I’m thinking I have probably lost most of my readers by now! I’ve been mighty quiet on the blog front. I’m not one to write in this space just to write. While I usually have a running list in my head of stuff I want to write about or share about, I’ve had a little block lately. That, and the fact that I’ve been away at the beach for a few fabulous days with two of my oldest friends in the entire world, has kept me from sitting at my computer.
Due to our flight home being cancelled we even got an extra day together. Before this weekend it had been about two years since we had been together for anything other than to share the awfulness of funerals, for each of us. Therefore, this was an especially nice time. I’m back home now feeling happy to be back with my boys, but also very refreshed and relaxed. The particular friendship with these two gals that I’ve known so long it’s really hard to remember not knowing them, is something I’m especially grateful for.
This got me to thinking about old friendships. I think that old friendships are like no other. All friendships are wonderful, and necessary, but there’s just something about those special people that have known you for a long time. They know where you grew up. Heck, they grew up with you. You share the same stories and memories. You can finish each others’ sentences. You feel more comfortable with them than just about anyone. You know you love them and they love you regardless of what you have done or said or look like. You don’t try to impress them or hide anything from them. If you are going to burp in front of someone, it’ll be these friends.
I’ve done some research into the long term benefits of friendships. Science backs the idea that those who have a support system, friendships and social lives, are healthier and live longer than those who do not. However, I’ve never looked into whether there was a difference to our well being depending on the type of friendships, meaning whether they were old friend or new ones.
I’m not the only person that’s thought of this and the health benefits, either. In a sense, it’s sort of like what happens at the holidays. The Holiday cards or the traditions themselves take you back in time and often remind us of our old friendships. These old friendships are our “comfort food” and there is actually a theory behind the importance of old friendships. It is called “socioemotional selectivity theory”. Thank heavens it is abbreviated to SST because I can’t say the actual name three time straight! This theory was developed by Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen, and bases itself on the idea that people seek at least two functions out of their relationships: informational and affective. The information function refers to the knowledge that we get from other people. If you have an acquaintance who’s a foodie, and you’re looking for a good restaurant, you’ll ask that acquaintance (and not someone else who lacks that knowledge) to give you suggestions for a restaurant. Well, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t have to be especially close to that person to satisfy the information function of that friendship. However, if you are close to someone, those persons serve the emotion function of the friendship – they make you feel good.
SST predicts that when we get older we seek friends who satisfy the emotion function of friendships. Personally, I know that as I’ve gotten older with less free time, I want to spend that free time with particular people. I want to be with people who make me feel good. However, it’s not only getting older that leads us to prefer our long-term friends. In any situation that we perceive to be time-limited, we seek out the people who fulfill the emotional function of a relationship. If you knew the world was going to end in five minutes, you’d want to be with the people who matter most to you, not the ones who can give you directions to the nearest Starbucks. (Credit)
Old friends matter, not only because they make us feel good, but because they connect us to our past and other people and experiences in our past. They typically are the ones who accept us for who we are, burps and all, and keep us grounded. There’s no fooling these folks.
SST research also shows that interacting with your oldest friends helps you feel better by boosting your emotions and your self-esteem. These are the friends that cheer you on, support you and make you feel good about yourself.
In this day and age it is difficult for long time friends to be close geographically. People are more spread out than they were in the past and people are busier than ever. Thank heavens we don’t have to sit down and write a letter to stay in touch. Checking in with email and texts is so easy and is so powerful in keeping the friendships alive and kicking. And if you have lost touch with someone or find yourself wanting to reconnect, social media makes it so easy to find those folks.
I’ve found it interesting that in each season of life we tend to have and make new friends. Some of those friends change with life’s seasons and others stay to become new, old friends. I watch women older than I continue to make the effort to stay in touch with their friends and stay connected to those bonds. I’ve seen first hand how important those bonds can be throughout life. Oftentimes it is those lasting friendships that help you through life’s worst traumas. In my case, they have been the ones that go talk to the preacher with you while you plan a funeral. They might show up at the hospital and stay with you three days straight. They may even sleep in the same bed with you even though you’ve been a grown up for years. They are the first ones you call when you get the scary phone call. They are also the ones who make you laugh so hard you snort and pee in your pants.
Whether you believe in this SST theory and the actual research on old friendships, I know personally that some friendships are like fine wines and just keep getting better. They are definitely worth the effort to keep and I wouldn’t want to miss out on any part of those old friendships. Burps, snorts and all.
Do you have your own old friends you couldn’t do without? Have you also found new, old friends? Isn’t technology great for keeping in touch with those friends? Do you have friends you’ve known so long you have no idea how you actually met?
Enjoy Your Day!