High Class Problems

Yesterday I was talking to someone about my blog when she told me,  “My problem is that I have too many friends. I have no time to see them all. One of my friends is moving away and I’m relieved because it’s one less person to fit in my calendar.”

My first response: Poor you. Perhaps you also have too much money and too much trouble gaining weight.

But actually, I get it. This woman is from Chicago. Her life and most of the people she loves are here. It’s similar to when I head back to NYC. Sometimes I withhold the fact that I’m in town from certain people, because trying to juggle seeing everyone in a two-day period is simply not possible. Then I feel totally guilty, and even a bit stressed—what if I “forgot” to tell someone that I’m back home, and then I run into her at a bar? (It’s more likely than you’d think.)  I’d feel like a total ass, when really it was that I want to spend quality time with her, but this trip was a high school affair, or for the college pals. Ugh, I want to poke my eye out just thinking about it.

So while having too many friends is a good problem to have, I can see where it might, in fact, be a real problem.

The other night I was at a speed-friending event—yes, you read that right! Speed-friending! Who knew, right? I shall expound on that adventure next week—and Shasta Nelson, CEO of GirlfriendCircles and our evening’s MC, said something about how women need at least 5 good friends, but once you surpass 10 friends personal satisfaction actually decreases. (I can’t find the research to back this up, but such was her claim.)

Maybe the woman with “too many friends” does, truly, have too many friends. Maybe she’s so busy making time for all her deep (and local) relationships that she doesn’t have the time for herself she needs. I really can’t say. (And clearly I’m not plagued with such troubles…)

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar says we can each handle about 150 friends, but not all of them of the BFF level. Trying to give that much of yourself to too many people would be just exhausting. Even someone searching for a BFF (or five) knows that the line must be drawn somewhere.

Do you think one can have too many friends? Do you agree with Shasta Nelson’s 5 to 10 suggestion? How many BFFs do you think one person can reasonably maintain?

{Today’s Month of Friendship post is from the ladies at GirlfriendCelebrations.com. Enjoy… And happy long weekend!}


Filed under The Search

20 responses to “High Class Problems

  1. 150 friends? Holy cow. Now I feel like a really pathetic loser!

    • Well, I should be clearer. 150 social connections. So anyone from you BFF to the person who you’d stop and talk to if you saw her on the street. Here’s how he defined “friend” in this context to the Wall Street Journal: “You would probably have to do a lot of catching up, but they know you fit into their social world and you know they fit into yours. You have a history.”

    • Fanfan

      Don’t feel bad when you don’t meet the average. “Normal” is just a setting on the dryer.

  2. oh man, I was supposed to be at that speed-friending event but stayed home due to a bad cold. Would have loved to have met you. (but didn’t think you all would appreciate my germs; and I really did feel like poo!)

    I think around 5 really close friends sounds like a good, manageable number — if you’re close, then you’re probably sharing deep stuff and problems, and I think there is a limit to how many people one can really do a good job of “being there” for.

    Of course, all of my close friends have moved out of state, so despite still living in my hometown, I don’t have the too-many-friends problem…

  3. 3. A person can reasonably maintain that deep BFF friendship with 3 people. After that it gets tough I think, especially with spouses and family to keep up with too. Leanne has spoken. 🙂

  4. Suzannah

    Hearing about ladies like her, is why i feel hestitant to approach people….I just assume others, except me, are on Friend overload!!!!

    • I know what you me, but you’ve gotta at least try! More people than not will make time for a new friend. I bet even this girl would, despite what she says (hey, she’s accepted me!)

      • Shelby

        I agree, Suzannah. I have actually been bold enough lately to ask a couple of ladies if they would be my friend and the “jist” of the situation was that they were too other commitments. Then I found out later that they spent the weekend with two or three other friends (that I’m “friends” with too)!

        I think the part that gets me most is not that they excluded me, but that they didn’t think of me!

  5. I haven’t lived in Chicago forever, but I have lived here for 14 years … longer than I have lived in any other city. In my 20s, I had a really large circle of friends. I loved the diversity of these friends and the fact that at least 4 nights a week, I had plans with them. I prided myself on being able to keep up with such a large group of people.

