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How Many Close Friends are Enough?

Friends at Columbia University.Image via Wikipedia

Last month, before we left for Kenya, my 15-year-old daughter went on a retreat with her youth group. She built a luge track, went sledding and skiing, hosted snowball fights, and in general had a grand ole' time.

Until, that is, we started talking the night she got home about friends.

Rebecca is a lot like me. She's the kind of person that is more likely to have a few very close friends at a time than have a whole pile. My younger daughter, on the other hand, is always right in the middle of everything. She's a social butterfly.

I find that I need a few people to talk to, but I don't need a lot. And since I've been married, my husband has taken on the role that many girlfriends once did for me. I can talk to him about just about anything, and I find that I can now go several days without calling an actual friend, since I have my hubby and my girls to talk to. It isn't that I don't appreciate my friends; it's just that I'm slightly introverted, and I need one or two close people and that's about it.

Yet as a teenager I was very insecure, and I desperately wanted friends as an affirmation that I was a good, fun, lovable person. I think most teenagers are like that, and that's why peers take on such importance. Often teens seek the approval of kids they don't even necessarily approve of. But even if our kids think other kids make poor decisions or are kind of mean, it hurts when those kids don't like you.

My daughter, for instance, sometimes feels like she's second best to many of her friends. She has one best friend, but to everyone else she's second best. Sure they'll talk to her and do stuff with her, but she's not their number one choice. (I pointed out to her that they're not her number one choice, either, since she already has a best friend, but I think that was far too logical for her).

I know that women need friends, and often we can't figure out what we think about something until we've shared it with at least five friends. When I have a big decision to make, I do tend to pick up the phone, certainly more than my husband does. But that doesn't mean that I find it easy to make friends. In high school I remember praying and yearning to make those years go quickly so I could get to college where I would meet others who were more like me.

In university I had a very few close friends, but I always felt that they were better friends with each other than they were with me, and that was strange. And then in the various churches I've belonged to, I've managed to find one or two good friends, but I've never felt like I've been rolling in friends. Others look at me and probably think I've got a ton, because our social schedule is quite full, but that's more that I have a lot of acquaintances. I've never in my life had more than two people I could really share my heart with at one time. Friends have always been a struggle for me, and I have gone through years of real loneliness. Thankfully, my husband has been there, but it is hard to find adult women to befriend. Often I'll meet someone I know I'd love, but they live in another city or something.

My daughter Katie isn't like that. I think she'll always be swimming in friends, but perhaps those friends won't mean as much to her as my one or two mean to me. So I'm wondering how you view friends. Are they hard to come by? Do you have a bunch? Do you find yourself lonely?

Has the internet, and blogging, helped plug a hole in your life? Let me know!

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At 7:48 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Your friendship status and history sound exactly like mine. And your daughter sounds like one of mine, too.

Uncanny, in fact.


At 8:41 AM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

I'm like you, Sheila. My husband is my very best friend ... and I have two close girl friends. Beyond that, I have lots of people who I enjoy and have fun with ... but they are not privvy to the vast majority of "me."

However, I've learned a difficult lesson of late ... there are those who perceive a closer connection than I do and I must be very careful with that. I have hurt someone deeply because her understanding of our friendship was far deeper than my own.

It's a fine line.


At 8:58 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

I've never had a lot of close friends, sure I had a fairly big group of friends in highschool and college, but for the most part they were people I hung out with, not people I told my deepest darkest secrets to. I suppose I always reserved that part of me for my husband. He's my best friend.

Currently I don't have a lot of friends. In fact, since moving here we haven't really found many people to hang out with. I am typically okay with it, but sometimes I get a bit lonely.

Anyway, to answer your question: Yes, blogging helps fill that hole. I have a lot of great internet friends.


At 10:15 AM , Anonymous myfathersdaughter said…

In my healing years I looked for relationships with women to fill voids in my heart that only should have been filled by my Lord or my husband- as I grew and matured that became less true for me although I very much value the close friendships in my life- I am all about intimacy and real friendships take TIME and ENERGY to build and maintain-in this season of my life I am thankful for the friendships that I have that have taken years to build a foundation for- those friends who I love and trust that I can pick up right where I left off with without the guilt associated with not having seen or talked with them for a spell- I value those most who I respect spiritually and who I would desire to glean from in that respect- I am MANY that glean from me but usually those are not the same from whom I glean-- we need both I think. I only have 3 friends that I feel that "iron sharpening iron" relationship with- the others in my life seem to be those that mentor me or those whom I mentor....


At 10:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I just found your site. I have friends and then I have close friends with who I can truly share my thoughts and feelings. My husband is my best friend.

and on a totally different note. I had to do a double take on your photo as you struck me as looking like Vicki Lawrence from the Carol Burnette show.


At 11:12 AM , Anonymous Quiet-Mom said…

I could have written this post - sounds exactly like me and my two daughters.

I agree with Teri's comment about being careful too - I have had that happen as well.

I do wonder (fear?) what is happening to our youth with all the social media out there - are any of them really developing solid relationships that reach heart to heart?


