Have you seen the movie Bridesmaids?
There’s a fantastic scene where two of the bridesmaids get into in a verbal arm wrestle over who is the bride’s ‘best’ friend.
There’s Annie – the childhood pal, who knows all the secrets, who shared Lillian’s adolescent angst, danced with her to Wilson Phillips.
Then there’s the new friend, Helen. Polished and poised, she’s a well-oiled wheel in bride-to-be Lillian’s new corporate-wife world.
We love Annie and can’t stand Helen – she’s the Jenny-come-lately, the blow-in, the usurper. But is that fair?
Is the friend you made at work last month any less important than the one who napped next to you at preschool?
The Make The Time Report by Baileys is all about friendship – getting together with people who ‘get you.’ But when you’ve made time (or found it), how do you choose who to spend it with? It can be a minefield, with the result being that it’s all too hard so we don’t see anybody. But does it have to be a choice?
Last week I spoke to counselor and author Elly Taylor www.parentsupportonline.com about the concept of best friends and whether it’s possible to have more than one.
‘Sure,’ she said, ‘Friendships reflect different phases in our lives. The more time you’ve known someone means there’s more of a shared history, but as long as a friendship is comfortable and rewarding, how long you’ve known that person is largely irrelevant.’
That makes sense to me. I wouldn’t say I have a best friend. I’ve got a couple of from each stage of my life – childhood, school, jobs I’ve had, places I’ve lived. Now there’s a pretty tight bunch of girls I’ve met through my kids’ school. I’d hate to think I shed friends to make room for new ones, although maybe that’s inevitable.
‘Of course it happens,’ says Elly, ‘Life changes and you have less in common; but sometimes friendships fizzle because there’s no effort being put in. You leave it longer and longer between calls and eventually it’s too awkward so it just doesn’t happen. Friendships need nurturing, like any other relationship.’
So, what makes a great friend? Now that we’ve agreed that the term ‘best’ friend is a bit of misnomer.
Elly says, ‘A true friend is someone who’s comfortable with themselves first – they can be supportive of you. There’s no hidden agenda. They want the best for you.’
Aha. That’s why perfect bridesmaid Helen was less than perfect as a friend – she was deeply unhappy and insecure so she shows off, doing things for other people not to make them happy, but to make herself look good.
To have a friend, you have to be a friend. That’s a bit Hallmarky, but it’s true, and as life gets more crowded, it’s easy to let friendships slide. So Elly says, ‘Think about the people you know, and those you’d like to get to know. Be pro-active about seeing them regularly – and be prepared to offer your real self. True friendship is never one-sided.’
‘Is it possible,’ I asked, ‘To merge your friendship groups?’
Elly thought for a moment, ‘Of course, because there’s a common denominator – you. And if it works, everyone might make a few more friends, and that’s never a bad thing, is it?’
The Bailey’s Make The Time report was commissioned to understand why it’s getting harder to get together with our friends, and to suggest ways we can make our friendships more rewarding and fun. To find out more about Making The Time, you can find the Baileys Facebook Page here – you might want to “like” it and keep updated on what’s happening.
What do you think? Do you believe in a best friend for life, or do your friends change as you move through it?
Elly Taylor is a relationship counsellor for Interrelate Family Centres and a mother of three. She has recently written her first book, Becoming Us.
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