The data is in and it’s clear – having friends is mega important! In some cases, according to an article in Time Magazine, friendship is even more important than strong family ties. It’s actually that piece that I want to focus on in writing about friendship this week.
The study written about in Time, conducted by William Chopik out of Michigan State University, is called “Associations among relational values, support, health, and well-being across the adult lifespan” (a real page-turning title if ever there was one) found that the relationships in our lives that are a source of strain have a seriously negative impact on the quality of our life. This, I suspect, is why many people have strained relationships with their families. There is an obligation to care for your family, and while for some that can be a pleasure for others it is not. The same is true for friendships. Where there is manufactured obligation, or obligation out of guilt rather than out of love there is going to be a strain.
As I consider this, I want to talk more about the importance of being the kind of person that would enhance someone else’s life, rather than providing a strain. In my own lived experience, being that kind of person requires authenticity. It requires a certain amount of vulnerability. Of course, not all the vulnerability, at least not all at once. You hand over a small part of yourself that needs to be treated with care and if that part is treated with care then you can hand over another as the other person does the same. Being that kind of person in a relationship also requires a certain amount of introspection. If something shared with you bothers you, why is that? Are you willing to challenge where you think you are in the world? Is authentically connecting with someone worth that to you? I hope that it is.
What are some things you’ve done to be a member of a friendship or solid family unit? What are some things you have done to protect yourself when it’s clear this connection is not worth what is being asked of you?