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Filed Under “In Case You Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About…”

The link told me that a study found that the number of friends you have affects how long you live.  Should I click over to PsychologyToday and find out how early I was going to die?

I expected to see an advance copy of my eulogy written at the top of the screen, especially with the added caveat that it’s not just quantity, it’s quality.  But instead I found a long discussion that this thing — friendships — that are mostly outside of our control are the key to living to a ripe old age and seeing a world full of Elon Musk’s unmanned cars or keeling over before I’ve come to a decision about whether or not to dye my hair.

The test that PsychologyToday offers as you consider your life:

Outside of your family, how many people would you be willing to call in the middle of the night if you needed help, and how many would be willing to get out of bed and come rescue you? And, what about if you met one of those important life goals? Who would you call? If you don’t have at least two people on both of your lists, perhaps you should take more seriously the role of social relationships in your life.

Four.  It looks like you need at least four people.  At least two of those people need to own beds that they can get out of.

I think I’m safe.  I have a few people that I call with major news (and not so major news).  A few more who live locally who have saved my ass before and would likely save it again.

But here’s the thing.  I don’t mind being given advice about longevity that is within my control to follow.  Drink water instead of soda?  Completely do-able.  The power is in my hands, especially since the generic bottled water at the grocery store costs less than a bottle of Coke.

But things such as marriage or parenthood or friendship… those things aren’t within our control.  Sure, there are things we can do that increase our chances of reaching those goals, such as dating or having sex or getting out of the house.  But I think we all know that some things don’t happen despite our best efforts.

At the end of the day, you can’t control how many friends you have nor the quality of those friendships.  You can’t control the friendship skills of others; whether they’ll come to your rescue or provide a shoulder for you to cry on.  Friendship is dependent upon the actions of another person. Another person needs to choose you back. And that’s just not a given, no matter how much you try to make something work.

So much of friendship is tied to your personality and where you live and the time you have to cultivate friendships.  And how much you get out of your friendships also depends on personality and history and your social needs.  There are people who prefer to be alone, and there are people who feel as if they’re crawling out of their skin when they go too long without seeing friends.

We know that stress can negatively impact our lives, and it’s stressful to be told that the solution to a problem that concerns us (our mortality) is mostly outside our control.

So I guess I’ll just give up and crawl into bed.  I’ll be there just in case someone needs a friend to get out of a bed to save their ass.

P.S. Don’t forget that tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday in case you’re also lounging around in bed and need something to do.

21 comments

1 Mrs. Agony { 03.22.15 at 7:54 am }

So, this: “But things such as marriage or parenthood or friendship… those things aren’t within our control.”

I have to disagree on the friendship tip. You know those pillows that are all, “Friends Are the Family You Choose for Yourself”? If you surround yourself with good people, and you nurture those deep friendships, then you WILL have those people who will come rescue your ass in the middle of the night.

I had a moment of panic reading this post – WHO ARE MY FOUR PEOPLE? – but within ten seconds I could name the top 4. Top, not only. I don’t think this is merely luck or circumstance. I’m an introvert and like to spend a lot of time alone, too. I work two jobs, so I don’t have unlimited amounts of time.

And actually, now that I’m typing this up I can kind of see what you’re saying. I guess my point is this: if you choose to not invest in friendships, then that’s your CHOICE, so it IS within your control. It’s a conscious choice you made to NOT have that kind of support system. (Make sense?)

2 earthandink { 03.22.15 at 10:04 am }

I have to disagree with Mrs. Agony. Most people, if you have something truly catastrophic happen, will leave. Especially if it’s something that happens over a long period of time. Even if you have been an amazing friend. Even if, in the past, you helped them through something truly huge and horrible.

At least, that has been my experience.

I have also seen people be abandoned if something really, crazily good happens to them. The extremes: crazy bad or crazy good many people do not do well with and then they flunk advanced friendship. Even if you yourself are working towards an A.

To tell people that it is in their control, when it isn’t, adds to the already difficult burden of losing friendships that apparently mattered more to you than it did to them.

