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How to show your friends you love them, according to a friendship expert

Kavitha George

Sylvie Douglis

A comic illustrating three ways that you can show affection to your friends. On the left a woman hugs her friend and says,"She makes the best enchiladas in the whole world!" In the middle a woman is talking on the phone saying, "Well of course you got the raise! You've been kickin' butt!" And on the right, one friend tells another, "You're my favorite person. Do you know that?"

When psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco went through a rough breakup in 2015, she felt like she had no more love in her life. So Franco leaned on her friends for support. They did yoga, cooked and read together. As she and her friends grew closer, she realized they were a deep well of love, community and healing. And she began to understand the importance of non-romantic, non-family relationships.

Now, Franco wants to help others experience that profound level of friendship too. Her new book, Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends , which came out this month, offers insights on how to improve the quality of our platonic relationships using the latest research on human connection. She talks to Life Kit about how to deepen those bonds and find happiness and fulfillment in the process.

an article about love and friendship

Marisa Franco, Ph.D. is a psychologist, friendship expert the author of Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends. Left: Darren Agboh/Right: G.P. Putnam's Sons hide caption

"It takes an entire community for us to feel whole," writes Franco in her book. Psychologists have long theorized that humans need meaningful social connections to survive. In fact, it's linked to our mental and physical wellbeing. Knowing that we have people to lean on and care for us makes us feel confident and assured.

And the stronger our relationships are, the more likely we are to thrive, she adds. So how do we intensify the existing friendships in our lives? Franco offers four tips, based on her research.

1. Shower them with (platonic) affection

We often think of affection as the sort of love we show in romantic relationships. But affection is more than holding hands and kissing. It's about communicating love and appreciation.

There are many ways you can show platonic love to your friends, says Franco. Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them when you think of them in passing. Remind them you are grateful to know them. These simple acts provide a layer of security in the relationship. It shows your friends that you genuinely care for them and lets them know it's safe to invest in your friendship.

A handwritten list of ways Marisa Franco, psychologist and friendship expert, says you can show affection to your friends. The list includes: Tell them how much they mean to you. When they reach out, tell them how happy you are to hear from them. Be excited at their good news. Compliment them. Praise their hard work. Greet them warmly, and more.

It might feel strange to show affection to a friend, she says, because unlike romantic relationships, platonic relationships often lack a script for explicit declarations of love. But research has shown that these displays of affection are much appreciated.

A 2018 study published in the journal Psychological Science asked people to write letters of gratitude to someone in their life and rate how they would be received. The participants consistently overestimated how awkward the recipient would feel and underestimated how happy it made them.

Want to be happier? Evidence-based tricks to get you there

Want to be happier? Evidence-based tricks to get you there

However, cautions Franco, it's important to understand people's different levels of comfort when it comes to affection. Maybe one of your friends, for example, hates hugs but loves compliments. So talk to your friends and figure out their friendship love language, she says. Ask them: "How would you like me to show you that I really value you?"

2. Lavish them with your skills and talents

Being generous with your friends — sharing your time, attention or resources with them — is an easy way to nurture your friendships, says Franco. It's an expression of love that shows you want to invest more in the relationship.

"People want to be and stay friends with people who value them, and generosity is a way to express that," Franco says. And there's science that shows it pays off — a 2019 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that junior and high school students who exhibited traits like generosity and empathy were more likely to build deep, long-lasting friendships than students who didn't identify with those characteristics.

Franco suggests a personal approach. "Think about what your skills and talents are and find a way to turn that into a generous act," she says. For example, when she found out that her friends wanted to learn more about how to set up investment accounts, she used her research and analysis skills as a psychologist to put together a presentation on the topic for them.

4 tips to stay connected when your friends live far away

4 tips to stay connected when your friends live far away

You can share acts of generosity like this with your friends, too. If you're great with kids, you might offer to babysit for your friends who are parents. If you're a gym rat, you could help your friend train for a race they have coming up. Or if you got a raise at work, treat your friends to a fancy dinner to celebrate.

3. Spill your struggles, joys ... and guilty pleasures

Think about how good it feels to tell a friend you secretly like a trashy TV show and hear them respond "me too!" We feel a deeper connection to our friends when our vulnerability is met with validation and support, says Franco. It means they accept us for who we really are, the good and the bad.

It can be scary to be open with our feelings. It can come with the risk of shame or rejection. But research has shown that people are a lot less likely to reject you for being vulnerable than you think.

A study published by the American Sociological Association asked strangers to disclose varying levels of intimate information with a group of women. The researchers found that the more open the strangers were, the more the women liked them. "When someone's vulnerable with you, it indicates they trust you," says Franco.

So don't be afraid to share your struggles with your friends, whether it's an ex you're having trouble getting over or a new job you're having second thoughts about. They're not going to judge you — and it may bring you closer.

If you're looking for a way to let your guard down without divulging your darkest secrets, Franco suggests sharing something positive, like a personal achievement — maybe you just finished sewing your first quilt, or you broke your own time record on a run.

4. Don't sweep your disagreements under the rug

It's hard to deal with conflict in friendships, says Franco. People often see them as something that's supposed to be fun and lighthearted, or less formal than romantic or family relationships, so they downplay problems when they arise, she adds.

But being able to deal with conflict with friends in a healthy, constructive way can strengthen your friendships, she says. It might be painful at first, but it shows you want to be authentic with them — and that you want to make your relationship better.

Friendships Change. Here's How To Deal

Friendships Change. Here's How To Deal

In fact, research has shown that conflict is "actually linked to deeper intimacy," says Franco. A study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships asked 273 participants to share a time when they felt hurt or angry when someone mishandled their private information. Those who were able to work out the problem with the people involved said that it improved their relationships.

So if you have an issue with a friend, don't sweep it under the rug. Try talking about it. Here are some tips:

  • Start by telling your friend how much you value them , says Franco. It signals that the reason you're bringing up the issue is because you're invested in the friendship. 
  • Use "I" statements when explaining your concerns so your friend doesn't feel like you're blaming them. For example, if you've noticed they've been canceling plans at the last minute since they started a new job, you might say: "I feel hurt when you bail on our plans without giving me any notice."
  • Ask your friend for a different behavior you want to see in the future. For example, "It would be great if you gave me a heads up a few hours in advance if you know you're not going to be able to make it." 

While conflict might be uncomfortable at first, Franco says it's something to embrace. "It allows us to illuminate each other on how to be better for each other, forever enhancing a friendship."

Your Turn: How do you show affection to your friends?

Tell us how you communicate love and appreciation to your friends. Email your response to [email protected] with the subject line "Affection" by Sept. 20, 2022 and include your name and location. We may feature it in a story on NPR.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Sylvie Douglis. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 , or email us at [email protected] .

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The Type of Love That Makes People Happiest

When it comes to lasting romance, passion has nothing on friendship.

Two people ride a tandem bicycle, the wheels of which are smiley faces.

“ How to Build a Life ” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.

“I think I may have met my future wife,” I told my father on the phone, “but there are a few issues.” To be precise: I met the woman in question on a weeklong trip to Europe, she lived in Spain, we’d only been on a couple of dates, and we didn’t speak a word of the same language. Obviously, I told my amused father, “she has no idea I plan to marry her.” But I was 24 and lovestruck, and none of that stopped me from embarking on a quixotic romantic adventure. After a year punctuated by two frustratingly short visits, I quit my job in New York and moved to Barcelona with a plan to learn the language and a prayer that when she could actually understand me, she might love me.

Falling in love was Sturm und Drang: euphoric at times, but also risky, fraught, and emotionally draining. The long-distance relationship before I moved to Spain was filled with agonizing phone calls, unintelligible letters, and constant misunderstandings. I certainly didn’t need a social scientist with a Ph.D.—future me—to present young me with scholarly evidence that a lot of unhappiness can attend the early stages of romantic passion. For example, if I had been shown the evidence that “destiny beliefs” about soul mates or love being meant to be can predict low forgiveness when paired with attachment anxiety, I would have said, “Well, duh.”

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Falling in love can be exhilarating, but it isn’t the secret to happiness per se. You might more accurately say that falling in love is the start-up cost for happiness—an exhilarating but stressful stage we have to endure to get to the relationships that actually fulfill us.

P assionate love —the period of falling in love—often hijacks our brains in a way that can cause elation or the depths of despair. Thrilling, yes, but it can hardly be thought of as bringing contentment; indeed, during some historical periods it has even been connected to suicide .

Read: Love is medicine for fear

And yet, romantic love has been scientifically shown to be one of the best predictors of happiness. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has assessed the connection between people’s habits and their subsequent well-being since the late 1930s. Many of the patterns uncovered by the study are important but unsurprising: The happiest, healthiest people in old age didn’t smoke (or quit early in life), exercised, drank moderately or not at all, and stayed mentally active, among other patterns. But these habits pale in comparison with one big one: The most important predictors of late-life happiness are stable relationships—and, especially, a long romantic partnership. The healthiest participants at age 80 tend to have been most satisfied in their relationships at age 50.

In other words, the secret to happiness isn’t falling in love; it’s staying in love. This does not mean just sticking together legally: Research shows that being married only accounts for 2 percent of subjective well-being later in life. The important thing for well-being is relationship satisfaction, and that depends on what psychologists call “companionate love”—love based less on passionate highs and lows and more on stable affection, mutual understanding, and commitment.

You might think “companionate love” sounds a little, well, disappointing. I certainly did the first time I heard it, on the heels of the amateur romantic comedy I described above. I did not move to Barcelona like a knight errant in search of “companionate love,” I can assure you. But let me finish the story: She said yes—actually, sí —and we have been happily married for 30 years. Our communication has improved—we text at least 20 times a day—and it turns out that we don’t just love each other; we like each other, too. Once and always my romantic love, she is also my best friend.

Being rooted in friendship is the reason that companionate love creates true happiness. Passionate love, which relies on attraction, does not typically last beyond the novelty of the relationship. Companionate love relies on its very familiarity. As one researcher bluntly summarizes the evidence in the Journal of Happiness Studies , “The well-being benefits of marriage are much greater for those who also regard their spouse as their best friend.”

Read: What if friendship, not marriage, was at the center of life?

Best friends get enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning from each other’s company. They bring out the best in one another; they gently tease one another; they have fun together. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, famously had such a friendship. According to one story (perhaps apocryphal), when the president and first lady were touring a poultry farm, Mrs. Coolidge remarked to the farmer—loud enough for the president to hear—that it was amazing so many eggs were fertilized by just one rooster. The farmer told her that the roosters did their jobs over and over again each day. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge,” she told him with a smile. The president, noting the remark, inquired whether the rooster serviced the same hen each time. No, the farmer told him, there were many hens for each rooster. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge,” said the president.

Promiscuous roosters notwithstanding, the romance of companionate love seems to make people happiest when it’s monogamous. I say this as a social scientist, not a moralist: In 2004, a survey of 16,000 American adults found that for men and women alike, “The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1.”

The deep friendship of companionate love should not be exclusive, however. In 2007, researchers at the University of Michigan found that married people aged 22 to 79 who said they had at least two close friends—meaning at least one besides their spouse—had higher levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem and lower levels of depression than spouses who did not have close friends outside their marriage. In other words, long-term companionate love might be necessary, but isn’t sufficient for happiness.

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I t will be no surprise to you that while I love reading Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning on passionate love, my Spanish romance is best expressed by Miguel de Cervantes . In Don Quixote , Cervantes gives the hero this song about his beloved Dulcinea:

The divine Tobosan, fair Dulcinea, claims me whole; Nothing can her image tear; ’Tis one substance with my soul.

This conveys the intensity of passionate love perfectly. But when it comes to happiness, it is important to heed the un-poetic Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote , “It is not the absence of love but the absence of friendship that makes marriages unhappy.” True, Nietzsche never married, and was reportedly rebuffed in proposals three times by the same woman. (Nihilism isn’t much of an aphrodisiac, it seems.) He is correct nonetheless.

Read: How negativity can kill a relationship

All the data and studies aside, the best evidence I have about happiness and companionate love is my own life. Three decades and counting after tilting at the windmill of an unlikely romance, my Dulcinea accompanies me through good times and bad. We share our joys, and tremble together in fear—fear that, for example, one of our three adult children might do something ridiculous, like run off to Europe chasing passionate love. We hope to enjoy plenty more decades of life in love and friendship together. And then hers, I pray, will be the face I see as I draw my last breath—her image one substance with my soul.

an article about love and friendship

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Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D.

Friendship and Romantic Love

Is the difference worth the effort.

Posted August 26, 2019 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

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“Strong-ties make the world smaller, weak-ties make it bigger.” —Mark Granovetter

“Love degrades the world from significant people, while friendship can fill it with such people.” —Avinoam Ben-Ze’ev

No two ways about it: Enduring romantic love is hard to achieve. This fact has resulted in the suggestion that friendship is more valuable than romantic love since (a) romantic love is more costly and risky than friendship, and (b) friendship is more profound than romantic love.

Do we really want to “waste” our time and energy on uncertain and risky romantic love when we can more easily aim for profound friendship? In my new book, The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change over Time (2019), I discuss the relationship between friendship and love.

“My mother never breastfed me, she told me she only liked me as a friend.” —Rodney Dangerfield

Friendship is not an emotion but a personal relation that is essential in enduring, romantic flourishing. Friendship, which is based on shared history, often increases over time—unlike sexual desire, whose intensity diminishes over time. The basic features of friendship, such as mutual support, intimacy, and shared activity, all develop over time.

Friends care about each other and consider the other to have intrinsic value, though friendship can also have instrumental value. The intimacy of friendship means that friends will feel closer to each other than colleagues will. Colleagues can meet more often than friends, but it is in a friendship that we reveal ourselves and express commitment.

We are willing to do more for those within our circle of friends and family than we are willing to do for others outside of it. Love and friendship develop through time spent together and through shared experiences and interactions.

Friendship in romantic love

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Romantic love, as well as its basics, friendship, and sexual interaction, contribute to our flourishing and happiness . Achieving friendship or sexual satisfaction is obviously easier than achieving lasting, profound love, which depends upon a subtle balance between these relations and so much more. We might, indeed, have a greater chance of being happy if we seek merely friendship or sexual satisfaction rather than lasting romantic love. This would also allow us to avoid the frequent failures and unhappiness associated with attaining enduring romantic love.

It can also be argued that the major elements responsible for long-term love are those related to friendship and not to romantic love. Moreover, exclusivity, which is central in romantic love (mainly because of its sexual aspect), but not in friendship, is a superficial demand, limiting our diversity and complexity.

There is a grain of truth in these ideas. Sometimes, we need to minimize losses and maximize sure gains. It is important to remember, though, that romantic love is one of the most sublime of human experiences. Moreover, others’ success in achieving romantic love can create in us a yearning for it and sadness about lacking it. It is very difficult to exclude ourselves from the romantic realm, as the desire to achieve such love is built into the human system.

Sometimes, we are forced to give up certain precious experiences. However, we should not make our second-best our first choice. We should think hard before making such a surrender permanent policy.

Indeed, people who have given up romantic love would gladly embrace it if it walked through their door. While they have given up hope of achieving it, they have not abandoned it as an ideal. Nonetheless, these individuals may not actively search for this love, as such a search has a price and risks they are not willing to take.

an article about love and friendship

There is also some truth to the idea that exclusivity is superficial in nature, as it prevents diversity and decreases the level of complexity. Once again, the dilemma boils down to the issue of optimal balance.

No doubt, romantic profundity requires a certain preferential attitude. Like other emotions, romantic love is by nature discriminative; hence, we need to restrict our flexibility. This is also the case in friendship—we cannot have, as people claim concerning Facebook , thousands of close friends. Some sense of restriction applies here as well. Since romantic love is a more comprehensive and complex attitude than friendship, involving a greater investment of effort, time, and other resources, exclusiveness should be even more restricted.

Concluding remarks

“Love is a friendship set to music.” —Joseph Campbell

We do not have to choose between love and friendship. Rather, we should choose between the experience of friendship and an experience that includes both friendship and romance. Love is indeed the music or the dance added to profound friendship.

Is achieving profound love worth the heartache? Well, since it can make life more meaningful, and often more blissful, the answer is yes. Giving up music is a too painful surrender. As Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” So, I believe, with love.

This post is part of my new book, The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change over Time (2019).

Facebook image: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D.

Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., former President of the University of Haifa, is a professor of philosophy. His books include The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change Over Time.

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Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health

Discover the connection between health and friendship, and how to promote and maintain healthy friendships.

Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it's not always easy to develop or maintain friendships. Understand the importance of social connection in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture lasting friendships.

What are the benefits of friendships?

Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). In fact, studies have found that older adults who have meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.

Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships?

Many adults find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. Friendships may take a back seat to other priorities, such as work or caring for children or aging parents. You and your friends may have grown apart due to changes in your lives or interests. Or maybe you've moved to a new community and haven't yet found a way to meet people.

Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

What's a healthy number of friends?

Quality counts more than quantity. While it may be good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, you may feel a greater sense of belonging and well-being by nurturing close, meaningful relationships that will support you through thick and thin.

What are some ways to meet new friends?

It's possible to develop friendships with people who are already in your social network. Think through people you've interacted with — even very casually — who made a positive impression.

You may make new friends and nurture existing relationships by:

  • Staying in touch with people with whom you've worked or taken classes
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Reaching out to people you've enjoyed chatting with at social gatherings
  • Introducing yourself to neighbors
  • Making time to connect with family members

If anyone stands out in your memory as someone you'd like to know better, reach out. Ask mutual friends or acquaintances to share the person's contact information, or — even better — to reintroduce the two of you with a text, email or in-person visit. Extend an invitation to coffee or lunch.

To meet new people who might become your friends, you have to go to places where others are gathered. Don't limit yourself to one strategy for meeting people. The broader your efforts, the greater your likelihood of success.

Persistence also matters. Take the initiative rather than waiting for invitations to come your way and keep trying. You may need to suggest plans a few times before you can tell if your interest in a new friend is mutual.

For example, try several of these ideas:

  • Attend community events. Look for groups or clubs that gather around an interest or hobby you share. You may find these groups online, or they may be listed in the newspaper or on community bulletin boards. There are also many websites that help you connect with new friends in your neighborhood or city. Do a Google search using terms such as [your city] + social network, or [your neighborhood] + meet ups.
  • Volunteer. Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
  • Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you're invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
  • Take up a new interest. Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.
  • Join a faith community. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
  • Take a walk. Grab your kids or pet and head outside. Chat with neighbors who are also out and about or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.

Above all, stay positive. You may not become friends with everyone you meet but maintaining a friendly attitude and demeanor can help you improve the relationships in your life. It may also sow the seeds of friendship with new acquaintances.

How does social media affect friendships?

Joining a chat group or online community might help you make or maintain connections and relieve loneliness. However, research suggests that use of social networking sites doesn't necessarily translate to a larger offline network or closer offline relationships with network members. In addition, remember to exercise caution when sharing personal information or arranging an activity with someone you've only met online.

How can I nurture my friendships?

Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you're the one giving support, and other times you're on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It's as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.

To nurture your friendships:

  • Be kind. This most-basic behavior remains the core of successful relationships. Think of friendship as an emotional bank account. Every act of kindness and every expression of gratitude are deposits into this account, while criticism and negativity draw down the account.
  • Be a good listener. Ask what's going on in your friends' lives. Let the other person know you are paying close attention through eye contact, body language and occasional brief comments such as, "That sounds fun." When friends share details of hard times or difficult experiences, be empathetic, but don't give advice unless your friends ask for it.
  • Open up. Build intimacy with your friends by opening up about yourself. Being willing to disclose personal experiences and concerns shows that your friend holds a special place in your life, and it may deepen your connection.
  • Show that you can be trusted. Being responsible, reliable and dependable is key to forming strong friendships. Keep your engagements and arrive on time. Follow through on commitments you've made to your friends. When your friends share confidential information, keep it private.
  • Make yourself available. Building a close friendship takes time — together. Make an effort to see new friends regularly, and to check in with them in between meet ups. You may feel awkward the first few times you talk on the phone or get together, but this feeling is likely to pass as you get more comfortable with each other.

Manage your nerves with mindfulness. You may find yourself imagining the worst of social situations, and you may feel tempted to stay home. Use mindfulness exercises to reshape your thinking. Each time you imagine the worst, pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you're afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don't happen.

When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do.

Yoga and other mind-body relaxation practices also may reduce anxiety and help you face situations that make you feel nervous.

Remember, it's never too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.

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  • Holt-Lunstad J. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors: The power of social connection in prevention. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2021; doi: 10.1177/15598276211009454.
  • Loneliness and social isolation — tips for staying connected. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/loneliness-and-social-isolation-tips-staying-connected. Accessed Dec. 16, 2021.
  • Bystritsky A. Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Physical, cognitive, and spiritual interventions. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 16, 2021.
  • Oshio T, et al. Association between the use of social networking sites, perceived social support, and life satisfaction: Evidence from a population-based survey in Japan. PLoS One. 2020; doi: 10/1371/journal.pone.0244199.
  • Wilkinson A, et al. Maintenance and development of social connection by people with long-term conditions: A qualitative study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; doi:10.3390/ijerph16111875.
  • Suragarn U, et al. Approaches to enhance social connection in older adults: An integrative review of literature. Aging and Health Research. 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ahr.2021.100029.
  • Holt-Lunstad J. The major health implications of social connection. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2021; doi: 10.1177/0963721421999630.
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Greater good resources for love and connection, articles, videos, and podcast episodes to help you strengthen your relationships and show love to those around you..

Love comes in many shapes and sizes—from romantic love to the love between friends and family, to a loving culture in schools and beyond. Sustaining our loving relationships involves many skills that are also good for our own well-being, like gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness.

Luckily, human beings are wired for love—from the neurons in our brains to the hormones in our bodies to the touch receptors in our skin. With that in mind, we hope these resources inspire you to reach out to someone important to you. You know that little moment of warmth you feel when you connect with someone? According to researcher Barbara Fredrickson, that’s love.

