today, maybe Tim isn’t the one to write it but… someone of Tim’s caliber needs to write a, “How to buck up and make friends in your late 20s and early 30s” article.

  • Sooty Mangabey

    Great post, albeit timely because I’ve been reflecting on the state of my friendship
    landscape lately, so to speak. It’s given me a hilariously insightful reality check on where I stand and how I might improve myself as a friend.

  • Clara

    I found the article enjoyably funny, but my real life has been better when I *don’t* think of reasons to downgrade friends to acquaintances (as long as they’re non-toxic) and actively cultivate Tier 2 friends.

    I’m not in the situation where I have many long-time friends of inertia. I grew up in a sheltered “you’re either with us or against us” religious sect. I stopped believing in the religion and moved across the country. I pretty much started over with friends in my early 20s. At first I was very concerned about which people might become Tier 1 friends. It was counterproductive.

    What I discovered was that when I gave my time and attention to people who didn’t seem [X] enough to be a good friend, there was often something worthwhile that I could have missed if I was focused on how imperfect our interactions were. (This would apply to #1-4, especially 7, and 10). Of course not every one of them became a best friend, but I’ve been amazed by how many friends didn’t start out as obvious friend material. I’ve also found that when you’re the lopsided friend who puts too much weight on friendships (easy to do if you’re trying hard to make friends), it often evens itself out if you can manage to be outwardly non-clingy and work on your anxieties on your own time. If you’re not someone who makes friends easily, sometimes “not enjoyable” is your own anxiety instead of a real reflection of the person you’re with.

  • Sooty Mangabey

    BTW, I would purchase a life-friendship mountain T-shirt if one existed. Hint, hint…:D

    • Take a look, there are 4 options! http://store.waitbutwhy.com/

      • Sooty Mangabey

        Thanks for the link! But they only seem to have em’ in men’s sizes :/

    • Kristiyan Ivanov

      I’d like the half marriage 😀

  • meregoround

    I love this post! I’m in my late twenties and this resonates really well with me. I’m a bubbly, easy-going person (I think) and I’ve realised that new acquaintances want to spend time with me even when I don’t think they’re worth my “investment”. That sounds so harsh but I’ve realised that some people are never going to be close friends or see eye-to-eye on key ideals that I have so I’ve become a bit more picky where I spend my time. BUT I live in a touristy ski town (though I unusually have a full-time, career-enhancing job) so there’s new people coming and going all the time and with my family and closest historical friends overseas, I need to be open to new friendships.

    In the last two years I’ve added maybe 3-4 friends to tier 1 and a couple of handful of others to tier 2 and 3. One of the tier 1 friends became my boyfriend and we’re absolutely perfect together (maybe I’m still in the honeymoon phase). We have the kids/blow scenario happening among our friends all the time – friends at home are getting married, having kids and buying houses, and, well….we live in a ski town.

    I’ve often been on the other end of the half-married scenario but I have been on both sides of the coin and you’re right, it’s not fun for anyone. But there was a reason the friendship was so strong before feelings got involved and that’s the reason why it continues on.

    Moving away was the best thing for sorting out friendships and realising how best to spend your time. Everyone is NOT created equal. But some people who are slightly painful to hang out with when they’re having a shitty day (and that seems to be every second day) are the most loyal friends. But also don’t fall into the trap of using history as a reason to stay friends with someone who is unhealthy.

    Ultimately, friendships are like paintings – on an almost blank canvas it is really obvious if there’s a paintstroke out of place, whereas an almost-finished painting will survive with a few oddly placed strokes.

  • This is perhaps the first article that’s ever been posted on this site that has actually made me lose respect for the writer. Let’s talk about #5 for a little bit, because you’ve clearly only ever been on one side of that coin and let me tell you, it’s no fun on the other side either. There is so much wrong here that I am just going to take it apart piece by piece.

    “This friendship is one long, continuous rejection of you as a human being…” No. Not every rejection of romantic/sexual interest is a “continuous rejection of you as a human being.” There are plenty of reasons that a person might not want to be in a romantic relationship with you that don’t preclude them loving you, thinking you’re amazing, and wanting you to succeed. What if you want to settle down and have kids and a family and they don’t, or vice versa? What if they’re dead-set on leaving this country forever the moment they’re in the position to do so, and you have family and friends here that you’d never want to leave? What if they’re not into your gender specifically, or just asexual/aromantic in general?

    “…and you’re just wallowing there in your yearning like a sobbing little seal.” No. Not every person who can’t be in a romantic/sexual relationship with the person they’re interested in “wallows in their yearning like a sobbing little seal.” Not everyone in that position lacks self-respect. (Or, for that matter, respect for the object of their interest.) This offends me.

    “Plus, duh, if you gather your self-respect and move on with your life, it’ll raise their perception of your value and they might actually become interested in you.” No. As I said, there are reasons to reject a person that have nothing to do with how lovable they are; therefore no amount of self-improvement will will change those reasons. Plus, this statement is essentially telling someone to back off of something while baiting them with the fantasy for getting that very thing. No. This is almost never true, no matter what gross romantic comedies starring Ryan Gosling have taught you. Please stop.

    “If you’re on the oh yeah definitely not side of the situation, here’s what’s happening—there’s this suffering human in the world, and you know they’re suffering, and you fucking love it, because it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath every time you hang out with them.” No. This is so offensive, I can’t even find a way to talk about it objectively, so how about I just speak from personal experience instead? It’s heartbreaking. This is a person that I care about and want to be happy, but who sadly happens to not meet the criteria for my romantic/sexual preference. That’s not FUN. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE. Imagine you have a friend and you want to talk about video games and the conversation always seems to find its way to the fact that they can’t get a date. Does that sound like an ego-boost to you? What it sounds like — what it is — is a fucking guilt trip. At its worst, this person can make you feel personally responsible for their misery, and you know what? It’s not your fault. You are not ever responsible for another person’s personal problems, end of story.

    “You enjoy it so much you probably even lead them on intentionally, don’t you-you make sure to keep just enough ambiguity in the situation that their bleeding heart continues to lather your ego from head to toe at your whim.” If you are in this situation and you feel that it is being left “ambiguous” by either side, you need to sit down and talk to your friend and make it unambiguous. It might be that they aren’t sure either — they might like you but know you have different life goals, or they might not want a romantic/sexual relationship right now, or they might be questioning their own sexuality. If you are their friend, be their friend. Talk to them.

    If you find yourself in a friendship with someone that is romantically/sexually interested in you, and you have made it clear to them that you are not interested, but still want to be friends, HERE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
    — Ask your friend: if they were not romantically/sexually interested in you, would they still want to be your friend?
    — If this person is making you uncomfortable, especially if they are trying to pressure or guilt you into doing things you don’t want to do, GET OUT NOW. You are not responsible for their feelings, you are not hurting them. They are not entitled to you in exchange for their friendship. You do not owe them anything.

    If you find yourself romantically/sexually interested in a person who knows it and who has made it clear that they are not interested in you, but who still wants to be friends with you, HERE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
    — Ask yourself: if you were not romantically/sexually interested in this person, would you still want to be their friend? If the answer to this is “no” then just go do something else, because that’s gross. Nobody is interested in someone who is pretending to be their friend in order to get in their pants, and that’s basically what you’re doing. You can’t love someone if you don’t like them, and if you don’t like them, then what are you even doing? Go find something more constructive to do with your time.
    — If you actually do genuinely like the person, then maybe take a break and find someone else to get involved with romantically/sexually. You can’t assume that they’re going to “come to their senses” and you’re going to have to move on. You don’t have to completely tank your friendship for that to happen.
    — Is this person leading you on? It’s a possibility. If they say they’re not interested but you think they’re “sending you signals” then get out. Either they’re leading you on or you are seeing “signals” where there are none. (If you continue to see “signals” from people who clearly tell you they are not interested, please seek professional help as soon as possible.)
    — If you are blaming your friend for your own feelings, do them a favor and just walk away. You are never entitled to another human being, ever, and you are never going to have a healthy relationship until you learn to respect potential partners as people.

    On a personal note, for anyone on any side of this situation: try not to buy into our culture’s pervasive notion that romantic love is the end-all-be-all. You do not need another “half” to “complete” you — you are a whole person as you are. You are enough.