3 Mel { 03.22.15 at 10:10 am }

I think if you already have friends, then yes, if you don’t nurture those friendships, you can’t expect them to be there. But I disagree that friendships are under a person’s control in the sense of initially building friendships. Working with kids for many many years, I can tell you that making friends just isn’t a skill that every child has. And that carries into adulthood. And it’s just the way they’re made; not a fault of the person any more than not being a fast runner or a brilliant writer is the fault of the person. There is only so far practice and patience can take you when you’re working with certain limits. And friendship, even more than those other things, because you are dependent upon a reaction from the other person. Another person needs to choose you back. And that’s just not a given, no matter how much you try to make something work.

4 Linda { 03.22.15 at 10:35 am }

It saddens me that outside of my Mom and sister, I don’t have a top four. I’ve always been shy and introverted, so making friends has never been easy. I was (still am, to some degree) who never wanted to go anywhere new. I usually ended up having fun once there, but it’s always a struggle, even now.
That being said, I have many friends of different levels. And, over the years, two or three best friends. I am currently deeply grieving my best friend of 20 years, who last August dropped me with no warning. There’s been no contact from her despite me reaching out a myriad of times and ways. I have NO idea what happened. It’s a loss akin to death. And, trust me, I’m slowly working through the stages of grief.

5 Middle Girl { 03.22.15 at 10:56 am }

Another person needs to choose you back. And that’s just not a given, no matter how much you try to make something work.

I didn’t make a lot of friends growing up for a variety of reasons and I have struggled throughout my adulthood not only making; but retaining friendships–despite my best efforts–folks left.

I shall go drink (more) water and not stress over who I might call to come running in the event that my bacon is about to be fried.

6 jjiraffe { 03.22.15 at 11:28 am }

Friendship is something that is mostly out of our control, is my experience. You can be the best friend possible to people, and still get crapped on, or not have people be there when you need them like earthandink said. So yeah, I totally agree with you, and articles like this aren’t helpful.

7 ANDMom { 03.22.15 at 11:33 am }

I have to disagree with Mrs. Agony also. You can’t make someone stay your friend, and making new friends isn’t like going to the store to buy a new sweater. I can try, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.

I think, too, the internet muddles things. I have several friends that I could call and they would rescue me … if only they weren’t so far away. Do they count? They couldn’t come hold my hand … but they can be there to talk to.

8 SuzannaCatherine { 03.22.15 at 12:19 pm }

I don’t make friends easily. I’m close (emotionally) with my family, but 97% of them live on the opposite Coast. Not convenient for calling in the middle of the night. My BFFs (established in a Military Brat teenage – and kept alive by letters and phone calls) live in NJ and VA – quite a haul for running to the rescue. I haven’t been quite as successful in my older age. Anyway, there are so many other factors to stress about – I think I’ll let this one go. Maybe if I just drink more water…

9 Northern Star { 03.22.15 at 12:24 pm }

I have a couple great friends from my early childhood that I still call my best friends. I find it really hard as an adult to make lasting, meaningful relationships where i trust enough to say we’re really great friends. But overall I think I’m ok too.

10 Catwoman73 { 03.22.15 at 1:05 pm }

I don’t think I will spend even a minute worrying about this, even though I can only think of a couple of people who I could count on to stick by me no matter what. I am one of those people who prefer to be alone, and would feel exhausted and overwhelmed trying to nurture too many high-demand friendships all at once. I would love to see the details of the study on which Psychology Today is making this claim- did they take things like temperament into account? I highly doubt it. I think the world’s most introverted people (such as myself) would probably argue that you just can’t paint everybody with the same brush.

11 Mrs. Agony { 03.22.15 at 2:23 pm }

Maybe I have a naive point of view, or maybe I’ve just been really lucky. I’ve had great friendships end, sometimes by my choosing, sometimes by theirs. But the ones who are by my side now have ushered me through some of the most painful experiences in my life – dealing with a family member’s debilitating mental illness, dealing with sudden death, dealing with my four-year battle with infertility. Etc.

