Friendship: The Singles’ Support Network
Never-married singleness used to encompass those years from late adolescence through the 20′s, when most Americans were likely to marry.
Weddings of 22-years-old’s still occur, but it is also commonplace to find men and women, especially those pursuing careers that require extensive schooling or long apprenticeships, to marry for the first time in their 30′s or even 40′s. For singles, how well they handle the emotional demands of being single, especially when they are romantically unattached, will often depend on creating and maintaining a supportive friendship network.
Friendship enables single men and women to have intimacy on their own terms. Unlike marriage, friendship does not involve their entire life, a status shift, a change in living arrangements, or a new name.
Sociologist and singles expert Peter J. Stein, who interviewed 60 single men and women between the ages of 25 and 45, concluded, “For all of these adults a major source of intimacy came from opposite and same-sex friendships. In the absence of marriage these single adults noted the importance of substitute networks of human relationships that met their needs for intimacy, sharing and continuity.”
I am reminded of how important friends were to me during my 20′s and 30′s, when I was single. I was offered a job in the Midwest but turned it down, explaining to the president of the company, “I have too many ties here to consider moving right now.”
“But I thought you were single,” he replied, confused. I continued by explaining to him that if I were married, I could relocate my spouse and children, if need be. But since I was single, my family consisted of several close, unrelated friendships that I had developed over the years. I could not expect any of my friends to move, and I needed those ties to have some sense of emotional consistency to my life.
It is vital to keep adding to a friendship network as friends become unavailable because someone moves or gets totally immersed in a romantic relationship or an all-consuming situation, such as a new job. These friendshifts enable you to replenish your network so you always feel connected to at least one close friend.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make getting together with your friends, especially your best or close ones, a key concern, up there along with work, family, relatives, hobbies or sports interests.
- Do not let your economic situation determine whether or not you get together with friends. If you are financially strapped, have a potluck dinner at your home, meet at an inexpensive coffee shop, or-in nice weather-at a picnic in the park.
- If your best or close friend-and even a casual one, if you think there is a potential for greater intimacy-invites you to a key event in his or her life, make every effort to try to get there.
- If you are really pressed for time but still want to maintain contact with your friends, try to combine what you have to do with getting together with a friend: Take an exercise class together, ask a friend to join you for your necessary holiday shopping, meet over lunch during the workday if you just do not have a minute to spare at night or on the weekends.
- Make a master list of birthdays and anniversaries, and note those dates on a wall calendar or in your weekly planner.
- Take advantage of as many possibilities for maintaining contact as possible. For example, I have a close friend who lives in the next town; we may see each other every month or two, but we also talk by phone, send each other an occasional fax, and recently added email as another way of keeping involved in each other’s lives. Since each way of staying connected has its advantages and limitations, its costs and its requirements, having many ways to communicate with your friends multiplies your friendship possibilities.
Excerpted, with written permission, from, FRIENDSHIFTS: THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP AND HOW IT SHAPES OUR LIVES by Dr. Jan Yager.