The Importance of Give and Take in Friendship

Friendship maintenance depends on mutual support.
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One-sided friendships tend to fizzle out over time. To build a genuine, lasting friendship, two people must work together to create balance and respect -- anything in your life that you want to operate successfully needs care and maintenance. A healthy give and take is crucial for sustaining relationships, as both people must feel cared about and appreciated. It's as important to be a good friend as it is to have good friends.

1 Balanced Conversation

Balanced conversations are essential for fulfillment in friendship. Both friends must feel heard, and both must have a chance to share information and stories. When conversations focus solely on one person, the other will become bored or hurt over time. If your friend tends to be quieter, ask questions to help draw her out. If your friend always dominates discussions, talk to her about how this makes you feel. Conversations should go back and forth in order to feel fair and satisfying. In some friendships, building effective conversational skills takes time.

2 Mutual Effort

"Friends are obligated to each other in a meaningful way," writes Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. in the Psych Central article, "The Care and Maintenance of Friendship." This means that both people play a role in making the friendship last, and both must be equally committed. Putting in effort can mean anything from initiating plans to calling on the phone to celebrating your friend's accomplishments. Effort can be shown through even the smallest favors like picking up something for a pal at the supermarket because the product is on sale and you happen to be there. Each person must be willing to go out of her way for the other from time to time. When one person always puts in more effort, the relationship eventually suffers.

3 Ebb and Flow

Friendships are not always consistent, but this does not mean a friendship won't last. Some ebb and flow in relationships is natural. For instance, one person may experience a life crisis, requiring the other friend to be the main support person for an extended period of time. At a future point, the roles could reverse. Another example might be distance. If a person moves away or starts a new job, he may not stay in contact as frequently. But over time, the relationship may pick back up again. Friendships grow, change and evolve.

4 Acceptance

Nobody is perfect. Accepting a friend's minor flaws or occasional mistakes is important. Having expectations of a friend is natural and worthwhile -- but you also need to know when to let things go. Acceptance and forgiveness is part of the "give" in "give and take." However, if you discover that the balance between giving and receiving is unequal and rarely focuses on your needs, you may not have a balanced friendship, asserts marriage and family therapist Ann Smith, in the "Psychology Today" article, "Toxic Friends: When Friendship Is No Longer Healthy," and it may be time to move away from the relationship.

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.