Close friends are overrated

Do you ever look back on your youth and wonder what happened to all the friendships you spent so long nurturing? According to a survey by Relate, more than one in eight of us has no close friends. They suspect this to be due to the rise in social media usage and the decline in work-life balance. Nearly half of adults reported being lonely some of the time. But how much of this is due to social expectation rather than a genuine need for companionship? It might be an unpopular opinion, but I think close friends are overrated.

Close friends are overrated two little girls knocking their orange juice glasses together

A decreasing social circle

People who haven’t known me for very long (I include my husband in this despite being together for 11 years), may be surprised to know that there was a time during my adult life when I was incredibly sociable. I had a large group of girls I’d go out with most weekends.

Fairly normal, but the thing that shocks me looking back is that I was at the centre of the group. I knew all of them from various aspects of life. Different jobs I’d worked in, sports clubs, school or university. They only knew each other through me, but all got on well and we always had a great time together. Some of the best nights out any of us have ever had actually. But none of us would have described ourselves as close friends.

As is the natural course of things, we all went our separate ways. I’m still loosely in touch with some of them and see them occasionally. But our merry band of drinking buddies is no more.

Fast forward to this weekend. For various reasons, I’d had enough and was feeling a bit down in the dumps. And for the first time in ages, I found myself missing that group of girls. I didn’t need a shoulder to cry on, or a deep and meaningful discussion on life. What I needed was someone to phone at the last minute, who was up for a good night out. Drinking, dancing and generally forgetting about the important stuff.

Family are the new friends

They say you can’t choose your family, but that’s not necessarily true. As a parent, you bring up children according to your own values. There’s nothing quite like other people’s children to remind you of that. Being kind and polite are the main things I try to teach my children. And as a result, they’re becoming the sort of people I enjoy spending time with.

Half term week is a great example. Whilst school holidays are always a tough time when you’re self-employed, they can be fun too. I’m not going to get my night out socialising, but a day out with the girls is just as much fun. We’ll spend time outdoors, play at the park and enjoy each other’s company. When my husband goes away for a night, I’m planning on letting them stay up late. We’ll have a snacky tea on the sofa with popcorn, duvets and a film.

Close friends are overrated two little girls cuddling in their dressing gowns

Close friends are overrated

It probably goes without saying that I’d class myself as one of the one in eight people that Relate identified as having no close friends. That’s not to say I don’t have good friends. I have friends to swim with in the pool and the river. Friends to walk or run with. Friends I chat to on the school run or at the girls’ out of school classes. Friends I meet up with every few months over coffee or better still, cocktails. Friends who come to fun events or days out with me, with or without the children. And the friends living in my phone who I see once or twice a year, but chat to daily.

So what about close friends? Best friends, people to talk to about anything and everything, who drop everything to be there for you. The ones who your kids know as aunty, who offer to babysit and come to your rescue when things go wrong. The ones you see every week and chat to for hours on the phone.

I can count on one hand the number of those I’ve ever had. The ones who matter are still in my life although we’re no longer close. And I miss them being around. I miss their company, the fun we had and I miss them as individuals. But circumstances change. And these days, the friends I have are exactly the friends I need. In my opinion, close friends are overrated.

Close friends are overrated | According to Relate, more than one in eight of us don't consider ourselves to have any close friends. I ask whether close friends are overrated. #friends #friendship #mumlife #parenting #relationships

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  1. Great read Nat, I think it changes a lot when you have a baby as well, especially if your friends aren’t at the same stage as you, it’s hard to relate to them like you did before xxx

  2. This is an interesting subject. I’m rather like you in that I don’t have a best friend, or group of best friends (other than Mr A, who really is the person I would chose to spend my spare time with).

