Understanding has another name – friendship. The meaning of ‘Friend  in  need  is  a  friend  indeed’  is  undergoing  changes.  The  new  interpretation  of  the  phrase  is ‘A  friend  is  a  friend  until  the  time  he  is needed’, especially in the virtual world, where it is easy to make friends, and even easier to ‘unfriend’ them. In  the  real world,  the  dynamics  may  change,  but  the  essence  of friendship remains. Friendship is a matter of choice. It operates within the constraints of class, gender, age, ethnicity and geography. It changes with  time,  and  our  experience  of  friendship  alters  with  age. Our  earliest friendships are co-ed. It is imprecisely homoerotic, it then becomes homophobic for the sake of family life, and at last, it becomes co-ed again, thinks Edward Hoagland.

Aristotle put friendship under three categories. In the friendship of utility, ‘friends’ are friends because they benefit each other. Friendships of pleasure are those where individuals seek out each other’s company, because of the joy it brings. The third category, friendship of the good, is based upon mutual respect, admiration for each other’s virtues, and a strong desire to aid and assist  the  other  person,  because  one  recognises  their  essential  goodness. Friendships of utility and pleasure are much less intense and less permanent. One of the aspects of friendship is sharing emotions, and sharing emotions doesn’t come naturally. It requires enormous amounts of energy. Losing a good friend can be a real tragedy.

Can a man and a woman be just friends? They can be but some believe that the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” often complicates the relationship. Studies indicate that the meaning of friendship is different for a man and a woman. Men suffer more from the “misguided belief” that their female friends are attracted to them.  As a result, men consistently overestimate the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimate the level of attraction felt by their male friends. Generally, women are bad at reading the minds of their male friends. In ‘platonic’ relationships, men look for opportunities of romance. Platonic relationship for a woman means that she can talk and share her feelings with someone close. Women often mistake this emotional exchange as an act of friendship, because that is what comes naturally for them.  One  view is  that  when a  woman  sees  someone  as  a  friend, she  finds  it difficult to accept him in any other role.

Friendship is informal but love is not. Once friendship transforms into love, it loses informality. It is said that greater the fundamental difference between two persons, the more difficult it is to establish a fully personal relation between them, but also the more worthwhile the relation will be, if it can be established and maintained. If one draws an analogy from this observation, it would seem that the nature of man-woman relationship depends upon how one establishes and maintains a relationship with the opposite sex, in spite of the fundamental differences between them.

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