Human beings are dependent on connections. When a baby is born, it has no chance to survive unless someone feeds and cares for it. Even as we grow up, we continue to be dependent on our connections with others for our happiness and even for our emotional and physical health.
As we mature, our connections shift in various ways. Our first few years are spent mostly under the care of family members – maybe nursery or daycare with others – but primarily with family or direct care-takers. As we start to go to school, we begin to widen our connections: teachers and other kids come into our lives regularly. Hopefully, if things are going well, some of these other kids will become friends.
Our attention and time spent with others often shifts towards spending more time with friends and less with family, as we grow up. We will probably still be deeply attached to parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and all the rest. But our friends and then ultimately romantic relationships will continue to play bigger roles in most of our lives.
The success and value of friendships depends on our being able to maintain balance. Some people seem to be unable to ever be alone. But there are some things people can only do, or do best when alone – reading, writing, thinking, practicing an instrument might require some solitude to really do them well. If you can never tolerate being alone, you will be pretty limited.
On the other hand, some people are very uncomfortable being with others even though living in constant and total isolation can be bad for your emotions and your health. And there are some activities that really only work in a group or with several people. So again, living too much alone can be limiting as well.
It may sound odd, but it seems that people who have more reliable and confident connections and relationships with family and friends are the best ones at managing time alone. When you feel secure in your connections you can have the confidence that even if you are apart for a while, your friends or family will still be there for you if and when you need them.
Think about this: one of the other really interesting characteristics of relationships and friendships is that they can be flexible and adjustable. You might be really close to someone in elementary school and then in high school your group of friends might look different. You might be closer with people who you share interests with, be in the same club or on the same team with as opposed to being friends with someone who lives around the corner from you.
Another quality of friendship to think about is mutuality. Ideally, for a friendship to be happy and healthy there should be some give and take. Each friend should be providing support and help for the other when needed and this will probably shift around during the course of the friendship. If a relationship is all based on one person giving and the other always taking, this is probably not such a great and positive arrangement.
So, we all need human connections and one of the main ways we do this is through friendships. Ideally, friends should feel reliable and be ok being with us and sometimes not, should be supportive and caring to each other and be flexible to shifts over time as needs and circumstances change. If you keep these items in mind you are likely to have more supportive and successful friendships throughout your life.