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Romantic love Pain and pitfalls in love Love and friendship Loving families Love in schools, society, and beyond Love in the body

an article about love and friendship

Romantic love

  • How Relationship Satisfaction Changes Across Your Lifetime : Our romantic happiness goes through normal ups and downs as we get older—and we’re least happy around age 40, a new study finds.
  • 10 Pillars of a Strong Relationship : Many of the keys to a satisfying, lasting bond are probably already present in your relationship.
  • How to Keep Love Alive : After more than a decade together, our podcast guest tries to bring the spark back into her marriage.
  • How Science Can Help Your Love to Last : Two relationship experts explain how to foster positive feelings and overcome challenges for a long-lasting relationship. 
  • How to Fall in Love With Anyone : Can 36 questions help you fall in love—and stay in love? Bestselling author Kelly Corrigan tries a research-proven technique to feel closer to her husband. Plus, we learn how the same technique can actually reduce racism and prejudice.
  • Four Keys to Building a Love That Lasts : Taking cues from positive psychology research can help us avoid the pitfalls of long-term relationships and maintain happier, healthier partnerships.
  • Four Ways to Make the Most of Gratitude on Valentine’s Day : Whether February 14th is your first Valentine’s Day together or your 35th, it’s a great excuse to show gratitude for the one you love.
  • Five Ways to Renew an Old Love : Love is fleeting, says one of the world’s leading experts on positive emotion. But with practice, you can foster love anytime you wish—and, in doing so, renew old bonds.

Pain and pitfalls in love

  • How to Communicate With Love (Even When You’re Mad) : A marriage therapist offers a step-by-step guide for a conversation with your partner when emotions are running high.
  • What to Do When Love Breaks Your Heart : Heartbreak can be devastating for our minds and bodies. Here are six ways to help yourself through it, based on research. 
  • How to Stop Romantic Comedies From Ruining Your Love Life : Romantic comedies create unrealistic expectations, but we don’t have to buy into them.
  • What to Do When You Hate the One You Love : It’s a thin line, says an old song and some new research. Here are seven ways to keep bad feelings from getting out of hand.
  • How to Stop Attachment Insecurity From Ruining Your Love Life : Do you have commitment, trust, and attachment issues? Science helped Meghan Laslocky—and it just might help you, too.
  • This Is Your Brain on Heartbreak : Why does getting dumped hurt physically? Meghan Laslocky explains where that feeling comes from, and what it’s good for. 
  • When Are You Sacrificing Too Much in Your Relationship? : Close relationships require sacrifice. Here are seven questions to ask yourself before you give up too much.

Love and friendship

  • Four Types of Work Friendship (And Which One Is Best for You) : Should you be friends with your coworkers? Here’s how to navigate the benefits and pitfalls of friendship in the workplace.
  • Why Friendships Among Men Are So Important : Men have fewer friends these days, which can hurt their well-being. Here are expert tips for fostering those relationships.
  • How to Make the Lasting Friendships You Want : A new book sheds light on how important friends are for our well-being and gives advice on how to cultivate more, deeper friendships.
  • Thinking About Reaching Out to Someone? Science Says Do It : Two new studies find that connecting with someone is even nicer than we expect.
  • Why Your Friends Are More Important Than You Think : How can you sustain your friendships in life? The first step is recognizing their importance, argues author Lydia Denworth.
  • Why You Should Prioritize Your Friendships : A new book looks at how friendship—in its many forms—contributes to our well-being.
  • When Teens Need Their Friends More Than Their Parents : A new study suggests that teens may cope with stress better when they’re around peers, rather than adults.
  • Friends Help Our Health As We Age : A new study suggests that the quality of adult relationships matters more to our health than their quantity.

Loving families

  • How a Father’s Love Helps Kids Thrive in Life : A new study suggests that affection from dads can help children grow up to be more satisfied with their lives and accepting of themselves.
  • When Do Teens Feel Loved by Their Parents? : In their drive for independence, teenagers can seem to reject parents. A new study suggests that the key to making them feel loved is to be persistently warm, even in conflict.
  • With Kids, Love Is in the Little Things : Researcher Barbara Fredrickson explains how a parent’s love helps kids thrive.
  • What Being a Stepfather Taught Me About Love : Jeremy Adam Smith has learned some difficult lessons from his stepchild—and he’s grateful for them.
  • Five Ways to Talk With Your Kids So They Feel Loved : These warm, nurturing messages need repeating over and over again with our children.
  • How Love Can Help Your Child Become More Compassionate : New research suggests that warm and loving relationships with parents help children grow into compassionate adults.
  • How to Cultivate a Secure Attachment With Your Child : A new book suggests that parents can raise healthier and happier children by providing a balance of support and freedom.

Love in schools, society, and beyond

  • Is There a Place for Love in Medicine? : One doctor found a way to feel love for his patients. Here are four things he learned.
  • Six Tips for Loving Your Enemies : Choosing love over hate can be difficult, but ultimately it may be the path to healing for ourselves and our society.
  • Is Love Better Than Anger for Social Change? : We can learn from the fly fishing industry, which shifted toward conservation thanks to decades of messaging about caring for nature.
  • How to Love People You Don’t Like : Our podcast guest tries a practice to help her feel compassion toward others—even those she disagrees with.
  • Why You Should Love Thy Coworker : A new study suggests that fostering compassion among health care workers might improve the quality of patient care.
  • Love in the Classroom, Beyond Candy Hearts and Raging Hormones : We asked for your stories of love in education. Here are some of the moving responses.
  • Is It Possible to Love All Humanity? : Qualities like gender, ethnicity, and nationality tend to define us more than being human. What happens when we try to identify with all of humanity?

Love in the body

  • Is Oxytocin Really the Love Hormone? : New research with prairie voles questions the idea that oxytocin is the driver of romantic attachment and good parenting.
  • Moments of Love and Connection May Help You Live Longer : A new study finds that couples who show more warmth, concern, and affection for each other live longer, healthier lives.
  • How Biology Prepares Us for Love and Connection : Our brains and bodies are wired for empathy, cooperation, generosity, and connection.
  • What’s Love Got to Do with the Brain? : Poems and pop songs have a lot to say about love. But is it all nonsense? Helen Fisher looks at lyrics through a scientific lens. 
  • Five Surprising Ways Oxytocin Shapes Your Social Life : New research is finding that oxytocin doesn’t just bond us to mothers, lovers, and friends—it also seems to play a role in excluding others from that bond. 
  • How Love Grows in Your Body : Here are the places where romantic love abides in our bodies—and the role each one plays in sustaining love over time.
  • Born to Love : Our body equips us with some natural and powerful aphrodisiacs, writes Helen Fisher, along with the tools to make romance last.

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Lifelong friends Susan, left, and Julia.

‘It feels unconditional’: the secrets of lifelong friendships - according to lifelong friends

Friends are essential to our health and happiness, and even affect how long we live. But how do you keep a relationship alive when you are living in different places and can barely make time for yourself?

T rish and Mick started chatting about music on a staircase in 1970, when Trish and her flatmates (“strange, slightly hippy people,” Mick laughs) were trying to stop a neighbour’s party guests, including Mick, from getting into their flat. Julia and Susan found friendship when they became neighbours at the age of seven. Susan’s parents disapproved of Julia’s single mother’s lifestyle and forbade them to meet: “We developed a system of sound signals, found a place to hide notes to each other and met secretly in the local park,” Susan says. Ian and Roger bicker gently over which was the first Nottingham gig where they shared a bill in 1965, but say that Roger persuaded their bands ( Tony D and the Shakeouts for Ian; The Sons of Adam for Roger) to jam together on stage.

Mick and Trish at Trish’s flat in north London in 1971.

Friendships start with these accidents – choosing a locker at school, who’s in the next room in your hall of residence, or attending the same protest – but staying friends over a lifetime can’t be accidental. “Friendships are a voluntary type of relationship,” says Mahzad Hojjat, a professor of psychology and friendship researcher at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth. “In some ways they are the weakest tie, because you could just disconnect.” What stops friends from doing this? As new research shows that socialising helps people to live longer, I spoke to friendship lifers who have stayed close over decades of good and bad times and everything in between. Are there any secrets, and do they have advice for the rest of us?

We become friends with one another because there is something we like and have in common with someone: this is homophily, or the “birds of a feather” phenomenon. “These are relationships that are seen as ‘clicking’ from the start,” says Robin Dunbar, an emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford. Dunbar defines the “seven pillars of friendship ” as similarities that predispose people to become friends: language or dialect, geography, educational experiences, hobbies and interests, moral or spiritual viewpoints, political views, sense of humour and taste in music. That holds for the lifelong friends I spoke to. Trish and Mick bonded over west coast American music; vocal harmony fans Roger and Ian went on to form a band together. For Susan and Julia, it was simply chatting: “We were able to have very long conversations and talking is one of my favourite things,” says Susan.

Zerlina, Patrica and Tracy in 2021.

This is partly why many long-lasting friendships form in your late teens and early 20s, at a time of intense firsts and memorable experiences, shared circumstances and enthusiasms. That’s when Roger and Ian were gigging around the country in a Ford Transit van. Mick and Trish both had adventurous leanings. “We had an interest in travel, adventure, doing something different,” says Mick. In their 20s, Mick coupled up with Trish’s best friend, Sue; along with Trish and her then partner, Chris, they formed a tight friendship foursome, frequently travelling together. “We’d get in our old Morris Minor, drive to north Wales and end up in a field in the middle of nowhere,” Mick reminisces.

But life pulls friends in different directions, as a tight-knit group of friends told me. Patricia and Tracy went to nursery together, Zerlina joined them at school and Yvonne was their netball and track rival (“A fantastic little sprinter,” says Patricia; “Those days are long gone,” counters Yvonne). Patricia had already spotted her in town, as one of the few other Black girls in 1980s Doncaster. “We weren’t the popular kids at school,” says Tracy. “We went against the grain, our youth culture was formed together.” They bonded, Zerlina notes, over not just hip-hop, but also their shared ambition and desire to get away: “Although we had great joy in that place – there was lots of fun and good times – we all had a hunger to leave. That was always on the cards.” They scattered to university and beyond, but have stayed very close. Zerlina says the strength of their bond means it has weathered waves of greater and lesser intensity of contact: “It feels unconditional, so it allows for space.”

Ian (left) and Roger in 2007.

The others echo this idea that even in the days before WhatsApp and Zoom, a hiatus never threatened their friendships. Ian and Roger eventually got “proper” jobs (Ian became a teacher and Roger worked for the railways); Ian also worked abroad for long stretches. Even after their longest spell out of touch (three years), Ian says, “I just phoned him up one day and it was, like: ‘Ey up, man!’” For most of their friendship, Susan and Julia lived at opposite ends of the country. “I was a city person living in London with a family and she was a doggy person living in the Pennines, but every time we met, the conversations would go on for hours,” says Susan.

Trish and Mick dealt with a more dramatic pull: their respective partners fell in love with each other and both couples split, breaking up the group. “It was a really bad time,” says Trish. “We had this real rupture,” says Mick. In fact, though, it heralded a new phase in their friendship, as a duo. “She was very supportive,” says Mick of Trish, who managed to stay friends with everyone involved. “I don’t like falling out with people really,” she says.

Patricia, Tracy and Zerlina in their 20s.

Adversity inevitably marks any long friendship and the ability to support each other through it is a hallmark of these ones. “We have been through births, deaths, marriages, relationship problems, fertility issues, sickness and they’ve always been there,” Patricia says. Five years ago, she suffered a severe stroke and nearly died. Her husband knew instantly she would want her friends; he called them while she was unconscious in hospital. “I woke up in St George’s hospital and Yvonne was at the foot of my bed with her kids,” says Patricia, remembering how all three friends supported her journey back to health and helped her through fertility worries, too.

Julia and Susan’s husbands died within weeks of each other. “We had all these black humour conversations before, starting with how miserable we were going to be and finishing up with how we could finally chuck a few things out and do something different,” says Susan, “but when it actually happened, it was such a shock. We were both reeling at the same time.” They could spend more time together, though: “We had lovely times.” Ian speaks with palpable emotion of Roger’s support through family tragedies and illness: “Nothing was ever too much trouble. He would always give his time and I think that’s the best thing you can do as a friend.” Roger echoes the sentiment: “That guy has never said no to me.”

But of course, there are also fights, or at least disagreements. Ian says he and Roger “nearly came to blows” in their gigging days. “We got on each other’s nerves and what would start off as banter would turn into something quite serious.” Mainly, though, it’s minor stuff: Trish and Mick remember fighting over a French hire car and various holiday “tensions, anxiety and stress”, as Mick puts it. “We don’t really annoy each other,” says Trish. “When I talk to Pat, we don’t always agree on everything, but there is a respect that you can disagree with someone and it’s OK,” says Yvonne.

Although there seem to be few serious transgressions, I’m interested in how friendships weather these. According to Hojjat’s work on forgiveness in friendship , several factors determine if a betrayal is survivable. “How severe the transgression is; intent: was it done with the purpose of hurting you or was it accidental?” Then there’s how you deal with it. “Are you going to apologise to your friend, repair the friendship and take responsibility; is the apology sincere? That matters a lot in whether or not the person is going to forgive you.” There’s a fascinating gender bias, too: women, she says, hold female friends to higher standards than male ones; men are more forgiving of male friends. “Everybody is less forgiving of women!”

Is there a secret to nurturing lifelong friendship? “I think there’s absolutely no secret to it,” says Susan. “If there was, the secret could be revealed and we could all have marvellous friendships: it doesn’t work like that.” Friendship , though, she notes, has an advantage in being free from the weight of expectation of romantic relationships, the tendency to project into an uncertain future. “I didn’t meet Julia and think, I’m going to know her for life.”

Ian (left) and Roger.

From all my conversations, I think there is a secret and it’s consciously choosing to value the friendship above other things. For a start, that means tolerance and understanding. “I vote Conservative, he votes Labour,” says Trish. “I voted for Brexit, he voted against it, but these things don’t matter to our relationship. It would be stupid to fall out.” Mick agrees: “Our friendship is important enough to really value the differences between us. We’re at ease with each other’s differences.” It’s similar for Ian – who is “to the left of Karl Marx” – and Roger, who is more of a centrist. “My advice is not to stew on things – let it go,” says Ian. Roger remarks on the “degree of tolerance” that has characterised nearly 60 years of friendship.

Most describe their friendships as feeling natural and inevitable, but that doesn’t mean they are effortless. “You have to make an effort with any relationship,” says Tracy. “My advice would be just pick up the phone, send the text, because life is so short.” The experts agree: there’s no substitute for contact. “Without contact you can’t do the maintenance,” says Hojjat. Friendship, Dunbar explains, is a two-process mechanism. The first is cognitive: finding things in common. “The other is this biological underpinning through the endorphin system. This is primarily things such as physical touch, laughter, singing and dancing, eating … drinking alcohol together.” You need to see each other for endorphin-fuelled bonds to form and be maintained: “Invest time,” Dunbar advises. In her personal life, Hojjat says she used to feel she made more effort to keep friendships alive; working on the topic has let her make peace with that. “It makes me really appreciate the long-term friendships that I’ve had. Make time for your friends. Good friends you have had for many years are rare and they are very valuable. So you really have to protect them.”

Why? Research shows overwhelmingly that friendship is good for us. “It’s not their primary purpose, but friendships have this massive effect on your mental health and welfare, and on your physical health and welfare – they even affect how long you’re going to live,” says Dunbar. “If you look at the data, the effect is far stronger than all the things your family doctor worries about on your behalf. This is my pitch for the NHS: just find everybody a friend or two.”

What the lifelong friends have told me confirms how life-enhancing friendship is in the wider sense, too. There’s a quiet pride in the other – their achievements and their qualities – in all the friends I speak to, and a sense of how deeply enmeshed they are in each other’s lives: past, present, partners, children. Ian describes how Roger’s sons sought him out at a party to tell him they loved him, too: “My generation, men didn’t say things like ‘I love you’. I’m filling up just thinking about it.”

Mick and Trish in 2023.

“She’s thoughtful, she’s caring, she’s warm,” says Mick of Trish; she says he “actually thinks about stuff: he’s very good at relationships and solving problems”. Patricia’s friends vibrate with love and pride as they tell me she contributed a chapter to a book on Black community mental health while recovering from her stroke. “It’s kind of breathtaking,” Zerlina says. They all emphasise how Patricia’s expansive gift for conveying feeling, her emotional honesty, has enriched their bond. “I’m inspired and in awe of them,” says Patricia in turn. “I didn’t realise when we were going round the pubs in Donnie, being weirdos, doing stupid things, I didn’t know they would be such a part of my family.” Our five-way Zoom gets a bit teary here.

Even the longest friendships – and the shared history they represent – end eventually. Julia has Alzheimer’s and is now in a care home; Susan has continued to visit. “She takes my childhood with her,” says Susan. “There’s nobody else alive now that was with me when I was a child.” She’s discovered something powerful, however, about their friendship since Julia’s diagnosis and decline: that language wasn’t needed to keep their lifelong conversation going. On her most recent trip, although what they said was nonsensical, “I felt we were getting on just as well as if we were talking in a sensible way.” For these friends who first bonded over their shared delight in chatting, the delight was still there, Susan says, transcending language. “She taught me that at the end of her life when you would think she had nothing else to teach me.”

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Stem by the youth, for the youth.

  • Apr 17, 2022

The Psychology of Love and Friendship

By apurva pophali.

an article about love and friendship

Humans have always been social animals, keeping together, forming family and community bonds to stay safe and allocate resources to promote better group survival chances. Evolutionarily however, what makes certain bonds special - like those of friendship and romance? Especially living in a world where we’re more connected than ever, what factors decide who we connect to the most? Social psychology’s theories of attraction might help us answer these questions more fully, taking into context a variety of factors influencing who we befriend and love.

According to social psychology, there are four main criteria that determine the likelihood of falling in love - physical attractiveness, similarity, proximity and reciprocity - and the more that all of these overlap, the higher chances there are of a relationship, whether romantic or platonic, working and flourishing.

Physical Attractiveness

Sigh . As sick as all of us are about hearing how “important” physical beauty is, the fact still remains - it is the first criteria over which people bond. First impressions last a long time, and the more attractive you are, the more likely it is that people will be open to conversation - leading to romantic attraction. And although we’d also like to believe that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, scientifically, there are traits that are deemed universally attractive, regardless of culture or race. These include youthful faces (like Leonardo DiCaprio), broad jawlines and pronounced cheekbones for men (like Robert Pattinson), and facial symmetry. Perhaps the media is to blame for perpetuating certain ideals to be attractive, but scientists have found that babies as young as 1 year old prefer to look at more attractive faces, suggesting that there is a bias for attractive faces that is either innate, or develops early on. In romance and friendship, this manifests itself in the ‘Physical Attractiveness Stereotype’ - the tendency to perceive attractive people as having more positive characteristics, like sociability and competence. This leads to increased interaction, and therefore an increased perception of trust and liking, which furthers romantic or platonic feelings.

The most fundamental factor that decides romantic success is similarity - while they say opposites attract, studies show that people bond over their similarities, and that having too many differences can spell the end of a relationship. People tend to share closer bonds with those of the same age, education level, race, religion, intelligence level, and socioeconomic status, since these commonalities provide a shared experience to bond over. Since there is more implicit understanding, there are usually less arguments, which prevents straining relationships more than necessary. For example, consider your best friend: chances are that they are in the same grade, same race, share the same religion, and have a similar background. This is the common foundation that friendships and romantic relationships are built off of - the more shared ideals, values, and backgrounds people have, the more likely their relationship is to work. This is apparent in the real world as well, where people often pursue social status similarity in their relationships, pursuing partners with similar attractiveness, levels of wealth, and levels of education. Usually if this is not the case, one partner provides more of one type of social status than the other, thus evening it out in the end. Similarities provide validations to experiences and emotions, bringing people closer together, increasing bonding, and therefore increasing feelings of love and friendship.

Physical proximity is another important factor determining romantic/platonic attraction and success. Simply sitting next to people on a daily basis increases liking, and increases chances of becoming closer. In school, it’s likely that you have become friends with the people you sit next to in class. Studies have shown that this is true even with assigned seating, wherein people sitting close together became friends despite the random assignment. This can be attributed to the ‘Mere Exposure’ effect - the tendency humans have to like and prefer stimuli, including people, that they see frequently. This could have evolutionary roots, where the more familiar the stimuli is, the less of a threat it seems, and thus as people become friends and share similarities, their walls come down. As physical proximity is vital in forming strong relationships, long-distance relationships take a lot more work to maintain, requiring more intention, since spontaneous conversation isn’t likely. This is noticeable as friends move to other locations - keeping in touch is hard, and the strength of bonds tends to decrease as distance increases.

Reciprocity

The last factor is reciprocity - both people have to like each other with equal intensity, or the relationship can easily become one sided. If one party thinks of the other as an acquaintance, but the other believes they are best friends, it can get really confusing and annoying, straining the relationship. Reciprocity is important, as it allows both parties to determine the nature of their relationship with confidence, since they’re sure of what the other person feels. People reciprocating our affections, whether romantic or platonic, are more likely to treat us well, help us, and affirm that we are likable, contributing to a strong relationship.

In conclusion, while romance and friendship depend on a lot of factors, they all ultimately boil down to those listed above: physical attraction, similarity, proximity, and reciprocity, since all of these lead to increased conversations, which lead to increased bonding, and thus stronger relationships. Social psychology theories of attraction are a great basis to understanding love and attraction, since the more these four criteria overlap, the increased chances there are of relationships flourishing.

‌Publisher, A. removed at request of original. (2015, October 27). 8.1 Initial Attraction . Open.lib.umn.edu; University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2015. This edition adapted from a work originally produced in 2010 by a publisher who has requested that it not receive attribution. https://open.lib.umn.edu/socialpsychology/chapter/8-1-initial-attraction/

Langlois, J. H., Ritter, J. M., Roggman, L. A., & Vaughn, L. S. (1991). Facial diversity and infant preferences for attractive faces. Developmental Psychology, 27 , 79–84.

Zebrowitz, L. A. (1996). Physical appearance as a basis of stereotyping. In C. N. Macrae, C. Stangor, & M. Hewstone (Eds.), Stereotypes and stereotyping (pp. 79–120). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Jones, J. T., Pelham, B. W., Carvallo, M., & Mirenberg, M. C. (2004). How do I love thee? Let me count the Js: Implicit egotism and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87 (5), 665–683.

