Friends… who needs em?

imagesAre relationships really necessary?  And what defines a relationship anyway? I mean, I’m married, I have three kids and I go to work every day. I am surrounded by people I am in “relationship” with constantly. My husband is my best friend. My kids are great conversationalists. My team at work is entertaining and engaging and frankly when I’m alone, most of the time I enjoy hanging out with myself. What more do I need?

That is the million dollar question. If my time is so full of people I enjoy, why do I feel like I am missing something? Is that “something” the reason I catch myself fantasizing about having lunch with people I haven’t had a conversation with in years? Is it that “something” that triggers euphoric happiness when I daydream about a yet to happen get together at my home with long-lost, what do you call them again… oh yea, friends?

I guess it’s not as bad as it could be.  I met for a visit with a friend (two different ones mind you) twice last year. So I have those memories to go on. I figure I’m at least on a par with prison inmates, registered sex offenders and people on house arrest. I’ve got to be one up Amanda Bynes. She can’t have more than a couple of outings with friends a year what with her unfortunate expressions of multiple personalities and all. But wait! What about her multiple personalities?? If I count her daily interactions with her “inside friends”… she DEFINITELY has me on this! And I just have this nagging feeling that even registered sex offenders rub shoulders and hang out with people they meet in their mandatory meetings. Don’t prisoners get at least a weekly visit from a friend? What if you include their gang allies and visits in the yard every day? Ok, deduct time if they are in solitary and lose their yard privileges. So let me add this up: seven days a week in the yard with buddies, plus a possible weekly visit from an outside friend, minus a spotty week here and there for bad behavior with lost visitations privileges and I come out with… MORE TIME WITH FRIENDS THAN ME!! Shut ins?? What about shut ins?? This is pointless.  Instantly I can think of several opportunities they probably take advantage of that I don’t i.e. visits from church volunteers who bring them meals and offer pity conversations and probably concerned neighbors who really want to know if they are still feeding themselves and their several cats,  but masquerade as friendly house-guests and to the shut in, you guessed it… it’s all friend time.

So there you have it. The most isolated of society enjoy more time with friends than I do. So back to my husband and my kids. Aren’t they my “friends”? I think if I’m honest, I have to say that those relationships, even though I enjoy them tremendously, are attached for life in my mind. Obligated by nature of either origin, or legal covenant. I won’t let them fade into memories of happy times past and just let them try to stop hanging out with me. S to the T to the AULKER. Yea, they aren’t going anywhere. My co-workers? Since my company is reluctant to pay me if I don’t go there and hang out with those people every day, I guess even though I like them,  those connections are  on lock down too.

That leaves me forced to admit that a kind of relationship; the kind with people who get to go home anytime they want and whose underwear I don’t have to wash, is missing.

I know what happened. My life got complicated and as a once leader in my circle of friends, I became ashamed that some things were falling apart for me.  I let time pass while I hashed out the hard parts alone.  Now that I finally feel like I have something to offer friends again, it’s hard to pick up where I left off.  I sit here stunned that I have spent the past ten years– TEN years working through rebuilding my life without my friends.  It wasn’t until my husband got a job out-of-town that I realized what I’ve let happen. Suddenly he wasn’t there to talk to at all times and sadly, no one else was either.  Except my three teenage boys and as smart as they are, I have a limit of how many farts I can hear in a discussion, before I tune out.

For my own good and to drive home my commitment to living out my word for the year (others) I’ve done some research about why we need  true friends and here is what I discovered:

  • The more friends a person has, the less likely they are to become debilitated as they grow older
  • More quality social ties increases longevity– some studies say 15% or more
  • Companionship releases oxytocin, a calming hormone that creates a sense of well-being. Several studies show highly connected people have healthier hearts– probably because oxytocin is cardio-protective. It also combats depression and lowers cortisol levels, the damaging stress hormone
  • In studies related to surviving disease, ongoing interaction with good friends made recovery four times more likely (family/spouses were not an influencing factor but greater numbers of friends were)
  • People with strong friendships are less likely to get colds and recover from viruses more quickly (likely due to less cortisol and more oxytocin)
  • Worldwide studies show that the larger a persons friend network, the higher they rate their overall happiness with life
  • People with more friendships are likelier to make and keep good habits and more likely to follow through with personal goals

It appears we were simply designed to thrive in community with others, above and beyond our biological family. It’s obvious that interacting with people who enjoy us and aren’t obligated to us, imparts wholeness to our entire being. It is literally a medicine to our soul. Is it because the necessary feedback loop of valuing and being valued by friends is hard-coded into our DNA? I think so.

I’m convinced it is a vital key in reaching our full potential.  We. Need. Friends. More inspiring is the fact that they need us. We each have a deep well of wonderfulness and it seems it was meant to quench the thirst of our friends. Perhaps we are much more designed for others than we realize. Great news for me! Now I don’t have to feel guilty when I look for lunch with a pal, instead of enduring yet another fartathon at home.  Sorry kids.