Terrible, Thanks for Asking

What About Your Friends? - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “What About Your Friends?” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.

I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

And before we get started today, I want you to think about your biggest friendships. The ones that built you into who you are today. Just go ahead and conjure these people in your mind. I’m doing the same thing. And I’m not going to name names except for Gene Weaver and Erin Mulcahy… Cara Shannon,Dave Gilmore… I’m gonna stop there because people are going to feel left out and I always forget very important people. Hannah Meacock Ross? One of my greatest treasures and I forgot to invite her to my wedding.

So, think about those friends. Maybe you’re still friends. Maybe you’ve drifted apart or had a falling out. Maybe you can remember how you met — that feeling of discovering a little horcrux of yourself that you didn’t even know existed, tucked into a person who used to be a stranger. Maybe you can remember what it feels like to fight with them, to be betrayed by them or to betray them in some big or small way. 

Because just like romantic and familial relationships, friendships are complicated and filled with conflict. A friend can break your heart. A friend can fix your broken heart. 

And that’s what we're talking about today. We’re talking about friendships.

I can’t even count how many episodes of TTFA we’ve made, and in the TTFA universe apparently friendship only exists if one of your friends DIES. That’s bananas to me! So, to help us out, we got famous friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow to talk to us about friendship. Because they wrote the book about it. I love saying that. “They wrote the book about it.” They wrote a book about it — the equivalent of a marriage book but about friendship. And it became an instant best-seller because so many of us in the past year have realized more than ever the power of friendships and our need for these relationships.

Ann and Amintou met in 2011. This is Ann, talking about that night.

Ann: We were set up by a friend, our friend Dayo Olopade, a genius woman with a lot of foresight. And the venue — or like, rather the excuse for us to meet — was a “Gossip Girl” television viewing gathering. I mean, we usually say viewing party, but it was… it was not a party, right? Like, it was a bunch of people on a couch watching TV.

Younger listeners won’t know what this means, but you used to have to just watch TV when it was on! Like… just imagine that. TV was on at a specific time, kids. So when certain shows like “Gossip Girl” became popular, they were just a part of the zeitgeist, because there were only so many things a person could be watching, so it felt like EVERYONE was watching it. 

Plus, Ann and Aminatou both lived in D.C., were young, and cable TV — the kind that you could record in advance if you wanted to — was expensive, and streaming didn’t really exist yet. It was a simpler time. 

This is Aminatou.

Aminatou: You know, I was like, “OK, I know that she's a feminist lady with, like, a fun sense of humor…” which, you know, I was like that, that's such a like very specific, you know, kind of, you know, like kind of person. I was like, yeah, like... we probably have the same, like, feminist tote bags, probably, you know, like… there's some like Venn diagram-like overlap there. So like very superficially that was one thing. But, like, within the context of the party itself, it was you know, I was like everything was fine. It was like, yes, Dayo was absolutely correct. I love how this lady dresses. I love every joke she's telling. I love her look. I like her ideas. I like the way she talks. You know, just when you like, imprint on someone that you like immediately, like it's almost like they can't do anything wrong… like everything is just charming to you in that sense. And so I was just very charmed. 

It was like that for both of them. They just clicked! And not just because of the tote bags, but because for both of them… they were just in the same phase of life. And experiencing this phase in the same way.

Ann: That really was a kind of unsettled, kind of unhappy, kind of searching point of my life. I mean, we were in Washington, D.C., where our peers were pretty transient. You know, it's like the kind of place where a lot of people will go and work for a few years and then move on, us included. And I think, we realized when we went to retrace our steps to write this book that we each had a very close friend who at the time we met was, like, either in the process of moving or we knew they were just about out the door. And there was that feeling of unrootedness. Is that even a word? We were not rooted! And we were really trying to figure out what the next phase of our adult life was going to be like. 

And so I think that it really was profound to meet someone who I connected with so deeply because it really felt like... I don't know, it felt like... almost like immediately being rooted to someone as opposed to being rooted to a place, which I had not felt in the, you know, almost two years I'd lived in D.C. at that point. 

That’s the beginning of their friendship, which really quickly formed into a Big Friendship — a term they coined to describe foundational friendships, the kind where you become synonymous with one another, where you’re known as a pair or a trio, where you’re each other’s emergency contact.

