What are social relationships good for?

Social Association VdK Germany e.V.

Why friends are so important in life

You go to the cinema or your favorite pub with them - or meet at a distance or via video conference in times of Corona. And the best of them have an open ear, even in the middle of the night, if necessary. Friends are important, regardless of whether you have known them since childhood or only for a few years. But friendships don't grow by themselves. They want to be nurtured over and over again.

All people need friends. What Aristotle wrote down more than 2000 years ago, people still experience today. In addition to the family, friends are among the most important caregivers. Especially for all those who live alone and far away from their families. The best friend or the reliable good buddy often take the place of the partner. With them you share interests and discover new things. But they are also a great support in difficult phases of life, for example during an illness. This turns friends into a species "Family of choice", that is, an equivalent substitute for the blood relatives.

Connect similarities

As life goes on, it becomes harder to make friends. Because where you used to be surrounded by people every day at school, university and at work, people of retirement age inevitably have fewer social contacts. In addition, some of their peers have already passed away. "If you don't want to be alone, you have to actively approach others", says psychotherapist and author Dr. Wolfgang Krüger. He gives courage to reserved and not so self-confident people: "Don't be afraid! It doesn't take much at first: Listening, reliability and interest are required." The easiest way to find friends is in groups with similar interests, in sports for example. Many relationships remain at the stage of acquaintance. With others it goes deeper at some point. Over time, a common basis arises, a give and take. Similarities bring us closer to others. The friend should be a complement. Anyone who likes to talk needs someone who can listen well.

In the best case, a heartfelt friendship is created, the special connection that goes deeper than just having fun or being useful to each other. From it we get encouragement, recognition and support - indispensable resources to stabilize our self-esteem again and again and to save ourselves from loneliness. At its core, friendship is always a positive relationship in which both sides do each other good and help each other when necessary. "The more both are willing to open up and talk about intimate things such as fears and worries, the deeper the relationship can become", says the Berlin psychotherapist.

Good for health

Researchers have also found that friendships have a positive effect on the body and soul. An Australian study shows: those who are surrounded by good friends have a longer life expectancy. The positive influence of relatives, children, but also the partner, on the other hand, was significantly lower. The hormone oxytocin, which is increasingly formed in moments of familiarity, apparently plays a key role in this positive effect. Oxytocin has a double effect: it brings stress and anxiety under control in social situations by inhibiting the release of the stress hormone cortisol and stimulating the reward center.

"Friends have an important relief function"is how Dr. Wolfgang Krüger together. But friendships can change in the course of life, some intensify, others flatten. Similar to a couple relationship, friendships also need constant cultivation and mature like a fine wine. Dr. Kruger recommends to invest at least two hours a week for it. This is especially important for men. The Berlin psychotherapist found that only around a third of men actively maintain friendships, whereas around two thirds of all women have a good friend. Ultimately, the value of a true friendship only becomes apparent in a life crisis. So they knew "Three from the gas station" 80 years ago: "A friend is always a friend, even when the whole world collapses."

Tips

There is usually no one proof of true friendship. But a deeper relationship can be determined based on a few characteristics. Friends:

  • are interested in each other and try to participate in each other's life,
  • stand by each other
  • are honest and reliable and do not speak badly about the friend to third parties,
  • keep secrets to themselves
  • recognize and respect the limits of the other,
  • present themselves as they are and do not pretend
  • tell the other the truth without patronizing them. A good friendship can withstand an argument.

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TagsFriends | Friendship | Bond | Health | Support | relationship