Choosing Up Teams In The Game Of Life: Why friends are equally important to blood relatives
There’s a reason the phrase is “friends and family” and not friends OR family. Both are important in the long run — studies have shown that lonelier people tend to have shorter life expectancy. But what is lonely? Some people need just a few good friends in their lives, some live for huge family gatherings. There’s no right way except the one that works for you.
Here’s the problem: there is no blueprint to the perfect family relationship or friendship. If you’re lucky you’re born into a supportive, loving family, but not everyone gets that starting out. They build their families from scratch through the years. Sometimes it’s that gang of pals you’ve had since high school that have been best men and maids of honor at each other’s weddings, the people your spouse know are part of the package deal with special friend privileges. Sometimes your family starts when you start a family yourself, you and your partner, rewriting the rules as you go along.
It is sometimes difficult to determine if you’re part of a healthy, happy family or not. Often you think you know and you see how other families and friends behave and then compare. But remember, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily translate to others. However, if you’re supported emotionally and can rely on people who love you unconditionally, chances are you’ve got a good thing going.
If you grew up in a large family, sometimes all you want when you grow up is a small circle of important people, pushing the larger part of relatives to the outer edge. It’s the difference between getting together every weekend or just keeping tabs through Facebook, or any gradient along the curve. Similarly, people who were only children may feel like they missed out on the group experience and surround themselves with a close knit crew and a basketball team’s worth of kids.
It’s important to maintain the relationships you have, friends and family alike, and if that isn’t possible for any number of perfectly legitimate reasons, then you should be looking for people who fit that bill for you. You should only include people who will be there for you, and who will never have to wonder if you’ll be there for them, too. Call this circle “team you.” It’s who you fall on when some other relationship fails you, whether divorce or estrangement. These are the people who will keep you from locking your heart away from ever trying again.
The most important part of having close connections, no matter the size of the the group, is that you can be yourself around them and they can let their hair down around you, too. They don’t judge you, they join you. They don’t laugh at you, they laugh with you. You complete each other’s sentences and can communicate whole thoughts with just a particular glance or gesture. You each have the key to one another’s in-joke references. These connections transcend all barriers: age, blood, gender, environment. That’s when “team you” becomes “team us.”
And that’s why there’s one more great quote you should keep in mind: “a friend is someone who knows you really well, but likes you anyway.”