    Things changed in my 30s. I bought my own condo at 29 and it was the first place that felt like home (so, I actually enjoyed hanging out there). I got married. And now we’re expecting our first kid. With each milestone, my circle of CLOSE friends has grown smaller. It’s not that I’m no longer friends with the people from my 20s … but, I choose to spend quality time with a much smaller group of friends and keep in touch peripherally with everyone else. For me, it works.

    • That makes sense to me. As your family and outside commitments grow, it’s important to downsize in other places, maybe. And when your time is limited, you want to be sure the time you do make for friends is really well spent and you can get the most out of it possible…

      • Ana

        I totally get that, too, Nilsa. While I am in a new city which may be leading to some of my “friendlessness” (not sure WHAT word to use, hypo-friendia?) I also have very limited time & energy with a new house, a husband, and a new kid. Even if I HAD the same big group of friends I had during my 20s, I don’t think I could keep up with all of them. I am going for quality in my social outings, since I can no longer go for quantity, & I have to very carefully decide whether any relationships will add to my happiness or not. If you are going out 4 times a week, all of those plans don’t have to be meaningful—if you are going out once or twice a month…. Thus, I have found myself shying away from meeting up with people I don’t consider either true BFFs or potential BFFS.

  6. san

    This definitely sounds VERY familiar… I have a ton of friends/good acquaintances back home and – like you – I sometimes don’t tell some of them when I am coming home for a visit, because it’s simply not possible to fit all of them in.

    On the other hand, here in CA where I live, I don’t have many friends at all… actually, I only have one person that I could call up. This makes me sad.

    I don’t have a problem handling and maintaining many relationships through emails/letters, but I wish my BFF situation was a little bit more balanced (aka I had one in the city where I actually live).

  7. Fanfan

    Rachel, how many days do you social for your search for BFFs per week?

    I mean, I don’t have kids. I don’t have to work. All I have is my boyfriend, two cats and school(I do run a student club). I don’t feel I have a lot of time to go out after working out 2~3 times a week.

  8. nutmegger

    Is it weird to prefer 1 BFF to 150 friends? As an introvert, I often feel drained when in groups and would rather spend one-on -time. (I’m currently on a BFF search myself — LOVE this blog!!!). But it seems to me that many women are quite happy to have lots of friends (vs. one very close friend), so I’m trying something new. Instead of focusing on one person, I’m widening my social circle and not limiting myself as I always have, if that makes any sense.

    I also imagine that it must be easier to meet potential friends in a city, no? I live in a small town and there just aren’t as many people. But I appreciate your advice, Rachel — “getting out there, consistency, …” For years I’ve felt sorry for myself because I lack friendship(s) yet I haven’t really done all that much about it!
    Thank you for all the great advice and blog posts!

  9. Sam

    Sadly, I can relate to the “too many friends” predicament. A lot of my high school and college friends ended up in Chicago or the suburbs. I feel like it’s hard to maintain a close relationship with so many people (I’m past 10!) across so many different groups, and I’m an introvert so I love time alone. I have started to shy away from creating deeper friendships.

    That being said, I do love to meet new people, expand my general circle of friends, and connect friends. You never know if that new friend will turn into a best friend for you or for one of your other friends!

  10. Lorrie Paige

    I believe having many friends isn’t good, if you’re talking about friendship in the truest sense of the word.. Aristotle talked about that in his Friendship writings….

    I recently broke up with a friend because he simply had no time for me anymore, and having too many friends was the major issue. He no longer had quality time to spend with me and our friendship fizzled to death.

    Spending time with friends is necessary and we simply can’t be there for everyone if we have a ton of friends. Also, it would be overwhelmingly, emotionally exhausting to give so much care and concern to a lot of friends in a way one would with a genuine friend, as Aristotle mentioned in his writings.

    I’ve read several famous writers say (I’m paraphrasing) to have one friend you are very blessed. Two friends are many. Three friends–a miracle. And in modern times, that’s about as many people a person has time to spend on to really be good, close friends with in our busy lives.

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