The Benefit of Temporary Friendships

Okay, so, people on this site either love me, or hate me. There are very few people indifferent to my overall existence, at least as far as I can tell. I know for a FACT this article is going to upset people and either further support the idea I am a bad person, or potentially change people’s minds about me being a decent person. I don’t care much either way, because, as you know, I value honesty above all else, and I think most people have had what I call “temporary friendships” for beneficial reasons.

You can't be controlled by relationships if you accept they may end.
You can't be controlled by relationships if you accept they may end.

What is a temporary friendship? Well, simply put, it’s a friendship of convenience which ends the second the convenience element does. Many of us have had unknowing temporary friendships we never would have partaken in if the set circumstance wasn’t what it was.

An easy example to look upon is a friend you make in a class where you have no other good friends, or no friends good at the particular subject. Let’s just say the subject matter here is Spanish. You’re not good it at all yet, but you meet someone who is already knowledgeable on the subject. They aren’t a bad person, and they seem interested in having a friendship with you. You need help with Spanish, and the person is decent enough, so you two become casual friends. You study together, this person helps you improve your Spanish, and you offer them kinship in return in the form of advice, outings, conversation, etc. Both parties are benefiting from the relationship, but there are key elements it is lacking in comparison to a long-lasting friendship.

1) Chances are, you are “school” or “work” friends. You don’t interact much outside of the subject area where your relationship was based upon, removing the deeply personal element which comes with long lasting relationships.

2) You have separate friendships and relationships which this person has no connection to. Often, this person is completely separated from all other aspects of your life except the small space you have allotted for them, which is almost always limited to the circumstance in which your friendship began.

3) If the subject which started your friendship ceased to exist, so would the friendship.

Let us expand more on the last point. Let’s say you finish the hypothetical Spanish class with good-to-high grades and can now comfortably speak the language. Suddenly, you find you and this temporary friend of yours hang out less and less, and, admittedly, it doesn’t bother you much. When you start thinking about it, you realize this temporary friend certainly wasn’t a bad person, but maybe they weren’t as much of your cup of tea as you originally thought. You realized they had annoying quirks, or perhaps were too clingy, or overall just had a personality that clashed with yours any time you spoke about subjects other than Spanish or daily conversation. You drift apart, slowly but surely falling out of each other’s minds, until you are simply no longer friends.

Friendships don't have to last in order to be valuable learning experiences.
Friendships don't have to last in order to be valuable learning experiences.

Of course, this sounds absolutely cruel, right? Temporary relationships of convenience are unfair, you essentially just used the fluent Spanish speaker, poor them! But, did you strictly “use” them? And, could you even call it “using them?” I don’t personally think so.

Using someone, to me, is often forceful and unavoidable, like a financially abusive relationship between an elderly mother and her drug-addicted son. Someone agreeing to help you in return for your friendship is not comparable, as both parties are knowingly exchanging mutual benefit. No friendship has the guarantee of longevity, and often people partaking in temporary friendships have any idea the friendship may not last.

The Spanish speaker didn’t leave the scenario without fruit; they had a friend. Yes, they helped this friend with Spanish, but this friend also gave something to them. Perhaps it was needed companionship in a class where they too had no common friends, or someone who could help them in an unfamiliar subject in return. Maybe, it was simply just great to have someone with a car who could help them get to work.

All relationships are equal parts give and take, unless you’re the son of a bitch.

It’s possible this person knew the friendship would be temporary and simply didn’t want to spend their time in class alone. But, the sad reality is they may have expected things to go further, this is why this concept is often labeled as so cruel. It’s easy to say you’re just using people and throwing them away, but as I’ve explained, no mutual friendship with equal give and take can really be labeled as one being using the other.

The only way you can really cross into this territory is if you manipulate an individual into only benefiting yourself while they suffer greater loss than gain. Say, you guilt them into giving you the answers to a test you didn’t study for with harsh language and threats, negatively impacting their self esteem. Casual relationships based on convenience rarely, if ever, cross over into this territory … again, unless you’re the son of a bitch.

This doesn’t mean all temporary friendships have good or bad endings, most of them don’t have much of a conclusive ending at all. You are simply friends one day, and the next day, you only text a few times a week before falling off the radar. It isn’t all blood, guts, loss, and pain the same way it isn’t all happiness, rainbows and growing old together. There’s an old saying, I disregarded it due to its religious connotation, but it has some truth to it. Forgive me, I’m paraphrasing it:



“God doesn’t always send you the people you want, but the people you need. People who teach you about love, loss, pain, to trust and to not, every person you meet has a lesson to give you.”

I’m not a believer in fate, but poetic coincidence, and I do believe people sometimes come into our lives in a moment when we need them. It doesn’t mean you should actively seek people out for the sake of learning things from them, but accept sometimes it isn’t always wrong to have these types of friendships as long as you both get something out of it. It’s okay to accept not all friendships will last forever, as most, if not all of our friendships are build based on the concept of convenience.

Most of us are friends with kids from our grades, neighborhoods, or friends with the friends of a mutual friend, etc. Friendships, especially of the school or work variety, almost always end the moment that chapter in your life does. Not all of them, but a good chunk of them, generally.


Now, before I end this, I know someone is going to ask:

“Jane, if you’re so honest, why not tell a person they are a temporary friend upfront?”

Well, it doesn’t really work out, is why. I believe in honesty, but I also believe in being tactful. Honesty has to have a purpose, a benefit, a lesson to be learned. This is one of those few situations where I see honesty playing no positive roll for anyone. The person in question gets hurt, and the person admitting this does too. No one wins. As well, most people don’t realize they’re in a temporary friendship with someone. I didn’t during my college years until it was much later.