    • d

      umm, not really getting the humorous side of things, are you. let’s be friends and look up words together: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole
      (I’m not making fun of you, my mother does this the whole entire time – it’s maddening but I love her anyway)

      • Dock Miles

        Naw, she’s on to something. Being over-the-top, like irony, can be a mere excuse for bouncing off the surface of a subject.

        • That was my unfortunate perception, as well. He covers the rest of this list in a pretty thoughtful fashion, but in #5 he seemed really aggressive and one-sided.

          • Judy Ruth

            Your replies were thoughtful and well-written, Laura. I, too, thought #5 was a little off, but I wasn’t offended, I just thought “Well, he can’t get everything right.” And, I did have a rather painful recognition that there were times I may have done the ego-boost thing. But actually, he kept doing the trying to convince thing, which I LOVE about your post above. It was more like “I’ll try” from me, because we were such close friends, and my other relationships weren’t healthy. So we had some issues. But I think neither of us overdid any of the bad parts — little slips here and there, but both of us ultimately communicated clearly and valued our friendship. This has all happened over a period of thirty plus years, and we did have a time in our twenties where we broke ties because it wasn’t healthy, which may be why we really enjoy and value our friendship now. He and his wife are one of the few couples we do couples things with, which I also value very much. To me, the effort to maintain the friendship, the willingness to have a sense of humor about any awkward parts, makes our friendship that much stronger. I feel like if you demoted every friendship that had flaws, you’d end up friendless. The important thing is to ask whether the sincere wish for the others well-being is stronger than the little selfish slips that, being human, we all make. I did find Tim’s essay to be very thought-provoking and helpful. He’s clearly cool as he can be. I learned a lot from your supplements, too.

          • Chiel Wieringa

            There is a really good reason for this aggressiveness. Just think about it.

      • That’s funny, usually people learn from their parents’ mistakes. If it’s maddening to you when someone you love does that, why do you think it’s okay to do to a stranger?

        (I managed a response to someone who said essentially the same thing in a less patronizing manner, in the comments above.)

        • d

          I have mild autism, let that be the answer to any question you may have about me

        • d

          oh, and just wanted to clarify something – I think it’s super OK to question and comment etc. that’s what makes this section so wonderful. But I perceived your original comment as directed by someone who was personally wronged by the author – this is a free blog, the writer is under no obligation to be correct at any time. I sometimes wonder if people forget that. Anyway, as you were. I hope you make peace with this topic.

    • Tom Miller

      All your reasons for “not wanting to be in a romantic relationship” all add up to one thing – you’re not “in love” with that person. It’s as simple as that. If you were both truly “in love”, then you’d find a way to make it work, regardless of geography or ambition.

      Romantic love is totally different to the love I have for my best friends, just as that love is different from the love I have for my family, and just as that is different from the love I have for my dog. None are more important perhaps, but conflating these different types of love is how people get trapped in the exact situation the post was describing – albeit somewhat flippantly (and in my opinion amusingly, from your perspective offensively).

      • (Pardon my occasional use of all caps. I lack italics to emphasize things, so I have to make due. Also, I know the internet is made of text and therefore lacks a tone of voice, but feel free to read this as if I am “worried and nervously sarcastic” as opposed to “a screaming maniac” which I know it could certainly sound like if what I’m going to say offends you, heh.)

        It’s funny (in a self-deprecating kind of way) if you’ve only ever been on that
        side of things, I’m sure. As someone who’s been on the side that’s
        described entirely as getting an ego-boost from the misery of their
        friends, I find it somewhat less funny, since this doesn’t even slightly
        resemble my situation. (For the record: he and I both like and respect each other and have a lot of fun together. Except for the point where I was personally questioning my own sexuality, there was never any ambiguity between us. We have been friends for 11 years — that’s significantly more than 1/3 of our lives but not quite 1/2 — and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. It is still occasionally hard for both of us, but we make it work, because even love that isn’t romantic is still love.)

        That section of this article (back to that) is also problematic for a number of reasons. First off, let’s be perfectly honest: look at that picture. Who is the one not reciprocating the relationship? Are we to believe that there was a 50/50 chance for either character to be either gender and that it just happened to be drawn as a woman denying her love to a man? This isn’t just any narrative being expressed here: it’s very specifically shown and told as a man getting “friend-zoned.” It’s not a woman pining over a man who’s not interested in her. It’s not a straight man or woman whose gay friend can’t take a hint. This idea that “she’s the bad guy because she doesn’t want to date you” (aka the friend zone,) as well as framing the uninterested woman as PREDATORY is a narrative that is commonly used as the basis of violent misogyny. (I’m NOT saying that that’s the case here, just that is is problematic for its resemblance. Typically things are somewhat less funny when people have actually been shot over them.)

        There’s also the problem of this other narrative: that if a guy stops being desperate and mans up (or finds a
        quirky/insane way to show that he really likes her) she’ll definitely
        reconsider. (Think of this as the “no means ‘convince me'” narrative.) It’s especially common in bad romantic comedies. If you stop and look, though, you see it everywhere in our culture — not just in the area of romance. A kid doesn’t want to eat his broccoli? “Just try it,” his mother wheedles, “What if I put some dressing on it, how about NOW?” Someone doesn’t want to get up and sing on karaoke night? “Come onnnnn!” their friends goad, “You’re no fun!” It goes on and on, forcing people into clothes and food and activities that they don’t like, and teaching them that when someone says, “No,” what they really mean is, “Maybe if you make a more convincing argument or keep asking until I’m worn down by exhaustion, peer pressure, or guilt.” We teach our children not to respect the boundaries that other people set, and we teach them that the boundaries they set won’t be respected. It’s a bad habit, and it’s one that personally bothers me.

        That’s all I’ve got for now, because I really have to get back to work, but hopefully I’ve managed to make my feelings on the subject a little more understandable.

        • brie

          I’m not sure I saw it that way. Yes, the picture depicts a woman being uninterested in a man, but he seemed to be attacking both sides as problematic, and it didn’t seem gender-specific. As a woman, I would have never even thought to be offended by this. Rejection of love isn’t a stereotypical woman thing. When it comes to love, genders can be equally on either side. There are plenty of women in love with their male friend.

          “Friendzoning” as a concept refers more to a woman not being sexually attracted to her male friend, who would love to sleep with her. That’s a different topic. Yes, when it comes to opposite-sex friends and crossing that line into sexual territory, women are more likely to be the rejectors, but a woman is just as likely as a man to develop feelings for an opposite sex friend.

          In this article, Tim was critical of a specific instance of unrequited love when it’s unhealthy. That was the theme of the post: the unhealthier friendships in life. And I think his tone was right on (and hilarious) for that instance. A man OR woman hopelessly in love with an uninterested friend is best advised to move on, and a man OR woman who knows their friend is hopelessly in love with them is best advised to give clear signals about being uninterested. The article criticized those who intentionally lead someone on because they love the attention. That doesn’t sound like you, so you shouldn’t take it personally. He wasn’t talking about you.

        • Tom Miller

          I think perhaps you took the post a little personally and it touched a nerve.

          What I got from the item was basically the last line; “Both of you—go do something else.” And that’s something I’d wholeheartedly agree with, the rest I just saw as part of a joke.

          I think there’s a difference as I said between loving someone, and being in love with someone. Being in love is monogamous, and when it’s reciprocated it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve been married a long time, and it gets better every day.

    • Lisa

      Well, let me tell you as someone who’s been on the other side oft the spectrum that I wasn’t offended at all by the over-generalisation. Of course his description is over the top, but this blog generally is, otherwise it probably would be a lot less funny. Also, it’s about pointing a finger and make you think, not being super nice to you and telling you how perfectly you handle any situation thrown at you.
      As someone who was not quite that involved, I still got more and more obsessed as our friendship went on. And he still would lead me on just enough, playing it save with the ‘but I can’t be with you’ card that wouldn’t reflect his behaviour at all. We had a talk about this afterwards and he confessed that he liked the attention, even though he did see me suffer. We talked about it all the time, actually, but you can’t rationalise feelings as good as you might think. And this article is for those cases. If you handle this friendship well, good for you! But don’t assume everyone does. This article is meant to help those who are trapped in bad friendships (besides, since you got offended I’m pretty sure your friendship is not as peachy as you claim it to be, but that’s just my impression, don’t get offended)

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      You talk about your specific case – a girl wich was questioning her sexuality, and on top of all the suffering that this situation causes she finds one extra thing: her male friend is in love with her, causing even more suffering for both of them. A very complicated situation, and she/you has all the reasons to be extremely not happy about it.

