The Meaning of Friendship: Small Circle, Big Support

Friendships are essential throughout our entire life, but how do they change and evolve as we get older? Let's look at the different types of friends we have and the benefits of each.
Meaning of Friendship

When we think of the words friendship and friends, one wouldn’t think we would need to look the terms up because, well, we know what they mean. But do we really know what the true meaning of friendship is?

What is Friendship?

Being the bookish nerd (lovingly called by my husband and son) that I am, I looked up the word friendship. According to Merriam-Webster, friendship is the “state of being friends.” Ok, I got that.

The word friends was hyperlinked, so, of course, I clicked on it. (You know you would too!) At any rate, the word friends actually has many definitions. The two I focused on were “one attached to another by affection or esteem,” and the second definition stated, “acquaintance.” I don’t know about you, but I find these to be three very vastly different words: affection, esteem, and acquaintance.

Who Are Our Friends?

Mature Group of Friends

These words got me thinking about the people in my life whom I counted as friends. Then I began to narrow it down to which people I would put with each word. Who were people I called friends who were merely acquaintances, people I was familiar with but held no true personal feelings for? Who was a friend simply because I held esteem for them, and who were the friends I had a genuine affection for? I started thinking about what constitutes true friends and why we have different friends and/or amounts of friends at other times of our lives.

The Meaning of Friendship Changes Throughout Our Life Span

Our 20s

As we examine the friends we have had throughout our life, we see a pattern or connection of some sort with people and what was going on at the time. As we are all aware, each phase in life has different stages or things that are important to us; for example, in our 20s, we are simply full of youth and energy.

We are finishing college or starting to work, building careers, and dating. This phase in life is energetic, full tilt, and BIG! During this time, we call almost everyone we know friends, and each friend consists of doing certain things. Life is full and exciting with all the people we know personally, professionally, and just casually.

During our 20s, we, as women, may be lucky enough to find one or two friends who become our true girlfriends. These will be the ones we invest our emotions into, but everyone else falls into work friends, party friends, and friends for different activities.

Our 30s

When we reach our 30s, our friendships move based on the course we have taken in life. We find that our circle of friends is getting smaller, and no longer do you need nor want so many people as friends, nor do we continue all the activities we did in our 20s. Some women may focus on their careers, and their friends will be more work-related.

Some may get married and have children, with friends being other married couples or other mothers. I know my 30s were entirely focused on being a wife and stay-at-home mother, and my circle of friends was other mothers with children around the same age as my son. Our energy and time in our 30s become more precious and more focused on a few important aspects, and our friends will result from this focus.

Our 40s

In our 40s, we truly begin to look at life differently and begin to determine what is really important. Our 40s tend to call for no longer having the time or desire for a “big” life with lots of things going on and with lots of people. It seems family, a few specific friends, and work become important aspects of our life. We focus our energies on just a few things; thus, our life activities get smaller, but our life doesn’t.

As many of us can attest, our 40s are a time when we can truly invest in our true friendships because we have begun to weed out the excess. We connect even more with the few true girlfriends that we have, spending our time and energy on them, while other people we see occasionally or maybe not at all anymore.

As We Age, Our Circle of Friends Gets Smaller

Group of Friends

As we get older, we find that there is a difference between “people I know,” “people I am friendly with,” and “true friends.” Time is precious as we get older, so we do not want to waste our energies on things that truly do not matter. Our friendship circle gets smaller, but it does so on purpose and with reason.

I have been blessed to have two lifelong best friends and a best friend that was made in my 30s, and I know these three will be there for me no matter what happens. They are the ones who invest in me and my life on such a deep level. My circle of friends is small, but we are so tight.

The Crucial Benefits of Friendships Over 50

How to use MeetUp to make friends

Studies have shown that adults with strong friendships have a higher chance of living longer, even compared to younger individuals with fewer such connections. According to a study completed by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina, Chappel Hill, “A supportive network of family and friends may have an impact on longevity.” Betty Friedan also found similar research findings in her book The Fountain of Age. She found that as we age, we get rid of superficial friendships but keep those that give us a strong support system.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that friendships are good for our overall well-being. Here are a few benefits of friendships as we age:

  • Prevents loneliness and gives companionship
  • Increases a sense of belonging and improves self-confidence
  • Reduces stress
  • Decreases the chances of significant health issues
  • Support during difficult times, which reduces the feeling of isolation and being alone

We all need the security, support, and love of a few special people we connect with, love, and know will support us no matter what. Investing time in true friendships can benefit you with better health and a brighter outlook. I pray that a tight circle of a precious few friends surrounds you. Hold tight to that circle and feed it with love and compassion. Make it a priority and watch it grow stronger with each passing year.

Read Next:

Can Older Women Have a Platonic Friendship?

How to Use MeetUp to Find Social Opportunities and Meet New Friends

6 Tips for Making Friends in Your Prime


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