There is a lot of information out there now about what makes people live longer and happier lives. Most of these studies I have read about suggest that the quality of one’s relationships is a major factor in longevity. What has not been made clear to me are some specifics. Who exactly are they talking about? What level are these relationships? How do they define friend?
I have four of my own kids and I am quite happily married. I anticipate the growth of my immediate family with eventual spouses for my kids and maybe grandchildren down the road. Will these suffice for relationships or do I have to make connections with a passel of outsiders or “friends”? I worry a little about this (not nearly as much as I used to), because I have very few friends. Are my days numbered because of the paucity of these types of relationships?
That statement actually leads me to another thing, which may be a completely different post altogether – how does one define friend? I certainly have many people in my life and many acquaintances whose company I enjoy, but I call very, very few of them “friend.” So does this mean that I am shortening my potential lifespan?
I have come to believe that for me, a deep and connected relationship is something I cherish and will devote great thought and energy toward if I perceive it to be meaningful and potentially, mutually rewarding. The few close relationships I relish provide me with enough sustenance to meet my needs for any other friendships that may be out there.
I have few friends because making friends and cultivating friendships is enormously time and energy consuming. I don’t have five people I can dump my troubles on. I know many who feel open enough to share theirs with me but very few with whom I reciprocate. Not my comfort level. Really, it comes down to not truly believing or trusting that they care that much. My experience in testing those waters says no.
I am finding that I enjoy meeting new people and spending time with individuals who have varied and diverse interests. I have come to know many of these people on a casual level and am comfortable maintaining things like this. It seems to me that developing depth and meaningful connection takes time and considerable emotional effort. From here forward I will stop worrying about other’s definition of friend when choosing my own. I will cultivate relationships with attention to mutuality, and will consider quality over quantity every time.
What constitutes a quality relationship in your mind? How do you define the word “friend”?