Yes, I had temporary friendships with two people in college. We all were good at our respective subjects and we were all decent people, so we all worked together and helped each other. However, when you took away school, we couldn’t get along completely. I always fought with one who was over-emotional, who in turn found me to be insensitive, while the other was extremely aloof and indifferent. It was no surprise to any of us we were no longer friends after graduation.

Why am I writing this? Well, because it’s back-to-school season, and I know many kids and young adults will be off to their respective schools and will likely be faced with these types of relationships.

My hope is by putting this idea out there, I abolish this very fairy tale idea of being friends forever with everyone. I think we set ourselves and others up far too much by placing unrealistic standards on reality without acknowledging the truth of the matter, which is people change. We outgrow each other. We no longer need one another, and it isn’t a bad or evil thing. If you expect every relationship to be permanent and wonderful you and many others are going to end up hurt or disappointed – maybe even labeled as a bad person.

I am here to tell you no one is less than, cruel, wrong, or anything in between strictly because friendships end. Of course, how they end may play a part in who you are as a person, but this is more of your actions against each other rather than the fact that your friendship didn’t last. What it comes down to is your choices in life, not the number of friendships you keep.

This is all I had to say, sorry it wasn’t as vulgar as my work usually is. If I don’t like or comment back to you, I apologize, I’m quite busy with work. I wrote most of this over the weekend and just found time to complete it. I hope you enjoyed it.

What matters is the person you are and the lessons you learn, not the number of people who call you
What matters is the person you are and the lessons you learn, not the number of people who call you "friend."

~ Love Jane.


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Most Helpful Guys

  • Well I do have a question for you. Or I guess an observation:
    You're description of a temporary friendship is not really like how I have experienced them. Usually it doesn't have much to do with gaining. It's just we are in the same place at the same time for a lot of time. So we hang out and become friends. Besides company we don't really benefit from each other-- or that isn't necessary-- and we don't often even exchange information. It's just once we're "in class" we hang out. Then we leave. And once we no longer are in the same place anymore. We never see each other again.. 🤷

    So it's a bit different than how you explained it. I would see that as more of a study partner than a friend. But it's still a good take I like it.

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  • Very true, as many people have yet to discover the hard way.

    Male friendships, in particular, are prone to be very situational, although they're also easy enough to pick up again, too.

    We make the effort with the people who genuinely matter, and the other friendships naturally slip away. One criticism of social media, that feels very valid to me, is that it prolongs those kinds of friendships unnecessarily, to the point where maintaining them becomes a source of stress.

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Most Helpful Girls

  • I'd prefer 1 or 2 real friends over a countless number of convenient friends

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  • I keep it pretty simple and don't have any friends. I am friendly towards others and have many acquaintances but I'm just too busy to be close to anyone.

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What Guys Said 18

  • I don’t call them friends. Study partner, co-worker, mentor, advisor. I’m just glad they don’t charge me and I try to make it “fair”, buy them lunches or give rides or something. I’m probably in the same camp as you, but just use different language to discuss it.

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  • I've always agreed with this sentiment, but it's still nice to hear it reaffirmed by someone else.

    I know it all too well, because I'm relocating to the opposite end of the U. S. next year to go to university. As it turns out, every friend I've made throughout the entirety of my life was a "temporary friend" lol.

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  • yeah so i told a girl im leaving the city in October, she wanted to be friends with me, so technically its a temporary friendship, but anyway it faltered cuz i asked if she liked me or not and since then we've both been giving each other some looks, i just there is hardly benefit because subconsciously i dont want to feel hurt when i leave her behind.

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  • Another good post , you write decent , non fluffy , non BS stuff , just my style , I am an ex British Army soldier , say no more. On the same subject , yes had temporary friendships at units I was attached to , but never kept in touch after I was posted back to my parent units. I have a small cadre of quality friends , and prefer to keep it that way. A lot of people do not like my bluntness and caustic humour.

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  • The thing I don't like people taking from this is that I intend for friends to be temporary from the start. Circumstances are all I rely on and I feel people take it the wrong way when I bring this sort of stuff up with them. (shrug)

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  • Interesting... temporary friendships... I never thought of this before but I guess I have had many of these!

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  • I agree with your characterization of people in these instances, but I've never considered them friends, only acquaintances.

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  • Is temporary sex in this category?

    I'm indifferent to your existence if that makes you feel better. 👍😂

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  • I'd say most friendships with me are temporary maybe because i expect too much from friends. Like I'm there for them when they need it but when I need them they're nowhere to be found.

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  • Those "Temporary Friendships" you described are called acquaintanceships.

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  • Most people confuse friends with acquaintances. Friends can last for a long time, maybe forever if you are lucky. Acquaintances come and go.

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  • Holdup when did "Temporary Friendships" become a thing?

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  • Damn this hit home

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  • Thank you, Jane

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  • Thank you...

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  • Interesting myTake.

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  • Great take!

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  • it's human. nothing wrong with it.

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What Girls Said 8

  • You've become a good person for me Jane.

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  • I didn't read all this, but I've had a few temporary friends.

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  • If they not your friend anymore then they either your enemy or just someone you know. Guess an ex-friend :)

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  • Once a friend, always a friend.

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  • Yeah, I get this.

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  • Thanks for this.

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  • Thanks. One thing to remember is you can’t make old friends.

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  • Drama queens and trouble makers!

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