    I think social media is sort of responsible for the lack of best friends, because the traditional roles of a best friend are more dispersed. In the olden days before the interweb the people you worked with/ saw in the pub/ knew through the kids were the only people available to be your friends, so obviously the roles of confidant and drinking/shopping/days out buddy were assigned to the same person /group of people.
    But the interweb gives you access to a much wider group of people than you could ever hope to meet in real life, so confidants dont have to be real life people. The people I turn to when i’m having a bad day, when I want to gossip or have laugh with are the people in my phone. A couple are people I see socially, but most are people ive met once or twice or not at all.

    1. Yes I think you’re right, it has a really big impact. And there is a trend towards saying that the contact you have on social media isn’t as good as face to face or by phone. But I do wonder whether some of the people who only really speak to people on social media would just never have spoken to anyone at all before social media existed. Or like you say, maybe roles have just changed. It’s an interesting topic and I do wonder how things will develop in the future.

  3. What an interesting and thought provoking read. I’m definitely one of the one in eight too! It actually surprises me that it’s as low as one in eight. Who are all these lucky people that have close friends?! I do envy people who have close friends but, in reality, I’m not sure I have enough time for friendship. I don’t even have the sorts of friends that you describe to go running or walking with. From one week to the next there’s only one person I speak to who isn’t related to me and that’s a mum at ballet! That time talking to her is really important to me.

    1. That’s really interesting Sarah, I’m quite surprised it’s only one in eight too. The survey was a couple of years ago actually so maybe it has changed since then? I envy it sometimes too but as a general rule I’m pretty happy with the way things are. I’m glad you have someone to speak to each week, I value the time I spend with my friends too. It somehow means more as you get older and there are less friends around.

  4. I think you are right but I do feel a bit sad sometimes when I have something exciting to tell some one or when I’m sad and I feel like I have no one to tell. I think people who have life long best friends are probably lucky but I think it is time, like you, to accept things as clinging to the past is no good either

    1. Ahh you’re so right, I hate that feeling of wanting to tell someone something and having nobody to tell. And yeah, I think it’s really lucky to have a lifelong best friend, or a best friend at any point really.

  5. You won’t be surprised to find that I disagree with you! For me, close friends provide something entirely different to family and I actually couldn’t be without them. I wouldn’t say I have a best friend but I have half a dozen really close friends who don’t all know each other but I absolutely know (and they have done) would drop everything for me when I’m in need. I totally get what you’re saying about every now and again needing to escape and just go out drinking/dancing/laughing. I think we all need a form of that, don’t we? I have to say that I don’t get that from my kids! xx

    1. I think you are very lucky to have them Suzanne. I definitely don’t get the same thing from the children socially, but I think you adapt to enjoy what you do have and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have a friend in my life like the ones you describe, but that’s really not a problem because I’m happy with the way things are 🙂

  6. Love this and definitely relate. I have all the friendship (and more!) I could want with my husband and since I met him I don’t feel I have close friends any more. And I honestly don’t mind. I would choose 9/10 times to spend time with my family over friends.

    1. I totally agree Karen, I would usually choose to spend time with family too. We have so much going on in modern life that there’s not time to do everything is there?

  7. This is really interesting. I don’t have what I would class as a best friend either. I used to be like you and socialise a lot but not anymore – it’s been a while since I even went out sans children. I think I would class my husband as my best friend. But I have been lucky in that I have made some nice ‘Mum’ friends who have made my journey into parenting easier and more fun.

  8. Hi Nat, I totally agree. I don’t have anyone I would class as a close friend, but that suits me. The people in our walking group are friends, we have a laugh and for all our differences are bound by our love of walking and for me that’s enough. I’ve never hankered for ‘that’ closeness. On the other hand my sister has a wonderful bunch of close friends. All girls she has known since her teens and some even before that. She wouldn’t be without them.


    1. I think that’s it isn’t it? If you have that you wouldn’t be without them but for the rest of us it’s really not as much of an issue as people make out!

  9. Wow, a very interesting perspective this. I do have close friends, but not the kind of friends I had when I was at school. There’s a really interesting aspect to this being a guy as well. men aren’t raised to socialise or be as social as women. I think men really struggle with friendships, especially once they become dads. In many cases family are indeed the new friends.