      But please keep in mind this: The rule is that things happen exactly in the way that the article describes. Do not be fooled by the fake speech “ohhhh this was not supposed to happennnnn!!! I didn’t mean to make him suffer!! I am not intentionally catching his attention to massage my ego!”. This is the poisonous “friendship” that the text talks about.

      And returning to situations like yours, when the damage is not intentional: The “loving side” will try to pretend that the friendship can go on, just to be close enough to keep some hope. And the “loved side” will think that everything is ok, that the situation is overcame, and will (unequaly) continue enjoying the friendship. Do you see? Even without evil intentions there is no way to have the pure friendship back.

      Truth is, in the moment that the romantic feeling arises in one of the friends, friendship is gone. It is broken beyond any possibility of repair. The one that came up with the undesired feeling will only be able to move on with life when he gets away from that person. And for the other part, the most respectful thing to do is let him go. It may be painful but it is the only way to help that person getting out of the suffering.

      — Now let’s talk about something we agree:
      This part does not make any actual sense:

      “Plus, duh, if you gather your self-respect and move on with your life,
      it’ll raise their perception of your value and they might actually
      become interested in you.” —- This is not moving on with life, this is PRETENDING to moving on with life because the focus is still in fulfilling the romantic relationship with that person. When I say move on with life, I really mean it. That other person should from now be dead in your mind.

      • Styx

        I’m a little too late to the party but I just found this site. And I want to share my experience on the case and why I both agree and disagree with you.

        “Truth is, in the moment that the romantic feeling arises in one of the friends, friendship is gone. It is broken beyond any possibility of repair.”

        This statement is both true and untrue. It’s true in like 99.9% of the cases. Such friendships just die. Just not always.
        I’ve had 2 half-marriages. The first time I fell in love with my best friend. We kept being friends, despite both of us knowing how I felt and despite me being so sexually attracted to her. People always assumed that we were a couple and if I have to be honest, we quite behaved as one. But we weren’t. She did seek attention but so did I. She boosted her confidence but so did I. And we were true friends, helping and caring for each other, being interested in each other, being there for each other every single time. Eventually, after more than two years I stopped being in love with her. But the friendship didn’t change even a tiny bit. Five years later, we’re having what the author here describes as Tier 1 friendship. The friendship survived all the challenges, all the bad moments, all the ups and downs. We had to put a lot of effort but it payed off.
        This is the first case. What saved this friendship was the mutual desire to be friends.

        The second one is totally different. I met a girl, we started hitting on each other and I fell in love with her. She made it clear that she wants us to be just friends and that if I wanted to be a friend with her there was no problem. Been there, done that, so I agreed. But this turned out to be exactly what the author describes as “half-marriage”. She not only seeked attention, not only boosted her confidence, but she also gave false signs that something more that just being friends may still be possible, after all (just so she could keep me on the hook, of course). She also didn’t want me to treat her as a friend but the same way I treated her when I was hitting on her. This friendship didn’t survive, obviously and the reason was that only I wanted us to be friends. In the end, when I finally realized that this was impossible, I manned up and kicked her out of my life. And I’m very happy that I did it. But I’m even happier that I managed to keep the other friendship, the one from the first case.

  • Andy Johnson

    Hi Tim, check out this essay about listicles: The List of N Things by Paul Graham: http://www.paulgraham.com/nthings.html

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      After reading the introduction by Tim I became aware of the listicle problem and started to see them everywhere. Sites that I would visit often to look for interesting articles (*cough* lifehack.org *cough*) now look a bit annoying.

  • Kali

    Er…I just realised that my half-marriage is preventing me from investing in healthy and enjoyable friendships. Thanks WBW – I needed this. I will go and do something else now…

  • Suerot

    I don’t know where to put this, but having left a church about 5 years ago and gone to another in the same town, I can see that, when I meet up with some friends from the old church, if I can’t talk to them about THEIR church, they aren’t interested. When I went to their church, they were very friendly; and I guess I mistakenly put them in the #2 category, where they really should have been acquaintances. Guess what I’m saying is that it’s often hard to tell #2 and #3 apart when you’re sharing the same experiences. You only know what the difference is AFTER the experience is over.

    • Mechelle B

      I’ve found this to be true of previous church friends. I think when it comes to church, the friendships are more out of obligation because you see them regularly and once that regularity stops, so does the friendship.

  • Lucymaybe

    I think maybe I’m around the same age as Tim, because pretty much all of WBW’s ‘Life Learnins’ style posts get me right in the feels.

    I’m lucky enough to not have any Frenemies (unless I’m not clueing in to them…) Deeeeefinitely have multiple Historical Friends, though. But a couple of those are genuine Tier 1 Q1 members – and the fact that there’s no way we would become friends at this point in our lives (early 30s) kind of makes me value them even more.

    Been on both sides of a half-marriage, too, and yup both suck big time. Still amicable with the people involved, and I know we’re all genuinely happy for each other and the relationships we’re now in – although one was, for a while at least, a bit of a Facebook Celebrity in my life. (It’s almost impossible to believe that you’re ever an FC in anyone else’s life, but I guess that’s how it works…)

    Now I’ve gotta go do some T1Q1 maintenance, stat!

  • klwi3329

    I have/had a friend in which she remains 100% passive when it comes to initiating contact. We always have fun, and she’s always up to getting together. I’ve decided, though, that this is not healthy and quit trying.

    • Have you talked to your (ex-)friend about this? Does she do it with her other friends? It’s possible that she just never learned how to hold up her end of the bargain (see http://www.raptitude.com/2014/11/a-common-habit-that-costs-friends/).

      I’m not saying that you made the wrong choice—this is not a great position to be in—but if she’s really just clueless, then you have the opportunity to help her, and maybe make a big difference in her life.

      • klwi3329

        I’ve talked about it multiple times.

  • Dock Miles

    Don’t forget Really Old Riley — the person who’s lived so long he no longer knows anybody who knew him well as a kid.

    • Tim Urban

      That’s my poor grandmother’s situation. She calls herself the Last of the Mohicans.

      • Dock Miles

        It’s a haunting situation. Not only do you feel that there’s nobody in the world who understands you fully, you wonder in what way that younger person exists any more.

        • DeeDee Massey

          As I advance in years, I hope that I continue to cultivate relationships across all the tiers, even if none of them were around in the early years. People often vow to start taking better care of their bodies in anticipation of getting older, and tending to relationship health is important, too. I know some folks who still attend a school reunion EVERY year for people who graduated in the 50s, and EVERY year they suffer through more and more lost classmates and mutual friends. Seemingly, the price for the nostalgia is grief over Q2/3/4 relationships that they wouldn’t have felt if they didn’t remain so connected to the past but focused on forging new memories with other friends. EVERY year. Maybe there’s a stage where they revert back to the yesteryear friendships because making new friends becomes more challenging as life progresses. I now have something to think about for my future and an increased sensitivity toward my older friends’ current realities.

  • Joey

    So what happens if you’ve sorted out and moved friends out of Tier 1, and realized then that there is no one left in Tier 1? Oh and you’re already passed mid twenties. That would suck wouldn’t it?

  • Seth

    This is just a damn good article. Well articulated and very convicting.

  • DeeDee Massey

    The majority of my “friends” or “connections” on social media are in the lower tiers and quadrants. I am glad to have met some really cool people that I likely would not have met offline, but online “friending” has similar drawbacks as those discussed on the online “dating” dinner topic. That’s why I prefer to do friend stuff offline as much as possible. Making the connections is more efficient with these systems, but depending on the design of the system, managing the relationship can be somewhat cumbersome and time-consuming. The technology actually makes it easier to amass a bunch of 2D acquaintances which will usurp time away from Q1 IRL relationships, unless the tools are used very deliberately and discriminately.

    • christytree

      Well said!!

  • Freddy

    I’m not sure if it’s because of the bitter-biased tone, but you’ve been friend zoned one too many tines. Great blog dude! Would you like to be my friend? I’m probably the one friend that uses sarcasm to stay away. No big deal.