Actually, let me just read you their definition right from the book:

“Big Friendship is a bond of great strength, force and significance that transcends life phases, geography and emotional shifts. It is large in dimension, affecting most aspects of each person’s life. It is full of meaning and resonance. A Big Friendship is reciprocal, with both parties feeling worthy of each other and willing to give of themselves in generous ways. A Big Friendship is active. Hearty. And almost always, a Big Friendship is mature. Its advanced age commands respect and predicts its ability to last far into the future.”

It took just a few months for Ann and Aminatou to grow really attached to one other. They had keys to each other’s apartments! They make each other dinner after work. They’re the person they tell their secrets to and open up to. When friends got married, they attended weddings together and gave gifts jointly. 

Over the next three years, their friendship grew and became long distance. For years, one or both of them is moving every year, criss-crossing the country as they change jobs and careers. They keep up through the internet — like we all do — and through phone calls. 

Around 2014, their mutual friend Gina Delva suggests that Ann and Aminatou make a podcast where they call one another up and catch each other up on the headlines and the things going on in their lives.

They call it “Call Your Girlfriend” — named after the Robyn song — and the project means that they’re regularly in touch. I was an early listener, and even though I couldn’t even imagine a world where I’d ever meet the two of them, it felt like listening in on a conversation between two really smart friends who adored each other. Because that’s what it was!

Aminatou: We made our podcast for a year completely unmonetized. I personally, like, didn't even think that that's something that would ever happen. I don't remember us ever having a conversation about like, oh, one day people will want to buy ads on this. We were just making it because we wanted to learn about audio. And I wonder what it would be like if, you know, Ann or Gina had come to me and they were like, oh, let's start a business together. I would probably not have been psyched about that. I don't like paperwork. I don't like business. So, you know, I'm like, that's an entirely different proposition. But, you know, what happened to us was like, hi, this thing that we've been making for a long time, people are finally paying attention to. We are also really happy to do it and, you know, like, to get paid from it, and how can we do that in a way that's sustainable? 

“Call Your Girlfriend” did become a business with a weekly show, merch and tours. Outside of the show, each of them also pursued their own projects, but they were also just known for being friends. And somewhere within the past 10 years, while they were being known more publicly for their friendship the two of them handled this really differently.

Ann keeps her social media locked down but loves to meet and greet after shows. Aminatou has tons of Instagram followers but feels drained in a crowded lobby. Their brand was tied to their friendship, which is weird. But what was weirder was that they didn’t TALK about that. They’d been each other’s sounding boards for everything… but this? The adjustment of starting a business or gaining some semi-public status? That they just kept to themselves. 

When you don’t communicate, it’s very very easy to miscommunicate. And it’s even easier to do this because with technology, we get the feeling that we’re connecting with friends when really, we’re just watching whatever performance they’re choosing to show.

Ann: It felt like it happened slowly, and then we kind of looked around and we're like, wait, what's going on here? You know what I mean? It didn't feel like there was this clear before and after moment. I definitely can tell you that we experienced the fact that we are semi-public figures very differently for a lot of different reasons. And I also think, like for myself, I have, like, felt very differently about it depending on what else is going on in my life. You know? Like sometimes I've been... I've been grateful for it, where I'm like, oh, I can talk about it cause I really care about, or I can talk about a work that a friend is doing and people are listening, even though it's not actually my work. Like, sometimes it feels like just the best, most profound privilege. And then other times it feels… it feels very weird that strangers have any kind of narrative at all about who I am and about our friendship in particular. Like we might share the occasional detail about it, but not in the… at the emotional level of, like, how are we each processing this weird thing?

They both felt the distance and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. I mean, they talked every week for the podcast. They were still close, right? But then someone at a party asked Amintaou how Ann was doing, and she didn’t REALLY know. And Ann went to buy Aminatou a birthday gift and didn’t know what to get her. So in real life, a chasm was opening between them. On the internet and podcast, they were Best Friends Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman.