Lee, L., Loewenstein, G., Ariely, D., Hong, J., & Young, J. (2008). If I’m not hot, are you hot or not? Physical-attractiveness evaluations and dating preferences as a function of one’s own attractiveness. Psychological Science, 19 (7), 669–677.

Back, M. D., Schmukle, S. C., & Egloff, B. (2008). Becoming friends by chance. Psychological Science, 19 (5), 439–440.

Freitas, A. L., Azizian, A., Travers, S., & Berry, S. A. (2005). The evaluative connotation of processing fluency: Inherently positive or moderated by motivational context? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41 (6), 636–644.

Gordon, A. (2020, September 28). The Role of Reciprocity in Attraction . Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-you-and-me/202009/the-role-reciprocity-in-attraction

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Friendship, as understood here, is a distinctively personal relationship that is grounded in a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other’s sake, and that involves some degree of intimacy. As such, friendship is undoubtedly central to our lives, in part because the special concern we have for our friends must have a place within a broader set of concerns, including moral concerns, and in part because our friends can help shape who we are as persons. Given this centrality, important questions arise concerning the justification of friendship and, in this context, whether it is permissible to “trade up” when someone new comes along, as well as concerning the possibility of reconciling the demands of friendship with the demands of morality in cases in which the two seem to conflict.

1.1 Mutual Caring

1.2 intimacy, 1.3 shared activity, 2.1 individual value, 2.2 social value, 3. friendship and moral theory, other internet resources, related entries, 1. the nature of friendship.

Friendship essentially involves a distinctive kind of concern for your friend, a concern which might reasonably be understood as a kind of love. Nonetheless, it is important not to misconstrue the sort of love friendship involves. Ancient Greek had three words that might reasonably be translated as love: agape , eros , and philia . Of these, agape through the Christian tradition has come to mean a kind of love that does not respond to the antecedent value of its object but instead is thought to create value in its object, as with the sort of love God has for us persons as well as, by extension, our love for God and our love for humankind in general. By contrast, eros and philia have come to be generally understood as responsive to the merits of their objects—to the beloved’s properties, such as his goodness or beauty. The difference is that eros is a kind of passionate desire for an object, typically sexual in nature, whereas ‘ philia ’ originally meant a kind of affectionate regard or friendly feeling towards not just one’s friends but also possibly towards family members, business partners, and one’s country at large (Liddell et al., 1940; Cooper, 1977a). Given this classification of kinds of love, philia seems to be that which is most clearly relevant to friendship (though just what philia amounts to needs to be clarified in more detail).

For this reason, love and friendship often get lumped together as a single topic; nonetheless, there are significant differences between them. As understood here, love is an evaluative attitude directed at particular persons as such, an attitude which we might take towards someone whether or not that love is reciprocated and whether or not we have an established relationship with her. [ 1 ] Friendship, by contrast, is essentially a kind of relationship grounded in a particular kind of special concern each has for the other as the person she is; and whereas we must make conceptual room for the idea of unrequited love, unrequited friendship is senseless. Consequently, accounts of friendship tend to understand it not merely as a case of reciprocal love of some form (together with mutual acknowledgment of this love), but as essentially involving significant interactions between the friends—as being in this sense a certain kind of relationship.

Nonetheless, questions can be raised about precisely how to distinguish romantic relationships, grounded in eros , from relationships of friendship, grounded in philia , insofar as each involves significant interactions between the involved parties that stem from a kind of reciprocal love that is responsive to merit. Clearly the two differ insofar as romantic love normally has a kind of sexual involvement that friendship lacks; yet, as Thomas (1989) asks, is that enough to explain the real differences between them? Badhwar (2003, 65–66) seems to think so, claiming that the sexual involvement enters into romantic love in part through a passion and yearning for physical union, whereas friendship involves instead a desire for a more psychological identification. Yet it is not clear exactly how to understand this: precisely what kind of “psychological identification” or intimacy is characteristic of friendship? (For further discussion, see Section 1.2 .)

In philosophical discussions of friendship, it is common to follow Aristotle ( Nicomachean Ethics , Book VIII) in distinguishing three kinds of friendship: friendships of pleasure, of utility, and of virtue. Although it is a bit unclear how to understand these distinctions, the basic idea seems to be that pleasure, utility, and virtue are the reasons we have in these various kinds of relationships for loving our friend. That is, I may love my friend because of the pleasure I get out of her, or because of the ways in which she is useful to me, or because I find her to have a virtuous character. Given the involvement of love in each case, all three kinds of friendship seem to involve a concern for your friend for his sake and not for your own.

There is an apparent tension here between the idea that friendship essentially involves being concerned for your friend for his sake and the idea of pleasure and utility friendships: how can you be concerned for him for his sake if you do that only because of the pleasure or utility you get out of it? If you benefit your friend because, ultimately, of the benefits you receive, it would seem that you do not properly love your friend for his sake, and so your relationship is not fully one of friendship after all. So it looks like pleasure and utility friendships are at best deficient modes of friendship; by contrast, virtue friendships, because they are motivated by the excellences of your friend’s character, are genuine, non-deficient friendships. For this reason, most contemporary accounts, by focusing their attention on the non-deficient forms of friendship, ignore pleasure and utility friendships. [ 2 ]

As mentioned in the first paragraph of this section, philia seems to be the kind of concern for other persons that is most relevant to friendship, and the word, ‘ philia ,’ sometimes gets translated as friendship; yet philia is in some ways importantly different from what we ordinarily think of as friendship. Thus , ‘ philia ’ extends not just to friends but also to family members, business associates, and one’s country at large. Contemporary accounts of friendship differ on whether family members, in particular one’s children before they become adults, can be friends. Most philosophers think not, understanding friendship to be essentially a relationship among equals; yet some philosophers (such as Friedman 1989; Rorty 1986/1993; Badhwar 1987) explicitly intend their accounts of friendship to include parent-child relationships, perhaps through the influence of the historical notion of philia . Nonetheless, there do seem to be significant differences between, on the one hand, parental love and the relationships it generates and, on the other hand, the love of one’s friends and the relationships it generates; the focus here will be on friendship more narrowly construed.

In philosophical accounts of friendship, several themes recur consistently, although various accounts differ in precisely how they spell these out. These themes are: mutual caring (or love), intimacy, and shared activity; these will be considered in turn.

A necessary condition of friendship, according to just about every view (Telfer 1970–71; Annas 1988, 1977; Annis 1987; Badhwar 1987; Millgram 1987; Sherman 1987; Thomas 1987, 1989, 1993; Friedman 1993, 1989; Whiting 1991; Hoffman 1997; Cocking & Kennett 1998; and White 1999a, 1999b, 2001) is that the friends each care about the other, and do so for her sake; in effect, this is to say that the friends must each love the other. Although many accounts of friendship do not analyze such mutual caring any further, among those that do there is considerable variability as to how we should understand the kind of caring involved in friendship. Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement that caring about someone for his sake involves both sympathy and action on the friend’s behalf. That is, friends must be moved by what happens to their friends to feel the appropriate emotions: joy in their friends’ successes, frustration and disappointment in their friends’ failures (as opposed to disappointment in the friends themselves), etc. Moreover, in part as an expression of their caring for each other, friends must normally be disposed to promote the other’s good for her sake and not out of any ulterior motive. (However, see Velleman 1999 for a dissenting view.)

To care about something is generally to find it worthwhile or valuable in some way; caring about one’s friend is no exception. A central difference among the various accounts of mutual caring is the way in which these accounts understand the kind of evaluation implicit therein. Most accounts understand that evaluation to be a matter of appraisal: we care about our friends at least in part because of the good qualities of their characters that we discover them to have (Annas 1977; Sherman 1987; Whiting 1991); this is in line with the understanding of love as philia or eros given in the first paragraph of Section 1 above. For this reason, many authors argue that to be friends with bad people reveals a potentially morally condemnable evaluative defect (see, e.g., Isserow 2018). Other accounts, however, understand caring as in part a matter of bestowing value on your beloved: in caring about a friend, we thereby project a kind of intrinsic value onto him; this is in line with the understanding of love as agape given above.

Friedman (1989, 6) argues for bestowal, saying that if we were to base our friendship on positive appraisals of our friend’s excellences, “to that extent our commitment to that person is subordinate to our commitment to the relevant [evaluative] standards and is not intrinsically a commitment to that person.” However, this is too quick, for to appeal to an appraisal of the good qualities of your friend’s character in order to justify your friendship is not on its own to subordinate your friendship to that appraisal. Rather, through the friendship, and through changes in your friend over time, you may come to change your evaluative outlook, thereby in effect subordinating your commitment to certain values to your commitment to your friend. Of course, within friendship the influence need not go only one direction: friends influence each other’s conceptions of value and how to live. Indeed, that friends have a reciprocal effect on each other is a part of the concern for equality many find essential to friendship, and it is central to the discussion of intimacy in Section 1.2 .

(For more on the notion of caring about another for her sake and the variety of philosophical accounts of it, see the entry on love .)

The relationship of friendship differs from other interpersonal relationships, even those characterized by mutual caring, such as relationships among colleagues: friendships are, intuitively, “deeper,” more intimate relationships. The question facing any philosophical account is how that characteristic intimacy of friendship is to be understood.

On this point, there is considerable variation in the literature—so much that it raises the question whether differing accounts aim at elucidating the same object. For it seems as though when the analysis of intimacy is relatively weak, the aim is to elucidate what might be called “acquaintance friendships”; as the analysis of intimacy gets stronger, the aim seems to tend towards closer friendships and even to a kind of ideal of maximally close friendship. It might be asked whether one or another of these types of friendship ought to take priority in the analysis, such that, for example, cases of close friendship can be understood to be an enhanced version of acquaintance friendship, or whether acquaintance friendship should be understood as being deficient in various ways relative to ideal friendship. Nonetheless, in what follows, views will be presented roughly in order from weaker to stronger accounts of intimacy.

To begin, Thomas (1987; 1989; 1993; 2013) claims that we should understand what is here called the intimacy of friendship in terms of mutual self-disclosure: I tell my friends things about myself that I would not dream of telling others, and I expect them to make me privy to intimate details of their lives. The point of such mutual self-disclosure, Thomas argues, is to create the “bond of trust” essential to friendship, for through such self-disclosure we simultaneously make ourselves vulnerable to each other and acknowledge the goodwill the other has for us. Such a bond of trust is what institutes the kind of intimacy characteristic of friendship. (Similar ideas can be found in Annis 1987.)

Cocking & Kennett (1998) caricature this as “the secrets view,” arguing:

It is not the sharing of private information nor even of very personal information, as such, that contributes to the bonds of trust and intimacy between companion friends. At best it is the sharing of what friends care about that is relevant here. [518]

Their point is that the secrets view underestimates the kind of trust at issue in friendship, conceiving of it largely as a matter of discretion. Given the way friendship essentially involves each caring about the other’s good for the other’s sake and so acting on behalf of the other’s good, entering into and sustaining a relationship of friendship will normally involve considerable trust in your friend’s goodwill towards you generally, and not just concerning your secrets. Moreover, friendship will normally involve trust in your friend’s judgment concerning what is in your best interests, for when your friend sees you harming yourself, she ought, other things being equal, to intervene, and through the friendship you can come to rely on her to do so. (See also Alfano, 2016, who emphasizes not just trust but trustworthiness to make similar points.)

Such enhanced trust can lead to “shared interests or enthusiasms or views … [or] a similar style of mind or way of thinking which makes for a high degree of empathy” (Telfer 1970–71, 227). Telfer finds such shared interests central to the “sense of a bond” friends have, an idea similar to the “solidarity”—the sharing of values and a sense of what’s important—that White (2001) advocates as central to friendship. For trusting my friend’s assessments of my good in this way seemingly involves trusting not only that she understands who I am and that I find certain things valuable and important in life but also and centrally that she understands the value of these things that are so meaningful to me. That in turn seems to be grounded in the empathy we have for each other—the shared sense of what’s important. So Telfer and White, in appealing to such shared sense of value, are offering a somewhat richer sense of the sort of intimacy essential to friendship than Thomas and Annis.

An important question to ask, however, is what precisely is meant by the “sharing” of a sense of value. Once again there are weaker and stronger versions. On the weak side, a sense of value is shared in the sense that a coincidence of interests and values is a necessary condition of developing and sustaining a friendship; when that happy coincidence dissipates, so too does the friendship. It is possible to read Annas’s summary of Aristotle’s view of friendship this way (1988, 1):

A friend, then, is one who (1) wishes and does good (or apparently good) things to a friend, for the friend’s sake, (2) wishes the friend to exist and live, for his own sake, (3) spends time with his friend, (4) makes the same choices as his friend and (5) finds the same things pleasant and painful as his friend.

(4) and (5) are the important claims for present purposes: making the same choices as your friend, if done consistently, depends on having a similar outlook on what reasons there are so to choose, and this point is reinforced in (5) given Aristotle’s understanding of pleasure and pain as evaluative and so as revealing what is (apparently) good and bad. The message might be that merely having coincidence in evaluative outlook is enough to satisfy (4) and (5).

Of course, Aristotle (and Annas) would reject this reading: friends do not merely have such similarities antecedent to their friendship as a necessary condition of friendship. Rather, friends can influence and shape each other’s evaluative outlook, so that the sharing of a sense of value is reinforced through the dynamics of their relationship. One way to make sense of this is through the Aristotelian idea that friends function as a kind of mirror of each other: insofar as friendship rests on similarity of character, and insofar as I can have only imperfect direct knowledge about my own character, I can best come to know myself—both the strengths and weaknesses of my character—by knowing a friend who reflects my qualities of character. Minor differences between friends, as when my friend on occasion makes a choice I would not have made, can lead me to reflect on whether this difference reveals a flaw in my own character that might need to be fixed, thereby reinforcing the similarity of my and my friend’s evaluative outlooks. On this reading of the mirroring view, my friend plays an entirely passive role: just by being himself, he enables me to come to understand my own character better (cf. Badhwar 2003). [ 3 ]

Cocking & Kennett (1998) argue against such a mirroring view in two ways. First, they claim that this view places too much emphasis on similarity as motivating and sustaining the friendship. Friends can be very different from each other, and although within a friendship there is a tendency for the friends to become more and more alike, this should be understood as an effect of friendship, not something constitutive of it. Second, they argue that the appeal to the friend’s role as a mirror to explain the increasing similarity involves assigning too much passivity to the friend. Our friends, they argue, play a more active role in shaping us, and the mirroring view fails to acknowledge this. (Cocking & Kennett’s views will be discussed further below. Lynch (2005) provides further criticisms of the mirroring view, arguing that the differences between friends can be central and important to their friendship.)

In an interesting twist on standard accounts of the sense in which (according to Aristotle, at least) a friend is a mirror, Millgram (1987) claims that in mirroring my friend I am causally responsible for my friend coming to have and sustain the virtues he has. Consequently, I am in a sense my friend’s “procreator,” and I therefore find myself actualized in my friend. For this reason, Millgram claims, I come to love my friend in the same way I love myself, and this explains (a) Aristotle’s otherwise puzzling claim that a friend is “another self,” (b) why it is that friends are not fungible, given my role as procreator only of this particular person, and (c) why friendships of pleasure and utility, which do not involve such procreation, fail to be genuine friendships. (For more on the problem of fungibility, see Section 2.1 .) However, in offering this account, Millgram may seem to confound my being causally necessary for my friend’s virtues with my being responsible for those virtues—to confound my passive role as a mirror with that of a “procreator,” a seemingly active role. Millgram’s understanding of mirroring does not, therefore, escape Cocking & Kennett’s criticism of mirroring views as assigning too much passivity to the friend as mirror.

Friedman (1989) offers another way to make sense of the influence my friend has on my sense of value by appealing to the notion of bestowal. According to Friedman, the intimacy of friendship takes the form of a commitment friends have to each other as unique persons, a commitment in which the

friend’s successes become occasions for joy; her judgments may provoke reflection or even deference; her behavior may encourage emulation; and the causes which she champions may inspire devotion …. One’s behavior toward the friend takes its appropriateness, at least in part, from her goals and aspirations, her needs, her character—all of which one feels prima facie invited to acknowledge as worthwhile just because they are hers. [4]

As noted in the 3rd paragraph of Section 1.1 , Friedman thinks my commitment to my friend cannot be grounded in appraisals of her, and so my acknowledgment of the worth of her goals, etc., is a matter of my bestowing value on these: her ends become valuable to me, and so suitable for motivating my actions, “just because they are hers.” That is, such a commitment involves taking my friend seriously, where this means something like finding her values, interests, reasons, etc. provide me with pro tanto reasons for me to value and think similarly. [ 4 ] In this way, the dynamics of the friendship relation involves friends mutually influencing each other’s sense of value, which thereby comes to be shared in a way that underwrites significant intimacy.

In part, Friedman’s point is that sharing an evaluative perspective in the way that constitutes the intimacy of friendship involves coming to adopt her values as parts of my own sense of value. Whiting (1991) argues that such an approach fails properly to make sense of the idea that I love my friend for her sake. For to require that my friend’s values be my own is to blur the distinction between valuing these things for her sake and valuing them for my own. Moreover, Whiting (1986) argues, to understand my concern for her for her sake in terms of my concern for things for my sake raises the question of how to understand this latter concern. However, Whiting thinks the latter is at least as unclear as the former, as is revealed when we think about the long-term and my connection and responsibility to my “future selves.” The solution, she claims, is to understand the value of my ends (or yours) to be independent of the fact that they are mine (or yours): these ends are intrinsically valuable, and that’s why I should care about them, no matter whose ends they are. Consequently, the reason I have to care for myself, including my future selves, for my sake is the same as the reason I have to care about my friend for her sake: because I recognize the intrinsic value of the (excellent) character she or I have (Whiting 1991, 10; for a similar view, see Keller 2000). Whiting therefore advocates what she calls an “impersonal” conception of friendship: There are potentially many people exhibiting (what I would consider to be) excellences of character, and these are my impersonal friends insofar as they are all “equally worthy of my concern”; what explains but does not justify my “differential and apparently personal concern for only some … [is] largely a function of historical and psychological accident” (1991, 23).

It should be clear that Whiting does not merely claim that friends share values only in that these values happen to coincide; if that were the case, her conception of friendship would be vulnerable to the charge that the friends really are not concerned for each other but merely for the intrinsically valuable properties that each exemplifies. Rather, Whiting thinks that part of what makes my concern for my friend be for her sake is my being committed to remind her of what’s really valuable in life and to foster within her a commitment to these values so as to prevent her from going astray. Such a commitment on my part is clearly a commitment to her, and a relationship characterized by such a commitment on both sides is one that consistently and non-accidentally reinforces the sharing of these values.

Brink (1999) criticizes Whiting’s account of friendship as too impersonal because it fails to understand the relationship of friendship itself to be intrinsically valuable. (For similar criticisms, see Jeske 1997.) In part, the complaint is the same as that which Friedman (1989) offered against any conception of friendship that bases that friendship on appraisals of the friend’s properties (cf. the 3rd paragraph of Section 1.1 above): such a conception of friendship subordinates our concern for the friend to our concern for the values, thereby neglecting what makes friendship a distinctively personal relationship. Given Whiting’s understanding of the sense in which friends share values in terms of their appeal to the intrinsic and impersonal worth of those values, it seems that she cannot make much of the rebuttal to Friedman offered above: that I can subordinate my concern for certain values to my concern for my friend, thereby changing my values in part out of concern for my friend. Nonetheless, Brink’s criticism goes deeper:

Unless our account of love and friendship attaches intrinsic significance to the historical relationship between friends, it seems unable to justify concern for the friend qua friend. [1999, 270]

It is only in terms of the significance of the historical relationship, Brink argues, that we can make sense of the reasons for friendship and for the concern and activity friendship demands as being agent-relative (and so in this way personal) rather than agent-neutral (or impersonal, as for Whiting). [ 5 ]

Cocking & Kennett (1998), in what might be a development of Rorty (1986/1993), offer an account of close friendship in part in terms of the friends playing a more active role in transforming each other’s evaluative outlook: in friendship, they claim, we are “receptive” to having our friends “direct” and “interpret” us and thereby change our interests. To be directed by your friend is to allow her interests, values, etc. to shape your own; thus, your friend may suggest that you go to the opera together, and you may agree to go, even though you have no antecedent interest in the opera. Through his interest, enthusiasm, and suggestion (“Didn’t you just love the concluding duet of Act III?”), you may be moved directly by him to acquire an interest in opera only because he’s your friend. To be interpreted by your friend is to allow your understanding of yourself, in particular of your strengths and weaknesses, to be shaped by your friend’s interpretations of you. Thus, your friend may admire your tenacity (a trait you did not realize you had), or be amused by your excessive concern for fairness, and you may come as a result to develop a new understanding of yourself, and potentially change yourself, in direct response to his interpretation of you. Hence, Cocking & Kennett claim, “the self my friend sees is, at least in part, a product of the friendship” (505). (Nehamas 2010 offers a similar account of the importance of the interpretation of one’s friends in determining who one is, though Nehamas emphasizes in a way that Cocking & Kennett do not that your interpretation of your friend can reveal possible valuable ways to be that you yourself “could never have even imagined beforehand” (287).)

It is a bit unclear what your role is in being thus directed and interpreted by your friend. Is it a matter of merely passively accepting the direction and interpretation? This is suggested by Cocking & Kennett’s understanding of friendship in terms of a  receptivity to being drawn by your friend and by their apparent understanding of this receptivity in dispositional terms. Yet this would seem to be a matter of ceding your autonomy to your friend, and that is surely not what they intend. Rather, it seems, we are at least selective in the ways in which we allow our friends to direct and interpret us, and we can resist other directions and interpretations. However, this raises the question of why we allow any such direction and interpretation. One answer would be because we recognize the independent value of the interests of our friends, or that we recognize the truth of their interpretations of us. But this would not explain the role of friendship in such direction and interpretation, for we might just as easily accept such direction and interpretation from a mentor or possibly even a stranger. This shortcoming might push us to understanding our receptivity to direction and interpretation not in dispositional terms but rather in normative terms: other things being equal, we ought to accept direction and interpretation from our friends precisely because they are our friends. And this might push us to a still stronger conception of intimacy, of the sharing of values, in terms of which we can understand why friendship grounds these norms.