  • Jerome

    Awesome article as usual!

  • Ben Lee

    im a 24 year old male..and i realize now after reading this article that im fucked up in an even major way than i thought..
    i have always struggled with establishing connections, let alone meaningful ones, since i was younger..i have been the subject of attention for bullies, until i got into a place where i was able to be a bully myself..
    i eventually snapped out of it before graduating high school..but either through shitty life choices or just being an unlucky victim of the negative consequences of The Law of Random Distribution, i was assaulted with a continuous barrage of shit landing on my plate..im at an age where my contemporaries are planning their (first) weddings, i am writing a memorial for the death anniversary of a friend..a memorial that wouldn’t go anywhere since memorials are for the living and i have grown to care less for the people left behind that my dead friends and i shared..
    some people see the world through rose colored glasses..i see it through what i call as “shit colored glasses”..im like the traditional pessimist who perpetually believes the worst out of people and is always pleasantly surprised when people turns out to be better than what they expected..
    but i take it up a notch higher..i have grown to care less for people..i dont mean this in a bitter anti social way..i do have people in my life..i do have people who treasure me..i am actually surrounded by people who probably cares about me, if only i would bother to see for myself..i am pretty sure that aside from my blood family, there are a handful of people out there who call me as their friend that would shed real tears when i die..
    but, the problem is me..i have learned not to give a shit about people..im kinda losing traction here and i dont know how else to explain it, but let me put it this way:

    i only have one category for friends..i call them “friends”..if by whatever quirk of nature it is that you have gained access to my club, then congratulations..i will move heaven and earth for you..need help with moving? im game..need help moving a body? im game..as long as you can provide me with plausible deniability later on..need advise with any problem that you have? you have access to my personal databanks of worldly knowledge, experience, and wisdom..you’re really hungry and need a place to stay? here’s a spare set of keys to my apartment, take my card, go to the supermarket and stock the fridge so that we have something to eat when i come home..
    im not going to introduce you to my other friends..im not going to introduce you to my family..im not going to introduce you to my entire life..im not going to tell you about my real self: my hopes, dreams, fears, blah blah blah..in fact, i will hide, mask, manipulate, and even lie about certain parts of my life all so that you don’t get in to the real nuts and bolts of the train wreck that is my life..

    why? because i have learned early on that people suck..letting people in your life and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to them is worse than adopting a cobra for a pet and trusting it will never bite you..the only way to keep yourself safe from people is the same way you keep yourself safe if you’re demented enough to have a pet cobra: always keep them at arm’s length..

    i guess what im saying is, im ok with being alone..im really, truly, ok with that..i have the same reaction to it as a person would when confronted with trivial problems that occupies all of 5 seconds of his attention:

    “aww..wikipedia just hijacked half the window of my search screen cus of an asking for more donations..” *shrugs shoulders
    *moves on with his life

    “my closest friends are either dead or have gone on in very different walks of life and i no longer have anyone that i can connect with on a real, genuine, honest level..i have dealt with death, grief, pain, and sadness in such doses that is equivalent to what 5 people should deal through in their lifetimes..friends who are veterans returning from my country’s pullout from afghanistan are shocked when they learn of what i have gone through, and those were just the tip of the iceberg..i don’t even have my parents or siblings to count on in lieu of having missed establishing meaningful connections with non blood relatives..i am completely alone and will probably remain so for the rest of my life..”
    *shrugs my shoulders
    *moves on with my life

    and looking at other people, i know now that apparently, it is wrong..
    how did i get this fucked up?

    • Judy Ruth

      Ben, twenty-four is still very young. Sounds like you have been through the mill already, but you are way too young to make generalizations about your whole life. Someone who can communicate as well as you do, will find more true friends. I supposed you’ve considered the possibility that you are clinically depressed? You seem like someone who could get treated for depression, and look back at thirty and say “Wow. Those were tough years!” I wish you well.

      • M.B.

        This is exactly what went through my mind when reading Ben’s part. A close friend of mine who was always a very cheerful person started off sharing similar thoughts.. and then depression hit him. He’s been recovering for past year and is, thankfully, doing much much better now but it’s something you really don’t want to go through. I never thought of it being such a destructive illness.. it’s really confronting seeing it up close.

      • Ben Lee

        Thanks Judy Ruth and M.B. for your input..my profession and training allows me to have the capacity to self diagnose and has the resources and contacts to further reach out for professional help if needed..however, even while thinking of running a basic checklist of questions asking if im depressed, another part of my brain was already shutting the idea down..

        i live a healthy life, take care of myself physically, i work hard to be a functional and productive member of society, i do not avoid interaction with other people even if i am no longer professionally required to do so, i do not shut myself out, i do not spend my days off laying in bed or sitting in a dark room, i do not intentionally cause harm to anyone around me, and i do the part expected of me when in a social setting..

        so what’s wrong with me? why is it that i feel “meh” and content with having “friends” that i hold at arm’s length, and know within myself that even if i don’t have them, even if i end up being the last person remaining on earth, i would continue to feel “meh” and content?
        why do i work so hard at keeping people from getting to know the real me and helping me?
        why is it that i am indifferent? why is it that whenever i come home, i always feel like the first thing i remove from my person is a mask?

        anhedonia? maybe..
        betrayal and abandonment issues? possibly..
        bipolar cyclothemia? feels spot on if you analyze it on paper..

        i interact with a lot of patients who have become defined by clinical labels and the pharmaceuticals associated with “treating” them..some may have been helped by this system, and some, as i’ve witnessed, have been driven to the point of death by it..

        truth is, i don’t know how growing up and being shaped as a person by years of shitty parenting, negative societal pressure, death, grief, being constantly left behind, pain, and learning never to trust anyone in order not to get hurt can be “fixed”, if it can be fixed at all..

        and that’s just the personal influences i am talking about..the things that has shaped and molded as a person and defined who i am now as an adult..
        my profession involves me taking care of fellow human beings at their most vulnerable..
        i have had a patient look at me with an “i completely trust you” look in his eyes despite going through the most intense agony he has ever experienced, knowing that he will eventually go home thankful for my care..
        on the other hand, i have also stood beside a patient with his family weeping and asking me “why?” while i check for any remaining vital signs and then pronounce the time of death of her husband..

        being in a profession where i breathe and live surrounded by the pain and suffering of fellow human beings makes me feel like, “this is it, this is the real world, it’s raw, and it’s painful, and this is how i will live in it”..if there’s some mysterious way that i can forget all my personal aches and pains, is there any way for me to completely ignore the fact that the world is a painful and brutal place? how do i close that door when it’s already gaping open? how do i “unaccept” that truth? that very same truth that has molded me as a person, defined me as a person, guided me as a person, and is now my daily reality? how do i erase every single memory of pain and sadness when ALL of my memories are saturated with it?

        is there any pill for that?
        how many hours of counselling sessions can fix that?

        • Judy Ruth

          I am sorry I don’t have any answers for you. Your posts do tug at my heart, though. I’m not trained as a therapist, I just recognize some of the feelings. If I knew you, I would ask about what things you find beautiful, what things make you smile. But I think most anything I say will just be more frustrating for you, just more evidence that no one understands. I have no idea if medications would help you. It seems you have access to counselling services, and if so, you might want to take advantage of that. You wouldn’t have to look at it at fixing anything. You could just vent. And maybe over time, if you found a good therapist, you could at least work out for yourself some of the answers to your questions, and feel more at peace.

