Wanting Friends vs. Wanting Someone To Play With

Page 1 of 1 [ 7 posts ] 

Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,527
Location: United States

04 Jan 2019, 7:29 pm

When I was growing up, I was luckier than many aspies: I had true friends for much of my life. The only time I was completely without friends was age 10 to 16 (unfortunately, the age when lack of friends does the most damage).

When I was little, I was a very social child. I loved having people to play with (albeit mainly on my terms), and I loved big groups of friendly people. At the same time, I spent many evenings crying at home, due to sheer loneliness. My parents were unsympathetic (they're very introverted), and often yelled at me or spanked me to get me to stop crying. My sister was 10 years older than me, and was busy with her own stuff and her own friends. My parents refused to get a dog or cat, and didn't care how it could help me. They also refused to make or adopt a third child. And my friends couldn't be expected to play with me whenever I wanted, and even as an aspie, I begrudgingly understood it. So I was elated and giddy with joy whenever I had a chance to play with my friends; which was quite often. I'd want it every day, but it wasn't in the cards.

But looking back on my childhood, I feel awful for viewing my true friends the way I did: someone to play with or tell stories to, rather than people I respected and was respected by. In other words, if I felt bored or needed a partner for a game, I invited my friends. But if I was fine alone, which wasn't often, I basically left them to their own devices. Also, I didn't really care who joined me for my games, as long as I had someone to play with, or what I'd call "activity partner" today. I did prefer the company of my good friends, because they were more likely to agree and treated me nicely. But if they were busy and a simple acquaintance joined me instead, I was equally happy about it, as long as he wasn't a bully. I almost fell into trap of having a "backup friend" (someone I hung out with only when my best friend was busy), but my parents quickly nipped it in the bud.

This changed with my high school friends. Because I spent 6 years lonely as hell, I very much appreciated having met them, and cherished their friendship. Somehow, they didn't notice or looked past my aspie quirks, and seemed to enjoy my company. Even so, I do wonder if it'd have made a difference in my mind if I became friends with these people or with someone else. Yeah, friendships grow due to shared interests and life stages, but still. Come to think of it, I didn't start fully appreciating my friends as individuals, as opposed to for their role as my friends, until after high school. So I'd like to extend them an anonymous belated thank you for being there for me when I needed them.

Today, the "backup friend" thing came full circle. There are regular activity events, like board games, that I attend only when my friends are busy. But this behavior is well-tolerated at those events, as long as you don't openly verbalize it; there are die-hard regulars, and there are occasionals. Plus, the adult friendship dynamics are different.

So, how do other aspies on here feel about the "friend vs. activity partner" dichotomy?



Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,527
Location: United States

17 Jan 2019, 11:26 pm

Wow, silence. Anyone?

As an aspie, did you make a distinction between wanting friends and wanting someone to play/hang out with? Did this change for you as you got older?



Earthling
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 23 Aug 2015
Posts: 3,450

18 Jan 2019, 5:05 am

Hi Aspie1, I've seen this thread but was anxious to post here.

I want to say thank you for making it, it has been very helpful for me. The distinction between wanting friends and wanting activity partners is not obvious and it shows that friendship encompasses more than merely sharing an activity.

Because I have never thought about it in that way I haven't got much to say about it at this point other than that many times I had been looking for an activity partner only when I thought I wanted friends.
Looking back, I was afraid of allowing anyone to get really close to me so it could never have been proper friends, even if I at times thought that's what friendship is like.

I think this concept will be helpful for me in the future, when I feel bad and don't want to be with people I may deliberately choose to go for an activity partner and be okay with that.



KingExplosionMurder
Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl

Joined: 11 Jul 2018
Age: 17
Gender: Female
Posts: 143
Location: Duwang

18 Jan 2019, 9:22 am

I can very much relate to this. I, too, was a social child (albeit acted inappropriately). And now that I think about it I did really see them as playmates rather than super closely bonded people? I didn't really feel connected to them as I do with my current friends. I often ended up having friends who took advantage of me and bullied me due to my lack of social awareness, I don't know if you can relate to that, but I had to deal with a lot of that crap when I was younger. I can relate a LOT to losing friends, too. The bullying got very bad when I was 10 and I kind of just lost all of the "friends" I had besides one (who I still talk to today and am actually dating). I have a few friends now, and I still am pretty sociable (but now only when you get to know me).
I noticed socializing much more tiring nowadays and takes more energy, though.



Joe90
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Gender: Female
Posts: 16,372
Location: Maidstone, UK

18 Jan 2019, 1:13 pm

I think that is more common in children than you think. Some children have closer friends they get emotionally involved with, and others they just see as a playmate.


_________________
Female
Aged 29
On antidepressants
Diagnosed with AS, ADHD and anxiety disorder


kraftiekortie
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 4 Feb 2014
Gender: Male
Posts: 60,556
Location: Queens, NYC

18 Jan 2019, 1:30 pm

I only had one "friend" as a child.

I just didn't want to play with other kids.

The "emotional" aspect was pretty much missing from me until I became a teenager.



Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,527
Location: United States

19 Jan 2019, 11:52 am

Earthling wrote:
The distinction between wanting friends and wanting activity partners is not obvious and it shows that friendship encompasses more than merely sharing an activity.

Because I have never thought about it in that way I haven't got much to say about it at this point other than that many times I had been looking for an activity partner only when I thought I wanted friends
I was actually the opposite. I think I had Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED). Namely, I'd almost instantly get attached to anyone, child or adult, who showed me kindness or willingness to spend a little (emphasis on "little") time with me. This was due to my own family being harsh and unkind to me whenever I didn't meet their expectations. Which meant I expected the new person to be my playmate for all or at least most activities, as well as a willing listener for the creative stories I made up. Sure enough, I'd overwhelm them, and the kid or adult would get tired of me and want to part ways. Which would leave me heartbroken. But again, I still wonder if I sincerely wanted their friendship, or if I was merely happy to have met someone who was unconditionally kind to me. And by extension, saw the kindness as a license to expect (if not outright demand :oops:) them to be my playmate.

KingExplosionMurder wrote:
I can very much relate to this. I, too, was a social child (albeit acted inappropriately). And now that I think about it I did really see them as playmates rather than super closely bonded people? I didn't really feel connected to them as I do with my current friends. I often ended up having friends who took advantage of me and bullied me due to my lack of social awareness, I don't know if you can relate to that, but I had to deal with a lot of that crap when I was younger. I can relate a LOT to losing friends, too. The bullying got very bad when I was 10 and I kind of just lost all of the "friends" I had besides one (who I still talk to today and am actually dating). I have a few friends now, and I still am pretty sociable (but now only when you get to know me).
See reply above. Because of my DSED, I "bonded" very quickly with people who were outwardly nice to me, even when that niceness was the polite variety. But when they got to know me more and sniffed out my weirdness, if they didn't want to part ways, they'd start using me at best, and bullying me at worst. I always viewed it as betrayal. So by age 10, I became very slow to warm up to new kids, even the ones who were sincerely, rather than politely, nice to me. To add insult to the injury, I lost all my early childhood friends to a cross-country move. As a result, it took me until age 16 to make proper friends again.

Joe90 wrote:
I think that is more common in children than you think. Some children have closer friends they get emotionally involved with, and others they just see as a playmate.
I beg to differ. Looking back on my observations, I saw popular kids having many truly loyal friends. Although in this case, I also wonder if these friendships were hierarchical and transactional, like the relationship between the alphas and the subordinates in a wolf pack, and therefore kind of insincere. The subordinates gets the alpha's affiliation, the alpha gets the subordinates' admiration, rather than both parties liking the same things.