Aminatou: What I was saying was that what was really strange from inside of the friendship was that we could show up and work together really, really well, you know? And like.. for any grievance that I had, like, a grievance was never like, “Oh, Ann's dropping the ball on the podcast or she's not prepared or she's not…” you know, like no. I was like, no, like this lady is on top of her game, and it is a delight to be here. What was really strange was the disconnect between that and just the minute that the microphone went off, we had nothing else to talk about except for the things that we talked about on the show or like, you know, superficial, like work things. 

And I just found myself at least just, like, sharing less and less about my life, you know? Just like less and less, like, “Oh yeah, here's what I ate today,” or “Here's what I did today.” Like the very mundane stuff. Like we're not talking like big secrets, here. We're literally like, you know, we used to be people who would, like, take a picture of the, like, bowl — the, like, rice bowl that we made every day. And all of a sudden I was like, “Oh, why am I not doing that anymore? Why am I not telling Ann about this, you know, like how my weekend was? Why am I not telling her about this trip that I'm going on?” Or, you know? It becomes more about those kinds of absences.

And we've said this like ad nauseum, but I think for me at least, it would've been really helpful if there had been like one really, you know, like obviously bad behavior to point to and just say, like, “Oh, yeah, this thing is egregiously bad and this is why it feels unpleasant.” Instead, it was a series of, like, just disclosing yourself less and less and feeling and feeling perhaps the other person was doing the same thing.

Ann: And I think for me, that period was also marked by some, like, maybe some passive false hope that, like, if we continued to show up to do the work on the podcast, then it would somehow magically transition into us having the robust friendship that we had had before — like… like that would be the door and… and rather than the distraction or the thing that allowed, like, me to continue to lie to myself and say that things were OK. Like it really was, you know, like the work itself was not a threat or a source of strife. But like, I think I used it as a way of continuing to duck what like I could very much feel was happening between us. 

Aminatou: Very Midwestern. 

Nora: I was about to say, it's almost like you're from Iowa.

Ann: Using work to avoid conflict? Really like what?

Nora: Never heard of it! 

Aminatou: Hope springs eternal. 

We are going to take a quick break.

We’re back. And Ann and Amintaou are experiencing a sense of distance in a relationship that has always been emotionally very close. And they still work together. They still share an LLC and an EIN number.

They’ve joked that their friendship was too big to fail — a joke based on the banking system that collapsed in 2008 — and just like those banks, maybe they’re heading for a crash of their own. 

It sounds dramatic. Friendships are represented with a kind of expectation that they’re a respite, a soft place to land, a refuge… and they are. But they’re also a RELATIONSHIP, and every relationship includes conflict. But it doesn’t feel like it should. The fact that this is one of A VERY FEW BOOKS about friendship should tell you that. The internet is riddling with essays about the pain of failed friendships and very few resources about what to do to heal a friendship. So it’s all just… 

Aminatou: Awful. It's so lonely. It is so painfully lonely to think that you are in an intimate relationship with someone — like anyone, like whether you're dating them or it's your parent or it's your friend — and then feel like you are actually not talking to them or that you don't know what's going on with them. 

Nora: Tell me about um... the stories each of you were telling yourself about this situation internally but not saying to the other.

Aminatou: I mean, I think a couple of things for me. One was that I had just done something really fundamentally wrong because I'm just a bad person and uh… and Ann is avoidant and she just doesn't know how to tell me about it? You know? Like I was like, “Oh, yeah, like, I'm a shitty person. And she just doesn't know how to tell me about it. So she’s… this is the slow fade out.” And mostly I just felt gaslit. You know? It was like at first it was like, “Oh yeah, I'm bad. And so I'm being gaslit.” And then I was like, “I’m mad and I'm being gaslit,” you know? And thinking about it now, it's so silly because, you know, like you say, Ann, like, the real tension diffuser is just saying like, “Oh, what's going on here?”

Ann: Yeah, and my story was that I had fucked up, but it was something that I should have known what I did, and that's why Amina wasn't saying it to me directly, because it's like one of those things where, like, you've done something that you should know is wrong. Right? It's like if you can't see this yourself, like, wow, like you are so far beyond help. And the fact that I couldn't figure out, like, what was the big thing I had done also led me to be like, “Oh, I'm a bad friend. Like, really what this is, is like the... the stories I've told myself about what kind of friend I am are a total lie. Clearly, I can't figure out what I did. And that means I'm even worse a friend and, I am just gonna kind of, like, back off because I am hurting this person when I… when I think I am, like, being a good friend.” Like that is really, I think, what the dominant narrative was for me during this time. 