        • A

          “How do I unaccept that truth?” I’m not sure that you fully ACCEPT that truth, actually. And that may be part of the problem you have. Someone that truly accepts that the world is a painful place and life is hard, is at peace with it and does not try to resist it (buddhist style :)). I know you say that you mostly feel indifference, but it also sounds like you’re in a lot of pain, and it also sounds like you havent come to terms with the difficulties in your past. Of course its impossible to tell from a few paragraphs because words may be written one way and read an other way, but one can get the feeling that you are still full of resentment and grief (shitty parenting, betrayals, bullying, being hurt etc…). It may sound naive, but it IS possible to let go of such things. Without resorting to buddhism or to modern medicine, why not try philosophy? There’s a book I highly recommend by Bertrand Russel called “The conquest of happiness”. It’s more of a self-help book (written before self help books were a thing) than of a philosophy book, but as you probably already know B.Russel is a great philisopher as well as a great mathematitian, so dont worry about the book being full of stupid advice, he’s an intelligent guy 🙂 also he wrote the book when he was pretty old (at least 3 times your age) so you can expect some wise shit 😉

        • Santa Fox

          I may have gone through different life experiences, but I can definitely say that I relate to what you have said so far. From how I understand it with myself, those traumatic events which shattered your sense of trust have been ingrained into your psyche like scars, and the fear, hatred, and sadness you experienced during those times has haunted you to the point of apathy. When people get hurt too many times for the same or similarly perceived reasons, it becomes real easy to just wall off because, to them, the reality is that it will happen again and again until they go insane. There is truth in this, since there will always be times when we suffer, although some tend to react more strongly to it than others due to personal reasons. Unfortunately, by walling off ourselves for our own protection, we also make it much more difficult for us to enjoy life and the relationships we have with others.

          When it comes to what you’ve experienced, I believe that trying to erase your past trauma will not “fix” you. One thing that has gradually worked for me is to acknowledge what happened, since it DID happen, and accept it as a horrible experience that you nevertheless managed to survive. You can try drugs or whatever to make the pain go away, but unless you come to terms with what that experience means to you and why you continue to carry it as a burden, it will just keep coming back. Reliving those experiences will certainly be painful, since you’ve had such difficulty living with them this whole time, and that is something a therapist may be able to help you with. I have gotten the idea from a past therapist to “become my own best friend,” which admittedly sounds kinda weird and sad, but when you don’t feel comfortable opening up to others, it helps to have someone (even yourself) who can show compassion (not pity) for what you have been through.

          I don’t think I could ever work in a field where I was surrounded by suffering people, since I’d develop the same pessimistic outlook on life were I to be reminded every day of that. Most of us are only capable of living peacefully because we don’t know (or find a way not to dwell on) how many bad things could happen or are happening every second. Those of us who, for whatever reason, feel like we are robbed of that capacity for ignorance can either take drastic measures to try and forget everything, continue living in fear/apathy, or find a way to put it behind us and keep moving forward. As for the third option, there is no easy way, but I believe one of the first steps is to simply work towards having an open mind, which can open many doors on its own. Plenty get dealt bad hands in the card game of life, and we all have to find out a way to make do with what we get. Whew…I ended up writing a lot.

    • Cara

      That is a lot of sharing for someone so walled off! We all want to be understood. Everyone has a private place within them where no one else can go. For some, it is very small, for others, it encompasses most of themselves. In my opinion, that is totally normal, and I don’t think that the amount that you keep all to yourself is “fucked up.” In fact, it makes perfect sense given what you have been through.

      We are all born alone and we all die alone. Knowing, valuing, and relying on yourself is a powerful and beautiful thing. It’s okay to cherish that space you have to yourself.

      That being said, there is so much to be gained by letting other people in. Compassion, understanding, camaraderie, laughter. In my years on this earth, I’ve learned that if I’m not doing something only because I’m afraid, well, I should probably swallow that fear and just do it. The sooner the better, like ripping off a bandaid. It’s a difficult balance, to be open enough to enjoy human companionship, but closed enough that you keep your core self safe. Take it slow, and I think you’ll find that balance when you’re ready.

      We may all die alone, but we don’t have to live alone. There are people in this world who would accept who you are, as you are, if you let them. Have faith. It gets better.

  • jeremyirons

    I think this is more or less only true for Americans.

    • Tim Urban

      You might be right. I was in Spain once and saw a table of four 50+ year-old men sitting at dinner together and drinking bottle after bottle of wine, on a Wednesday, and they sat there from 8pm until past midnight laughing their asses off. I was outraged at how they just thought it was okay to fully enjoy life like that.

      • Rena

        Not really. I’m in Mumbai, India, and I could totally relate! I could get 2-3 names off the top of my head every time I scrolled to the next style. Plus, these are things I see. And my friends say it’s true for them as well. So maybe…places which have things in common? Prevalence of social media, busy schedules, etc?

        • Iceman1128


          (that was the sound that Tim’s sarcastic joke made when it flew over your head)


          • Peter

            Hahhaha, you made me laugh.

  • Amy

    What on earth is the “traffic test”?

  • bbroome62

    Do you know a good shrink. I need some work done. 😉

  • viggiano

    Thanks for defining the “Lopsided friendship”! I’ve always been trying to come up with a name for it.

    My sister’s most dominant friendship of the last few years has been a textbook lopsided friendship. It is freaking aggravating to watch. Especially when the ‘friend’ has all the power even though my sister is by far the smarter, more compassionate, more active member. The friend just dominates by pushing just the right manipulative buttons to get her way.

  • em

    I like the way you put this: “being 30-ish is the friendship equivalent of a kid going through an awkward pubescent stage.” I had my first of 2 kids when I was 28 which I know isn’t young, but was young in my friend-group. Even though all of my best friends lived in the same city as me, I suddenly felt very alone. A couple of years later, two of my best friends apologized to me out of the blue after they became parents, saying that they “weren’t a good friend to me” after I had a baby. I never thought this about them, but it is amazing how you are in a completely different reality depending on whether you have kids or not.

  • Gerald McGrew

    Dude, just wait. Wait until you have kids who are in middle school and early high school. Then you’re so busy trucking them all around for various activities and events, and trying to run a household that you’ll be like “Friends? Who has time for that?” That’s where I currently find myself. Now when I see any of my friends, regardless of what quadrant or tier they’re in, we both immediately say “Geez, haven’t seen you in a long time”. I really do miss having lots of friends and doing stuff with them, but I’m not going to abandon my father/husband responsibilities to do all that.

    I’ve been told by older folks that when the kids grow up and go their own way, you basically go back to earlier days and start trying to make friends all over again (or renew abandoned or neglected friendships). To quote Carl Spackler…..”So I got that goin’ for me”.

    • yeah_maybe_sorta_not

      Yes! This is the truth of the matter. The optimal time to make friends is less of a bell curve that peaks in the 20s and then sharply drops off and more of a “u” shape that starts with lots of opportunities in young adulthood, bottoms out in middle adulthood, and then swings up again in older age.

      Usually even Tier 1 friendships take a back seat during the childrearing years. Right now, I find myself facing that very situation with previous Tier 1 friends who now have young children. (I’m childfree.) But it gives me hope to consider what I’ve seen among my parents and their peers. As they’ve gotten older and entered retirement and the empty nest phase, they’ve actually developed *more* friendships. This is especially true of my mom, who finally has time to pursue closer relationships with a number of the women from her church who were only acquaintances back when they all had young families and jobs to juggle. She’s now 70 and has made a couple of new Tier 1 and a handful of Tier 2 friends in the past 10 years. All of them are retired with either grown children or no children, and some of them are single for the first time in decades after a divorce or death.

      So while I can really appreciate Tim’s humorously spot-on descriptions of different kinds of failing friendships, I think those predictions about making friends after 30 are overly dire. We will all come out the other side of the yuppy years, and when we do, everyone will want to make friends again.

  • Robert Ricco

    I have found many high quality friendships in my late 30s – early 40s through community activity. With 3 kids in tote, wife and I have forged at least five Tier 1 friendships with couples (so 10 people) in our town and surrounding area. Our kids are reasonably athletic, social, and active in their own right so maybe that helped.

    A sure fire suggestion – coach youth sports or volunteer for boy scouts or help out with the school play if you’re looking to connect with new people. I’ve done so for years and the bonds it creates are very strong. Do you run across tremendous assholes in youth sports and these activities? YES! But for the most part the psychopathic parent is an outlier, about 25% are passive aggressive, delusional types, and the remaining 74% just want their kids to have fun and grab a beer after the game. That’s where the bonds form.

    And I don’t even belong to a church. If you go that route, even more doors open for you I guess. I just don’t dig preachers. Helps that I live in the Northeast and not the Bible Belt probably.

  • Rena

    I see that whatever’s left out fits into the lopsided kind of friendship.

    “If you’re on the oh yeah definitely not side of the situation, here’s what’s happening—there’s this suffering human in the world, and you know they’re suffering, and you fucking love it, because it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath every time you hang out with them. ”

    It did. I was flattered, but also sad for this person I deeply cared about. Eventually I retreated, and now we’re a little more enemy than frenemy. I think at this stage it’s more like – damned if you do, damned if you dont! If you do move on, you’re a heartless being who jerked around a person and then abandoned them. If you don’t, why, you’re no better than a player!

