Friends are like shoes – and not just because both pals and the perfect pair of pumps can bring you profound joy. Friendship experts agree: Just as your favorite old sneakers aren’t perfect for every occasion, neither is every friend. It’s crucial to have a colorful assortment of friends – from comfy to professional – to match the varied parts of your life.
Says Jessica, 31, of Dix Hills, New York, “When I feel low, I always think, ‘Well, I have a friend who isthis and a friend who is that – the super-successful impressive friend, the crazy creative friend, the beyond-loyal friend, the since-seventh-grade friend’ – and it makes me feel better to be able to say, ‘I am so good at having friends that I’ve got them in all different shapes and sizes!'”
Why else are multiple friendships so important? What are some key friendships to foster? And what’s the best way to do that when we’re always so on the go?
“When we’re younger, it’s fine to have one or two all-purpose friends,” says Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore (Rodale, 2004). “But as adults, when our lives and needs and interests become more complex, we need a diverse group of friends who cover all of our dimensions.”
Just as you can’t expect your great black loafers to work with a strappy sundress, you can’t expect your single friend to discuss at length the ins and outs of diaper rash. “It’s unrealistic to expect one friend to offer everything,” says Jan Yager, PhD, author of Who’s That Sitting at My Desk? Workship, Friendship, or Foe? (Hannacroix Creek, 2004). “You’re drawing on the strengths and benefits that each one offers, not trying to mold someone into something she isn’t.”
Seeing different friendships for what
they are can preserve and prolong them, as Eleanor, 38, of Syracuse, New York, discovered. “I have a dear friend who’s great about doing things only a close friend will, like helping me move,” she says. But Eleanor found it frustrating to confide in her pal about her single-woman hardships. “I hated her cool, no-nonsense responses – she’d basically tell me I just needed to ‘get over it.’ I would think, ‘She has no idea what it’s like!’ But then it hit me – her very long-term boyfriend became her husband. She actually does have no idea what it’s like!”
Since then, Eleanor says, “I’ve learned to appreciate what we do share: frustrations with work and politics, similar senses of humor. Now I know she’s not the one to call about dating blues. I have plenty of other girlfriends who relate to that!”
The Well-Rounded Friends
So what are the five types of friends that will round out your social wardrobe?
The Work Friend. This relationship is so important that Dr. Yager coined a term for it: a “workship.” Having an office pal, she says, “boosts productivity, makes the day go faster, and work more fun.” Sylvia, 36, of Brookline, Massachusetts, says her workship is the only reason she survives her “heinous job” at all. “She saves my life every day. We bitch about our boss, fantasize about changes we’d make if we overthrew her, share dirt on who’s good to work with and who’s not. And we laugh,” Sylvia says. “My husband commiserates when I come home, sure, but he’s not there.”
Just be on guard: If only one of you gets that promotion, things could get uncomfortable. Try to discuss it in advance if you can.