As bad as the friendship felt, owning a business together does add an additional layer of connection to their relationship. They’re BUSINESS married.

Ann: At this point, we were selling ads, which meant that we were in, like, contracts that were that lasted the length of the year. And so we were committed to doing the work for the foreseeable several months, you know, at the point where things were really difficult. It wasn't really a looming option, like, do we want to end this or keep going? It was like… we are contractually obligated to keep going. And so I think that's another reason why it wasn't at the forefront — like, at least for me, it didn't feel like we were at a decision point with the podcast. But it's also worth saying, to the point about how we each construct our finances, is that at various points, the three of us have relied on podcast income in different ways, at different points. And I think that there's also this sense that like, OK, even if we were to go nuclear and, like, break this contract, that would harm some of us more financially than others. And so that's not a decision that one of us could just take and walk away, because you're really screwing up the financial planning of, like, two people who, you know, despite personal problems, you really, really care about. And so I just think that's important context in terms of being, like, business married, you know, because everyone is like, “Oh, yeah. The point about being married is it just makes it harder to break up or whatever.” But like being business married is the same! You know, you kind of just… we kind of just had to sit tight.

There are some acknowledgements of this growing space between them. There are emails and texts about missing each other, how they should catch up as friends. But nothing really materializes, so the distance grows. So what do they do? They do what so many married couples have also done: They decide to spend a weekend away together.

Ann: We at this point thought maybe we could just go to a relaxing and beautiful setting and spend the whole weekend just magically talking freely about things we hadn't been able to talk freely about before, and that we would return from this, like, 48-hour, 36-hour, whatever, period fully reconnected with a healthy friendship.

The two of them go to a spa in northern California. A fancy spa. The kind where you each get, like, a fancy bathrobe. Like… there’s two to the room. It’s not just one that you have to share. You’re each getting a good bathrobe. There are complimentary mud baths. Where there’s a menu of ways to relax that’s just presented to you. It’s a weekend away,  just the two of them. And that is obviously what they need to reconnect and heal whatever has come between them.

Ann: Shocking to tell you as I outlined that, that it did not work out that way. That you can't just, like, flip a switch and suddenly, you know, get vulnerable with someone who you have felt estranged from. You just… it just doesn't work like that.

Nora: Millions of married couples would tell you the same thing. Millions of estranged husbands are like, wait, what? 

Aminatou: Yeah, I mean, that is... it did not feel good. It did not feel good. And also, you know, if anything, it felt, like, a little claustrophobic to go from, like, feeling estranged and then next thing you know, “Oh. Gotta share a room with this person. What?” And like, we have to, like, pick a movie together? We have to talk… just, like, things that you were so completely out of practice doing. And the smallest things felt like so much, so much, so much work. You know, going into, like, the spa together and getting mud baths and that the experience of the mud bath itself is claustrophobic. And it's such an apt, you know, like, metaphor for what was going on. But it's... it's a lot. It was a lot. 

This is how a lot of relationships break down: very slowly, with assumptions and resentments and unspoken issues just building a wall between you. There wasn’t one big thing that happened. And even if one big thing happens, is it ever about just the ONE thing? No no no. It’s always about the accumulation of things… all the things you didn’t say, or said wrong, or misinterpreted. It’s not the one straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s the many, many, many other straws it takes to make the weight to snap the vertebrae of a large mammal. 

The straws are building when the two of them sit down to sift through their email inbox.

Aminatou: It was actually not a conversation about our, you know, like…. how we were doing together. It was like, “Oh, do you want to work on this other thing together?” And the answer was a clear, resounding no. 

As they went through the inbox, there were more and more nos. More things they didn’t want to do. At least not together. So… what do they want to do? Should they break up? Friends break up all the time. Ann and Aminatou had broken up with friends before. 