Such a stronger conception of intimacy is provided in Sherman’s interpretation of Aristotle’s account of friends as sharing a life together (Sherman 1987; see also Moore & Frederick 2017, which argues that friends must share a life together partly through the mutual acknowledgment of their shared activity in the form of a joint narrative that interprets these activities as meaningful). According to Sherman’s Aristotle, an important component of friendship is that friends identify with each other in the sense that they exhibit a “singleness of mind.” This includes, first, a kind of sympathy, whereby I feel on my friend’s behalf the same emotions he does. Unlike similar accounts, Sherman explicitly includes pride and shame as emotions I sympathetically feel on behalf of my friend—a significant addition because of the role pride and shame have in constituting our sense of ourselves and even our identities (Taylor 1985). In part for this reason, Sherman claims that “through the sense of belonging and attachment” we attain because of such sympathetic pride and shame, “we identify with and share their [our friends’] good” (600). [ 6 ]

Second, and more important, Sherman’s Aristotle understands the singleness of mind that friends have in terms of shared processes of deliberation. Thus, as she summarizes a passage in Aristotle (1170b11–12):

character friends live together, not in the way animals do, by sharing the same pasture, but “by sharing in argument and thought.” [598]

The point is that the friends “share” a conception of values not merely in that there is significant overlap between the values of the one friend and those of the other, and not merely in that this overlap is maintained through the influence that the friends have on each other. Rather, the values are shared in the sense that they are most fundamentally their values, at which they jointly arrive by deliberating together.

[Friends have] the project of a shared conception of eudaimonia [i.e., of how best to live]. Through mutual decisions about specific practical matters, friends begin to express that shared commitment …. Any happiness or disappointment that follows from these actions belongs to both persons, for the decision to so act was joint and the responsibility is thus shared. [598]

The intent of this account, in which what gets shared is, we might say, an identity that the friends have in common, is not to be descriptively accurate of particular friendships; it is rather to provide a kind of ideal that actual friendships at best only approximate. Such a strong notion of sharing is reminiscent of the union view of (primarily erotic) love, according to which love consists in the formation of some significant kind of union, a “we” (see the entry on love , the section on love as union ). Like the union view of love, this account of friendship raises worries about autonomy. Thus, it seems as though Sherman’s Aristotle does away with any clear distinction between the interests and even agency of the two friends, thereby undermining the kind of independence and freedom of self-development that characterizes autonomy. If autonomy is a part of the individual’s good, then Sherman’s Aristotle might be forced to conclude that friendship is to this extent bad; the conclusion might be, therefore, that we ought to reject this strong conception of the intimacy of friendship.

It is unclear from Sherman’s interpretation of Aristotle whether there are principled reasons to limit the extent to which we share our identities with our friends; perhaps an appeal to something like Friedman’s federation model (1998) can help resolve these difficulties. Friedman’s idea is that we should understand romantic love (but the idea could also be applied to friendship) not in terms of the union of the two individuals, in which their identities get subsumed by that union, but rather in terms of the federation of the individuals—the creation of a third entity that presupposes some degree of independence of the individuals that make it up. Even so, much would need to be done to spell out this view satisfactorily. (For more on Friedman’s account, see the entry on love , the section on love as union .)

In each of these accounts of the kind of intimacy and commitment that are characteristic of friendship, we might ask about the conditions under which friendship can properly be dissolved. Thus, insofar as friendship involves some such commitment, we cannot just give up on our friends for no reason at all; nor, it seems, should our commitment be unconditional, binding on us come what may. Understanding more clearly when it is proper to break off a friendship, or allow it to lapse, may well shed light on the kind of commitment and intimacy that is characteristic of friendship; nonetheless, this issue gets scant attention in the literature.

A final common thread in philosophical accounts of friendship is shared activity. The background intuition is this: never to share activity with someone and in this way to interact with him is not to have the kind of relationship with him that could be called friendship, even if you each care for the other for his sake. Rather, friends engage in joint pursuits, in part motivated by the friendship itself. These joint pursuits can include not only such things as making something together, playing together, and talking together, but also pursuits that essentially involve shared experiences, such as going to the opera together. Yet for these pursuits to be properly shared in the relevant sense of “share,” they cannot involve activities motivated simply by self interest: by, for example, the thought that I’ll help you build your fence today if you later help me paint my house. Rather, the activity must be pursued in part for the purpose of doing it together with my friend, and this is the point of saying that the shared activity must be motivated, at least in part, by the friendship itself.

This raises the following questions: in what sense can such activity be said to be “shared,” and what is it about friendship that makes shared activity so central to it? The common answer to this second question (which helps pin down an answer to the first) is that shared activity is important because friends normally have shared interests as a part of the intimacy that is characteristic of friendship as such, and the “shared” pursuit of such shared interests is therefore an important part of friendship. Consequently, the account of shared activity within a particular theory ought to depend at least in part on that theory’s understanding of the kind of intimacy relevant to friendship. And this generally seems to be the case: for example, Thomas (1987, 1989, 1993, 2013), who argues for a weak conception of intimacy in terms of mutual self-disclosure, has little place for shared activity in his account of friendship, whereas Sherman (1987), who argues for a strong conception of intimacy in terms of shared values, deliberation, and thought, provides within friendship a central place not just to isolated shared activities but, more significantly, to a shared life.

Nonetheless, within the literature on friendship the notion of shared or joint activity is largely taken for granted: not much thought has been given to articulating clearly the sense in which friends share their activity. This is surprising and unfortunate, especially insofar as the understanding of the sense in which such activities are “shared” is closely related to the understanding of intimacy that is so central to any account of friendship; indeed, a clear account of the sort of shared activity characteristic of friendship may in turn shed light on the sort of intimacy it involves. This means in part that a particular theory of friendship might be criticized in terms of the way in which its account of the intimacy of friendship yields a poor account of the sense in which activity is shared. For example, one might think that we must distinguish between activity we engage in together in part out of my concern for someone I love, and activity we share insofar as we engage in it at least partly for the sake of sharing it; only the latter, it might be argued, is the sort of shared activity constitutive of the relationship of friendship as opposed to that constitutive merely of my concern for him (see Nozick 1989). Consequently, according to this line of thought, any account of the intimacy of friendship that fails to understand the sharing of interests in such a way as to make sense of this distinction ought to be rejected.

Helm (2008) develops an account of shared activity and shared valuing at least partly with an eye to understanding friendship. He argues that the sense in which friends share activity is not the sort of shared intention and plural subjecthood discussed in literature on shared intention within social philosophy (on which, see Tuomela 1995, 2007; Gilbert 1996, 2000, 2006; Searle 1990; and Bratman 1999), for such sharing of intentions does not involve the requisite intimacy of friendship. Rather, the intimacy of friendship should be understood partly in terms of the friends forming a “plural agent”: a group of people who have joint cares—a joint evaluative perspective—which he analyzes primarily in terms of a pattern of interpersonally connected emotions, desires, judgments, and (shared) actions. Friendships emerge, Helm claims, when the friends form a plural agent that cares positively about their relationship, and the variety of kinds of friendships there can be, including friendships of pleasure, utility, and virtue, are to be understood in terms of the particular way in which they jointly understand their relationship to be something they care about—as tennis buddies or as life partners, for example.

2. Value and Justification of Friendship

Friendship clearly plays an important role in our lives; to a large extent, the various accounts of friendship aim at identifying and clarifying that role. In this context, it is important to understand not only why friendship can be valuable, but also what justifies particular friendships.

One way to construe the question of the value of friendship is in terms of the individual considering whether to be (or continue to be) engaged in a friendship: why should I invest considerable time, energy, and resources in a friend rather than in myself? What makes friendship worthwhile for me, and so how ought I to evaluate whether particular friendships I have are good friendships or not?

One sort of answer is that friendship is instrumentally good. Thus, Telfer (1970–71) claims that friendship is “ life enhancing ” in that it makes us “feel more alive”—it enhances our activities by intensifying our absorption in them and hence the pleasure we get out of them (239–40). Moreover, she claims, friendship is pleasant in itself as well as useful to the friends. Annis (1987) adds that it helps promote self-esteem, which is good both instrumentally and for its own sake.

Yet friendship is not merely instrumentally valuable, as is hinted at by Annis’ claim that “our lives would be significantly less full given the universal demise of friendship” (1987, 351). Cooper (1977b), interpreting Aristotle, provides two arguments for why this might be so. First, Cooper’s Aristotle claims, living well requires that one know the goodness of one’s own life; however, given the perpetual possibility of self-deception, one is able accurately to evaluate one’s own life only through friendship, in which one’s friend acts as a kind of mirror of one’s self. Hence, a flourishing life is possible only through the epistemic access friendship provides. Second, Cooper’s Aristotle claims that the sort of shared activity characteristic of friendship is essential to one’s being able to engage in the sort of activities characteristic of living well “continuously” and “with pleasure and interest” (310). Such activities include moral and intellectual activities, activities in which it is often difficult to sustain interest without being tempted to act otherwise. Friendship, and the shared values and shared activities it essentially involves, is needed to reinforce our intellectual and practical understanding of such activities as worthwhile in spite of their difficulty and the ever present possibility that our interest in pursuing them will flag. Consequently, Cooper concludes, the shared activity of friendship is partly constitutive of human flourishing. Similarly, Biss (2019) argues along Kantian lines that friendship and the sort of trust friendship involves, are a central and necessary part of the pursuit of moral self-perfection.

So far these are attempts to understand the value of friendship to the individual in terms of the way friendship contributes, instrumentally or constitutively, to something else that is valuable to the individual. Yet one might also think that friendship is valuable for its own sake. Schoeman (1985), partly in response to the individualism of other accounts of the value of friendship, claims that in friendship the friends “become a unique community with a being and value of its own” (280): the intimacy of friendship results in “a way of being and acting in virtue of being united with another” (281). Although this claim has intuitive appeal, Schoeman does not clearly explain what the value of that “unique community” is or why it should have that value. Indeed, we ought to expect that fleshing out this claim would involve a substantive proposal concerning the nature of that community and how it can have a separate (federated?—cf. Friedman 1998) existence and value. Once again, the literature on shared intention and plural subjecthood is relevant here; see, for example, Gilbert 1989, 1996, 2000; Tuomela 1984, 1995; Searle 1990; and Bratman 1999.

A question closely related to this question of the value of friendship is that of what justifies my being friends with this person rather than with someone else or no one at all. To a certain extent, answers to the question of the value of friendship might seem to provide answers to the question of the justification of friendship. After all, if the value of friendship in general lies in the way it contributes (either instrumentally or constitutively) to a flourishing life for me, then it might seem that I can justify particular friendships in light of the extent to which they contribute to my flourishing. Nonetheless, this seems unacceptable because it suggests—what is surely false—that friends are fungible . (To be fungible is to be replaceable by a relevantly similar object without any loss of value.) That is, if my friend has certain properties (including, perhaps, relational properties) in virtue of which I am justified in having her as my friend (because it is in virtue of those properties that she contributes to my flourishing), then on this view I would be equally justified in being friends with anyone else having relevantly similar properties, and so I would have no reason not to replace my current friend with someone else of this sort. Indeed, it might even be that I ought to “trade up” when someone other than my current friend exhibits the relevant friendship-justifying properties to a greater degree than my friend does. This is surely objectionable as an understanding of friendship.

In solving this problem of fungibility, philosophers have typically focused on features of the historical relationship of friendship (cf. Brink 1999, quoted above). One approach might be found in Sherman’s 1987 union account of friendship discussed above (this type of view might be suggested by the account of the value of friendship in Schoeman 1985). If my friend and I form a kind of union in virtue of our having a shared conception of how to live that is forged and maintained through a particular history of interaction and sharing of our lives, and if my sense of my values and identity therefore depends on these being most fundamentally our values and identity, then it is simply not possible to substitute another person for my friend without loss. For this other person could not possibly share the relevant properties of my friend, namely her historical relationship with me. However, the price of this solution to the problem of fungibility, as it arises both for friendship and for love, is the worry about autonomy raised towards the end of Section 1.2 above.

An alternative solution is to understand these historical, relational properties of my friend to be more directly relevant to the justification of our friendship. Thus, Whiting (1991) distinguishes the reasons we have for initiating a friendship (which are, she thinks, impersonal in a way that allows for fungibility) from the reasons we have for sustaining a friendship; the latter, she suggests, are to be found in the history of concern we have for each other. However, it is unclear how the historical-relational properties can provide any additional justification for friendship beyond that provided by thinking about the value of friendship in general, which does not solve the fungibility problem. For the mere fact that this is my friend does not seem to justify my continued friendship: when we imagine that my friend is going through a rough time so that he loses those virtues justifying my initial friendship with him, why shouldn’t I just dump him and strike up a new friendship with someone who has those virtues? It is not clear how the appeal to historical properties of my friend or our friendship can provide an answer.

In part the trouble here arises from tacit preconceptions concerning the nature of justification. If we attempt to justify continued friendship in terms of the friend’s being this particular person, with a particular historical relationship to me, then it seems like we are appealing to merely idiosyncratic and subjective properties, which might explain but cannot justify that friendship. This seems to imply that justification in general requires the appeal to the friend’s being a type of person, having general, objective properties that others might share; this leads to the problem of fungibility. Solving the problem, it might therefore seem, requires somehow overcoming this preconception concerning justification—a task which no one has attempted in the literature on friendship.

(For further discussion of this problem of fungibility as it arises in the context of love, as well as discussion of a related problem concerning whether the object (rather than the grounds) of love is a particular person or a type of person, see Section 6 of the entry on love .)

Another way to construe the question of the value of friendship is in more social terms: what is the good to society of having its members engaged in relationships of friendship? Telfer (1970–71, 238) answers that friendship promotes the general good “by providing a degree and kind of consideration for others’ welfare which cannot exist outside it.” Blum (1980) concurs, arguing that friendship is an important source of moral excellence precisely because it essentially involves acting for the sake of your friend, a kind of action that can have considerable moral worth. (For similar claims, see Annis 1987.)

Cocking & Kennett (2000) argue against this view that friendly acts per se are morally good, claiming that “I might be a perfectly good friend. I might just not be a perfectly moral one” (287). They support this conclusion, within their account of friendship as involving being directed and interpreted by one’s friend, by claiming that “I am just as likely to be directed by your interest in gambling at the casino as by your interest in ballet” (286). However, Cocking & Kennett seem to be insufficiently sensitive to the idea, which they accept (cf. 284), that friends care about promoting each other’s well-being. For if I am concerned with your well-being and find you to be about to embark on an immoral course of action, I ought not, contrary to what Cocking & Kennett suggest, blindly allow you to draw me into joining you; rather, I ought to try to stop you or at least get you to question whether you are doing the right thing—as a matter of my directing and interpreting you. In this context, Koltonski (2016) argues that one ought to ensure that one’s friend is properly engaging in moral deliberation, but then defer to one’s friend’s judgment about what to do, even when one disagrees with the moral conclusion, for such deference is a matter of properly respecting the friend’s moral agency.

These answers to the social value of friendship seem to apply equally well to love: insofar as love essentially involves both a concern for your beloved for his sake and, consequently, action on his behalf for his sake, love will exhibit the same social value. Friedman (1989), however, argues that friendship itself is socially valuable in a way that love is not. Understanding the intimacy of friendship in terms of the sharing of values, Friedman notes that friendship can involve the mutual support of, in particular, unconventional values, which can be an important stimulus to moral progress within a community. For “our commitments to particular persons are, in practice, necessary counterbalances to our commitments to abstract moral guidelines, and may, at times, take precedence over them” (6). Consequently, the institution of friendship is valuable not just to the individuals but also to the community as a whole. On the other hand, however, we might worry that friendship can have negative consequences for society as a whole. As Thomas (1999) and Lintott (2015) argue, we tend to privilege in our loves and friendships “people like us”, which can give rise to biases in favor of certain social identities like race, class, and sexual orientation that can perpetuate inequalities among these groups, reinforce epistemic injustices, and limit our moral development.

A growing body of research since the mid-1970s questions the relationship between the phenomenon of friendship and particular moral theories. Thus, many (Stocker 1976, 1981; Blum 1980, 1993; Wilcox 1987; Friedman 1989, 1993; Badhwar 1991; Cocking & Oakley 1995) have criticized consequentialist and deontological moral theories on the grounds that they are somehow incompatible with friendship and the kind of reasons and motives that friendship provides. Often, the appeal to friendship is intended to bypass traditional disputes among major types of moral theories (consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics), and so the “friendship critique” may seem especially important and interesting. [ 7 ]

At the root of these questions concerning the relationship between friendship and morality is the idea that friendship involves special duties : duties for specific people that arise out of the relationship of friendship. Thus, it seems that we have obligations to aid and support our friends that go well beyond those we have to help strangers because they are our friends, much like we parents have special duties to aid and support our children because they are our children. Indeed, Annis (1987) suggests, such duties “are constitutive of the relationship” of friendship (352; but see Bernstein (2007) for an argument that friendship does not involve any requirement of partiality). Given this, the question arises as to what the relationship is between such special duties of friendship and other duties, in particular moral duties: can our obligations to our friends sometimes trump our moral duties, or must we always subordinate our personal relationships to morality in order to be properly impartial (as, it might be thought, morality demands)?

One concern in this neighborhood, articulated by Stocker (1976), is that the phenomenon of friendship reveals that consequentialist and deontological moral theories, by offering accounts of what it is right to do irrespective of the motives we have, promote a kind of “ moral schizophrenia ”: a split between our moral reasons on the one hand and our motives on the other. Such moral schizophrenia, Stocker argues, prevents us in general from harmonizing our moral reasons and our motives, and it does so in a way that destroys the very possibility of our having and sustaining friendships with others. Given the manifest value of friendship in our lives, this is clearly a serious problem with these moral theories.

What is it about friendship that generates these problems? One concern arises out of the teleological conception of action , implicit in consequentialism, according to which actions are understood in terms of their ends or purposes. The trouble is, Stocker (1981) argues, the characteristic actions of friendship cannot be understood in this way. To be a friend is at least sometimes to be motivated to act out of a concern for your friend as this individual (cf. Section 1.1 ). Although actions done out of friendship may have ends, what characterizes these as “friendly acts,” as we might call them, is not that they are done for any particular purpose:

If acting out of friendship is composed of purposes, dispositions to have purposes, and the like, where these are purposes properly so-called, and thus not essentially described by the phrase ‘out of friendship’, there seems … no guarantee that the person cares about and likes, has friendship for, the ‘friend’. [Stocker 1981, 756–57]

That is, actions done out of friendship are essentially actions motivated by a special sort of concern—a concern for this particular person—which is in part a matter of having settled habits of response to the friend. This, Stocker concludes, is a kind of motivation for action that a teleological conception of action cannot countenance, resulting in moral schizophrenia. (Jeske (2008) argues for a somewhat different conclusion: that in order to heal this apparent split between impartial moral obligations and the partial obligations of friendship, we must abandon the distinction between moral and nonmoral obligations.)

Stocker (1976) raises another, more general concern for consequentialism and deontology arising out of a conception of friendship. Thus, although act consequentialists —those who justify each particular act by appeal to the goodness of the consequences of that act, impersonally conceived (see the entry on consequentialism )—could justify friendly acts, they “cannot embody their reason in their motive” (1976, 70), for to be motivated teleologically by the concern to maximize goodness is not to be motivated out of friendship. Consequently, either act consequentialists must exhibit moral schizophrenia, or, to avoid it, they must understand consequentialist reasons for action to be our motives. However, because such consequentialist reasons are impersonal, taking this latter tack would be to leave out the kind of reasons and motives that are central to friendship, thereby undermining the very institution of friendship. (Cf. the discussion of impersonal justification of friendship and the problem of fungibility in Section 2.1 .)

The same is true, Stocker argues, of rule consequentialism (the view that actions are right if they follow principles or rules that tend to result in the most good overall, impersonally conceived—see the entry on rule-consequentialism ) and on deontology (the view that actions are right just in case they are in accordance with certain rules or principles that are binding on all moral agents). For even if rule consequentialism and deontology can provide moral reasons for friendly actions in terms of the rule that one must benefit one’s friends, for example, such reasons would be impersonal, giving no special consideration to our particular friends at all. If we are to avoid moral schizophrenia and embody this reason in our motives for action, we could not, then, act out of friendship—out of a concern for our friends for their sakes. This means that any rule consequentialist or deontologist that avoids moral schizophrenia can act so as to benefit her friends, but such actions would be merely as if friendly, not genuinely friendly, and she could not therefore have and sustain genuine friendships. The only alternative is to split her moral reasons and her motives for friendly acts, thereby becoming schizophrenic. (For some discussion about whether such moral schizophrenia really is as bad as Stocker thinks, see Woodcock 2010. For concerns similar to Stocker’s about impartial moral theories and motivation for action arising out of a consideration of personal relationships like friendship, see Williams 1981.)

Blum (1980) (portions of which are reprinted with slight modifications in Blum 1993) and Friedman (1993), pick up on this contrast between the impartiality of consequentialism and deontology and the inherent partiality of friendship, and argue more directly for a rejection of such moral theories. Consequentialists and deontologists must think that relationships like friendship essentially involve a kind of special concern for the friend and that such relationships therefore demand that one’s actions exhibit a kind of partiality towards the friend. Consequently, they argue, these impartialist moral theories must understand friendship to be inherently biased and therefore not to be inherently moral. Rather, such moral theories can only claim that to care for another “in a fully morally appropriate manner” requires caring for him “simply as a human being, i.e., independent of any special connection or attachment one has with him” (Blum 1993, 206). It is this claim that Blum and Friedman deny: although such universalist concern surely has a place in moral theory, the value—indeed the moral value (cf. Section 2.2 )—of friendship cannot properly be appreciated except as involving a concern for another for his sake and as the particular person he is. Thus, they claim, insofar as consequentialism and deontology are unable to acknowledge the moral value of friendship, they cannot be adequate moral theories and ought to be rejected in favor of some alternative.

