Mario Villalobos

How to Maintain a Stable Relationship

  • Notes

In a chapter titled “Why friendships end” in his book Friends, Robin Dunbar writes about a study conducted by Michael Argyle and his collaborator Monika Henderson that examined the rules that underpin friendships. They identified six key rules which were essential for maintaining a stable relationship:

  • Standing up for the friend in their absence
  • Sharing important news with the friend
  • Providing emotional support when it is needed
  • Trusting and confiding in each other
  • Volunteering help when it’s required
  • Making an effort to make the other person happy

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been working hard this year to improve my friendships and my social network as a whole, and I have found Friends by Robin Dunbar to be an invaluable resource to help me understand what makes friendships work and how I can be a better friend to those I care about.

I’ve lost too many friends over the years from the simple fact that neither side devoted enough energy in maintaining the relationship. All it takes is a bit of energy, and that has been where I’ve been trying to redirect my attention and focus onto this year. I can’t say that I’m the most popular person in the world now or anything, but I can say that it has been fun to make plans with my friends, to hang out with them, to confide in them, and to share some part of our lives together.

This has been really tough, though. Even though these people are my friends, I still feel that fear of rejection, of cancelled plans, of maybe mistaking where I think my friends lie in my friend circles and where I lie in theirs. Calibrating that has been interesting. Keeping friendships takes a lot of energy, and I think I’m ready to expend as much of it as possible on them.