  • DarkEnergy

    I’m 24 and feel like I have no Tier 1 friends. I feel like I failed the whole developmental friend-making stage of life.

    • Shareiro

      No offence, but having “DarkEnergy” nickname won’t help you to fix the situation, quite opposite you are just pushing away everyone. Start from small details, make yourself appear more friendly and friends will come 😉

      • DarkEnergy

        Since you mean no offence, what do you think is wrong with the name “DarkEnergy”? Are you judging a book by it’s cover? Dark energy forms 68.3% of our observable universe. It’s a fascinating form of energy. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy

        • Shareiro

          Nothing is wrong with a name or anyone having such name. I am not being personal or judging. I believe you are smart, intelligent and well educated nice person. I just looked at it from “personal marketing” perspective 🙂 Maybe (just maybe, a topic for interesting discussion) the reason you “failed the whole developmental friend-making stage of life” is because you consciously or unconsciously made yourself look not attractive (and I don’t mean physically)? When someone reads DarkEnergy, this complex scientific thing is not the first thing that pops into ones head. That’s all I meant and glad to discuss this interesting topic.

          • WibbleWobble

            Sorry but i have to disagree Shareiro… Market yourself as you really are to attract the right people for you. Just because you see ‘Dark Energy’ as a negative name doesn’t mean others see it like that. I can understand where you are coming from and you would never try to put a ‘general’ negative association to yourself when applying for a job for instance, but to attract a true tier 1 friend, one must be doing their own genuine thing.

    • hoolearn

      I’m 20 and and have zero Tier 1s. You’re not alone!

  • Farky

    Hi Tim. Long time reader, first time commenter. I enjoyed the article (as ever). After reading your defence of the listicle format, I did wonder how those test based articles would be phrased….

    (This wasn’t the entirety of my take-away).

  • Robert Ricco

    I love the throwaway line “morally off-line friendship”. It’s definitely a thing. Once I’m asked to accompany someone to a strip club or a rub ‘n tug I can’t quite reconcile them into my inner circle again. Maybe because it’s manipulative for someone to basically say “Hey, you’re unhappy with a certain phase of your relationship, right? Let’s pay for that!”

    It’s probably a guy thing since male strip clubs and male prostitutes are more novelty than fulfillment devices, but not every guy wants to hang out at Bada Bing.

  • anonymous

    Clarifying another murky subject. Great comments, too. Thank You! Here is one thought I had

    There is a book about geniuses. Short biographies of scientists from the beginning of recorded history. Quiet, introspective, unfriended individuals, probably. It’s partly about whose shoulders they stood on. It’s about how we all owe our existence to them. I love reading it.There is the element of their genius and their humble and inspiring work…combined with jealousy, betrayal, sabotage, grandstanding and theft. A wonderful, human mixture. Probably because it is written by Isaac Asimov.

    I get out of this book: A realization that we all need each other for civilization to continue. Yet, we all can lose perspective and think we know it all, and viciously compete with each other, sabotage each other and are blind to each other’s beauty. Especially contemporaries.

    Somehow enough sharing and knowledge squeaks through the generations for life to advance. This book also teaches me: We’re all going to die. If we’re lucky, some writer will sum us up in a paragraph or two and credit us with advancing culture in some small way. Worry about what they will say about us…not about how many tier one friends you currently have. It may be that your worst enemy that has a bit of knowledge you will someday need. Don’t throw away anyone.

    • DeeDee Massey

      Your last line metaphorically echoes the #1 order of business recommended at the end of the article. They key to organizing relationships is not assessing the value of a PERSON as dump-worthy, but whether the relationship and any unpleasantness it brings belongs in the trash bin. Most relationships probably don’t warrant being discarded, but they do belong in their place so that they don’t clutter your life, taking up valuable space reserved for more important things, causing you to constantly trip over and become injured by them.

      Sometimes, a relationship does warrant an explicit conclusion. Ending a relationship doesn’t have to be regarded as permanent, though. The two people can determine if they would designate it as “Eligible to Re-connect”, to remain open to the possibility of resuming the association at a later time, given conducive circumstances.

      Other times it might need concerted effort at repair and given a fair chance to remain or advance in the tiers. Although the article does mention “demoting” friends into lower tiers, the tone still insinuates that the easy remedy is to immediately end the imbalanced relationships, especially the “Half-Marriage,” where both participants are instructed to “go do something else.”

      I knew a couple that were in such a situation. It became so uncomfortable that one of them announced, “I love being your friend, but if we can’t resolve this romantic tension, we’ll have to go our separate ways.” They both decided their friendship was more valuable, the pining one stopped, and they remained friends for decades, supporting each other through their individual love problems, as friends do.

      The most helpful idea relayed by the article is that it’s not necessarily warranted to “un-friend” someone, but just don’t engage in it in an undeserved manner. Don’t grant it Tier 1 status if it doesn’t belong there. I catch this happening in online connections all the time. When I make a new acquaintance at an outing and we decide to connect on social media (the terminology “to become Friends” is gross overstatement), the relationship is too new to start prematurely sharing every aspect of our lives. This is especially so for potential romantic partners. I’d rather get more face-time with the person before learning what he/she looked like as a baby, and meet his/her family in person at the appropriate point in the relationship’s progression, rather than through an online scrapbook that’s shared with just about anyone.

  • Heldarion

    I will never ever for the life of me understand the saying “close like brothers”, because thanks to my own experience and what I hear from other people, brothers/sisters on average seem worse than average friends.

    Having 4 brothers and 1 sister and only getting along with the sister, I think that the 20% hit ratio for the “close like siblings” team is pretty terrible.

    • hoolearn

      I have an older brother and a younger sister, and I’m best friends with both! I got lucky we all click really well.

  • DeeDee Massey

    Listicle Wars: The One Competitive Attribute I Observed About Listicles

    When I read a listicle, I always wonder if that is ALL there is to be found on the topic, or if the writer is just holding out on me. For instance, when I looked up listicles, I found the following in the search results. This is not an all-inclusive list, just a list of 3 (no more, no less) list- or listicle-bashing listicles.

    1. “An Open Letter to List Articles” (3 reasons are given, but I had to read halfway down the article to find them listed.)
    2. Four Reasons I Hate Lists
    3. “8 Reasons to Avoid Listicles”

    Why could the first writer came up with only 3 and not 8? Is that lazy journalism? And is that all that anyone could come up with? I want my online data consumption to be effortless and COMPLETE.

    I found at least as many listicles with MORE reasons advocating for them.

    1. “It’s All in Your Head: 9 Reasons You Can’t Resist a List”
    2. “10 Reasons to Take a Fresh Look at Lists (Monty Python style)”
    3. “11 reasons why we should still love listicles”

    So far, the pro’s are winning, but I still suspect they could do better.

  • Lala

    I don’t recall a time past grade 3 where making friends was easier. That said, re: one sided lust scenarios. In my experience, sometimes the person on the “absolutely not” side does not enjoy the other person’s suffering, is in fact suffering themselves and doesn’t know how to extricate themselves safely until such time as escape becomes necessary. Also, there’s almost always someone with unrequited love for the unrequited lover. It’s like that children’s story about the hippo that’s scared to make friends and so caught up in their own pain they don’t notice the armadillo who’s been with them the whole time.

    • Lala

      Err, easy, not easier.

  • hoolearn

    God, this is depressing. I’m 20 years old, a sophomore in college and have zero friends in tier 1. I used to have many, but after I moved during Junior year high school and then 2,000 miles for college I no longer have tier 1 🙁
    and I’m running out of time!

    • Robyn McIntyre

      I’m 62, and believe me, you have time. More time than you know. Use that time without tier 1 friends to invest in yourself. The happier you are with you, the more other people will want to be your friends.

      • dave

        true dat!

    • Lila Q

      It’s normal to have very few/ no tier 1 friends around that age. I think early 20s is the key time for meeting them and solidifying those friendships. Also, your old friends from back home will drift back in and out of your life again too (you haven’t lost them).

