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When I was younger, I thought of friendships bidirectionally ("we're friends"). However, not all friendships necessarily are bidirectional, or they might become unidirectional. Although I'm a native English speaker, I struggle to describe directional friendships properly.

I'm setting these arbitrary definitions in order to clarify my questions:

  • There are two people, A and B.
  • There is a strictly unidirectional friendship between A and B, where one and only one of A or B is friends with the other (never both at the same time).
  • Although it isn't an accurate description of friendship, I'll describe the concept of friendship as "liking", because I can properly understand "liking" as unidirectional.
  • If one of A or B doesn't "like" the other, then they "dislike" them.
  • Scenario 1: A likes B; B dislikes A.
  • Scenario 2: B likes A; A dislikes B.

Which of these statements fit "Scenario 1" and which fit "Scenario 2"?

  1. A says to B, "I'm your friend".
  2. A says, "B's my friend".
  3. A says to B, "I consider you my friend."
  4. A says, "I'm friends with B".

Special request: If you're not sure on the answer to one or more of those, please indicate that uncertainty along with each answer. Thanks!

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Friendship, like partnership and handshakes, is bidirectional. If it's one-sided, it might be a wish or infatuation etc, but it isn't friendship.

The key to deriving a unidirectional concept from it lies in your third example: one party may affirm the friendship while the other doesn't.

All 4 of your examples carry this idea: A considers or asserts the friendship, while B is silent about it. The examples express the opinion of A about the friendship, and there is certainly scope for opinions to differ.

A can consider/call/etc B a friend without B reciprocating. A can even maintain that opinion if B repudiates the friendship. That is, even if the (bidirectional) friendship doesn't exist, the (unidirectional) opinion can be alive and well.

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  • Could you explicitly mention whether each example is scenario 1 or 2? If none are scenario 2, then how would person A express scenario 2 in a similar manner to the examples?
    – user323854
    Jan 20, 2021 at 22:05
  • @calamari Neither - all 4 express only A’s part and are silent about B. If B happened to dislike A, that would fit scenario 1, but none of the 4 examples requires B to dislike A.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 21, 2021 at 0:29
  • Even with the definitions I set in my question? If A likes then B MUST dislike. If A dislikes then B MUST like. This is per the definition in my question. Given the definitions in my question, can you assign scenario 1 or 2 to each?
    – user323854
    Jan 21, 2021 at 8:38
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    @calamari The mutual exclusion you’ve set up denies the friendship. It then doesn’t matter what A says - there’s no friendship. “I’m your friend” and “you’re my friend” look like they speak about different sides. It’s possible to set up the context so it does that, particularly when both are asserted together, but on their own, it’s ambiguous. That then brings us back full circle: we only have A’s opinion of the friendship, not B’s.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 21, 2021 at 12:10
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    I haven’t asked you to accept this answer. I’m just trying to treat your counterpoint seriously. Far from being dismissive, I’m supporting the intuition of your younger days on this matter. But as you are no longer interested in the content of this answer, let’s just agree to disagree and move on.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 25, 2021 at 4:53
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I came across a couple passages in "Girls Kingdom, Volume 2", chapter "Side Story: Sumire and Mihaya" that have helped me to self-answer this. The story is written in first person, with the narrator ("I") being Sumire, and the other person ("you") being Mihaya. So, I'll call the narrator "person A", and the other "person B".

I told her, “You know, I really want to be your friend. Actually, no, I want you to be my friend.”

That passage expresses a desire for a particular friendship directionality between A and B, where person A apparently misspoke and then corrected themselves. Although Scenario 1 and 2 are strongly implied, we don't know for sure the POV of A yet (maybe they're a masochist or such). But, there is this that clarifies the friendship directionality:

“I have plenty of people I could describe as friends, but none I can really play with.” Sadly, all the girls my age were looking for what they could gain from my friendship. They were looking straight past me and only seeing my father standing behind me.

It's clear from the second passage that there is an undesirable (from A's point of view) directional friendship going on, which I'll translating into not being "liked". Therefore, A's correction in the first passage suggests that, from A's point of view, "I really want to be your friend", is the undesirable situation in the 2nd passage, where she is being used (not being "liked"), and the phrase "I want you to be my friend", is the desirable situation (being "liked").

Therefore, "I really want to be your friend" is Scenario 1, and "I want you to be my friend" is Scenario 2.

Based on that, I can deduce that the answers to statements 1-3 in my question are as follows:

  1. A says to B, "I'm your friend". Scenario 1
  2. A says, "B's my friend". Scenario 2
  3. A says to B, "I consider you my friend." Scenario 2

I'm still not sure on statement 4 ("I'm friends with B"). Perhaps that's a malformed scenario where the friendship is bi-directional?

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