BLOG UPDATE: When Married with Bees started, I wrote about beekeeping. I don’t know if I changed or if the bees changed me, but the blog definitely changed. Now I mostly write about my thoughts on life. You know how therapists tell you that you should journal to work through your personal issues? Well, I do that but then I hit the PUBLISH button when I finish writing. When you read my posts, you are coming along on my personal therapy journey. Weirdly, those posts get the most clicks and are the most fun to write. Keep reading if you want to stay on this crazy train. If you just want to read about bees, now is when you should look for the exit.
Americans are obsessed with health and dieting, which is fascinating to me since we are the most obese nation on the planet. Low carbohydrate diets seem to be all the rage. I personally don’t buy into the whole idea that carbs are bad because Jesus said I am the bread of life, and I don’t think Jesus would have said that if bread was bad for you. Nevertheless, I know many people who count carbs to lose weight and maintain health. Counting carbs is fine, but I think the American public is completely overlooking one very important ingredient to physical health and that is friends.
The average life expectancy in the United States is dropping. Deaths of despair are on the rise. (Deaths of despair are defined as suicides, overdoses, and death by alcohol related liver disease.) Antidepressants and antianxiety medications are the most prescribed class of drugs. Something has changed for the worse in our society, and it is not related to the toast you ate for breakfast.
Humans are hard wired for connection with other people, and Americans are getting worse at staying connected. In 1990, 63% of Americans surveyed reported having 5 or more close friends who are not relatives. In 2021, that number had dropped to 38%. (Here’s the link to the survey data The State of American Friendship: Change, Challenges, and Loss – The Survey Center on American Life (americansurveycenter.org)) Friendships are linked to longer life and better health outcomes. Studies have even shown that people experience less physical pain if a friend holds their hand versus those who endure the pain alone.
How much time do you spend in deep contemplation about the concept of friendship? Not much? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I think about this sort of stuff all the time. This is why I frequently miss exits while I am driving. I get busy contemplating life, and then I realize I have driven miles in the wrong direction. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about friendship so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Drop the best friend concept. – My friends aren’t in a competition. It’s not a blood sport where winner takes all and gets named Best Friend. I have some friends that bring adventure to my life and some friends that help keep me anchored. I have one friend that makes me laugh so hard she causes me to pull my rib muscles. If all my friends did that, I would need to constantly take anti-inflammatory meds. I have one friend that likes to talk science and another friend that likes to talk about music. I need them all and refuse to pick a best friend.
Your spouse should not be your best friend. – I understand that many will disagree with me but hear me out. My husband and I have been married 28 years. I love him and love spending time with him, but he’s not my friend. He’s my husband, and there’s a big difference. Your spouse holds the most special place in your life, and you only have one (unless you are a polygamist and then you should probably read a different blog). I do lots of stuff with my husband that I would never do with my friends. (I’m talking about sharing a checking account. What were you thinking?) It is not realistic to think that one person can fulfill all your emotional needs. That’s where your friends come in. My husband doesn’t want to talk about who had the best performance at the Country Music Association’s awards show, and I do. He is so happy when I go do that with my friends. I don’t like Fantasy Football. My husband does, so he goes with his friends and plays Fantasy Football. (I don’t even know if that’s the right term. Do you play a fantasy game?) Give your spouse a break and spend time with your friends. Your spouse will be thankful that s/he doesn’t have to carry all the load.
Friendships don’t happen by accident. – Friendships were easy to make and maintain when you were in school. You had the benefit of proximity and shared experience. You saw the same kids every day and could always talk about how much you hated homework. Friendships are harder for adults. We get busy. Life moves fast, and months can go by without connecting with your friends. You must prioritize friendships. My husband and I meet two other couples every month for dinner. We eat at trendy restaurants that their twenty something kids suggest. We’ve done this for years. How do we keep this up? We never leave the table until we have set the time and date for our next dinner. Maybe you feel like you don’t have time for your friends. Maybe you feel like you don’t have money to eat out. Go for walks through the neighborhood together. Time your grocery shopping so you can go together. Get creative. I have a group of friends that I refer to as the s’mores gang. On summer evenings we sit around the fire pit, roast marshmallows, and eat s’mores together. Outings with your friends don’t have to be complicated.
It’s not too late to make new friends. – No matter what age you are, you can still make new friends. Find groups of people that have shared interests. Churches, beekeeping clubs, swing dancing classes, and book clubs are some good places to be around people with shared interests. Keep showing up and over time you will start to connect with a few people that you really like. Show up some more, and you will begin to move those people from the acquaintance category into the friend category. I have numerous friends that I’ve known for decades. They know all my stories, and we finish each other’s sentences. This year I made some new friends. When I am with them, I feel like I have won the lottery because I had reached a point in my life where I thought all the friends I was ever going to have were already in my life. I was wrong. I almost never say this, but I am glad I was wrong. You can make new friends at any age.
Stop reading and write down on a paper the names of your close friends. Count them. How do you feel about that number? More importantly, how do you feel about the names on the list? When was the last time you reached out to those people? Do you spend as much time thinking about the people on the list as you do about the carbs you are consuming? Laughter with friends is a great ab workout, and it burns a lot of carbs!
Excellent thoughts as usual