Partners may come and go, but friends are forever.
We’ve all been guilty of the sin of going cold on our friends the minute we enter into a blissed-out relationship. But those of us who are smart know that eventually we need to reconnect with our social network. Why?
Well, as it turns out, maintaining strong friendships with people outside our marriage is absolutely critical to our health, emotional wellbeing, and, subsequently, to the ultimate success of said marriage.
So if you’ve ever thought to yourself that in fact your partner is really the only person you need to be truly happy, you may want to read on…
We’re married for just a fraction of our lives, if at all
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” –Walt Whitman
According to a 2011 report by the Pew Research Center, we’re marrying later than ever — at an average age of 26.9 for women, and 29.8 for men. Nordic and Western European countries have an even higher mean age of first marriage, with their numbers coming in at over 30.
However, we start forming friendships at the moment we’re born, and have the capacity to keep doing so until the day we die. And considering that the average lifespan, worldwide, is a little over 70 years, while the global average length of a marriage is only around 13 years, we’re spending more of our lives unmarried than ever before, which makes our social networks all the more important. So if your happiness is contingent upon being married, you’re probably going to spend a lot of your life unhappy. That’s just math.
Friends can take a break without breaking up
“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” –Elie Wiesel
We all need a break sometimes. Spending too much time with any one person can be toxic. But while taking a break from a marriage is a really big deal, taking a break from your friendships? That’s easy. A true friend will understand if you have other priorities or want to spend some time with other people for a while. They’ll know it just means you’ll have more stories to tell when you have the time to come back into each other’s lives. And with your best friends, you can pick things up weeks, or even months later, without missing a beat.
Friends know the real you
“My definition of a friend is somebody who adores you even though they know the things you’re most ashamed of.” –Jodie Foster
There’s no way one person can possibly share your every interest. Nor should they. That’s what your girlfriends are for. They’re there to belt out silly songs with at the top of your lungs, moan about your sex dry spell or last gyno visit to. You never need to censor yourself around great girlfriends, which is why it’s such a confidence-boosting experience spending time with them.
Not to mention, it’s nice to keep some aspects of yourself a mystery for your partner to retain a little allure in the relationship and save them for your BFFs.
Friends will be there for you when your partner can’t
“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” –Virginia Woolf
A good bitch sesh every now and then is great for mental health. And a good rant requires a good listener. But let’s be honest: spouses don’t always make the best listeners. Guys in particular, tend to interpret every complaint as a call to action; girlfriends on the other hand, get that you just need to get some shit off your chest, which is why they’re the ideal sounding boards when you’re going through some shit.
More importantly, if – God forbid – your partner falls sick or you hit rough times in your relationship, which is an unfortunate eventuality, your friends will be there to support you through it so you don’t have to ever feel alone. It’s these moments you know just how important your girlie support network really is.
Friends actually improve your health (and not having them worsens it)
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ―C.S. Lewis
As it turns out, the above quotation, while lovely, is completely wrong. Friendships have true, measurable survival value. It has actually been proven that a good network of friends helps you live a longer, happier and healthier life, far beyond that simply having a loving partner can offer.
In groundbreaking findings released in 2010, Brigham Young University researchers found that the quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships was directly linked not only to mental health, but also to both morbidity and mortality. That’s right; your friends are quite literally saving your life. People with stronger social relationships had a 50 per cent higher likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.
“We take relationships for granted as humans,” says Brigham Young psychologist, Julianne Holt-Lunstad.
“That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically, but directly to our physical health.”
Because unlike in a marriage, with friendships, it’s the more the merrier.
Images via giphy.com.
Comment: Do you agree that good friends are in many ways more important than marriage?