Margaret Doria and Anita Dente have taught at the same two Catholic high schools in Brooklyn, at the same time, for 45 years. At first blush, they seem like the proverbial "odd couple"---an Oscar and Felix with different styles and views of the world.

A collegial relationship at first developed into an extraordinary friendship. Fast forward many years later: Due to back problems, Ms. Dente eventually had to depend on a walker and could no longer live alone. It wasn't too surprising when Ms. Doria invited her to live in her home and offered to help her navigate around at school.

I could never tell this story half as well as it's author, Michael Winerip, who reported it for the Education section of the New York Times. Please click on this link and read the entire article: Brooklyn Teachers Joined at the Hip, and, to Some Pupils, by a Hyphen. I'm sure you'll be as touched by his telling as I was.

The story mentions something one of their students wrote in a letter to Ms. Doria some years ago. The student said: "Watching you help Ms. Dente to her classes each day is a reminder to the school that friendship is the most important lesson we can learn."

Two days later and halfway around the globe, a new study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by Arie Shirom, PhD and published by the American Psychological Association, followed more than 800 adults over a period of twenty years and reached a similar conclusion about the value of strong friendships in the workplace. The team found that those individuals with a good support system at work lived longer than those without one.

Taken together, the evidence suggests that the workplace can be a wonderful place to find new friends who can enhance our productivity, health and happiness. People always worry about mixing work and pleasure. Sure, there are pitfalls. If you have a falling out with a colleague, it can make it very uncomfortable for you and other people. But this isn't too different that having a disagreement with the neighbor who lives next door or a misunderstanding with the mom whose kids are friends with your children.

The workplace can be a wonderful place to make and nurture friendships. You spend large amounts of time with your co-workers and already have something in common. And think about it: Aren't the benefits of even possibly having a hyphenated four-decade long friendship like Doria-Dente worth the risks?

 

Have a friendship question or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor. Or speak to others on The Friendship Forums.

About the Author

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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