We remember having a series of best friends when we were younger – intense and often fiery relationships that were as much a comfort as a frustration. But today, our social landscape is filled with a variety of friends who we call on for different things. Example: Esther brightens the bleakest days; Fleur continues to impress us with her wise advice and Vicky is always game for adventure. We’ve realised, with joy, that we stopped needing one best mate years ago.
“When we were kids, a best friend was a form of attachment, which made us feel secure after leaving behind a close family setting, but when we’re adults it can be problematic,” says behaviour expert and managing director of Monkey Puzzle, Karen Meager. “If you only have one close friend it is hard to get a balanced view of life, but if you have a friendship group, you can get different views from people in different situations and then decide for yourself.”
This doesn’t mean your friendship group should resemble a scene from Girls, everyone interlinked and over-familiar with each other, more that it should be a diverse bunch of people who offer you the freedom to form your own opinions and other relationships.
“With a friendship group, you have experience dealing with different personalities and don’t feel so threatened by change.”
“We are all a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – one friend might have attributes that support one piece, but it wouldn’t be realistic for one person to fulfil everything,” says psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapist Anna Hamer. “It’s healthier for individual relationships if you don’t put all the weight on one person and it’s just as beneficial to have friends who know each other as those who don’t.” Hamer says the make-up of your friendship group is down to your personality: introverts usually have a small, familiar group, while extroverts like to have a larger group of friends of varying closeness.
“A friendship group is essential for a sense of belonging,” says Hamer. “If you’re living in a busy city it’s even more important, as you often don’t have that close network of neighbours and family living nearby, so you don’t get that natural sense of community without building it.”
A broad friendship group could also make you a better colleague: “The more difference you have in your social circle, the more equipped you are to adapt to change in the workplace,” says Meager. “With a friendship group, you have experience dealing with different personalities and don’t feel so threatened by change. You have more empathy because you’ve had to accept that in order to be in a relationship with that group, you have to adapt and understand that people are different to you.”