Friendship is one of the hallmarks of the human experience. Much like romantic relationships, platonic bonds can be sources of encouragement, comfort and affirmation. At the same time, friendships can sometimes cause frustration or pain, especially when expectations are misaligned or skewed.
Anyone who studies human psychology or desires a career in social work would do well to understand how friendships can function. Psychologists and social workers have developed a number of different taxonomies to categorize friendships by type. One of the most common defines three types of friendships: confidants, constituents and comrades.
Knowing about the three types of friends can be valuable for fostering meaningful social connections, but it can also provide a foundation for further studies in social work, such as in an online degree program.
What Are the Three Types of Friends?
What distinguishes confidants, constituents and comrades? Consider this basic breakdown of the three types of friends.
Confidants are the most precious of friends. Many of us only have two or three of them over the course of a lifetime. These friendships are marked by their intimacy and level of shared trust, and often remain part of our lives for a long time.
- Confidants may be described as friends who are there for you regardless of the situation. They love you unconditionally. They will be a constant in your life and do not leave when difficulties arise.
- You can be yourself and do not have to put on a “show” to impress them. With these friends, you can feel comfortable being your authentic self.
- Confidants allow you to confide in them and support your dreams, and they are deeply connected to you. These friends will not judge you and will be honest with you, knowing that your friendship can survive the occasional hurt feelings or disappointments.
Constituents are not necessarily loyal to you personally, but they do share allegiance with your mission or cause. If they meet someone who can further their own cause or goals better than you can, they will leave you.
Many confuse a constituent for a confidant and are perplexed when the friendship ends because you seemed to have so much in common. However, constituents will only maintain a friendship when you are able to meet their needs and will abandon you if your interests change from what they were initially drawn to.
With that said, constituents can provide real solidarity and can support you so long as you are united by a similar passion. In addition, constituents can be valuable problem-solving partners, if only for a season.
Comrades are individuals who are not for you or your cause but are against what you are against. They will be with you as long as you are both fighting a common enemy. Comrades are like scaffolding placed temporarily on a structure to stabilize it for work and construction.
Comrades will leave you once the joint enemy has been defeated. However, they can be valuable in helping you to avoid unseen obstacles or to overcome shared problems.
The Nature of Friendship
It is important to have friends, and valuable to have all three types of friendships. However, it is just as important to be aware of the nature of each friendship in your life. Miscategorizing friends or assuming someone is a confidant when they are really just a constituent can lead to heartbreak and pain.
When you maintain friendships with clarity and boundaries, it can improve your life in a number of ways. In fact, medical professionals and researchers have recognized the ways in which friendships can improve mental health. Some mental health benefits of friendship are:
- An increased sense of purpose and belonging
- Stress reduction
- Mood elevation
- Enhanced self-confidence and self-worth
- Encouragement to avoid unhealthy decisions
Explore Human Relationships and Interaction
Whether for professional or professional reasons, studying human relationships can be endlessly fascinating. A good way to look deeper into the nature of friendships is by pursuing an online Bachelor of Social Work from Spring Arbor University. SAU’s BSW is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and offers an inclusive, Christ-centered social work education. Find out more about the robust curriculum and ample professional opportunities associated with this all-virtual program.
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