We speak to our close friends frequently. We tweet, we email, we text each other. But seeing each other? That often takes a backburner. We work long hours, we want to spend time with our partners, we like to see our families, we need to sleep.
But when we do see our friends, we realise this: those meaningful relationships that have been so vital over the years, still are. Having a space to discuss our problems, laugh and analyse with those that aren’t partners or family, is essential. And we need to make more time for it.
“It’s important to gain input from outside family relationships and have face-to-face communication where you see facial expression and non-verbal communication,” says psychotherapist Harriet Lalor. “Friends are an important sounding board – although sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, it’s just about being together.”
Of course, friendship groups can be fractious (childhood friends, new friends, colleagues, your partner’s friends) and arranging a physical meet-up can be tricky. When it’s raining and you’re overworked, it can be easier to flake out.
“If friends are important to you, don’t juggle them, prioritise,” says Mark Vernon, author of The Meaning of Friendship. “Maybe going to the gym five times a week isn’t a good idea. Don’t work so late. Or you might get 10 years down the line and realise you’re surrounded by acquaintances.”
According to Dr Michael Sinclair, consultant counselling psychologist for harleystreet.com and clinical director at City Psychology Group, the pressure to perform at work has left little room to work on our core beliefs. “We don’t just get satisfaction from our goals, but our values too,” he says. “We can gain a sense of satisfaction from a being a caring friend and it’s a very important source of replenishment and energy.” Dr Sinclair also says it’s crucial to be savvy with your friends: identify those who make you feel good about yourself and make time for them.
Josie Barnard, author of The Book Of Friendship agrees. “Being with partners and family can make you think about the minute of daily life,” she says. “But being frivolous, at least occasionally, is crucial to our well-being. Friends help you do that.”
And that, Barnard says, needs to happen in person: “Carl Jung famously said, ‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’ Such chemical reactions don’t happen over the phone.”