Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Why Friends Are (Sometimes) Better Than Relatives

Best friends often say what you wish your parents would have said to you.

Everything I need to know in life I learned from my best friend. No, I didn’t meet her in kindergarten, but we’ve known each other for a very long time; I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her.

Even on a slow day, I’m pretty energetic—but whenever I see my friend, I suddenly feel as if I’ve been half-asleep since the last time I was in her presence.

When we’re in each other’s company, we’re paying attention to details: Everything is funnier and more interesting, as well as worthy of discussion and comment.

We can count on each other for all the important stuff, whether we’re facing the easiest times or the toughest times.

For example, I can call her at 10 p.m. in tears and know she’ll stay up as long as it takes to get me calmed down. She won’t mutter, “Do you know what time it is?” or “Do you realize I have to get up for an important meeting in the morning?” or “Can we talk about this another time? My show is just about to come on.”

Having your good friend’s phone number memorized or on speed-dial is the emotional version of having 911 pre-programmed: You know immediately where to turn when real trouble happens. Thank heaven I haven’t had to make one of those calls in a while (knock on wood), but I certainly have in the past. During those long nights, it’s crucial to know that someone who cares about you will listen.

Not only will they listen: They’ll listen without judging you. They’ll listen and offer comfort without ever saying, “I told you so,” or “I knew this would happen.” In other words, they never sound like scolding parents.

In many ways, best friends say what you wish your parents might have said to you. After all, friends are part of the family you create instead of the family you’re born into—and they can understand many aspects of your life that your own family members cannot or will not accept.

I expect a great deal from my truly good friends—don’t you? Don’t you expect your friends to see straight through you—to look beyond the window dressing, or even the blackout curtains, to see what’s really inside? Don’t you expect your best friends to know not only how you like the furniture in the “public rooms” of your life arranged, but also to know what you keep in the “junk drawers” of your life?

My friend, even though she would deny it, is smarter, funnier, braver, and more beautiful than she knows.

It’s also obvious, as soon as you meet us, that is she is much kinder, more generous, and more giving than I could ever be (even on a major holiday). There’s nobody in the world with her particular talents and strengths. Yet, like many extraordinary people, she shrugs off her magic as if it’s nothing special.

As a friend, however, I take her gift very seriously and celebrate it. I can lend her self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment as easily as I could lend her a safety-pin. That’s what friends do, right?

When she needs to hear about the importance of what she does and who she is, I’m grateful to act as a cheering chorus. When I feel as if I’m wasting time, wasting space, and spinning my wheels, she reminds me why putting words on paper, or getting up in front of a group to speak, matters.

A good friend lets you know that you’re not playing to an empty house. Even if she lives hundreds or thousands of miles away—or even if she’s no longer in your life—she’s cheering so loudly and with such affection that you can hear her voice in your heart.

Through our best friends, we are rescued, repaired, and rejuvenated. May we always be able to rely on them, and may we never take them for granted.

More from Gina Barreca Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today