In reply, Railton (1984) distinguishes between subjective and objective consequentialism, arguing that this “friendship critique” of Stocker and Blum (as well as Friedman) succeeds only against subjective consequentialism. (See Mason (1998) for further elaborations of this argument, and see Sadler (2006) for an alternative response.) Subjective consequentialism is the view that whenever we face a choice of actions, we should both morally justify a particular course of action and be motivated to act accordingly directly by the relevant consequentialist principle (whether what that principle assesses are particular actions or rules for action). That is, in acting as one ought, one’s subjective motivations ought to come from those very moral reasons: because this action promotes the most good (or is in accordance with the rule that tends to promote the most good). Clearly, Stocker, Blum, and Friedman are right to think that subjective consequentialism cannot properly accommodate the motives of friendship.

By contrast, Railton argues, objective consequentialism denies that there is such a tight connection between the objective justification of a state of affairs in terms of its consequences and the agent’s motives in acting: the moral justification of a particular action is one thing (and to be undertaken in consequentialist terms), but the motives for that action may be entirely separate. This means that the objective consequentialist can properly acknowledge that sometimes the best states of affairs result not just from undertaking certain behaviors, but from undertaking them with certain motives, including motives that are essentially personal. In particular, Railton argues, the world would be a better place if each of us had dispositions to act so as to benefit our friends out of a concern for their good (and not the general good). So, on consequentialist grounds each of us has moral reasons to inculcate such a disposition to friendliness, and when the moment arrives that disposition will be engaged, so that we are motivated to act out of a concern for our friends rather than out of an impersonal, impartial concern for the greater good. [ 8 ] Moreover, there is no split between our moral reasons for action and our motives because such reasons may in some cases (such as that of a friendly act) require that in acting we act out of the appropriate sort of motive. So the friendship critique of Stocker, Blum, and Friedman fails. [ 9 ]

Badhwar (1991) thinks even Railton’s more sophisticated consequentialism ultimately fails to accommodate the phenomenon of friendship, and that the moral schizophrenia remains. For, she argues, a sophisticated consequentialist must both value the friend for the friend’s sake (in order to be a friend at all) and value the friend only so long as doing so is consistent with promoting the most good overall (in order to be a consequentialist).

As a non-schizophrenic, un-self-deceived consequentialist friend, however, she must put the two thoughts together. And the two thoughts are logically incompatible. To be consistent she must think, “As a consequentialist friend, I place special value on you so long, but only so long, as valuing you thus promotes the overall good.” … Her motivational structure, in other words, is instrumental, and so logically incompatible with the logical structure required for end friendship. [493]

Badhwar is here alluding to a case of Railton’s in which, through no fault of yours or your friend’s, the right action according to consequentialism is to sacrifice your friendship for the greater good. In such a case, the sophisticated consequentialist must in arriving at this conclusion “evaluate intrinsic goods [of friendship] and their virtues by reference to a standard external to them”—i.e., by reference to the overall good as this is conceived from an impersonal point of view (496). However, Badhwar argues, the value of friendship is something we can appreciate only from a personal point of view, so that the moral rightness of friendly actions must be assessed only by appeal to an essentially personal relationship in which we act for the sake of our friends and not for the sake of producing the most good in general and in indifference to this particular personal relationship. Therefore, sophisticated consequentialism, because of its impersonal nature, blinds us to the value of particular friendships and the moral reasons they provide for acting out of friendship, all of which can be properly appreciated only from the personal point of view. In so doing, sophisticated consequentialism undermines what is distinctive about friendship as such. The trouble once again is a split between consequentialist reasons and friendly motivations: a kind of moral schizophrenia.

At this point it might seem that the proper consequentialist reply to this line of criticism is to refuse to accept the claim that a moral justification of the value of friendship and friendly actions must be personal: the good of friendship and the good that friendly actions promote, a consequentialist should say, are things we must be able to understand in impersonal terms or they would not enter into a properly moral justification of the rightness of action. Because sophisticated consequentialists agree that motivation out of friendship must be personal, they must reject the idea that the ultimate moral reasons for acting in these cases are your motives, thereby rejecting the relatively weak motivational internalism that is implicit in the friendship critique (for weak motivational internalism, see the entry on moral cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism , and in particular the section on motivational internalism and the action-guiding character of moral judgements ). Indeed, this seems to be Railton’s strategy in articulating his objective consequentialism: to be a good person is to act in the morally right ways (justified by consequentialism) and so to have, on balance, motivations that tend to produce right action, even though in certain cases (including those of friendship) these motivations need not—indeed cannot—have the consequentialist justification in view. (For further elaborations of this strategy in direct response to Badhwar 1991, see Conee 2001 and Card 2004; for a defense of Railton in opposition to Card’s elaboration of sophisticated consequentialism, see Tedesco 2006.)

This means that the debate at issue in the friendship critique of consequentialism needs to be carried on in part at the level of a discussion of the nature of motivation and the connection between moral reasons and motives. Indeed, such a discussion has implications for how we should construe the sort of mutual caring that is central to friendship. For the sophisticated consequentialist would presumably try to spell out that mutual caring in terms of friendly dispositions (motives divorced from consequentialist reasons), an attempt which advocates of the friendship critique would say involves insufficient attention to the particular person one cares about, insofar as the caring would not be justified by who she is (motives informed by personal reasons).

The discussion of friendship and moral theories has so far concentrated on the nature of practical reason. A similar debate focuses on the nature of value. Scanlon (1998) uses friendship to argue against what he calls teleological conceptions of values presupposed by consequentialism. The teleological view understands states of affairs to have intrinsic value, and our recognition of such value provides us with reasons to bring such states of affairs into existence and to sustain and promote them. Scanlon argues that friendship involves kinds of reasons—of loyalty, for example—are not teleological in this way, and so the value of friendship does not fit into the teleological conception and so cannot be properly recognized by consequentialism. In responding to this argument, Hurka (2006) argues that this argument presupposes a conception of the value of friendship (as something we ought to respect as well as to promote) that is at odds with the teleological conception of value and so with teleological conceptions of friendship. Consequently, the debate must shift to the more general question about the nature of value and cannot be carried out simply by attending to friendship.

These conclusions that we must turn to broader issues if we are to settle the place friendship has in morality reveal that in one sense the friendship critique has failed: it has not succeeded in making an end run around traditional debates between consequentialists, deontologists, and virtue theorists. Yet in a larger sense it has succeeded: it has forced these moral theories to take personal relationships seriously and consequently to refine and complicate their accounts in the process.

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  • –––, 2001, Love’s Philosophy , Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Whiting, J.E., 1986, “Friends and Future Selves”, Philosophical Review , 95: 547–80.
  • –––, 1991, “Impersonal Friends”, Monist , 74: 3–29.
  • Wilcox, W.H., 1987, “Egoists, Consequentialists, and Their Friends”, Philosophy & Public Affairs , 16: 73–84.
  • Williams, B., 1981, “Persons, Character, and Morality”, in Moral Luck , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–19.
  • Woodcock, S., 2010, “Moral Schizophrenia and the Paradox of Friendship”, Utilitas , 22: 1–25.
How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics , Translated by W. D. Ross.
  • Moseley, A., ‘ Philosophy of Love ’, in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  • Doyle, M. E. and Smith, M. K., 2002, ‘ Friendship: Theory and Experience ’, in The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education , hosted by Informal Education and Lifelong Learning.

Aristotle, General Topics: ethics | character, moral | cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism, moral | consequentialism | consequentialism: rule | ethics: deontological | ethics: virtue | impartiality | love | obligations: special | Plato: ethics | Plato: friendship and eros | Plato: rhetoric and poetry | respect | value: intrinsic vs. extrinsic

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Love may be timeless, but the way we talk about it isn’t − the ancient Greeks’ ideas about desire challenge modern-day readers, lovers and even philosophers

an article about love and friendship

Associate Professor of Religion, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

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David Albertson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Every year as Valentine’s Day approaches, people remind themselves that not all expressions of love fit the stereotypes of modern romance. V-Day cynics might plan a “Galentines” night for female friends or toast their platonic “Palentines” instead.

In other words, the holiday shines a cold light on the limits of our romantic imaginations, which hew to a familiar script. Two people are supposed to meet, the arrows of Cupid strike them unwittingly, and they have no choice but to fall in love. They face obstacles, they overcome them, and then they run into each other’s arms. Love is a delightful sport, and neither reason nor the gods have anything to do with it.

This model of romance flows from Roman poetry, medieval chivalry and Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare. But as a professor of religion , I study an alternative vision of eros: medieval Christian mystics who viewed the body’s desires as immediately and inescapably linked to God, reason and sometimes even suffering.

Yet this way of thinking about love has even older roots.

My favorite class to teach traces connections between eros and transcendence, starting with ancient Greek literature. Centuries before Christianity, the Greeks had their own ideas about desire. Erotic love was not a pleasant diversion, but a high-stakes trial to be survived, quivering with perilous energy. These poets’ and philosophers’ ideas can stimulate our thinking today – and perhaps our loving as well.

Deadly serious

For the ancient Greeks, eros – which could be translated as “yearning” or “passionate desire” – was a matter of life and death, even a danger to avoid.

In the tragedies of Sophocles, when someone feels eros, typically something is about to go terribly wrong, if it hasn’t already.

Take “Antigone,” written in Athens in the fifth century B.C.E . The play opens with the title character mourning the death of her brother Polyneices, who betrayed her father and killed her other brother in battle.

A woman in a white dress and black shawl throws her arms up dramatically in front of stern-looking soldiers.

After this civil war, King Creon, Antigone’s uncle, forbids citizens from burying Polyneices: an insult to his memory, but also a violation of the city’s religion. When Antigone insists on burying him anyway, she is condemned to death.

The play is often interpreted as a lesson on duty: Creon executing the laws of the state versus Antigone defending the laws of the gods. Yet, uncomfortably for modern readers, Antigone’s devotion to Polyneices seems to be more than sisterly love .

Antigone leaps at the chance to die next to her brother. “Loving, I shall lie with him, yes, with my loved one,” she swears to her law-abiding sister, “when I have dared the crime of piety.”

Were Polyneices her husband, child, parent or even fiancé, Antigone says, she would never have violated the law. But her desire for Polyneices is so great that she is willing to face “marriage to Death.” She compares the cave where Creon buries her alive with the bedroom on a wedding night. Rather than starve, she hangs herself with her own linen veil.

Scholars have asked whether Antigone has too much eros or too little – and what exactly she desires. Does she lust for justice? For piety? For her deceased brother’s body? Her desire is somehow embodied and otherworldly at the same time, calling our own erotic boundaries into question.

Eventually, Creon’s passion for civic order consumes him as well. His son, Antigone’s fiancé, stabs himself in grief as he embraces her corpse – and hearing of this, his mother kills herself as well. Eros races through the royal family like a plague, leveling them all.

No wonder the chorus prays to the goddess of love, pleading for protection from her violent whims. “Who has you within him is mad,” the chorus laments. “You twist the minds of the just.”

Embrace the risk

This leads to a second lesson from the Greeks: Love might make you a better person, but it also might not.

Rather than speak in his own voice, the philosopher Plato wrote dialogues starring his teacher, Socrates, who had a lot to say about love and friendship.

In one dialogue, “Lysis ,” Socrates jokes that if all you want is romantic love, the best plan is to insult your crush until they thirst for attention. In another, “Symposium,” Socrates’ young student Phaedrus imagines an indomitable army entirely comprising people in love. What courage and strength they would show off for each other!

A scene of seven men in toga-like garments sitting and standing around a tree.

In the “Phaedrus” dialogue , foolish lovers seek a friends-with-benefits arrangement, afraid of the unwieldy passions that come with falling in love. Socrates entertains their question: Is it better to separate affection from sexual entanglements, since the force of desire can erode one’s ethical principles?

His answer is emphatically “No.” For Socrates, sexual attraction steers the soul toward divine goodness and beauty, just as great art or acts of justice can do.

The idea of friends with benefits, he warns, cleaves the ethical self from the erotic self. Here and elsewhere, Plato insists that to be whole people, we must embrace the risks that come with love.

A necessary madness

Socrates has one more lesson to teach. Erotic love is indeed a kind of madness – but a madness necessary for wisdom.

In “Phaedrus ,” Socrates suggests that love is a madness given by the gods, a fire blazing like artistic inspiration or sacred rites. Sexual desire disorients us, but only because it is reorienting lovers toward another world. The “goal of loving,” according to one dialogue , is to “catch sight” of pure beauty and goodness.

In erotic longing we bump up against something greater than us, a thread that we can trace back to the divine. And for Socrates, this pathway from eros to God is reason. In desire, a shimmer of light cracks through the broken crust of the material world, inspiring us to yearn for things that last.

The contemporary philosopher Jean-Luc Marion has suggested that modern academic philosophy has totally failed when it comes to the topic of desire . There are vast subfields devoted to the philosophies of language, mind, law, science and mathematics, yet curiously there is no philosophy of eros.

Like the ancient Greeks and medieval Christians, Marion warns philosophers against assuming that love is irrational . Far from it. If love looks like madness, he says, that’s because it possesses a “greater rationality.”

In the words of another French philosopher, Blaise Pascal: “ The heart has its reasons , which reason knows nothing of.”

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A loneliness cure — make one friend a year

Five ways to build or enhance one close friendship this year.

In my psychotherapy practice, when someone is feeling lonely and craving more from their friendships, I encourage them to work on making one dear friend that year who could be someone they already know.

The landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development suggests that close relationships are the most significant factor in personal well-being — yet it is not the number of relationships, but the quality of the connection that matters. Gaining one closer friend in 2024 may significantly boost your life satisfaction, as friendship is known to protect against stress and improve mental health. And one friend a year is manageable, yet could lead to three friends in three years and a handful of friends in five.

The one friend per year idea came from my friend and colleague, Barb Adelman Herstig, as we talked about our psychotherapy work over tea in my office near Minneapolis. This is another thing that friends provide: a fresh perspective. Our offhand conversation stayed with me and has informed the way I approach the subject of connection.

As the parent and caregiver of an 8-year-old child whose disabilities require around-the-clock care, I know how hard it can be to maintain close friendships. For several years, I refused most invitations until the invitations slowed down. Way down. To avoid guilty feelings of leaving my daughter, I hunkered down with my two young children and husband, eschewing any gathering that I deemed “unnecessary.” This left me resentful and lonely.

Once I realized how deeply this isolation affected me, I changed course. It helped to have extra support to usher me through — as a therapist myself, my stance is that every good therapist needs a good therapist. So I found one and began working on my frayed friendships. I have not landed in a place of perfect friendships, but I do know it is possible to have strong relationships, even with notable life constraints. And if I can do it, you can do it, too. Here are five ways to build or enhance one close friendship this year.

1. Get back in touch

Going through a season of disconnection is common, especially given the demands of modern life and the years of pandemic restrictions. Instead of berating yourself for past mistakes, focus on how you want to show up now.

Call, send a text, write a letter, mail a postcard. Do something to let your friend know that you care. Nina Badzin, host of the podcast “Dear Nina: Conversations About Friendship,” recommends the voice memo. Use the voice memo app on your phone to record a message and share it. This is a great alternative for those who are skittish about phone calls.

2. Make a specific request to connect

“Let’s hang out sometime” does not lead to a closer friendship. But, “Hey, are you free any Sunday this month for a coffee or brunch” could. Being more explicit about plans works. And if you are willing to be the one to extend an invitation, that’s going to move things along. What I have found from my therapy practice (and from being alive) is that most people want someone else to initiate because of the vulnerability involved in making the ask. Yet, if you want meaningful rapport, you need to reach out, as scary or uncomfortable as that might be.

Be the kind of friend that marks an occasion in a unique way by doing something novel, such as inviting a friend to tour a new museum, visit a park or, as relationship psychotherapist Esther Perel suggests on the “Ten Percent Happier” podcast: “When you buy tickets for a concert, buy two.” This provides extra incentive to invite someone along.

3. Pursue a friendship with someone who is available

Identify and engage a friend who is truly seeking a closer relationship, too. Just like in a romantic partnership, pouring energy into an emotionally unavailable person will lead to disconnection. Find someone who demonstrates that they have the time, energy, interest and capacity.

When you contact them to make plans, do they accept or suggest an alternate date, or do they defer your meeting until a far-out time? Does this pal seem to value friendship in general, or are they consumed with the other roles in their life? Try not to take it personally, but also don’t try too hard with someone who can’t follow through.

4. Find a regular time to hang out with a friend

It could come in the form of a weekly fitness routine, a creative endeavor or interest (such as taking a class together), or a religious service. Beginning last summer, my friend Katrin, whom I had known for more than a decade, and I decided to commit to a weekly Friday morning walk, no matter the weather — which takes dedication in the northern climate where we live. Our increased time together has brought us much closer, which is positively correlated in research about friendship .

I’ve heard clients and friends rave about how much these regular meetings — even if they are less often, such as monthly — add to a sense of well-being, structure and belonging. And when you create something recurring, you reduce the mental load of coordination, which frees up time and energy for your relationships.

5. Engage fully in the present and offer appreciation

You can really lean into a friendship when you put away your phone and practice being in the moment, which is a rare offering in today’s world. Be curious about your companion’s life and experiences. What most humans crave is to be seen and heard. If you can also open up about your inner world in a reciprocal way, this will probably develop further intimacy.

Don’t be shy about expressing your care for your friend and why the relationship matters to you. When your buddy gives you helpful advice or listens patiently to your latest challenge at work or home, let them know how their efforts help you. This gratitude builds your bond and has been shown to deepen the connection and spark further interest in the relationship.

Emma Nadler is a psychotherapist and the author of “The Unlikely Village of Eden: A Memoir. ”

We welcome your comments on this column at [email protected] .

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Adult friendship and wellbeing: A systematic review with practical implications

Christos pezirkianidis.

1 Lab of Positive Psychology, Department of Psychology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece

Evangelia Galanaki

2 Lab of Psychology, Department of Primary Education, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Georgia Raftopoulou

Despina moraitou.

3 Lab of Psychology, Section of Cognitive and Experimental Psychology, Department of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

4 Lab of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Innovation (CIRI - AUTH), Balkan Center, Thessaloniki, Greece

Anastassios Stalikas

Associated data.

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

This study aimed to systematically review research findings regarding the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing. A multidimensional scope for wellbeing and its components with the use of the PERMA theory was adopted. A total of 38 research articles published between 2000 and 2019 were reviewed. In general, adult friendship was found to predict or at least be positively correlated with wellbeing and its components. In particular, the results showed that friendship quality and socializing with friends predict wellbeing levels. In addition, number of friends, their reactions to their friend's attempts of capitalizing positive events, support of friend's autonomy, and efforts to maintain friendship are positively correlated with wellbeing. Efforts to maintain the friendship, friendship quality, personal sense of uniqueness, perceived mattering, satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and subjective vitality mediated this relationship. However, research findings highlighted several gaps and limitations of the existing literature on the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing components. For example, for particular wellbeing components, findings were non-existent, sparse, contradictory, fragmentary, or for specific populations only. Implications of this review for planning and implementing positive friendship interventions in several contexts, such as school, work, counseling, and society, are discussed.

1. Introduction

1.1. adult friendship.

Adult friendship is conceptualized as a voluntary, reciprocal, informal, restriction-free, and usually long-lasting close relationship between two unique partners (Wrzus et al., 2017 ; Fehr and Harasymchuk, 2018 ).

Mendelson and Aboud ( 1999 ) defined six functional components of adult friendship that determine its quality. The first friendship function is stimulating companionship , which refers to joint participation in recreational and exciting activities (Fehr and Harasymchuk, 2018 ). Friends, unlike acquaintances, interact in a more relaxed and carefree way, use more informal language, make jokes, and tease each other (Fehr, 2000 ).

Existing research literature has mainly focused on the second function of friendship, namely help or social support (Wallace et al., 2019 ). Three forms of social support have been identified: (a) emotional support , which is conceptualized as acceptance, sympathy, affection, care, love, encouragement, and trust (Li et al., 2014 ); (b) instrumental support , which is defined as provision of financial assistance, material goods, services, or other kinds of help (Nguyen et al., 2016 ); and (c) informational support , which refers to provision of advice, guidance, and useful information (Wood et al., 2015 ).

The third function of adult friendship is emotional security , which refers mainly to the sense of safety offered by friends in new, unprecedented and threatening situations (Fehr and Harasymchuk, 2018 ). Research has shown that friends can significantly reduce their partners' stress caused by negative life events (Donnellan et al., 2017 ).

The fourth function of adult friendship is reliable alliance , which is defined as the constant availability and mutual expression of loyalty (Wrzus et al., 2017 ). At the core of reliable alliance lie the concepts of trust and loyalty (Miething et al., 2017 ).

Self-validation is the fifth function of adult friendship. It concerns the individuals' sense that their friends provide them with encouragement and confirmation, thus helping them to maintain a positive self-image (Fehr and Harasymchuk, 2018 ).

Finally, the sixth function of adult friendship is intimacy , which refers to self-disclosure procedures (e.g., the free and honest expression of personal thoughts and feelings; Fehr and Harasymchuk, 2018 ). It is necessary for both friends to reciprocally reveal “sensitive” information and react positively to the information that their partner discloses to them; in this way, feelings of trust can be developed and consolidated (Hall, 2011 ).

Adults differ significantly not only with regard to friendship quality, but also to the number of friends one has and the hierarchy of friendships (Demir, 2015 ). Most individuals maintain small networks of long-term and close friends (Wrzus et al., 2017 ). Empirical research shows that individuals report an average of three close friends (Christakis and Chalatsis, 2010 ). Also, individuals make fine distinctions between best, first closest friend, second closest friend, other close friendships, and casual friendships (Demir and Özdemir, 2010 ). These differentiations reflect the ratings of these friendships regarding several quality indicators (Demir et al., 2011b ). The present systematic review of the literature will cover multiple aspects of friendship as predictors of wellbeing, namely friendship quality indicators, number of friends, and friendship ratings.

1.2. The concept of wellbeing

Wellbeing is a central issue in the field of positive psychology (Heintzelman, 2018 ). It is a multifaceted construct (Forgeard et al., 2011 ) and there are several theoretical approaches of its components (Martela and Sheldon, 2019 ). We define wellbeing as a broad construct that involves the presence of indicators of positive psychological functioning, such as life satisfaction and meaning in life, and the absence of indicators of negative psychological functioning, e.g., negative emotions or psychological symptoms (Houben et al., 2015 ). This conceptualization captures both hedonic elements of wellbeing (Diener, 1984 ), that involve pleasure, enjoyment, satisfaction, comfort, and painlessness (Huta, 2016 ) and eudaimonic elements (Ryff, 1989 ), that include concepts like meaning, personal growth, excellence, and authenticity (Huta and Waterman, 2014 ). Our definition on wellbeing also involves the components of subjective wellbeing (Diener et al., 1999 ), psychological and social wellbeing (Ryff, 1989 ) and general wellbeing (Disabato et al., 2019 ). Finally, this definition encompasses the two different approaches on wellbeing, which are based on the mental illness model (Keyes, 2005 ) and on positive psychology principles (Seligman, 2011 ).

