Close friendships gone bad?

By Hannah Leung Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-12 19:55:04

I often wonder about the interpersonal connections children in China grow up to build, as a country of predominantly only children. Through siblings, children often learn about boundaries, trust, sharing and caring.

That said, having siblings doesn't automatically guarantee a built-in friend or conspirator, and not having siblings doesn't mean that these life lessons on human relationships can't be learned through other people and experiences.

I won't speak for all expats, but I often find myself forging what I imagine to be strong sibling-like relationships with my close friends here.

I sometimes romanticize the ridiculous idea of Beijing being a sea of people all trying to forge connections with each other to escape the only child mentality. Being in Beijing means being thousands of miles away from home, and friends often play the role of a family.

For a long time, seeing my friends more as siblings was a signifier of a truly transcendent and strong dynamic, one where comfort levels and expectations run high.

For much of my time in Beijing, one particular close friend and I had this type of dynamic, where we had always been each other's platonic yet very significant other.

It's very reassuring to always have someone on your side. It was a huge relief on any given night when I did not have plans and I could call my friend and make last minute arrangements. I always considered my fall back plan to be the best plan. It wouldn't matter where we met, because there was always something to scrutinize, discuss and analyze. 

The times we were apart, I would take mental notes of interesting happenings to replay and talk about later. We felt closer than siblings, more connected than run-of-the-mill friends.

But the bond we shared, the comfort we had with each other, while at times enviable, was sometimes too much. Like siblings, we would fight and bicker about real or imaginary hurt that we had put each other through. Unlike siblings, after each argument, I became convinced that the friendship was over and that we would never recover.

Beijing has exacerbated my ideas of human attachment and detachment. It oscillates from me feeling a sense of extreme detachment - anyone could leave this city at any point, so why should I bother - to a breed of intimate codependency I've come to develop with some.

But extremes in life are usually never healthy. Luckily, my best friends in Beijing have always proven my fatalistic and extreme views on friendships to be wrong.  

Despite knowing that not everything is bound to have an expiration date, I have to constantly remind myself that if friends really are like siblings, despite a gap or distance they will remain connected to you. And family, chosen or given, should stand the test of tears and time. 

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion

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