Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close - Book Review
How is it that we give so much thoughtfulness to the ins and outs of romantic relationships, yet give so little to the relationships that supports us through it all?
Friendships are inmate, life changing relationships. And they deserve more attention.
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close is THE (popular) book on friendships. If you haven't read it yet - or listened to the podcast Call Your Girlfriend - @callyrgf - by Aminatou Sow (@aminatou) and Ann Friedman (@annfridman), this one's another must!
To give you a sneak peak into this honest and funny read, I wanted to share my top takeaways with you.
Friendships are powerful. Whether for the worst or best, friendships are powerfully influential. Friendships have this incredible ability to change the people that are in them. In healthy friendships, where you feel ultimately seen and heard by your friend, deep connections not only ground and energize us, but also start to transform us. "Friends provide a secure based for each other [similar to secure attachment traditionally understood with primary caregivers] - meaning the friendship allows them to go out and explore [the world] because they can look over their shoulder and know their friend is there for them." (p. 152). Friendships can also be a safe harbour to return to when things are scary, distressing or overwhelming, and can make us feel safe and secure again.
Friendships help us shine. Another powerful aspect of friendships is that they enact Shine Theory - "an investment, over the long term, in helping someone be their best self—and relying on their help in return" (ShineTheory.com). It is a "practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when our friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren't" (p. 218). Friendships help us shine, like supporting us in getting a promotion, having a family, or mastering a new skill - stepping away from competition and into collaboration. Friendships give us a platform to be seen in our brightest of lights.
Friendships are hard work. Don't fool yourself; friendships are hard. While some may not feel demanding, they do demand a lot from us. Time. Effort. Curiosity. Thought. Planning. Energy. Space. Creativity. Openness. Attention. Love. Support. Initiation. Shared values. Unlike our families of origin (e.g., primary caregivers, parents, siblings, extended family members), we actively choose our friends. They can be our chosen families. And with that choice, we work hard to keep them close. Friendships are hard work because they also involve constant stretching. "[They] expand our world, challenge us, and inspire us to change. This give-and-take is necessary from the very beginning because no two people are exactly alike. Life inevitably brings changes. And those changes often shift the foundation of which the friendship was built. " (p. 273). When the foundation that you built with a friend changes, it can be uncomfortable and scary to experience, and it doesn't mean your friendship cannot adapt. It just requires some work - little or big stretches - to feel strong again.
Friendships are individually unique. With each friend, you lean into shared values and create a story of sameness. Those values and stories can be different for each separate friendships. Friendships can look similar, and even feel that way too, but they are individually unique. Friends fulfill a unique need for you, and you for them. Plus not all friendships are equal (all the time). There is a "level of stretch", as Sow and Friedman put it, that each friend will entertain throughout the friendship. This stretch is fluid and flexible to allow different needs to be met at different times. Your puzzle pieces are exactly what the other needs to complete their life puzzle, knowing that each of your puzzles change over time.
Friendships are powerful, shiny, hard work, and are individually unique. And I wouldn't trade them for the world.
Sow, A. & Friedman A., 2020. Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close. BigFriendship.com.