Aminatou: And we get a lot of mail like this at “Call Your Girlfriend,” people who just write about unresolved, you know, like one-sided friend breakups that they have had. And it is clearly a very devastating kind of experience and a very universal kind of experience. And I really wish that it was not, you know, cloaked in as much a shame as it was, because I, too, am very curious about, you know, about how that works and getting closure from my own friend breakups. 

Ann: I think that, like step one, though, is both parties actually wanting to remain in the friendship. There's no way you're gonna be able to fix a friendship with someone who has just decided that they've outgrown it, or they want to move on, or this is not something they have the capacity for right now. 

Neither of them wants to end the friendship, but it also feels impossible for the friendship to continue limping along as it is. But the business is doing well! And the business is tied to their friendship, which is actually what opens the path ahead for them.

Ann: And so then we had a phone call scheduled to basically be like, what do we want to do about this pile up of requests? 

Aminatou: And the answer was: We want to go to therapy, because it does not feel good to envision working on anything… like, anything extra together. 

Did you hear that? They’re going to therapy. Together. Time for a break.

We’re back. And Ann and Aminatou are going to therapy. As friends, but also as business partners. Because even if there aren’t a lot of resources on how to help a friendship, the idea of founders and business partners going to couples therapy together has been reported on for years. And it’s not exactly common, but it’s common in a Silicon Valley kind of way. It’s common in a start-up kind of way. So even though Ann and Aminatou’s problems are not BUSINESS problems necessarily, being colleagues at least helps push them past the weirdness of going to therapy with a friend. And Ann is the one who suggests it — a Midwesterner who had never been to therapy herself! So Aminatou knows that if ANN is suggesting this, it must be serious. So, they go.

First, they search for a therapist who is a person of color, who has feminist leanings, who understands that this is a plantonic relationship, not just a business partnership, and someone who is willing to work with them remotely. When they finally find the right therapist, it’s one who practices Emotionally Focused Therapy. This is a short-term approach with a limited number of sessions, which sounds good. The therapist suggests that Aminatou come out to L.A. for the first few sessions.

So she does. And Ann and Aminatou drive to the sessions together. They make sure the other person has eaten. That they each have water bottles. They sit awkwardly side by side and dig into how they’re hurting each other and what they’re not telling each other.

And it sucks. 

Ann: And you know, the therapist we interviewed for the book, similarly, were like, “You know, we talk about friendship all the time with our clients. Like, they come to us being like, ‘Why are things hard for me in my friendships?’ Or trying to process a friend breakup.” And they were like, “It's very, very rare slash has never happened to us that a pair of friends have reached out about trying to fix the friendship.” And I think that is something that we are really trying to normalize. And maybe if that were seen as an option, like actually it's OK for you to want to fight for a friendship that doesn't feel 100 percent awesome right now. Then there will be more avenues to actually then take the next step and... and commit to fixing it. 

Nora: I love that, because I even think that there's you know, we kind of think of, like, friends as this like constantly renewable resource. Right? Like, well, I’ll just make a new friend. As you get older, you realize no, not going to happen. Very possible in second grade. Less possible when you're in fourth, even. Nearly impossible. You know, fourth grade things are really cemented. I went to a small Catholic school. I had to really fight my way into this trio that I'm still friends with. But what does it mean to fight for a friendship? Like what did that mean for the two of you?

Aminatou: You know, it's like... even that phrase, like, fight for your friendship, it sounds so combative. And in some ways it really is. It's like, yes, like you... you gotta do some, like, humiliating, above the board, you know, like... just, like, be in this friendship and the way that you would fight for other relationships. But, a thing that, like, I kept thinking about over and over again when it was really hard in our friendship was, what if instead of the same pattern that I have when all of my friendships fall apart — which is always the same, it's like, oh yeah, like something doesn't go well on your side, something doesn't go well on their side, and either both of you stop reaching out, or it feels a little grosser than that and one of you just is like, I would like to disengage. But I was really thinking I was like, if instead of doing those two things, I just really tried to understand what was going on with Ann — because part of the closure is just not understanding. Part of not having closure is not understanding what is going on. 