    • jaxtwin

      Hoolearn, don’t worry! You have so much time! I’m in my early 40s, and I don’t have any tier 1 or even tier 2 friends from childhood, high school, or college. Not saying I was a loner. I had plenty of decent friends in those years, but for whatever reason I just never managed to find a truly meaningful and lifelong friend in those phases of life. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I started to develop truly meaningful friendships. And now I feel so fortunate because the vast majority of my tier 1 friends are in the healthy AND enjoyable quadrant. Honestly, college is a great time to have fun and meet people. But it is also obviously a time to focus on getting a meaningful education, and to reflect seriously on who you are and what you want from life, and to then pursue that path. I honestly think it is easier to develop genuine friendships with people when you know who you are and what you want out of life. At least it was for me. I learned a lot about myself in my 20s and it made it so much easier to recognize when I truly resonated with another person. So don’t worry, just have fun and enjoy college! The friends will come. And you are not running out of time. Your adult life has literally just begun. Despite what people say, life is actually pretty long.

    • Rafaella

      A bit late to reply, but I just found this website now…
      I’m 24 going 25 this year, and I was pretty much in your situation at that age when it comes to friends, but it was also at that age that things started to change. Thanks to the internet, I got the means to find old friends that I had lost contact with previously, and some of them are now what’s in my Tier 1, along with a couple of new very good friends made through them.
      What this article says about close friends is the truth: no matter how long you don’t even talk at all, your friendship never really changes, and it usually just takes a simple message with a wish to get together again for things to be just like old times.
      If you feel you have no friends now, try your old friends. If they were your real friends before, they are your real friends now. Time makes no difference in a close relationship 🙂

  • laura

    I LLLOOOOOVVVVEEEEE listicles, you have helped me so much time not having to read self help books to understand stuff about people

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  • Grass of eternal darkness

    Such a profound article and quite disturbing at the same time. What about the people essentially without a home? Those who travel around the world never living in the same location for more than a couple of months? Would they even be capable of having a tier 1 friendship? That tier mostly sounds possible if you never move too far away from each other. Furthermore, in this ever more globalised world it seems particularly difficult to attain and keep this kind of friendship.

    • Lila Q

      I don’t know about only staying a couple of months, but I usually only stay in one place for about a year max and I’ve made some exceptional tier 1 friends as an adult. You meet up in central cities again, or (even better) you live in the same city again (a new city!). My old, home nation friends are obviously super important, but my traveling friends are the ones who prop up my everyday and make my adventures so fun.

      • Grass of eternal darkness

        So what you are saying is that you make some great friends in the short time you are staying and when you eventually part ways you are actually just putting the relationship on hold? Most meetings afterwards are coordinated? Sounds not especially different to simply living in two different cities except that it is less likely to accidentally encounter each other.

  • TFW

    That feel when no friends.. 🙁

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  • Robyn McIntyre

    Really enjoyed this article and some relationships now make more sense than previously. As you pointed out, when you’re young, you really don’t think much about the relationships, you tend to accept them as-is. As you get older you can find that what you THOUGHT was a tier 1 friendship actually wasn’t. Fortunately, experience teaches you how to recognize and categorize better and that’s one of the benefits of growing older. But only if you pay attention.

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  • Voracious reader

    I’m kind of late to the party on this post, but I found it very enlightening. I’m in my 50’s and have had all of these types of friendships at one time or another. I think as you get older you reflect more on who you want to spend time with and in my case I’ve dumped the toxic ones and others I’ve let quietly slip away. Those that I stay involved with, I enjoy more and more. I also deactivated my Facebok account so I’m no longer spending time with “friends” who aren’t really friends.

  • Voracious reader

    Aaaargh! Facebook.

  • Ryan C. Stebbins

    This is all bullshit.

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  • asd

    im probably unabomber but im not sure why

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  • Sivasiva Subramanian

    Happy New year friends http://www.bliss2015.infoconquer.com

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  • Unabomber

    That feel, that diddly feelerino.

  • Meepmoop

    What about work friends? The ones that are incredibly amazing during work and then at the end of the day, it never extends beyond that because they oddly want to separate work and life. And then those that bleed into life because work sucks and you gotta complain about it over a drink. I’ve also dated coworkers. Hmmm.

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  • Atma Darkwolf

    Heh so apparently, by these standards, I don’t HAVE any real friends left in tier 1 😀

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  • Any solution when my mountain is that of Unabomber Ulysses? 🙁

  • AF

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing. OMG, the “half married”!!! I’ve been there, twice. In both sides – the one who could totally marry the other person and the one who was very, very not attrackted to the other person. It’s like you know it would totally work, you want it to work, but you just realize your brain is not obedient. Both cases suck, btw.

  • Barbara Senna

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    back to me within 72 hours..it was just like a surprise to me as I never believed my husband would come back begging for forgiveness. some months afterwards we got married, we just came back from honey moon some days ago.. here i am today testifying happily.I promised that I would share this to the world if my problems becomes a thing of the past..now I am happy and I am happy sharing it on here happily to everybody and using this testimony to help and to give hope to the emotional depress people letting them know that there is nothing that still cant be done in their case .. so I urge any one who have problems of any kind be it any of the below;

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  • Zach

    Ok, so not counting family, i have a bunch of tier 3 people, 10ish tier 2 people, but ABSOLUTELY NO tier 1 people! And its not because there is a wall there, I keep trying to become closer friends but nothing seems to work. OMG this article is depressing

    • Claus Appel

      I think we are many in this particular canoe.

  • Ekin K.

    I wanna read the old blog with the article 19TIDU and I found the blog but it is only readable with invitation :/ How can I get an invitation?

  • Brood

    I find myself being the “non question asking” and “can’t be alone with” friend, but it’s not because I’m like that on purpose, I’m just really shy and an Introvert. I sometimes sit in a conversation with someone constantly thinking “I wish I knew what to say or ask to appear more interested because I am interested but I somehow don’t fuck’n know how!”

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  • geekfatigue

    This helped me open my eyes and get out of a Quadrant 4 ‘friendship.’ Especially egregious because I’ve been in this position before. phew…

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  • NA

    Glad to say none of the people I consider friends are any of these 10 types described above. I’m way too real for that, and so are they.

  • Jared

    I’m different, so I got confused by this article.
    “When you’re a kid, or in high school, or in college, you don’t really work too hard on your friend situation. Friends just kind of happen”…?

    What? Seriously?
    No one really wants to be friends with me, and I have to work very hard to get good friendships.
    Is that really how easy this is?
    For me, no.
    Sarcastic thank you to you. 🙁

  • Jared

    Also, cussing can be offensive to some people, but that just seems to be a permanent part of your vocabulary.
    And when I say “cussing can be offensive to some people,” I mean “Until third grade I cried whenever someone cussed.” So please be considerate…

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  • bonnie Cooper

    Dear Tim, Please don´t feel the need to apologise for writing what you want to write, in the format in which you choose to write it. Doing things your way made this blog successful. Courage mon ami!!

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  • When we begin to think articles in the list formal are always lazy, pedestrian writing we run the risk of missing beautifully written gold, such as your article! Please continue to write in the manner you think most approrpriate in the moment. Excellent article!

  • TheSnorkeler

    I’m turning 27 next week (definitely the future 52-year-old type) and I’ll be proposing to my girlfriend at some point within the next year (maybe October). I was thinking about which of my friends I would invite to our wedding, and sort of made a list. I felt like a little kid on AIM doing it, so that line about it being an “awkward pubescent stage” made me feel a lot better lol.

    This was in interesting read! It’s nice to know that other people have been through many different kinds of friendships, and the breakdown was pretty accurate.

    In my opinion, we should be taking care of ourselves, and reaching out to our tier-1s impulsively. I definitely agree with the childhood bond aspect of those friendships, and they never falter.

    I wanna go hang with my friends now! lol

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  • Berkeley

    Went out of a half-marriage some time ago, and still quite torn apart from it. But it was a nice variant: she had some psychiatric issues so that she WAS into it, she flirted, she put the idea in my mind (marriage is usually among the last things I think about) and then became uninterested, and even said that it was all a misunderstanding.

    Tried to put the pieces together with little success – with a big part of fault and mistakes from my side, admittedly – she answered stitching me up and now the friendship is over.

    And as for anjoyment and intimacy, we were *the* best of friends. Really. Oh boy.