Several attempts have been made to synthesize the aforementioned models. In this systematic review of the literature, we used Seligman's ( 2011 ) PERMA theory to organize our findings. Seligman ( 2011 ) argued that individuals can flourish and thrive if they manage to establish the following five pillars of their lives: positive emotions (P), engaging in daily activities (E), positive relationships (R), a sense of meaning in life (M), and accomplishments (A).

According to the Broaden-and-Build theory (Fredrickson, 2001 ), when individuals experience positive emotions , their repertoire of thoughts and actions broaden (Fredrickson and Branigan, 2005 ). The broadening effect activates an upward spiral, resulting in the experience of new and deeper positive emotions (Fredrickson and Joiner, 2002 ). This, in turn, leads to building of resources, which last over time and act as a protective shield against adversity (Tugade and Fredrickson, 2004 ). Finally, experiencing positive emotions seems to undo the unpleasant effects of experiencing negative emotions (Fredrickson et al., 2000 ). All the above mechanisms facilitate the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals (Kok et al., 2013 ).

Engagement describes a positive state of mind in which individuals are fully present psychologically and channel their interest, energy, and time into physical, cognitive, and emotional processes to achieve or create something (Butler and Kern, 2016 ). Engagement is substantially linked to the experience of flow , which is conceptualized as the psychological focus on an activity, accompanied by an experience of high intrinsic motivation and sense of control, and resulting in optimal functioning (Csikszentmihalyi, 2009 ). High levels of engagement are associated with various indices of wellbeing, such as increased levels of experiencing positive emotions and life satisfaction (Fritz and Avsec, 2007 ) and decreased levels of anxiety and depression over time (Innstrand et al., 2012 ).

Positive close relationships with family, friends and other significant people are also beneficial. They are found to be associated with emotional and instrumental support, intimacy, trust, increased sense of belonging and other protective indices of physical and psychological wellbeing (Carmichael et al., 2015 ; Mertika et al., 2020 ; Mitskidou et al., 2021 ).

Meaning in life reflects the individual's sense that life has coherence, purpose, and significance so that it is worth-living (Martela and Steger, 2016 ). Research findings show that the presence of meaning in life enhances wellbeing, because it entails high levels of positive emotions and life satisfaction as well as low levels of negative psychological and physical conditions (Pezirkianidis et al., 2016a , b , 2018 ; Galanakis et al., 2017 ).

Accomplishments in all domains of life are recognized and rewarded by society; this reinforces the individuals' desire to succeed (Nohria et al., 2008 ). However, accomplishments are not restricted to great achievements in life but also include the fulfillment of daily personal ambitions and the achievement of everyday goals. These minor accomplishments have been found to contribute to the wellbeing of individuals (Butler and Kern, 2016 ).

1.3. Associations between adult relationships and wellbeing components

Positive, supportive relationships predict higher physical and psychological wellbeing levels more than any other variable (Vaillant, 2012 ). In particular, integrating people into support networks provides them with the necessary resources to successfully deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, alcohol overdose and many other physical and mental health difficulties (Christakis and Fowler, 2009 , 2013 ). In addition, the chances of individuals' happiness increase when they are associated with a happy person. Therefore, happiness seems to be transmitted through positive relationships (Fowler and Christakis, 2008 ).

Moreover, research findings show that perceived support from positive relationships is associated with experiencing more positive emotions (Kok et al., 2013 ), sense of calm and security (Kane et al., 2012 ), and presence of meaning in life (Hicks and King, 2009 ).

In particular, adult friendship is a valuable personal relationship (Demir, 2015 ), which contributes in various ways to individuals' wellbeing (Demir et al., 2007 ), and significantly fulfills the fundamental human need for social interaction and belonging (Lyubomirsky, 2008 ). The quality of adult friendship is related to wellbeing and the experiencing of positive emotions (Demir et al., 2007 ; Secor et al., 2017 ; Pezirkianidis, 2020 ). In addition, existing literature shows that a close adult friendship is related to personal achievement and engagement to projects, which promote meaning in life (Green et al., 2001 ; Koestner et al., 2012 ).

1.4. Gaps in the literature on the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing

Even though the relationship between friendship and wellbeing has been extensively studied in children (e.g., Holder and Coleman, 2015 ), adolescents (e.g., Raboteg-Saric and Sakic, 2014 ), and the elderly (e.g., Park and Roh, 2013 ), it is not yet fully understood how the various elements of adult friendship are related to wellbeing. The main reason for this is that adulthood consists of many different life periods, from young to late adulthood, during which there are fluctuations in the network of friends and changes in friendship quality (Bowker, 2004 ).

In fact, most of the empirical research on the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing focuses on the effect of adult friendship on one-dimensional indices of wellbeing, such as happiness or life satisfaction (Demir et al., 2007 ). It is worth-noting that research is mainly conducted with university student samples, which limits generalizability to older age groups (Demir, 2015 ).

1.5. The present study

This study aims to systematically review the research literature on the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing as well as its components, in order to shed more light on the nature of this relationship and the mechanisms that underlie it. More specifically, we will review empirical studies which examined the relationship of quantitative and qualitative indices of adult friendship with wellbeing within the framework of PERMA theory (Seligman, 2011 ). Therefore, the relationship between adult friendship and overall wellbeing as well as each of its PERMA components will be studied.

Five research questions have been formulated: (a) Which adult friendship variables are mostly associated with wellbeing? (b) Which adult friendship variables predict wellbeing levels based on longitudinal studies? (c) Are there mediating and/or moderating variables in the association between adult friendship and wellbeing? (d) Are there individual differences on the associations between adult friendship and wellbeing? (e) Does adult friendship associate with specific components of wellbeing on the basis of PERMA theory?

2.1. Criteria of suitability/inclusion of bibliographic sources

We searched for sources reporting empirical research with quantitative and qualitative design using samples ranging in age from 18 to 65 years. Articles were published in scientific journals between 2000 and 2019, since we decided to exclude studies conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the relationships with significant others were negatively affected. We included articles written in English and accompanied by a digital identifier (DOI). Book chapters, reviews and gray literature were excluded.

2.2. Search strategy, source selection and data extraction

We searched for resources in the following search engines: Google Scholar, PsycNET, and Scopus. The following algorithm was used to search for the literature sources: “friends” OR “friend” OR “friendship” OR “friendships” AND “wellbeing” OR “wellbeing” OR “psychological wellbeing” OR “psychological wellbeing” OR “happiness” OR “flourish” OR “flourishing” OR “psychological flourish” OR “psychological flourishing” OR “subjective wellbeing” OR “subjective wellbeing” OR “positive emotions” OR “positive emotion” OR “positive affect” OR “engagement” OR “flow” OR “psychological flow” OR “positive relationship” OR “positive relationships” OR “social support” OR “meaning” OR “meaning of life” OR “meaning in life” OR “life meaning” OR “life purpose” OR “purpose of life” OR “purpose in life” OR “achievement” OR “achievements” OR “accomplishment” OR “accomplishments” OR “performance” OR “success” AND “adult” OR “adults”.

The studies were initially selected by two independent evaluators on the basis of their abstract, title and keywords (phase 1). The evaluators were both psychologists and one of them is a researcher, experienced on systematic reviews. The total number of abstracts tested was 1,388. Any paper considered relevant at least by one of the two evaluators was eligible for full-text inspection. The agreement between the evaluators at the first phase was 78%. Thus, 203 articles were included for full-text evaluation (phase 2).

During the second phase of the evaluation process, we first checked the sources for duplication and fulfilling the inclusion criteria. The exclusion criteria were the same for both phases. As a result, we removed 33 duplicate documents, 10 articles that their full-text could not be found due to copyright, 22 articles that did not have a DOI, and one article not written in English. In addition, 13 studies were rejected because the sample's age was not within the set limits. Next, the two evaluators independently inspected the full-text of the remaining articles ( n = 131). As a result, 93 articles were excluded because their content was not relevant to the aims of the study. The agreement between the evaluators at this phase was 96%; if the decision was not unanimous after further discussion, it was excluded by the study. Thus, in total, 38 studies were eligible for the review (see Figure 1 ).

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Flow diagram of search strategy and source selection.

From the selected 38 studies, two followed a qualitative design, nine were longitudinal, two had a mixed cross-sectional and experimental design and the rest of them were based on a cross-sectional design. Most of them ( n =28) used a sample of young adults, mainly university students (see Table 1 ).

Findings of the systematic literature review regarding the associations between adult friendship and wellbeing.

CS, cross-sectional; EXP, experimental; L, longitudinal; Q, qualitative. T1, first measurement; T2, second measurement. SI, single item. OR, odds ratio. Friendship variables (measures): FAS, friendship autonomy support; FM, friendship maintenance; FQ, friendship quality (MFQ-FF, McGill Friendship Questionnaire-Friendship Functions); FS, friendship satisfaction; NF, number of friends; PM, perceived mattering (MTOQ, Mattering To Others Questionnaire); PNS, psychological needs satisfaction; PRCA, perceived responses to capitalization attempts; SNS, social network size; SC-Fr, social contact with friends; SS-Fr, social support from friends (PSSS-Fr, Perceived Social Support Scale from Friends). Wellbeing indices (measures): A, accomplishments; E, engagement; H, happiness (SHS, Subjective Happiness Scale); M, meaning in life; LS, life satisfaction (SWLS, Satisfaction With Life Scale); PE, positive emotions (PANAS, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule); PWB, psychological wellbeing; R, positive relationships; SWB, subjective wellbeing; WB, wellbeing.

The selected studies were divided into six subgroups on the basis of the PERMA theory of wellbeing and with regard to the associations of friendship with (a) wellbeing, (b) experiencing positive emotions; (c) engagement; (d) building positive relationships; (e) meaning in life; and (f) accomplishments. Also, another analysis was conducted focusing on individual differences regarding the association of friendship variables with wellbeing components.

3.1. Associations between adult friendship and wellbeing

Twenty-six studies were found to investigate the association between adult friendship and wellbeing variables. The adult friendship variables studied were friendship quality, best or close friendships, number of friends, support from friends, maintenance of friendship, social interaction with friends and support of autonomy from friends. The wellbeing variables studied were subjective wellbeing, psychological wellbeing, happiness, and life satisfaction. The measures used to measure wellbeing variables were Subjective Happiness Scale ( n = 9 studies, Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999 ), Satisfaction With Life Scale ( n = 11, Diener et al., 1985 ), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule ( n = 9, Watson et al., 1988 ), other psychological wellbeing measures ( n = 5), and single items ( n = 3; see Table 1 ).

The results showed that friendship quality significantly associates with wellbeing (Demir and Weitekamp, 2007 ; Demir et al., 2007 , 2011a , b , 2012b , 2013a , b , 2017 ; Demir and Özdemir, 2010 ; Akin and Akin, 2015 ; Carmichael et al., 2015 ; Miething et al., 2016 ). In addition, it was found that friendship quality predicts wellbeing levels in the long run. More specifically, friendship quality at the age of 30 predicts wellbeing at the age of 50 (Carmichael et al., 2015 ). The friendship function, which has been found to mostly correlate with wellbeing levels is stimulating companionship (Demir et al., 2007 ).

Moreover, perceived emotional or instrumental support offered by friends has been found to significantly associate with wellbeing (Walen and Lachman, 2000 ; Griffin et al., 2006 ; Almquist et al., 2014 ; Morelli et al., 2015 ; Secor et al., 2017 ). An interesting finding is that peer support predicts both the provider's and the recipient's wellbeing levels (Morelli et al., 2015 ).

Regarding socializing with friends, that is, the amount of time individuals spend together, it was found that it also associates with wellbeing levels (Helliwell and Huang, 2013 ; Huxhold et al., 2013 ; Li and Kanazawa, 2016 ), while predicts wellbeing from 6 months to 12 years later (Derdikman-Eiron et al., 2013 ; Huxhold et al., 2013 ; Miething et al., 2016 ; Rubin et al., 2016 ). Moreover, friends' support of their partners' autonomy (Demir et al., 2011a ; Koestner et al., 2012 ; Ratelle et al., 2013 ), their reactions to partner's attempts of capitalizing positive experiences (Demir et al., 2013a , 2017 ), and efforts to maintain the friendship (Demir et al., 2011a ) were also found to be positively correlated with wellbeing levels.

Another friendship variable, which was found to be positively associated with wellbeing, is the number of friends (Cable et al., 2012 ; Helliwell and Huang, 2013 ). In particular, large and well-integrated friendship networks emerged as a source of wellbeing for adults (Cable et al., 2012 ). However, no significant associations were found between wellbeing and other friendship variables, such as same gender vs different gender as well as best or close friendships (Demir et al., 2007 , 2017 ).

Finally, six friendship variables were found to mediate the association between adult friendship and wellbeing. These variables are: maintenance of friendship (Demir et al., 2011a , 2019 ; Sanchez et al., 2018 ), perceived mattering (i.e., the psychological tendency to evaluate the self as significant to specific other people, according to Marshall, 2001 ; see also Demir et al., 2011b , 2012b ), personal sense of uniqueness (i.e., the tendency to recognize oneself as having distinctive features and to experience worthiness; Demir et al., 2013b ), friendship quality (Demir et al., 2012b , 2013a , 2017 ), satisfaction of basic psychological needs (Demir and Özdemir, 2010 ; Demir et al., 2017 ), and subjective vitality (i.e., the conscious experience of possessing energy and aliveness, according to Ryan and Frederick, 1997 ; see also Akin and Akin, 2015 ).

3.2. Association between adult friendship and PERMA components

3.2.1. associations between adult friendship and experiencing positive emotions.

Seven studies were identified investigating the relationship between adult friendship and experiencing positive emotions (see Table 1 ). Almost in all studies PANAS ( n = 6, Watson et al., 1988 ), was used to measure positive emotions. The results are contradictory regarding the relationship between friendship quality and experiencing of positive emotions. Demir et al. ( 2007 ) found no significant relationship, while Demir and Weitekamp ( 2007 ) found a low positive correlation. On the other hand, support from friends was found to positively associate with positive emotions among Americans and Jordanians but not Iranians (Walen and Lachman, 2000 ; Brannan et al., 2013 ) and predict positive emotions six years later among Germans (Huxhold et al., 2013 ).

Moreover, research showed that friends' reactions to their partner's attempts of capitalizing positive events, perceived mattering by the friend, psychological needs' satisfaction in friendship (Demir and Davidson, 2013 ), friend's efforts to maintain the friendship and friendship autonomy support (Demir et al., 2011a ) are positively correlated with experiencing of positive emotions. No mediators/moderators of the aforementioned relationships were examined.

3.2.2. Associations between adult friendship and engagement

Only one study was identified investigating the relationship between adult friendship variables and engagement in specific activities (see Table 1 ). In particular, it was found that the number of friends of secondary and high school students predicts engagement levels in community activities during young adulthood (Heck and Fowler, 2007 ).

3.2.3. Associations between adult friendship and building positive relationships

Thirteen studies were identified investigating the associations between adult friendship variables and building positive relationships (see Table 1 ). The results showed that friendship quality and satisfaction positively correlate to relationship supportive behaviors, the tendency to think oneself in terms of relationships with others (Morry and Kito, 2009 ) and social skills (Demir et al., 2012a ). Also, friendship network quality during late adolescence predicts friendship network quality of young adults (Miething et al., 2016 ). Moreover, friendship quality predicts received support during adversity and emotional-focused support (Chen et al., 2015 ).

Similarly, companionship with friends during adolescence predicts support from friends during adulthood (Derdikman-Eiron et al., 2013 ). Also, time spend with friends significantly correlates to higher levels of social support from others and lower levels of loneliness and social distress (Cyranowski et al., 2013 ). Furthermore, the existing literature reveals an explicit relationship between social support from friends and positive relationships with others (Secor et al., 2017 ). Taken together, these findings show that adult friendship is an indicator of a well-developed social life.

In addition, support of friends' autonomy is associated with improved quality of friendship after 3 months (Koestner et al., 2012 ). Individuals who seek support from their friends develop more solidarity-based relationships in their lives, with which they are more satisfied (Carr and Wilder, 2016 ). Also, received and perceived social support is stronger among geographically closer friends (Weiner and Hannum, 2013 ) and these friendship maintenance behaviors associate with higher levels of compassion for others (Sanchez et al., 2018 ). Young adults, especially, build positive, close, supportive and warm relationships if their friends have supported their social identity when they entered university (Weisz and Wood, 2005 ). Therefore, it is clear that adult friendship exerts a beneficial influence on the quality of concurrent as well as future relationships.

Finally, there is another interesting finding pointing at the mechanisms which lead to positive friendships. When individuals perceive their friends as generous as themselves in their relationship, they are likely to make efforts to maintain and promote the common bond by increasing support and self-disclosure levels in their friendship (Lemay and Clark, 2008 ).

3.2.4. Associations between adult friendship and meaning in life

Only one study was identified investigating the association between adult friendship variables and sense of meaning in life (see Table 1 ). In particular, it was found that social support from friends positively associates with purpose in life after negative life events (Secor et al., 2017 ).

3.2.5. Associations between adult friendship and accomplishments

Similarly, only one study found investigating the relationships between friendship variables and accomplishments (see Table 1 ). This study found that friendship autonomy support predicts increases in goal progress 3 months later (Koestner et al., 2012 ).

3.3. Individual differences on the relationship between adult friendship variables and wellbeing outcomes

Regarding gender differences, contradictory findings emerged for different friendship variables and their relationship with wellbeing indices. More specifically, perceived mattering by a friend was found to associate with experiencing of positive emotions only among women (Demir and Davidson, 2013 ), while in the relationship of wellbeing with friend's responses to capitalization attempts, friendship quality and friendship maintenance behaviors no gender differences were found (Demir et al., 2017 , 2019 ). Moreover, no differences were found based on friendship ratings, i.e., between the three closest friendships and their associations with wellbeing indices (Demir et al., 2007 ; Demir and Özdemir, 2010 ).

Concerning race, the few studies investigating racial differences focused on comparing Americans with samples from Arabic countries, e.g., Jordan, Malaysia, and Turkey. A few interesting findings focus on the role of support from friends and friendship quality on the wellbeing levels of different samples based on race. More specifically, friendship quality associates more strongly with support provision among European Americans than Japanese, and associates with higher levels of attentiveness and companionship among Asian Americans than European Americans (Chen et al., 2015 ). On the other hand, Demir and colleagues (Demir et al., 2012a , b ) found no racial differences on the relationship between friendship quality and wellbeing among Americans with Malaysians and Turkish. Among Americans, however, perceived mattering by a friend mediates the relationship of friendship quality and wellbeing, whilst among Turkish friendship quality mediates the relationship of perceived mattering with wellbeing (Demir et al., 2012b ). Also, as regards the relationship of satisfaction by the support from friends and wellbeing, no racial differences were found among black and white women (Griffin et al., 2006 ). Nevertheless, support from friend was found to associate with wellbeing in an American sample but not in Jordanian and Iranian samples (Brannan et al., 2013 ).

4. Discussion

The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature regarding the relationship between adult friendship and wellbeing as well as its components. The existing literature was evaluated through the lens of the PERMA theory (Seligman, 2011 ), which recognizes five pillars of wellbeing: experiencing positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, sense of meaning in life, and accomplishments.

The literature review showed that, in general, adult friendship is positively correlated with individuals' wellbeing as well as most of its components. It has been documented that friendship is a valuable personal relationship among adults (Demir, 2015 ), contributes in various ways to their wellbeing (Pezirkianidis, 2020 ), enhances their resilience (Mertika et al., 2020 ; Pezirkianidis, 2020 ), and fulfills the fundamental human need for social interaction (Lyubomirsky, 2008 ). However, the instruments used in the previous literature to measure and conceptualize wellbeing significantly vary, i.e., the researchers focus on emotional, psychological, cognitive or subjective aspects of wellbeing making it difficult to draw conclusions and understand the nature of friendships' influences on wellbeing. Also, for particular wellbeing components, the results of the literature review were non-existent, sparse, contradictory or fragmentary, and many were drawn from studies on specific populations.

Concerning the first research question, it was found that the adult friendship variables mostly related to wellbeing are quality of friendship, number of friends, attempts to maintain the friendship, socialization with friends, friends' reactions to partner's attempts to capitalize on positive events, and support from friends (instrumental, emotional or support of autonomy). These findings underlie the importance of studying both qualitative and quantitative dimensions of friendships (Demir and Urberg, 2004 ; Demir et al., 2007 ).

As for the second research question, results showed that among the above variables, quality of friendship and socialization with friends predict wellbeing based on longitudinal studies' results. The study of social networks underlines that people's happiness is related to their friends' happiness levels (Fowler and Christakis, 2008 ; Christakis and Fowler, 2009 ). Moreover, perceived support from friends, such as companionship, predicts high wellbeing levels more than any other variable (Chau et al., 2010 ; Forgeard et al., 2011 ).

In response to the third research question about possible mediators and moderators in the association between adult friendship variables and wellbeing, evidence for moderation was not found. However, six variables were found to mediate this relationship: efforts to maintain the friendship, friendship quality, personal sense of uniqueness, perceived mattering, satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and subjective vitality.

These mediators highlight the possible mechanisms which lead to higher levels of wellbeing. Specifically, when an individual perceives a friend as autonomy supportive, as well as active and constructive responder, friendship quality (e.g., intimacy, support, and trust; Demir et al., 2017 ) and perceived mattering increase (Demir et al., 2012b ). As a result of these positive friendship experiences, individuals satisfy their basic psychological needs (Demir and Özdemir, 2010 ), realize their unique attributes and create a positive self-image (Demir et al., 2013b ); therefore, they are likely to engage in maintenance behaviors in order to reinforce the resilience and continuity of the friendship (Demir et al., 2011a , 2019 ). This procedure is enhanced when the individual experiences high levels of energy and vitality (Akin and Akin, 2015 ). Despite the aforementioned findings, further research on mediating and possible moderating effects is clearly needed.