And so I will say that when we went into therapy, I didn't agree to go into therapy because I thought that therapy would fix our friendship. In fact, I was like, ummm… this is… this is… this is, like, you know, third rail of the subway. This is bad. This is the thing that is going to just shock the entire system. But it is worth it to me to understand what happened here. You know, in romantic relationships, we have breakup rituals, like they're not… no one feels great after a breakup. Impossible. Like, no one will feel good. So I'm not saying that it's a feel-good activity. But I do think that there are ways to talk to each other where you really understand, like what is working and not working. And over time, maybe you can come to accept that or you can come to accept that that person did not want to be with you anymore, you know, and see how that works. But in friendship, like, we are not afforded the same privileges. And so part of the pain is it's truly that.

So I think that when we say, like, to fight for your friendship, like what we... one thing that to me that means is just trying to complicate, a little bit, the narrative, the common narrative that you have around how your relationships break down. And also, you know, at the same time, if we say that friendship is an important relationship in our lives — like if you are, you know, like you're proud of your friends and you are you say that you want to be in their lives forever — then that is also going to mean pushing past, like, every single time there is a difficulty, you know? It's accepting that, like, friendship is hard, and it's complicated, and you are going to give it the seriousness and the carefulness and the thoughtfulness that you want out of relationships that you want to have forever. 

Ann: Yeah, and I feel like the calculus, for me, in terms of like, why was I able or willing to do the difficult work of fixing our friendship is like it's definitely about figuring out some of my own patterns. And I think… but I think another part of it was like I really had played out so many times the... the scenario of our friendship ends and what happens next? And really thinking about how painful the breakup process would be is something that made it really, like, a lot easier for me to, you know, want to try something like therapy, because I was like, well, this is gonna be really hard and the other path is really, really hard. And if they're both hard, why wouldn't I choose the one that carries at least some promise that, like, we can fix this friendship. And so, you know, I mean, I think similarly, I went into the therapy process being like, I just want to understand better, like, what's going on here. But some of it was like oh, we can go through this together and both be sort of miserable in the short term. Or we can go through this separately and be miserable for maybe longer. Like, who knows? Who knows. 

As therapy progresses, they start to identify the cracks in their relationship. The cycles they’re both caught in. There probably isn’t a single relationship in your life that doesn’t benefit from your own self-work. From the awareness that comes from looking at your life, at your relationships, your patterns...

Ann: I mean, there were so many big and small revelations of this process, like, I mean realizing, “Oh, I need to ask for space to reflect on things, because I know I'm not going to really have insights into what I'm feeling about this until some time has passed.” And not just, like, some time in terms of hours and days, but some time where I can actually be reflective. Not like super, super busy, distracted time. And I think that realizing not only that that is something about me that I need to know for my other relationships, but understanding the way that that affected the dynamic between the two of us and then realizing, like, “Oh, that's perceived as avoidance or, like, ignoring something,” when in fact, it's really like, “I'm not actually able to have this conversation yet.”

Most friends are NOT going to go to therapy together… but the Big Friendships in your life will involve work. They will involve recognizing your patterns, and their patterns, re-learning and growing alongside each other, the way your relationships with your partner, or your parents, or your siblings have grown and evolved. 

Nora: Tell me what Stretch is and when you know that it's worth it. 

Ann: Stretching is the metaphor that we use to talk about the way that both people in a friendship account for challenges and differences. And so some of that can mean, like, the circumstances of the friendship change. One of you moves away. One of you gets a super-demanding job. One of you gets into a romantic relationship. One of you becomes a parent. You know, there's a long list of things that can really affect how you as an individual spend your time and organize your life. And those big changes are, by necessity, also going to affect the friendship and are really probably going to require both people in it to make some changes in order to continue to remain a robust daily part of each other's lives.

So that's one aspect, kind of dealing with change. But then another aspect of it is dealing with the kind of emotional and personal differences that we just talked about discovering in therapy. And so being able to account for the ways that we handle conflict differently, or the ways that we handle, you know, different kinds of big group etiquette situations differently, or accounting for, you know, all of these things that just make us who we are and make us very different. And I think we like stretching as a metaphor because it does not ignore the fact that effort is required. You know, you really kind of have to consciously move in the direction of the friendship, and also that it can get easier over time. Like, if... if you... if you continue to stretch, you are… you are limber in a certain way for a friendship. And then when a new challenge comes along, you might have to, you know, develop a new muscle group or whatever, in this extended metaphor.