    (English is not my mother tongue, so please be patient)

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  • Anonymouse

    Not exactly a case in point for listicles (I generally doubt they make for a good format, simply because they make it so alluring to add crap to the list so it comprises an even 10 items, say.) “A near 50/50 friendship is ideal, but anything out to 65/35 is fine and
    can often be attributed to two different styles of personality.” is a good example for how terrible this article really is. I suppose I just don’t get why people don’t understand science and the limits of their sample, but shit like that makes me want to throw up, especially when it even goes against my own experiences, which, for the quote above, are that my best friendships are nowhere near 50/50 on any measure.

    The way you understand the idea of equality in a friendship reminds me of how people don’t understand what it mean that “everybody should be treated equally” in the context of integrating mentally challenged people, which clearly does *not* mean that they are treated the same, but the same relative to their skills. One could try to take your 50/50 mean something like “equally happy with the friendship” rather than looking at any particular attribute of the relationship, but even that seems pointless and out of place.

    Some of your characterizations of friendships were fine (which is what I came for), but I hoped they would be something I hadn’t noticed myself (you know, some people are just much more observant and verbal than I am – you’re not), but even I could talk about the friend who you only meet hammered in a club twice a year and make plans with that neither of you will have any interest in the next day.

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  • Unlikeable

    Yeah, fuck you for implying I should have ten friends. There’s no way I can stop being me or make people car about me, so this article comes off as a “fuck you” to whatever vanishingly small portion of the population I’m part of. And fuck you right back, you superior, calculating prick.

  • Ulysses

    af byee

  • very interesting article. Friendship is a social skill but it’s lost as we are now busy in networking.

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  • somebody

    I can be like the “doesn’t ask questions” friend when a friend of mine is clearly worked up about something and it seems like it would be better to just listen and not question them. Sometimes people just need to be comforted and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Claudia Gonzalez

    I will forever be alone 🙁

    • 尾宿五

      just like everyone else

      • claudia

        I want to get married – w- lol

        • 尾宿五

          just like everyone else…

  • Who-Must-NOT-Be-Named

    I like the pictures 🙂

  • Kyle

    Wow, your facebook celebrity friend can surf backwards!

  • AnonymousCitizen

    This article brought to consciousness many things of my life…. I think to all of my previous tier 1 friends, I was basically a tier 2 friend who was to be spoken to, not listened to =[ boohoohoohoo

    • Reggie Hurley

      haha i know what you mean, it’s like all your tier 1 friends categorize you as tier 2 friends lolol

  • Lynne

    How do you get out of a double obligated friendship. I have this friend who has been my ‘on off’ friend for 30 years, and I am so very bored of her & the friendship, but don’t like hurting people’s feelings.

  • Adriane McCaffrey

    Tim, I love you. This is so true. At 33, I’m a little nervous about my current lack of local friends (I’ve moved a lot)–but ever hopeful for those beautiful souls to reveal themselves in the future. Found your site a few months ago and I’m thoroughly enjoying all the deliciousness.

  • Reggie Hurley

    does anybody else have mostly 2nd tier friends? Not by choice, but by circumstance you just didn’t spend enough time with one person?

    • Delly

      this is me basically. I’ve just moved onto the next level of education, so most people go onto different schools. I’m slightly distant with my old 1st tier friends, bumping them down to tier 2. The people that go to my school that went to my old school weren’t good friends back then and still aren’t. The new students? I’ve found some seriously nice people, but how can you bump them up to tier 1 if you’ve only known them 8 months? 🙁 Also because I don’t make time to spend with old tier 1 friends, and possible-tier1-but-in-tier2 friends
      But its okay
      I think by next year i’ll have some solid tier 1 friends. Hopefully

  • Balduranne

    This genuinely helped and made me realize why it’s so much easier for me to connect with people online.
    Now I know what to focus on to know more people in my area.

  • Josh Little

    I think I only have one tier #1 friend and the rest are either acquaintances, people who don’t talk to me anymore, or really good friends who are always busy. Fuck my life right. XD

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  • Raven

    …How the hell does someone have 11-1/2 “closest friends”?

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  • RadiantLux

    I’m in my late 40’s. I had a friendship I thought was Quandrant 1 but actually ended up being a Historical friendship. It ended 7 years ago. All my other friends barely make it to tier 2 but most are tier 3. We are all busy with jobs and kids. I find it hard to get new friends into the tier 1 place. It feels like everyone already has their tier 1 people from childhood. I feel lonely.

    • jasper

      hey sorry to hear that 🙁

      it seems to me that in general most connections/friends in life are made in a certain period, through groups that shared a common goal. From childhood those can be school, sports, going out, etc. Those are paths with common goals (diploma, excelling, finding partner). As soon as those goals arent there anymore, the friendships become a bit different.

      i was unsatisfied with many ‘old’ friends in the past year, and decided to not see them very often anymore. Instead, i love my employees, people in the coworking office, in 2 different sports clubs.. and have started & joined several groups via Meetup.com. It takes some months, but eventually these people become friends. We have the same goals in these groups, so it feels important and fresh.. instead of clinging to the old.
      i dont throw everything i have.. but simply make space for new opportunities.
      noone is perfect, and at the same time everyone is perfect in their own way. There’s so many cool people out there that make me smile.

      hey maybe try to find some sort of local clubs about parenthood, and/or anything else you’re interested in. The rest will follow.
      Try Meetup.com and see if there’s anything you’re interested in. Or start your own group there with a topic you’re passionate about. Spread the love, and many will love you back <3

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  • PeeWee

    #5 is fucked up.

  • Strangely, i wish, i had learned all those things much later:
    Growing up with a parent that taught me that only quadrant 1 relations are of any worth at all and anything out of tier1 doesn’t deserved to be called friendship, i always had only very few, close friends. Some, i had to abandon along the way and with a bunch i just kinda lost touch (->#7) but there are still a few that have basically been there for all my life, will be for the rest of our lives and no matter what happens, i can’t imagine those friendships will ever end…

    While that probably doesn’t sound so bad at first, there’s one serious problem with that situation: My mountain now looks like the Unabomber Ulysses one, except that there is a Walled-Off Wally like wall and inside that wall, i’m not actually alone because there are also some quadrant1-friends in there with me.
    On the upside, i feel very safe and content inside my tier1 comfort zone but most of the time, i am also very lonely because my friends spend most of their time roaming in Tier2-4 areas or in other words: they’re a regular part of society while im not…

    What i’m trying to say:
    Everything in this article makes sense and is actually good advice but even though focussing more on your q1/t1 friends might be good advice to most people, it’s actually just as important to stay in touch with the world of “less important” people.

  • london4

    This is an amazing analysis. I would add just one more: proximity friends. These are the people you hang out with because they live near you and it’s convenient to meet, but you probably would never see again if you moved to another neighborhood or out of the city.

  • JessicaRed

    #5 Was definitely written by a man who was on the same side of one too many of those half-marriages. “You enjoy it so much you probably even lead them on intentionally, don’t you” Are you fucking serious? I’ve seen so many girls who were genuinely friends with guys because they enjoyed their company and were interested in spending time with them as friends, get their hearts broken when their guy friend decided to “move on with his life” because he knew he wasn’t going to get in her pants.

    How about looking at it from the other side, instead of being a bitter douche? Do you know what it’s like to have a friend you’ve treasured suddenly bail forever (and not go to your wedding for example), and find out that ALL THEY WANTED from you for years of what you thought was genuine friendship, was just sex? Who do you think is the asshole in that version of the story?

    Almost all of my female friends have had at least one guy do this, and it was devastating, not because their ego needed stroking, but because they found out someone they cared about had just been pretending to be friends with them, and then abandoned them.

    “You fucking love it, because it gives your little ego a succulent sponge bath”? Really? Author, I’m very sorry the girl you pretended to be friends with so you could get in her pants didn’t appreciate your affection, but grow up and learn to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

  • Rebecca Becker

    It’s hard to spend time on your tier-1 friends when you’ve moved to a different country…

  • Maggie Dee

    Personally, I have a much simpler approach to friendship. I see people that come into my life as a gift. I don’t need to rate them. They all have a message in my life. I have experienced frenemy type people but they are just mean spirited jealous types. I see through them and never give them a minute of my time.

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