The fourth research question focused on individual differences regarding the associations between adult friendship and wellbeing. The present study found limited differences based on gender and friendship ratings. Previous studies showed significant gender differences concerning friendship functions, but it seems that friendships are equally important for males' and females' wellbeing and prosperity (Christakis and Chalatsis, 2010 ; Marion et al., 2013 ). However, significant racial differences were found between samples of completely different cultures, such as Americans and Arabs or Americans and Japanese. More studies needed to shed light on the racial differences between samples of other cultures as well.

The fifth research question focused on whether adult friendship variables can predict specific components of wellbeing on the basis of the PERMA theory (Seligman, 2011 ). Regarding adult friendship variables and experiencing positive emotions, it was found that friendship quality, support from friends, perceived mattering by friends and satisfaction of the basic psychological needs by a friend significantly and positively associate with experiencing positive emotions. These findings add to the existing knowledge that positive relationships are emotionally rich and a source of great joy for humans (Ryff, 2014 ). Studies on social networks have shown that positive emotions are “contagious” and are transmitted among friends (Hill et al., 2010 ; Coviello et al., 2014 ). Findings about social support show that when friends interact within a positive emotional atmosphere, their experience broadens and this, in turn, activates an upward spiral which evokes even more positive emotions. In this context, partners enrich their interpersonal resources, such as social support, trust, compassion, perceived positive social connections (Kok et al., 2013 ), and other friendship qualities that are beneficial for physical and mental health (Garland et al., 2010 ).

According to the PERMA theory, another nuclear component of wellbeing is building positive relationships. The findings of this literature review showed that adult friendship quality and socialization with friends are associated with higher levels of quality and perceived support on every relationship in individuals' lives. Adult friendship is associated with a developed social life, but also with better and more positive relationships. According to Fowler and Christakis ( 2008 ), integrating individuals in support networks provides them with the necessary resources to successfully deal with the adverse effects of loneliness. Support from friends, in particular, has been found to lead to higher levels of engagement and satisfaction from different types of relationships, such as romantic and familial ones (Rodrigues et al., 2017 ). Finally, Weisz and Wood ( 2005 ) pointed out that support and appraisal from friends increase satisfaction with friendship as well as its resilience.

Research findings on the relationship of adult friendship with the other three components of wellbeing are limited. Number of friends was found to be related with engagement to community activities, support from friends was found to associate with meaning in life and accomplishments. Relationships with others and the sense of belonging to a network of relationships are one of the main sources of meaning in people's lives (Sørensen et al., 2019 ; Zhang et al., 2019 ) and, thus, create a sense of direction in life and intrinsic motivation to set goals and achieve them (Chalofsky and Krishna, 2009 ; Weinstein et al., 2013 ).

4.1. Gaps and limitations of the existing literature

The research literature on the associations between adult friendship, wellbeing and its components is currently growing but is also characterized by gaps and limitations which need to be addressed.

First, existing literature focuses on the quality of friendship as a whole rather than on its specific characteristics and functions in relation to wellbeing. In addition, only a few studies used a longitudinal design or were conducted with pairs of friends. Existing longitudinal studies do not focus on the effects of friendship, but rather study it only secondarily and often with a single-item measure. To add more, research has focused on the relationship between adult friendship and one-dimensional wellbeing indices, such as happiness and life satisfaction. No attempt has been made to construct a comprehensive theoretical model in order to account for the effects of adult friendship variables on specific components of wellbeing. Furthermore, most studies have been conducted in university student samples, a fact that limits the generalizability of the results to different age groups. The above gaps regarding the association between adult friendship and wellbeing are in accordance with some previous attempts to map this research field (Demir, 2015 ). In conclusion, future studies should address all these gaps and limitations, not only in the general population but also in various population subgroups and cultural contexts.

4.2. Contribution and practical implications of this study

This literature review has clear clinical and social implications. Counselors, psychologists, coaches, social workers, and educators working in clinical, educational, or work settings could utilize the results of this study in order to design interventions for promoting adult friendships. For example, one of the main goals of positive education in childhood and adolescence is to develop skills for building high-quality friendships. Similar efforts could be made in the university context for promoting students' mental health (Bott et al., 2017 ). In the workplace, building positive relationships and new friendships between employees could be a priority and lead to higher job satisfaction, engagement and productivity (Donaldson et al., 2019 ). In addition, during counseling or psychotherapy sessions, mental health professionals could use the information provided by this literature review to enhance their clients' supportive environment, experiencing positive emotions and meaning in life and, consequently, strengthen their resilience (Rashid and Baddar, 2019 ). At the macro level, efforts to build positive friendships and supportive connections between individuals could lead to better and happier citizens, therefore to happier societies (Oishi, 2012 ).

4.3. Conclusions

This study presented a systematic review of research on how adult friendships contribute to wellbeing as well as its components. Although individuals could reap the benefits of friendship from other social sources as well, it became evident that friendship is a special type of relationship, with a unique contribution to wellbeing. As a result, friendships have survived through the years and, in our days, are considered as vital to psychological flourishing (Wrzus et al., 2017 ). As Anderson and Fowers ( 2020 ) have argued, the most significant contribution of friendship to peoples' lives is the initiation and acceleration of the processes from which wellbeing emerges.

Data availability statement

Author contributions.

CP designed the study, conducted the review and the analyses, and wrote the research article. EG wrote and revised the writing of the article. GR wrote parts of the research article. DM revised the writing of the article. AS supervised all stages of the research procedure. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Love, Friendship, and Social Support

Western Oregon University, Portland State University

Friendship and love, and more broadly, the relationships that people cultivate in their lives, are some of the most valuable treasures a person can own. This module explores ways in which we try to understand how friendships form, what attracts one person to another, and how love develops. It also explores how the Internet influences how we meet people and develop deep relationships. Finally, this module will examine social support and how this can help many through the hardest times and help make the best times even better.

  • Close relationships

Familiarity

Internet friendships.

  • Online dating

Reciprocity

  • Learning Objectives
  • Understand what attracts us to others.
  • Review research that suggests that friendships are important for our health and well-being.
  • Examine the influence of the Internet on friendship and developing relationships.
  • Understand what happens to our brains when we are in love.
  • Consider the complexity of love.
  • Examine the construct and components of social support.

Introduction

A happy group of young men pose for a photo. Two of them sit smiling on the shoulders of their friends below.

The importance of relationships has been examined by researchers for decades. Many researchers point to sociologist Émile Durkheim’s classic study of suicide and social ties ( 1951 ) as a starting point for this work. Durkheim argued that being socially connected is imperative to achieving personal well-being. In fact, he argued that a person who has no close relationships is likely a person who is at risk for suicide. It is those relationships that give a person meaning in their life. In other words, suicide tends to be higher among those who become disconnected from society. What is interesting about that notion is when people are asked to describe the basic necessities for life—people will most often say food, water, and shelter, but seldom do people list “close relationships” in the top three. Yet time and time again, research has demonstrated that we are social creatures and we need others to survive and thrive. Another way of thinking about it is that close relationships are the psychological equivalent of food and water; in other words, these relationships are necessary for survival. Baumeister and Leary ( 1995 ) maintain that humans have basic needs and one of them is the need to belong; these needs are what makes us human and give a sense of purpose and identity to our lives ( Brissette, Cohen, & Seeman, 2000 ; Ryff, 1989 ).

Given that close relationships are so vital to well-being, it is important to ask how interpersonal relationships begin. What makes us like or love one person but not another? Why is it that when bad things happen, we frequently want to talk to our friends or family about the situation? Though these are difficult questions to answer because relationships are complicated and unique, this module will examine how relationships begin; the impact of technology on relationships; and why coworkers, acquaintances, friends, family, and intimate partners are so important in our lives.

Attraction: The Start of Friendship and Love

Why do some people hit it off immediately? Or decide that the friend of a friend was not likable? Using scientific methods, psychologists have investigated factors influencing attraction and have identified a number of variables, such as similarity, proximity (physical or functional), familiarity, and reciprocity, that influence with whom we develop relationships.

A group of friends sit in the back of a bus laughing together.

Often we “stumble upon” friends or romantic partners; this happens partly due to how close in proximity we are to those people. Specifically, proximity or physical nearness has been found to be a significant factor in the development of relationships. For example, when college students go away to a new school, they will make friends consisting of classmates, roommates, and teammates (i.e., people close in proximity). Proximity allows people the opportunity to get to know one other and discover their similarities—all of which can result in a friendship or intimate relationship. Proximity is not just about geographic distance, but rather functional distance , or the frequency with which we cross paths with others. For example, college students are more likely to become closer and develop relationships with people on their dorm-room floors because they see them (i.e., cross paths) more often than they see people on a different floor. How does the notion of proximity apply in terms of online relationships? Deb Levine ( 2000 ) argues that in terms of developing online relationships and attraction, functional distance refers to being at the same place at the same time in a virtual world (i.e., a chat room or Internet forum)—crossing virtual paths.

One of the reasons why proximity matters to attraction is that it breeds familiarity ; people are more attracted to that which is familiar. Just being around someone or being repeatedly exposed to them increases the likelihood that we will be attracted to them. We also tend to feel safe with familiar people, as it is likely we know what to expect from them. Dr. Robert Zajonc ( 1968 ) labeled this phenomenon the mere-exposure effect . More specifically, he argued that the more often we are exposed to a stimulus (e.g., sound, person) the more likely we are to view that stimulus positively. Moreland and Beach ( 1992 ) demonstrated this by exposing a college class to four women (similar in appearance and age) who attended different numbers of classes, revealing that the more classes a woman attended, the more familiar, similar, and attractive she was considered by the other students.

There is a certain comfort in knowing what to expect from others; consequently research suggests that we like what is familiar. While this is often on a subconscious level, research has found this to be one of the most basic principles of attraction ( Zajonc, 1980 ). For example, a young man growing up with an overbearing mother may be attracted to other overbearing women not because he likes being dominated but rather because it is what he considers normal (i.e., familiar).

When you hear about couples such as Sandra Bullock and Jesse James, or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, do you shake your head thinking “this won’t last”? It is probably because they seem so different. While many make the argument that opposites attract, research has found that is generally not true; s imilarity is key. Sure, there are times when couples can appear fairly different, but overall we like others who are like us. Ingram and Morris ( 2007 ) examined this phenomenon by inviting business executives to a cocktail mixer, 95% of whom reported that they wanted to meet new people. Using electronic name tag tracking, researchers revealed that the executives did not mingle or meet new people; instead, they only spoke with those they already knew well (i.e., people who were similar).

When it comes to marriage, research has found that couples tend to be very similar, particularly when it comes to age, social class, race, education, physical attractiveness, values, and attitudes ( McCann Hamilton, 2007 ; Taylor, Fiore, Mendelsohn, & Cheshire, 2011 ). This phenomenon is known as the matching hypothesis ( Feingold, 1988 ; Mckillip & Redel, 1983 ). We like others who validate our points of view and who are similar in thoughts, desires, and attitudes.

Another key component in attraction is reciprocity ; this principle is based on the notion that we are more likely to like someone if they feel the same way toward us. In other words, it is hard to be friends with someone who is not friendly in return. Another way to think of it is that relationships are built on give and take; if one side is not reciprocating, then the relationship is doomed. Basically, we feel obliged to give what we get and to maintain equity in relationships. Researchers have found that this is true across cultures ( Gouldner, 1960 ).

A group of young boys sit together on the steps with their arms around one another.

“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”— Aristotle

Research has found that close friendships can protect our mental and physical health when times get tough. For example, Adams, Santo, and Bukowski ( 2011 ) asked fifth- and sixth-graders to record their experiences and self-worth, and to provide saliva samples for 4 days. Children whose best friend was present during or shortly after a negative experience had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva compared to those who did not have a best friend present. Having a best friend also seemed to protect their feelings of self-worth. Children who did not identify a best friend or did not have an available best friend during distress experienced a drop in self-esteem over the course of the study.

Workplace friendships

Friendships often take root in the workplace, due to the fact that people are spending as much, or more, time at work than they are with their family and friends ( Kaufman & Hotchkiss, 2003 ). Often, it is through these relationships that people receive mentoring and obtain social support and resources, but they can also experience conflicts and the potential for misinterpretation when sexual attraction is an issue. Indeed, Elsesser and Peplau ( 2006 ) found that many workers reported that friendships grew out of collaborative work projects, and these friendships made their days more pleasant.

In addition to those benefits, Riordan and Griffeth ( 1995 ) found that people who worked in an environment where friendships could develop and be maintained were more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment, and they were less likely to leave that job. Similarly, a Gallup poll revealed that employees who had “close friends” at work were almost 50% more satisfied with their jobs than those who did not ( Armour, 2007 ).

What influence does the Internet have on friendships? It is not surprising that people use the Internet with the goal of meeting and making new friends ( Fehr, 2008 ; McKenna, 2008 ). Researchers have wondered if the issue of not being face-to-face reduces the authenticity of relationships, or if the Internet really allows people to develop deep, meaningful connections. Interestingly, research has demonstrated that virtual relationships are often as intimate as in-person relationships; in fact, Bargh and colleagues found that online relationships are sometimes more intimate ( Bargh et al., 2002 ). This can be especially true for those individuals who are more socially anxious and lonely—such individuals who are more likely to turn to the Internet to find new and meaningful relationships ( McKenna, Green, & Gleason, 2002 ). McKenna et al. ( 2002 ) suggest that for people who have a hard time meeting and maintaining relationships, due to shyness, anxiety, or lack of face-to-face social skills, the Internet provides a safe, nonthreatening place to develop and maintain relationships. Similarly, Penny Benford ( 2008 ) found that for high-functioning autistic individuals, the Internet facilitated communication and relationship development with others, which would have been more difficult in face-to-face contexts, leading to the conclusion that Internet communication could be empowering for those who feel frustrated when communicating face to face.

A silhouette of a couple embracing seen against the evening sky.

Is all love the same? Are there different types of love? Examining these questions more closely, Robert Sternberg’s ( 2004 ; 2007 ) work has focused on the notion that all types of love are comprised of three distinct areas: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy includes caring, closeness, and emotional support. The passion component of love is comprised of physiological and emotional arousal; these can include physical attraction, emotional responses that promote physiological changes, and sexual arousal. Lastly, commitment refers to the cognitive process and decision to commit to love another person and the willingness to work to keep that love over the course of your life. The elements involved in intimacy (caring, closeness, and emotional support) are generally found in all types of close relationships—for example, a mother’s love for a child or the love that friends share. Interestingly, this is not true for passion. Passion is unique to romantic love, differentiating friends from lovers. In sum, depending on the type of love and the stage of the relationship (i.e., newly in love), different combinations of these elements are present.

The model of the Triangular Theory of Love displays 6 types of love evenly spaced around the outside of a triangle, and one type of love at the center of the triangle. The types of love outside the triangle include: Infatuation (Passion), Romantic Love (Passion + Intimacy), Liking (Intimacy), Companionate (Intimacy + Commitment), Empty Love (Commitment), and Fatuous Love (Passion + Commitment). At the center is Consummate Love (Intimacy + Passion + Commitment).

Taking this theory a step further, anthropologist Helen Fisher explained that she scanned the brains (using fMRI) of people who had just fallen in love and observed that their brain chemistry was “going crazy,” similar to the brain of an addict on a drug high ( Cohen, 2007 ). Specifically, serotonin production increased by as much as 40% in newly in-love individuals. Further, those newly in love tended to show obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Conversely, when a person experiences a breakup, the brain processes it in a similar way to quitting a heroin habit ( Fisher, Brown, Aron, Strong, & Mashek, 2009 ). Thus, those who believe that breakups are physically painful are correct! Another interesting point is that long-term love and sexual desire activate different areas of the brain. More specifically, sexual needs activate the part of the brain that is particularly sensitive to innately pleasurable things such as food, sex, and drugs (i.e., the striatum—a rather simplistic reward system), whereas love requires conditioning—it is more like a habit. When sexual needs are rewarded consistently, then love can develop. In other words, love grows out of positive rewards, expectancies, and habit ( Cacioppo, Bianchi-Demicheli, Hatfield & Rapson, 2012 ).

Love and the Internet

The ways people are finding love has changed with the advent of the Internet. In a poll, 49% of all American adults reported that either themselves or someone they knew had dated a person they met online ( Madden & Lenhart, 2006 ). As Finkel and colleagues ( 2007 ) found, social networking sites, and the Internet generally, perform three important tasks. Specifically, sites provide individuals with access to a database of other individuals who are interested in meeting someone. Dating sites generally reduce issues of proximity, as individuals do not have to be close in proximity to meet. Also, they provide a medium in which individuals can communicate with others. Finally, some Internet dating websites advertise special matching strategies, based on factors such as personality, hobbies, and interests, to identify the “perfect match” for people looking for love online. In general, scientific questions about the effectiveness of Internet matching or online dating compared to face-to-face dating remain to be answered.

It is important to note that social networking sites have opened the doors for many to meet people that they might not have ever had the opportunity to meet; unfortunately, it now appears that the social networking sites can be forums for unsuspecting people to be duped. In 2010 a documentary, Catfish , focused on the personal experience of a man who met a woman online and carried on an emotional relationship with this person for months. As he later came to discover, though, the person he thought he was talking and writing with did not exist. As Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév stated, online relationships leave room for deception; thus, people have to be cautious.

Social Support

Diagram showing the three components of social support - perceived support, received support, and social networks.

When bad things happen, it is important for people to know that others care about them and can help them out. Unsurprisingly, research has found that this is a common thread across cultures ( Markus & Kitayma, 1991 ; Triandis, 1995 ) and over time ( Reis, Sheldon, Gable, Roscoe, & Ryan, 2000 ); in other words, social support is the active ingredient that makes our relationships particularly beneficial. But what is social support? One way of thinking about social support is that it consists of three discrete conceptual components.

Perceived Social Support

Have you ever thought that when things go wrong, you know you have friends/family members that are there to help you? This is what psychologists call perceived social support or “a psychological sense of support” ( Gottlieb, 1985 ). How powerful is this belief that others will be available in times of need? To examine this question, Dr. Arnberg and colleagues asked 4,600 survivors of the tragic 2004 Indian Ocean (or Boxing Day) Tsunami about their perception of social support provided by friends and family after the event. Those who experienced the most amount of stress found the most benefit from just knowing others were available if they needed anything (i.e., perceived support). In other words, the magnitude of the benefits depended on the extent of the stress, but the bottom line was that for these survivors, knowing that they had people around to support them if they needed it helped them all to some degree.

Perceived support has also been linked to well-being. Brannan and colleagues ( 2012 ) found that perceived support predicted each component of well-being (high positive affect, low negative affect, high satisfaction with life) among college students in Iran, Jordan, and the United States. Similarly, Cohen and McKay ( 1984 ) found that a high level of perceived support can serve as a buffer against stress. Interestingly enough, Dr. Cohen found that those with higher levels of social support were less likely to catch the common cold. The research is clear—perceived social support increases happiness and well-being and makes our live better in general ( Diener & Seligman, 2002 ; Emmons & Colby, 1995 ).

Received Social Support

A group of women wearing pink wigs and pink shirts pose together at the conclusion of a 5K race in support of those with breast cancer.

Received support is the actual receipt of support or helping behaviors from others ( Cohen & Wills, 1985 ). Interestingly, unlike perceived support, the benefits of received support have been beset with mixed findings ( Stroebe & Stroebe, 1996 ). Similar to perceived support, receiving support can buffer people from stress and positively influence some individuals—however, others might not want support or think they need it. For example, dating advice from a friend may be considered more helpful than such advice from your mom! Interestingly, research has indicated that regardless of the support-provider’s intentions, the support may not be considered as helpful to the person receiving the support if it is unwanted ( Dunkel-Schetter, Blasband, Feinstein, & Herbert, 1992 ; Cutrona, 1986 ). Indeed, mentor support was viewed negatively by novice ESOL teachers (those teaching English as a second language in other countries; Brannan & Bleistein, 2012 ). Yet received support from family was perceived as very positive—the teachers said that their family members cared enough to ask about their jobs and told them how proud they were. Conversely, received mentor support did not meet teachers’ needs, instead making them feel afraid and embarrassed to receive mentor support.

Quality or Quantity?

With so many mixed findings, psychologists have asked whether it is the quality of social support that matters or the quantity (e.g., more people in my support network ). Interestingly, research by Friedman and Martin ( 2011 ) examining 1,500 Californians over 8 decades found that while quality does matter, individuals with larger social networks lived significantly longer than those with smaller networks. This research suggests we should count the number of our friends / family members—the more, the better, right? Not necessarily: Dunbar ( 1992 ; 1993 ) argued that we have a cognitive limit with regard to how many people with whom we can maintain social relationships. The general consensus is about 150—we can only “really” know (maintain contact and relate to) about 150 people. Finally, research shows that diversity also matters in terms of one’s network, such that individuals with more diverse social networks (i.e., different types of relationships including friends, parents, neighbors, and classmates) were less likely to get the common cold compared to those with fewer and less diverse networks ( Cohen, Doyle, Turner, Alper, & Skoner, 2003 ). In sum, it is important to have quality relationships as well as quantity—and as the Beatles said, “all you need is love—love is all you need.”

  • Outside Resources

  • Discussion Questions
  • What is more important—perceived social support or received social support? Why?
  • We understand how the Internet has changed the dating scene—how might it further change how we become romantically involved?
  • Can you love someone whom you have never met?
  • Do you think it is the quality or quantity of your relationships that really matters most?
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  • Relationships

Olivia Sanders

By Olivia Sanders

By Olivia Sanders • March 17, 2023

Navigating the Fine Line Between Love and Friendship - an Exploration of Emotional Intimacy

Friendship and love are both complex and often cloudy concepts, and navigating the thin line between them can be an arduous journey. As humans, we crave emotional intimacy, but how do we differentiate between the intensity of friendship and that of love?

Friends can provide us with a sense of belonging and unconditional support that dearly loved family members cannot always fulfill. True friends are there for us through thick and thin, bringing a level of compassion, understanding, and loyalty that is irreplaceable. We often depend on our friends to support us emotionally, just as a loving partner might.

