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.
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
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.