In our modern culture, it is generally assumed that most people have a best friend, a person privy to our uncensored secrets and desires. The kind friend who will listen to the inner thoughts we would never dare share with anyone else. The only other soul walking the face of the earth in whom we can fearlessly and completely confide.
Research points out that from an early age, children naturally gravitate towards one friend and establish an unspoken bond. Although the person may change throughout the years, there is typically one friendship that takes that premier position of best friend. Some people are fortunate enough to maintain the closest of bonds throughout an entire lifetime. Research results are unclear as to whether males or females are better at establishing these strong human relations for extended periods of time.
Television, movies, books and songs frequently take this relationship for granted as they portray the ultimate friendship. This can make individuals without a best friend feel somehow inadequate. Should there be cause for concern if a person is devoid of a best friend? Is there an inherent character flaw in a person that determines whether that person can establish such a personal commitment to another?
The Mental Health Institute explains this may be a two-fold issue. On one hand people with mental disabilities may innately have an inability to establish a strong and long lasting friendship. But on the other hand, this type of friendship can be extremely beneficial to a person suffering from a mental illness. They find that “friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health”.
There could be many valid reasons other than a mental disability why a person does not have a best friend. Maybe these people are substituting family members for best friends. A very different but valid reason could be that best friends can be costly. Not just in the economic sense; but in terms of time and emotional investment. A healthy friendship requires regular maintenance.
While media promotes the value of having a friendship like Oprah and Gayle or Ben Affleck and Matt Damon share, these intimate relationships are not available to everyone. Studies prove that people who live the longest all have a strong friendship base; but although there are medical advantages to having a best friend, it is not something that can be forced. Friendships have to be earned though an investment of time and nurture. Until then, in the words of George Washington “it is better alone than in bad company”.