I don't care who I lose anymore quote
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
August 4, 2020 ·  5 min read

Who Are Your Real Friends? Choose Quality Over Quantity

When we are younger, we tend to consider every playmate and classmate our friend. Birthday parties in elementary school are large affairs with friends crowded around the table. As we grow older, this crowd diminishes. We begin to notice different kinds of friends, including those who are just casual acquaintances. We end up losing friends.

Some friends we speak to once in a blue moon, perhaps when we chance upon each other at a party. Although we talk about meeting up, we hardly ever do.   

Some friends we can’t fully be ourselves around and we’re self-conscious when we spend time with them. This is either because we are shy and we’ve yet to let our guard down, or they’ve have given us reasons in the past to keep our guard up.

Some friends we meet often and have many similar interests, but we keep the conversations about external things. We enjoy their company but we never quite began discussing personal issues.  

Then there are our true friends. They know us better than we know ourselves. They are the first people we call in a crisis and we can trust them to give us good feedback that’s honest but never scathing. We also call them during good times, because we know that they will always be thrilled at our successes. These friends bring a light to our life by existing in it.  

Read: The Truth Is We Outgrow Those Who Don’t Know How To Love Us

The difficulty of maintaining friendships as adults 

As we age, friendships become challenging. The amount of responsibilities we have to juggle sometimes forces us to drop the friendship ball. Friends move countries, change careers, and pick an entirely different life path, some of which are impossible to follow. Some nights, we suddenly recall a beloved friend from way back when and wonder what they are doing. This may prompt us to reach out and sometimes the relationship is reborn and sometimes it isn’t. But it makes us miss the friendships we had and makes us value the ones we have. 

While we may grieve friendships that have fallen to the wayside, this is often a blessing in disguise. Although life is busy between jobs, kids, romantic relationships, health, and all the ways life is busy, good friends will set time aside for friendships. Some people can’t be bothered. [1] 

Friendship is a two-way street. If one person is committed, but the other isn’t, it won’t last. And the longer it does, the higher the chances that someone will be emotionally hurt. 

People change and what was once a good friend may become a hindrance to our growth and life goals. Some people aren’t good for us, and we can try to fix the friendship by communicating and setting boundaries, but if these attempts fail, it’s better to leave the friend behind.  

Let go of friends who are dragging you down 

Our priorities change as we grow older, and that’s not a bad thing. Some friends may not be understanding of that and demand more time than we could give. Often, they have yet to mature, or perhaps they are in a different stage of life than yours and can’t relate. As long as you are giving the friendship your all, you are doing your part. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice yourself to be there for friends who expect you to be there for them at the drop of a hat.  

On the flip side, if you are putting effort into a friendship and the other party doesn’t seem to reciprocate, let them be. If they are true friends, they will contact you again and you will be able to discuss friendship expectations to avoid any future confusion and distress. However, there’s a chance they might not reach back out. This can be extremely painful and it’s ok to grieve as you let that friend go. Once you do that, use your energy to develop healthier friendships. [2] Better yet, use that energy to develop yourself. 

You have to try to help people understand and accept you, which conversely means you have to understand and accept yourself enough that you believe you can make somebody else’s life brighter just by being in it,said Donald Miller, author of Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy[3]  

It’s hard to let a friend go, especially when there were years of memories with them. Just know that if the friendship dies, the memories won’t. You can still think fondly on those days and be grateful for how they impacted your life, even if you lose contact completely. 

When it comes to friends, quality beats quantity 

We don’t need a dining table full of friends at our birthday parties anymore. More often than not, if we tried to invite 20–30 people to a party, most won’t be able to show up. But true friends you could count on being there. Thirty friends who you can’t be yourself around don’t hold a candle to having one or two people who know you inside and out. These are the people that will always have your back.  

“When it comes to friendship, we put quantity over quality, so it becomes a question of how many people will show up to your birthday party,” said Sue Johnson, founder of the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. “The real question is if you can open up and be vulnerable with a few of these folks. Are you willing to tune in emotionally and respond if they reach for you?” [3] 

More often than not, having a ton of friends means we have no friends. It’s better to focus our energies on the people that matter. 

[1] “7 questions that’ll help you decide whether or not to break up with a friend for good.” Ellen Hendriksen. Business Insider. June 11, 2020 

[2] “The Math is Clear: Having a Ton of Friends Means Having No Close Friendships.” Eric Mack. Inc. July 23, 2018 

[3] “How to Have Closer Friendships (and Why You Need Them).” Emma Pattee. New York Times. November 20, 2019