At 11:15 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Quiet Mom,

Excellent point! I've been thinking about that, too, with regards to cell phones and texting and social media. Not to be too crude, but we're already developing a generation for whom "hooking up" has replaced courtship. But what if it spreads to the church so that people don't even know how to share their hearts anymore? I'm often surrounded by a bunch of youth who are all texting each other, rather than just talking to each other. Friendships are changing, and I don't know that it's for the better.


At 12:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

What a great post. I've dealt with different seasons of friendships. A time where the only 'friends' I had were people I did ministry with. And as soon as I stepped out of that ministry, they no longer contacted me.

I've had friends that were more acquaintances because our children happen to be the same age. But through all the different seasons, the Lord has always brought that one or two different close friends in my life when I needed them. And when I lived in the middle of nowhere, new to a very small town, and didn't know anyone, He brought me dear, close friends through the internet.

I now I have 2 close friends I can open up too and call for prayer anytime. But my 14 1/2 yo daughter, she's been struggling with it. And I do find, with the teenagers now a days, they don't seem to want close friendships anymore. My daughter has tried to reach out to so many girls in our homeschool group, only to be rebuffed because she's not all into the clothes and hair thing. If its not superficial, they aren't interested, it seems anyway.

After a while of allowing the Lord to show her she was lifting up friendships before Him, she has settled into some friendships, but only 2 that are close enough she can tell anything too. And both of those are email/internet friends. Because of distance, thats how they have to be.

I'm often sad that she can't make a close, deep personal friend here in town. But I know the Lord will bring those people in her life that are the friends He has for her. Just hard to watch her go through the waiting period.



At 2:38 PM , Blogger Laura said…

Growing up I never had good friends. I wasn't shy. I knew a lot of people but I just never seemed to click with anyone on a deep level. I think that now, at 30, I can say for the first time that I have some really great friends... best friends. I have a few. Beyond that I have a whole mess of really good friends. But I've worked at this. Someone mentioned that relationship take time and energy and that is definitely true. But it is worth it. I really enjoy people and relationships. I love what I can offer to others and what others can offer to me. Friendships are a lovely thing.

I also have a few really good friends through blogging. One I have talked to at least a few times a week for the past four or so years. I consider her an amazing friend and we will some day meet.

I have learned over the years that I can't just wait for friendships to happen. God will bring people in to my life and I have to test the waters. If I want others to give of themselves more deeply then I must give of myself more deeply. If it is not returned I know the level of the friendship. But I find that in opening up and sharing my heart that it is often valued and returned because women are starved for a safe place to share their lives... friendships.


At 3:02 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

Your description of yourself is so very close to home.
Now, my closest friends (other than my husband) live far away from me, but thanks to the internet, we can still keep up with each other.
I like to think I have different concentric circles of friends. One very best friend (husband), a couple really close friends, more good friends, and so on, to the outer ring of acquaintances. And just who I share what with, depends on which circle I view you in, at this particular point in my life.


At 3:40 PM , Anonymous Kristine McGuire said…

Oh my goodness, Sheila, you could have been writing about my life exactly with this post. My sister was always the one swimming in friends (still is) while I have only ever had a few friends at any given time and some times none at all. When my children were young, especially, I had no girlfriends I could call up or invite for play dates with our kids. I was often lonely. My husband and I are each others best friend. We've even had difficulty finding couples to do things with or call "close".

Now with my children I have one daughter who is an introvert (like me) but had people seeking her out (which she found trying at best). My other daughter loves to be around people but only has a very few close friends.

Oh the complexities of relationships!

Thank you for posting this. I've always felt as if I were a bit odd for not having girlfriends I can just phone up and do things with at the drop of a hat. Now I'm thinking I may not be so alone after all.


At 7:38 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

I have a couple of very good friends. I'm a very social person, but right now I am content with one or two really good friends and the rest to just be people I see and have a good chat with. I've been hurt big time by a lot of people lately, and in forgiving them I've had to recognize that part of it was my fault...that I trusted too much and too soon.


At 1:56 PM , Blogger Tiffany said…

Like you, my husband is my best friend. We do just about everything together and can talk about anything. But, I do like to have close girl friends to talk to. Unfortunately, this is a struggle for me because I live in a very transient community and it feels like every time I make a close friend, they move away! It has been hard and discourages me when I start to try to find another friend I can be close to. I just keep praying that God will open my eyes to those people I can open up to.


At 11:27 PM , Blogger Jules said…

The internet definitely fills a gap for me. We've been in our town and church for 14 years now and I still feel that there is not one single person whom I can pick up the phone and ring when I need to chat. My mother and sister are overseas as are the two women I feel closest too. I read somewhere that you need to feel connected to 5-7 other people in your church to feel as if you belong. Well if you count my husband and sons and their wives, I guess I could almost get to 5!

But I agree with Teri Lynne Underwood that others perceive a closer connection than we sometimes do and this is something I've had to be sensitive to particularly of late. I wonder if it's a lack of self esteem thing on my part as far as this goes? I don't know. But I do know that I wish I could meet some of the other introverts that I've met online because we seem to have so much in common. Might be different in real life though!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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