Opinion: Why can’t we be friends?

We approach friendships with suspicion, and this isn’t doing us any favours.

I’ve never understood Maltese people’s attitudes to friendship, but if common sayings and expressions are to be believed, they’ve been culturally ingrained for quite some time. How many times have your parents told you: “No one washes your face so that you’ll look better than them”, or “Friendship ends at the doorway of your home”? Expressions like this are brandished at us every day by suspicious parents and are meant to serve as a stark reminder that however good your friends are to you; they’ll never be as wonderful as your family.

This week, I saw an anonymous post by a woman who said she was a single mother with barely any family left. She was speaking about how lonely she was and asked for suggestions about what she should do about it. Out of the many comments telling her to invest in her son and giving her the courage to face the world alone, not a single person suggested that she go out and meet new people. I was completely flabbergasted.

I honestly don’t get it. Maybe I’ve been lucky with my friendships, but I find it hard to believe that everyone else out there has had a bad time of it. Everywhere you go, you see women clamouring to get married, and after that good or bad they’re stuck with the family they were born into, the man they wed, and any offspring they co-create. And then we wonder how so many marriages are dissolving because people feel unfulfilled.

How can one person who’s not even with us for most of the day be expected to give us everything? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build a network and have an identity outside of being a wife and a mother? Wouldn’t it be healthier for your child to see you building relationships and thriving rather than just seeing you depressed and alone at home waiting for your husband or mother to take you out for a coffee?

The right friends can uplift and grow with you, they can give you fresh perspectives on life and yourself, and well, make you feel a little less isolated. Instead of continuously investing in toxic family ties because we have no one else and that’s what society expects us to do, we need to start going out and building new squads of cheerleaders. You might be pleasantly surprised by what happens once you open the door of your home to someone else instead of leaving them outside.

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