10 February 2009

Mature friendships

One of the things I emphasized in my last two posts on the subject is that mobility works against the maintenance of friendship over the long term. With people moving from place to place to follow jobs and promotions, it is rare these days to enjoy lifelong friends. I myself fall into that class of overeducated professionals whose career aspirations have taken them far from their birthplace. Employment in higher education seems to condemn one to living wherever one can work productively. Otherwise one risks un- or at least underemployment. From ages 18 to 32 I moved as I followed educational opportunities, initially to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, then to Toronto, then to South Bend, Indiana, and finally to Hamilton, where I have lived for nearly 22 years. During those years of studying I came to hate moving and having to say goodbye to people whom I had grown to love. I hated being a transient and feeling that I had no place to call home.

Some people are transients their whole lives. Pastors and priests, for example, never stay in one congregation or parish for very long, accepting a call elsewhere after a few years. For this reason and more, parish ministry is not an occupation that I would want to have. Even in my profession, academics often move from one institution to another, sometimes staying at one for only a year or so as a visiting professor. My more than two decades at Redeemer is certainly testimony to my aversion to moving. I've even lived in the same house for 18 years.

I could continue in this vein in my current post, but I think it is best for our purposes to assume that the mature adult is living in a place he or she can call home for the long term. How do friendships develop in this context? Are they different from the friendships formed in childhood or youth? There is, of course, always the possibility that a single friendship has matured through these three stages. If so, then it is not unreasonable to assume that it will deepen if the two lives are being lived in more or less parallel fashion. Two women graduate from school at the same time or perhaps a year or two apart. They marry at the same stage of life and begin raising families. Their children will perhaps become each other's playmates and friends. Their husbands may form their own friendship, possibly around shared interests, such as work, hobbies or sports. The wives compare notes on raising children, or the trials of marriage, or employment-related issues.

For our purposes here, it will suffice to note that mature friendships take on different forms, distinguished according to the various settings in which we find ourselves. My next post will explore marital friendship, that is, the friendship between husband and wife, which is, of course, rooted in a previous relationship developed in the course of courtship or dating.

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