Why You Should Tell Your Friends ‘I Love You’
It’s as important to express love to your friends as it is your partner or family. Maybe more.
It hit my phone like a symphonic gong. “We should tell our friends that we love them as much as we say it to our partners,” my best friend, Carmen, texted me one day a couple years ago. The message was at once revelatory and, I thought, fundamentally correct. That it came from a friend who, unlike me, is married and a parent, made it all the more resonant.
That text was a turning point. I haven’t always been the most demonstrative friend, but making a point of routine love declaration changed not just how I see my friendship with her, but all the close relationships in my life. After two years of saying “I love you” to Carmen and other friends, I now see it as a daily or weekly contract for a relationship type not governed by a contract. It’s one of the only ways we have to commit to our closest friends — especially now, when we can’t see them in person the way we used to.
Call it wisdom if you want. As Father Time loosens my grip from the cliffside of Young Adulthood, and I plunge, screaming, toward the valley of How Do You Do, Fellow Kids, my gratitude for friendship has spiked. Or, at least, I’ve accepted that I’ll need some sort of linked-arm network to break the fall.
So I say it. Not with every exchange or interaction; maybe fewer than half. Sometimes it happens after a quick back-and-forth, when one or the other of us has to run off and redirect our attention. Sometimes, but not always, when we’re parting ways in person. I said it more in March and April, those gray months of wailing ambulances and hand-sewn masks that urged a collective taking of stock. But now when I say it, the words feel affirmative — an assurance of a future amid the eternal now.
It’s no surprise that friendship is literally good for us. A 10-year Australian study on aging found that the people with the most friends lived an average of 22% longer than the people with the fewest. Friendship, according to that influential study, may even be more vital to our physical and mental well-being than our relationships with close family and spouses. Former…