Need As a Basis for Human Bonding
by Sivan Butler-Rotholz
The saying goes “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” and I think the reverse is true as well – that there is nothing like a friend who is there for you when you are in need, and few greater opportunities for bonding.
Not long ago a friend’s facebook status indicated that she was no longer listed as being in a relationship. This is a friend I’ve known for years, but one who I am not as communicative with as I ought to be. When I saw her updated relationship status I sent her a private message letting her know that no matter what the circumstances, break-ups are always hard, and that if she needed someone to talk to I was there for her. She wrote me back to tell me that I am an amazing friend.
This friend and I don’t talk on a daily basis, a weekly basis, or even a monthly basis. But as soon as I knew she was potentially hurting, potentially needed a friend, I was quick to jump to her aid. We hadn’t spoken in months, but our friendship bond was strengthened because of her need and my willingness to help.
When I broke free of an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship with nothing but a suitcase in hand, leaving behind my apartment in order to be free, a friend invited me into her home and helped me piece myself and my life back together. We had been friends for years, but during my relationship my ex had cut me off from my support systems, and so my girlfriend and I hadn’t been very close right before my break-up. But as soon as I was in need she was there, and our friendship reached a whole new level, our bond was cemented threefold.
When I was newly admitted to the bar and without a job, my best friend of twenty years and her sister invited me into their home. I lived there rent-free until I found work. When I had nowhere else to go, they fed me, housed me, and clothed me. These girls had been my friends for nearly my entire life, but our relationship reached a whole new level when I was truly in need and they were there to help me.
When I lost my job and my relationship was nearing its end and I was about to be without an apartment or a boyfriend or any of the more traditional ties to a place, my best friend of twenty-two years invited me to come and live with her and her brother in their apartment in New Jersey. Between my friend and her brother I was offered a place to stay, rent-free, for as long as I want, work to help keep me productive and put a little money in my pocket, and my girlfriend even offered to help me out financially until I have enough money to completely take care of myself. I have never been as close with my girlfriend and her brother as I am now. I cherish their kindness and generosity, and it has made a lifelong bond of friendship ten times stronger.
At the same time, my new roommates have needs of their own that I am more than happy to help them with. Whether it’s relationship advice, a reminder of how amazing they are and how they should fight for what they deserve in life, someone to walk the dog or run errands for them while they’re at work, or just someone to come home to at the end of the day, in my own way I am able to give back to my roommates almost as much as they give to me. When they need something I am glad to be there for them, and in our mutual need we count each other blessed to have each other in our lives.
From time to time I get a phone call or an online message from someone who is going through a divorce or contemplating a divorce or who has child custody questions or something of that nature. Be it an ex-lover, someone with whom I previously had only a work relationship, or someone who I was meeting for the first time, I have always been glad to take these calls, to answer these messages, and to talk these people through their situation. I have the experience, the training, and the knowledge to point them in the right direction and put their minds at ease.
Inevitably through this process – through their asking for my help and my giving it to them – our relationships shift from acquaintances to actual friendships. All of a sudden I know their intimate problems, I know the secrets they only discuss with their close friends and family, and they trust me with that information. And when I give them my professional advice I also give them personal advice, I tell them it will be OK, I honestly feel for them and care for them and look after them as a friend. These relationships that might have otherwise remained on the fringes of our lives change. A true bond of friendship is formed because they are in need and I am willing and able to help them.
I could count the number of times I have seen my girlfriend S in real life on two hands. We met in person through mutual friends, became friends on myspace and then facebook, and our relationship existed mostly in those mediums from that point forward. We would occasionally “like” each other’s posts and pictures, but we formed a true friendship when she was in need. Whether it was with a donation for a fundraising event or needing someone to write positive reviews for her business, every time she solicited help from friends online I was quick to help her. Over time this led to her knowing I could be counted on when she was in need, and we truly came to love each other as friends. This summer I attended her wedding. I can still probably count the number of times I’ve seen her face-to-face on two hands, but through her need and my happiness to help we have formed a real friendship that I hope will last a lifetime.
When we have children they depend on us for their very survival and our meeting their needs forms one of the strongest bonds known to man. When our parents become sick, we as their children become their caretakers and a whole new bond is created between us. When friends get divorced, when they lose loved ones, when they have a problem and are working on recovery, when they need clients for their new business or someone to help spread the word about their latest project and we react by being there for them when they are in need, this is when human bonds are formed, become stronger, and come to define what kind of relationship we will have.
It takes a certain amount of strength and vulnerability to admit you need help, and it takes a certain amount of empathy, sympathy, kindness, and generosity to be there for people in their time of need. The fruits of these exchanges shape the relationships we have with each other as human beings. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and try to be the kind of person who can be relied upon to help out a friend in need.