Therapy is a form of stretch and, again, not one that most people are going to have the time and the resources to do with their Big Friendships. But stretch is also calling when you’d rather text, or texting when you’d rather call, or taking on more of the work of friendship during a season when the other person is overwhelmed or struggling. Stretch is something we don’t even think about when it comes to our romantic relationships — we readily accept that those relationships are about give and take. Sometimes you're the Jordan. Sometimes you’re the Pippen. Sometimes you’re the pursuer, sometimes you’re pursued. Sometimes things are chugging along on their own, and sometimes they need a tune-up. I need more examples here. 

But the point is, that’s been normalized for us in a way that it has not been for friendships. And for a lot of us, our friendships are going to last longer than our romantic relationships. My friendships with Erin and Cara have DECADES on my marriage. Matthew cannot catch up if he tries. So why wouldn’t these relationships also take time and effort? And why wouldn’t we want to do the work to make them last? 

Aminatou: In the definition of Big Friendship, we really try to underscore how rooted into the future a Big Friendship is, right? It's not just, “Did it feel good yesterday? Does it feel good right now?” It's really like, how great do you want it to be, like... in 10 years and in 20 years? And, you know, if that's the case, then you can't be resting on, you know, like your… just, like, former glory days. I say this as I… you know, I think so much about, like, the people who are always talking about, like, high school prom or like, you know, that one thing… you know that, like, one amazing thing that they had happen in college or whatever. Sure, like, all of those things are great. But, you know, like… you just know that feeling when you are connecting with a friend, if you find yourself only talking about the past, like, everyone knows and their gut like what that feels like. And so I am like, really, really, really excited about, like, the future possibility of this friendship that Ann and I have, but also of so much about, like, talking to other people who feel this way about their friendship.

So when we say, like, show up, you show up today for like the rewards down the road, you know? And it's so, so, so, so, so vitally important. Like, we don't say it because, you know, relationships are transactional. It's like a bank where you put in a deposit or you take it out. But the point is that, like, over a lifetime, the relationship has to feel good and nurturing for both people. And the only way to do that is to, like, both give and take and to do that very, very, very intentionally. 

You know, like you had said earlier, that, you know, there is no, like, set it and forget it to friendship or, like, you figure it out in second grade or fourth grade and then that's… that's how it's gonna work out. You know, you are only as good as, you know, like the amount of showing up that you are currently doing for your friends. And I think that, you know, it'll sound really cliche, but that like, one way to really show up in a real way in friendship right now, especially during coronavirus where we cannot see people, is really through, like, communication and over-communication. I was so struck by, like, when we were writing this book, by the fact that over and over Ann and I had, like, really indicated to each other that we wanted to be friends for a long time. But it was not until we wrote the book that we fully articulated that to each other. It was like, “Hi, you, I would like to know you. And like, I would like to know you until the day I die, like, is that possible? How do we do that together?”

At the beginning of this episode, I asked you to think about your friends. Think about the friendships that ended, the stories you told yourself about what happened, and what each of you did or didn’t do. To think about your current friends and how you’re showing up for each other… or not. What do you need to recognize in the other person to keep your relationship healthy and growing? Who are your Big Friendships? Who are the people you want to know until you die… and how are you going to show up for each other until that day? 

This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I’m Nora McInerny.

Our editor is Phyllis Fletcher. Holy wow, she helped on this one. First draft of this was terrible. It was… terrible, thanks for asking. The first draft of this episode was so bad. I did such a bad job writing it, and Phyllis was like, “Hm. Here are some gentle suggestions: Start over.” But she did it in a nicer way. She’s really wonderful.

Marcel Malekebu, our producer, truly, like, just so talented. So talented. Why am I whispering about it?

Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, you know, I’m not entirely sure about her specific title, but she’s obviously, she’s obviously a uh… a producer — of what level, I could not tell you. But she does produce! She’s here producing, I will tell you that much.

Hannah Meacock Ross, our project manager, really just another name for “producer.”

Jordan Turgeon, our digital producer.

Who else am I… Geoffrey Lamar Wilson, who made our theme music. 

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