When romantic feelings emerge, a whirlwind of confusion often engulfs us. The surety of friendship bumps up against the uncertainty of the unknown. A lot of the time it’s hard to differentiate between physical attraction and genuine affection- is this love, or is this simply a passionate friendship?

An understanding of the nature of love is essential in order to distinguish it from friendship. Whereas friendship is based on shared interests and mutual understanding, love entails expressing genuine desire, passion, and admiration for someone. Intimacy- both physical and emotional- is interwoven into passionate relationships, with the two partners mutually supporting and cherishing each other. There isn’t necessarily one right moment when platonic acquaintanceship transforms into passionate; love tends to sneak up on us rather than announce itself.

Yet, defining friendship and love isn’t all that simple. Some people are quite happy settling for an uncommitted, superficial intimacy- but although such relationships may feel good in the moment, research suggests that these types of superficial bonds can leave us feeling depressed and empty in the long term.

Having a close and supportive circle of friends can bring immense joy, not to mention coping with difficulties. Therefore it’s important not to break such a bond in search of an indefinable relationship status. Love doesn't need to be confirmed by any external factors as only the individuals involved in the relationship know how they truly feel. It is important to take the courage and communicate your connection, if an understanding of the devotion you share is what you seek. Communicating your feelings can have many roads to a resolution - no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it is for you. Stepping in the realm of vulnerability is a sign of bravery, and allows the relationship to mature and weather the storms of misunderstandings. Acknowledging the emotion doesn't mean you have to rush into anything, especially if the feelings aren't shared.

In the end, defining the nature and scope of friendship and love comes down to individual preferences and peace of mind. Find what makes you feel happiest and most alive whether it is friendship or love and don’t be ashamed of expressing your emotions. Take your time and be brave- you deserve nothing less than true happiness and genuine connections.

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Narratives of Love: Books to Read This Valentine’s Day

Books on a shelf for Valentine's Day.

Though typically focused on romance, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate love in every form. From friendship to familial bonds, books can offer a rich tapestry of narratives that explore these different forms of affection. Whether you’re seeking heartwarming romance, personal reflection, or love poems to the earth, this curated list of recommendations has something for everyone. We hope you enjoy diving into these reads and immersing yourself in the beauty and complexity of love this Valentine's Day!

“Sula” by Toni Morrison

One of Morrison’s lesser known masterpieces, “Sula” explores themes of friendship and identity through the ever-evolving, lifelong bond between Nel Wright and Sula Peace. As readers watch Nel and Sula grow up, Morrison artfully weaves together the intricacies of loyalty, betrayal, forgiveness, and self-discovery into an emotionally compelling plot.

“Swing Time” by Zadie Smith

“Swing Time” follows the story of an unnamed biracial narrator, whose life is closely intertwined with that of her childhood friend Tracey, who is also biracial. They both share a love for tap dancing and dream of becoming professional dancers, but their paths diverge as they grow older. The novel moves back and forth in time, retrospectively exploring the narrator’s childhood and her relationship with Tracey.

Familial Love

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written from the perspective of the author himself, “Between the World and Me” takes the form of a letter from Coates to his teenage son. Structured around Coates’ reflections on his own experiences as a Black man in America, the writing is deep and personal, as it is ultimately driven by Coates’s love for his son.

“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

Those familiar with “The Year of Magical Thinking” may be shocked to find it on this list, given its heart-wrenchingly sad storyline. However, beneath Didion’s heartbreak — as she copes with the death of her husband and decline of her only child — is a deep and abiding love for her family. Explored through the lens of grief, this memoir provides complex insights into the relationship between love and loss.

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

This must-read memoir is written as a letter from Vuong to his illiterate mother, delving into his family’s history as Vietnamese immigrants in the United States who were personally affected by the Vietnam War. Through breathtaking lyrical prose and intimate storytelling, Vuong explores themes of family, identity, love, trauma, racism, and the immigrant experience.

Romantic Love

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Of Jane Austen’s six romance novels, “Pride and Prejudice” is arguably the best choice for a quick Valentine’s Day read. Known for its quintessential romance plot that explores themes of love, courtship, and marriage, this novel is a timeless story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s journey from initial misunderstandings to eventual mutual admiration and love.

“Under the Udala Trees” by Chinelo Okparanta

For those seeking LGBTQ+ romance, “Under the Udala Trees” is worth a read. Set amidst the backdrop of the Nigerian Civil War, the novel follows the life of Ijeoma, a young Nigerian girl who falls in love with another woman. With deeply descriptive writing, Okparanta delves into themes of love, identity, and the challenges faced by queer people in conservative societies.

“Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement” by Tarana Burke

Written by the woman who founded the “Me Too” movement, “Unbound” tells the story of Burke liberating herself as she simultaneously liberated millions of others, showing that love for one’s community and oneself are inextricably linked. Burke’s writing is poignant and deep, offering an eye-opening perspective on self-compassion.

“The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho

"The Alchemist" explores several themes related to self-discovery, personal growth, and spiritual fulfillment. The plot follows the journey of Andalusian shepherd boy Santiago as he pursues treasure; underlying themes of self-care are carefully woven into the story, suggesting that self-love is a treasure in and of itself.

“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

In “Untamed,” Doyle emphasizes the importance of unapologetically embracing one's true self as she illustrates her own story of coming out and becoming, per the title, untamed. This series of artfully written essays with powerful figurative language inspired the hit podcast “We Can Do Hard Things,” rendering it all the more worth the read.

Love of the Earth

“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

A profound exploration of Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and ecological consciousness, “Braiding Sweetgrass” examines human-to-human love within the context of the earth. The book features discussion of reciprocity, the sacredness of nature, gratitude, and stewardship. Kimmerer offers a powerful vision of love for the planet, rooted in a deep appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

“Devotions” by Mary Oliver

Just like the art of song, poetry can offer an illustration of love that can’t be communicated in mere prose; “Devotions” by Mary Oliver is one such collection of verse. As it celebrates all things living and carefully examines every crevice of the natural world, Oliver’s beautifully intricate descriptions of nature offer an unparalleled love for the earth.

—Staff writer Lola J. DeAscentiis can be reached at [email protected] .

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What New Love Does to Your Brain

Roses are red, violets are blue. Romance can really mess with you.

An illustration of two heads facing each other; flowers grow out of the heads and they join together in the middle.

By Dana G. Smith

New love can consume our thoughts, supercharge our emotions and, on occasion, cause us to act out of character.

“People pine for love, they live for love, they kill for love and they die for love,” said Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. “It’s one of the most powerful brain systems the human animal has ever evolved.”

Scientists have studied what is happening in our brains when we are in those early, heady days of infatuation, and whether it can actually alter how we think and what we do. Their findings suggest that song lyrics and dramatic plotlines don’t overstate it: New love can mess with our heads.

Experts define “romantic love” as a connection deeper than lust, but distinct from the attachment associated with a long-term partnership. In a few of the small studies that have examined this googly-eyed state, researchers put people in the early stages of a romantic relationship (typically less than a year) in M.R.I. scanners to see what was happening in their brains while they looked at pictures of their paramours. They found that the participants showed increased activity in areas of the brain that are rich in the neurochemical dopamine and control feelings of wanting and desire. These regions are also activated by drugs like cocaine, leading some experts to liken love to a sort of “ natural addiction .”

Studies on prairie voles (yes, you read that right) back up these findings. The rodents are one of the few mammal species that mate for life, so researchers sometimes use them as a scientific model for human partnerships. Studies show that when these animals pair up, the brain’s reward system is similarly activated, triggering the release of dopamine.

“Romantic love does not emanate from your cerebral cortex, where you do your thinking; it does not emanate from the brain regions in the middle of your head, linked with the limbic areas, linked with emotions,” said Dr. Fisher, who conducted one of the first human studies on the topic and, along with her role at the Kinsey Institute, is the chief science adviser to Match.com. “It’s based in the brain regions linked with drive, with focus, with motivation.”

This type of dopamine activity may explain why, in the early stages of love, you have the irresistible urge to be with your beloved constantly — what the addiction literature calls “craving.” Indeed, preliminary research conducted by Sandra Langeslag, an associate professor in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, suggests that some people crave their lover like they crave a drug.

In one of the few studies to directly compare love and addiction, which is still ongoing and has not yet been published, Dr. Langeslag showed 10 people who vaped nicotine either pictures of their lover or pictures of other people vaping (a classic experiment used to invoke craving). The participants ranked their desire to be with their partner higher than their desire to vape.

Other research by Dr. Langeslag’s lab looked at the single-mindedness of love — of being unable to think about anything besides your paramour. In a series of small studies on people in the throes of new love, Dr. Langeslag found that participants reported thinking about the object of their desire roughly 65 percent of their waking hours and said they had trouble focusing on unrelated topics. However, when people were prompted with information related to their beloved, they showed increased attention and had enhanced memory .

There is also some evidence that love can render people oblivious to a new partner’s faults — the “love is blind” phenomenon. Lucy Brown, a professor of neuroscience at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that when some study participants were shown pictures of their lover early in a relationship, they had less activity in a part of the prefrontal cortex that is important for decision-making and evaluating others. The findings suggest that we might “suspend negative judgments of the person we’re in love with,” she said.

If love can alter our motivation and attention, perhaps it’s no surprise that people sometimes go to extremes when they’re in its thrall. But giving into your obsession with your lover isn’t necessarily “irrational” behavior, at least from an evolutionary perspective, Dr. Langeslag said.

Scientists believe humans evolved to have these types of responses — which seem to be consistent across age, gender and culture — because bonding and mating are essential for the survival of the species.

“Romantic love is a drive,” Dr. Fisher said. “It’s a basic mating drive that evolved millions of years ago to send your DNA onto tomorrow. And it can overlook just about anything.”

Dana G. Smith is a Times reporter covering personal health, particularly aging and brain health. More about Dana G. Smith

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Fighting with your partner? These sentences can help you share grievances in a more constructive way . And here are the things you should avoid saying .

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Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › British Literature › Analysis of Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship

Analysis of Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on September 24, 2022

This parody of sentimental fiction is Jane Austen’s best-known juvenile work. It was written in 1790, when she was only 14, but did not appear in print until 1922.

Austen’s novella is a mock epistolary romance consisting of 15 letters written by a woman named Laura to the daughter of her friend. In her first letter, Laura uses rhetoric typical of novels of sensibility when she offers to give an account of “the fortitude with which I have suffered the many Afflictions of my past Life” in the hopes that it will provide the girl with “a useful Lesson” (75). Through Laura’s narration of her own early adventures, Austen sends up the emotive heroines, stilted diction, and pseudodidacticism of sentimental novels. Austen’s witty story can be read as a moral satire to the extent that it exposes the spuriousness of Laura’s claims to virtue and, by extension, the dubious morality of much sentimental fiction.

an article about love and friendship

Austen, making fun of the idealized heroines of romance, has Laura begin her narrative by describing how beautiful, accomplished, and virtuous she was at 18. By her own account, her only fl aw was a “sensibility too tremblingly alive” (76). The first incident in her story is the arrival of a mysterious young man at her parents’ cottage. The noble youth, named Edward, has run away from home because he scorns to marry the woman his father has chosen for him: “Never shall it be said that I obliged my Father” (79). Edward declares his passion for Laura, and they are married at once. This episode ridicules two conventions of sentimental fiction: the portrayal of tyrannical parental authority and the formation of sympathetic bonds between characters. The second of these sentimental tropes is parodied again when Edward and Laura move in with Edward’s friend Augustus and his wife Sophia. Laura describes her first meeting with Sophia as follows: “We flew into each others arms and after having exchanged vows of mutual Friendship for the rest of our Lives, instantly unfolded to each other the most inward Secrets of our Hearts—” (83–84).

The household is broken up when Augustus is sent to debtor’s prison and Edward disappears. Laura and Sophia travel to Scotland to seek assistance from Sophia’s relations. Laura explains in passing that they could not take refuge with her parents, as they had died some time earlier. With this fleeting remark, Austen exposes the hypocrisy of Laura, who, for all her tender sensibility, has little real compassion. The death of Laura’s parents also affords Austen the opportunity of mocking the well-worn literary cliché whereby an orphaned heroine is discovered to be of high birth. At an inn, Laura and Sophia meet an elderly gentleman who readily acknowledges both as his long-lost granddaughters. After this providential reunion, the heroines proceed to the home of Sophia’s cousin, Macdonald, where they convince his daughter to break her engagement with a suitable young man, because “he had no soul” and his hair was not auburn (91). After they help her elope with a fortune hunter and are caught stealing banknotes, Macdonald sends them away.

As the heroines sit by a stream, they witness a carriage overturning. The passengers, who lie “weltering in their blood,” are none other than Edward and Augustus. Laura explains that upon making this discovery, she and Sophia lose their senses: “Sophia fainting every moment and I running Mad as often” (96). The coup de grâce of Austen’s parody of the sentimental heroine occurs when Sophia’s acute sensitivity proves fatal. As a consequence of having fainted repeatedly “in the open Air as the Dew was falling” (98), Sophia catches a cold, never to recover. On her deathbed, she gives her friend the following advice: “Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—,” a lesson that serves as the ironic moral of Laura’s tale (99).

“Love and Friendship” introduces themes that Austen developed more fully in novels such as Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Northanger Abbey (1798, 1818). Stylistically, it offers an excellent early example of Austen’s deft use of irony. It is also important for its critique of romance, which set precedents for the realism that came to characterize her approach as a writer.

Analysis of Jane Austen’s Novels

BIBLIOGRAPHY Austen, Jane. Catharine and Other Writings. Edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Douglas Murray. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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How Ziggy Marley helped bring the authenticity to ‘Bob Marley: One Love’

Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, poses at the premiere of the film "Bob Marley: One Love," Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, poses at the premiere of the film “Bob Marley: One Love,” Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Kingsley Ben-Adir, left, the star of “Bob Marley: One Love,” poses with Marley’s son Ziggy at the premiere of the film, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Kingsley Ben-Adir, left, star of “Bob Marley: One Love,” poses with Marley’s son Ziggy at the premiere of the film, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley poses at the premiere of the film “Bob Marley: One Love,” Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows producer Ziggy Marley, left, and Kingsley Ben-Adir on the set of “Bob Marley: One Love.” (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir in “Bob Marley: One Love.” (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows director Reinaldo Marcus Green, left, and Lashana Lynch on the set of “Bob Marley: One Love.” (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir, left, and Lashana Lynch in “Bob Marley: One Love.” (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Kingsley Ben-Adir, the star of “Bob Marley: One Love,” poses at the premiere of the film, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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People had been coming to Ziggy Marley and his family for years with ideas about how to turn reggae icon Bob Marley’s life into a movie. But it never felt quite right, until a few years ago when they decided to be the instigators.

“It was just a feeling,” Ziggy Marley said of getting his father’s life on screen in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “We explored it without knowing that we definitely wanted to do it because we needed to make sure that the people we did it with was the right people. People who respected what we wanted to do, the culture, the authenticity that we wanted.”

This time, he said, they found the right partners. But it was a gamble for everyone: For Paramount Pictures and the other producers, wanting to do right by Bob Marley’s story, his music and his message and worried what would happen if they didn’t; For Kingsley Ben-Adir stepping into the shoes of an icon; For the family and friends who mined their memories for the more intimate story; And for a director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, who had to bring it all together and make it sing.

Early signs suggest that for moviegoing audiences, it worked. “Bob Marley: One Love” has only been in theaters for a few days, but it is already making waves at the box office . On its first day alone, it made $14 million in North America, a record for a midweek Valentine’s Day debut. As of Sunday it had already made an estimated $80 million globally. Though critics have been mixed , ticket buyers responded with enthusiasm giving the $70 million film the highest marks in exit polls.

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir in "Bob Marley: One Love." (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)

“It’s such a rewarding validation of the thing that we set out to do,” said Mike Ireland, the co-president of Paramount Motion Picture Group. “The audience is the ultimate arbiter of every movie and everything you put into the world. And to have them respond in that way? It’s just fantastic.”

The film focuses in on a specific period in Bob Marley’s life, from 1976 to 1978. During that time of political turmoil in Jamaica, the reggae legend survived an assassination attempt, produced his seminal album “Exodus” in an 18-month exile in London, was diagnosed with cancer and returned to Jamaica to reunite with his family and stage the famous “One Love” concert.

“I’m a movie guy,” multi-Grammy winner Ziggy Marley said. “My selfish goal was to have a movie that had entertainment and action. I said to them, ‘I don’t want a boring movie.’ And this period of time was the most active and entertaining.”

The story and script were derived from stories from Ziggy Marley and the legend’s widow, Rita Marley, played in the film by Lashana Lynch, and others who knew him well. They shot on location in the U.K. and Jamaica, where they worked with locals in front of and behind the camera, where many had personal or at least second-hand ties to Bob Marley.

For Green, one of the biggest challenges of a film like “One Love” was getting the patois language right and making it feel real without watering it down. They were, he said, essentially making a foreign language movie but without subtitles. It’s just one of the crucial ways that their largely Jamaican cast and crew added texture and legitimacy to everything.

“We cast, I would say, 98% Jamaicans,” Green said. “We have real musicians as well. It creates that authentic feeling. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching actors trying to play music. You have real music by real musicians.”

The studio and production companies leaned heavily on the local government and film commission for help filming in Trench Town and re-creating Bob Marley’s home exactly as it was.

“You have to get the people of Jamaica’s blessings first for something like this, you know?” Ziggy Marley said. “We couldn’t do it without Jamaica.”

And all hope they helped to contribute to Jamaica’s filmmaking infrastructure. It’s hardly a surprise that the film now holds the record for Jamaica’s biggest opening day ever, surpassing “Black Panther.”

On everyone’s mind was getting Bob Marley right — starting with the music that most audiences will come in knowing and expecting certain things from, and trickling down to the private and internal life of a larger-than-life figure. Ben-Adir learned to sing and play guitar, which he did during filming under Ziggy Marley’s guidance — who wanted an artistic interpretation and not an exact copy. The final film blends Ben-Adir’s voice with archival recordings.

“Kingsley did a good job,” Ziggy Marley said. “He did the work. He really studied.”

Sometimes when families and estates are involved in the biopic process, the life can get watered down and sanitized. But Ziggy Marley and his family went in clear-eyed about wanting to show a real person, flaws and all. And who better to steer the process and the large-scale re-creations of famous concerts than someone who also is an acclaimed musician in his own right?

Ziggy Marley hopes that the film makes “people feel like they are part of the family, part of the crew, part of the band,” he said. “You are inside now. You’re not a fan on the outside.”

But mostly, he said, it’s about the message.

“We’re shedding a light on the idea of unity for humanity, of one love for people,” he said. “That is what we are most proud of, that we are serving a purpose.”

an article about love and friendship

4 signs you're outgrowing a friendship, even if you've been through it all together

  • Just like romantic relationships, long-term friendships can run their course.
  • A licensed counselor shared some common signs you've outgrown a friendship.
  • Annoyance and avoiding hanging out are indicators that you might not mesh well anymore.

Insider Today

Just like you can slowly realize you’re in the wrong romantic relationship , you can one day find that you and your best friend just don’t mesh the same way anymore.

A common reason is feeling like you’ve grown while your friend hasn’t — or at least not in a way that complements you.

“If a friend can't grow with you, you are going to drift apart because you're traveling on a different path,” Suzanne Degges-White , a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University, told Business Insider. 

Degges-White said that all friendships are different; some might warrant a conversation (depending on how close you are and what the issue is), while others might just have hit their expiration date. 

She explained some common signs you’ve outgrown a friendship dynamic, whether you want to cut ties, open up to your friend, or just take a breather from hanging out.

You’re frequently annoyed by them

While everyone gets irritated by their loved ones at some point, if you feel actively judgmental of your friend, you might be outgrowing them, according to Degges-White.

She said signs include “getting irritated by their quirks and idiosyncrasies” or laughing along with their jokes without actually finding them funny. 

The rift gets more pressing when you clash on values, and “their behaviors start to push boundaries,” Degges-White said. At that point, it might be worth having a conversation with them if you’re very close. Sometimes, the issue might be due to different communication styles and can be resolved by talking about it openly.

You look for ways to cancel or postpone plans

In the same way you can quiet-quit a marriage , you can slowly inch away from a long-term friendship.

“You find yourself canceling plans more often than ever before or looking for reasons to cancel plans with someone who feels draining,” Degges-White said. 

For example, if your friend is self-centered , it can be hard to sit through one-sided phone calls or agree to activities they know you’re not interested in. 

“The relationship no longer feeds you, and when you're not getting fed by a relationship, it’s super hard to keep investing in it,” Degges-White said.

You’re no longer OK with how they treat you

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family , the way your parents treated you likely impacted the kinds of friends you chose, according to Degges-White.

“If we grew up with people who belittle people, then we might not notice other people belittling us,” she said. 

For example, if a reactive parent raised you, you might be drawn to chaotic, “loose cannon” friends. If your parent was emotionally absent , you might have friends with more narcissistic qualities who make you feel used.

But when you start to break the cycle by going to therapy and becoming more aware of your patterns, you might lose more than your people-pleasing tendencies .

“When our eyes are open to who our friend is, sometimes we don't like the way they make us feel,” Degges-White said. “Sometimes you outgrow friends, and it's a good thing because they're part of who you were before you matured.”

If you’ve become more emotionally mature , you won’t have as much of a tolerance for a friend’s volatile reactions, snarky comments, or passive-aggression. 

You’ve been holding onto a big issue

Sometimes, the issue isn’t your friend’s entire character as much as a past issue you never talked about with them.

Maybe they made a hurtful comment that you let slide in the moment but haven’t forgotten. Or perhaps you got into a heated argument, and while you resolved it, you’re still not over certain aspects of the fight.

“Sometimes, you think it's emotionally easier on yourself not to address it,” Degges-White said. But you're going to be carrying that resentment with you.”

Eventually, that incident from long ago may color your other interactions with them, snowballing beyond repair. 

If that’s the case, Degges-White recommended talking to your friend. Often, people set boundaries too late , abruptly breaking up with their friends over text with a laundry list of grievances they had no idea about. 

You might as well be honest if you’re convinced you’re on the outs. You never know how it can change — or save — a friendship.

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