I was browsing the latest studies on relationships the other day, and I came across an article that stated people often feel pressure to have more friends if they feel like their other friends do (Science Daily). I guess it is the old adolescent feeling of longing to be as well liked as you believe others are? Whatever the reason, it got me thinking about if adults would benefit from attempting to have more friendships. The conclusion I came to? No, fewer friendships are actually better as an adult.
Here is why:
1. You don’t actually have enough time to maintain friendships with lots of people.
Life is busy. We only have limited time to do the things we need to do, as well as the things we want to do. True friendships require maintenance, and maintenance takes time. I would say most people do not have time to maintain 20 friendships. I know I surely don’t. We aren’t talking social media type friends you say “hello” to when you see each other in the grocery store. I am talking about the kind of friendships where you know the ins and outs of the person’s life. The friendships where you trust each other and are there for all the good and the bad.
In order to be that level of friends, you should be catching up with one another at least every few weeks. This may just be a phone call, but significant friendships require a commitment to staying involved. I only have a few hours each week I can dedicate to keeping up with my friends. So if I dedicate an hour every few weeks to staying close to each friend I dearly love and want in my life, I could possibly maintain 7-10 close friendships. And that is doing the bare minimum
2. Secrets often don’t stay secrets when too many people know.
If you tell your friend Mary something and you have a mutual friend Joe who Mary is sure you won’t mind her telling and Joe dates your friend Stacie so he of course is telling her, pretty soon the information you stated in confidence is out for the world to know. Keeping a tight circle limits the amount of friends who know your personal information. When you run around with a large amount of people, it is often assumed that you don’t mind all of those people knowing the details of your personal affairs.
If you demonstrate that you are a private person by keeping your list of friends short, they will likely know you do not like the things you tell them to be repeated. When you have three best friends, they tend to know and respect your boundaries. Secrets stay secrets when fewer people know about them. Think about the last person you heard a secret about who you are in no way close to, I am willing to guess that this person probably has more “friends” than they know what to do with.
3. It is important to have friends that you share connections with rather than “friendships” you create out of loneliness.
At times our closest friends get busy. Maybe they are in a relationship and you aren’t. Maybe you just moved to a new area and aren’t close to your circle anymore. When this occurs, we may seek out new friends out of loneliness. Pretty well anyone who is free on Friday night is in the running to be the new best friend.
While it is good to always be open to adding a friend when you find someone you click with, you should not add friends to your life out of boredom. Friendships can add immense value to your life when they are healthy and based on mutual interests. But when they are built on who wants to get drinks, you are often left with more drama and stress than love and support. Being friends with your opposite can be exhausting.
4. Trying to offer support to loads of people spreads you too thin.
Everyone has problems. That is just a fact of life. At some point in your friendship you will need to provide support. Often you will need to do this at multiple points if you plan on having a long friendship. If you have 30 friends that all need your support, how will you have enough to go around? Or how will you have any energy left to fight your own battles?
You hear a lot about spreading yourself too thin. This applies to offering support to people we cherish as well. When you have a close relationship, it is important that you are there for them when they need you. However, this is one of the big reasons why you should limit yourself to a few close friends. You don’t want to be able to only offer half-hearted support because you are trying to give it away to too many others.
5. More people often means more conflict.
If you make dinner plans with 10 people, there is going to be at least one person who is not happy about your choice of restaurant. There will probably be another one who is annoyed at the time chosen. You cannot make everyone happy all the time. The more people you are trying to juggle relationships with, the more room there is for conflict to arise.
Not only do more friends open the door for more conflict, but with more friends you have less time and energy to resolve it (as discussed previously). It is hard to resolve conflicts with multiple people at once, which is a position you may end up in if you have too many friendships. Or worse yet if your friends are not also friends and have conflict you are stuck in the middle of constantly. Just watch any reality television show revolving around a group of women and you will likely see examples of this in the first five minutes.
6. The more friendships you have, the more pressure you feel.
More friends equates more pressure. Pressure to keep up with their lifestyle, pressure to attend all their events, pressure to constantly stay in the know on what is happening with them and the people close to them. You want them to know they can count on you, but holy moly you cannot do it all! You are also trying to keep up your job, your own family, your other friends, and take time to do things just for you. With all the pressure you feel from the other areas of your life, do you really want to have all this pressure from too many friendships?
I know too many friends seems like a good problem to have, and to a point, it is. But for your own personal well-being, take some pressure off yourself. Limit your commitments to a small number of friends and understand all the other people can be acquaintances. There is nothing wrong with that. Acquaintances allow you to have a diverse and ample group of people in your life without all the pressure of having to be consistently involved.
7. You can lose some of the benefits of having friends in the first place.
When there is always a group or you only talk to a friend once every few months, you lose the benefits of having close friends in the first place. The point of friendships is to have a bond. To be connected and involved on a very personal level. Due to all the concerns we have already discussed, this just does not happen when too many friendships are at play.
If you place value on having friends, which I assume you do if you are trying to balance as many as you can, then consider really investing in the ones most important to you. You are selling both yourself and your close friends short if you aren’t devoting yourself to them as fully as you can. People often discount friendships as the type of relationship that is there when you have time, but isn’t a priority. I disagree with this. A friendship, as with all other positive relationships, has to have the work put in to get the benefits.