I certainly didn’t mean any disrespect by my comments. I truly feel lucky to have these people in my life and am often surprised by the lengths they’ve gone to for me. These people stuck. And since that’s the experience I’ve had, that’s my point of reference.

12 Rebecca { 03.22.15 at 3:19 pm }

I guess I’m glad that I have a network of friends.

13 Cristy { 03.22.15 at 4:08 pm }

Completely agree with earthandink. I’ve both seen and experienced friendships going south follow life-changing news. Those rare few who have seen me through things are truly remarkable individuals, but the idea we truly had control over the outcome is complete nonsense.

Sorry Mrs. Agony. I think you’re in the same boat of those who achieve pregnancy easily.

14 Mina { 03.22.15 at 5:23 pm }

I’m quite fed up with how trite PT has become.
I’m nowhere on that test, I am an adult expatriate whose friends from youth are far away, and who is finding out the hard way how it is to make friends as an adult (clue: awkward, difficult, and sometimes pointless, because of life-changing events).

But I remember my online friend, whom I’ve never met, Mel, writing about the proper way to use the toilet paper, over or under. And I immediately thought of her when I saw this: http://www.sciencealert.com/124-year-old-patent-reveals-the-proper-way-to-use-toilet-paper

Friendship is sometimes in the details. 🙂

15 earthandink { 03.22.15 at 7:23 pm }

Mrs Agony, I totally did not take offense at your comment at all!

Instead, I am grateful that there are true and good people out there and that’s your experience. It’s what I hope for us all, truly. I’m never going to be offended by someone speaking their truth. Not ever.

16 fifi { 03.23.15 at 6:31 am }

I wonder why it’s important that these people are “outside of your family”. If you have 3 family members who would be willing to come to your aid immediately, and only 1 non-relative who would do so, would that count?

I have a brother who I would count as one of my closest friends. I have another brother who I’m not so close to, so I know that this isn’t a given in sibling relationships, and we’re lucky to have this bond. Does he count towards the friendship total, or is he eliminated because we shared parents and a childhood?

17 Tiara { 03.23.15 at 7:10 am }

I grew up believing if I didn’t have friends, lots of friends, I was a failure. That was hard for me as an introvert & I ended up with some very bad, unhealthy friendships. I then came to a point in my life where I valued myself enough not to allow bad friendships to continue. When my dad died, my brother had friends show up en masse to support him. I felt completely alone except for my one true friend who showed up for me. It was then I realized the true value of quality over quantity. I am content that I have a few deep, quality relationships. The kind who would help me bury the body, no questions asked. I think that contributes to my life’s longevity than if I had more friendships. My point is, it is your contentment with your life’s situation that can contribute to your long life.

18 Katie { 03.23.15 at 8:39 am }

“Making friends just isn’t a skill that every child has. And that carries into adulthood.”

Yes. I struggle with making friends. I always have. As a result, I have very few “IRL” friends who I consider close. And I used to hate the fact that I wasn’t one of those people who had dozens of friends, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it doesn’t matter — because the friendships I have are true friendships. These are the people who I could call in the middle of the night if there was a crisis, because these are the people who’ve already been there through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It bothers me the amount of pressure we put on people to create relationships with others when it’s something that should occur organically. Especially if you want that friendship to be authentic.

19 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.23.15 at 12:09 pm }

I like the point that you get better at making decisions about friends as we age. I do have at least these 4 people. I have chosen well — and count my lucky start at being chosen back by people I deeply love and respect.

This is really interesting to me as I observe my children navigate friendships. I do see that they sometimes feel like the mutual part is outside their control. I don’t have that sense for myself now, though. Much to think about.

20 Mrs. Agony { 03.23.15 at 9:51 pm }

Hey, Cristy – kind of an insensitive comment when you’re talking to someone who said she’d been battling infertility for four years. But whatever.

21 Justine { 03.24.15 at 9:45 pm }

Well, that conversation I had to have at work today was precisely because I don’t make friends easily. I’m weird. I’m prickly. But I also think I can name four. Partly because those people have named themselves. I am gifted to know some really amazing, generous people … people who made friends with ME despite myself.

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