The phrase “the family you choose” became popular among the LGBTQ community decades ago as they began to share their gender preferences and faced rejection and disapproval from members of their traditional family. They sought a close community where they could be themselves and still receive unconditional love, support and kinship. This was not exclusive to finding a life partner, but also sisters, brothers and other family roles of acceptance. It is a basic human need to connect to others and grow together in life.
Even as we the human race begin to rightly accept individuals as they choose to be seen and heard, these communities of chosen families are still very relevant. Just as we all should have the right to fully express ourselves, deciding to create family-like relationships is also open to everyone. When added to our priority list and given an allowance of time, attention and enthusiasm, our best friends can become like family.
Our best friends see us more clearly than we see ourselves and are representations and extensions of our individuality. They are our companions, cheerleaders, counselors, and have our back. Best friends are the family with whom we choose to live our life… with no strings attached. We are not bound by blood, vow, finance or contract. We are selected, hand-picked, and chosen by our friendships.
Researcher Emily Langan, an associate professor of communication at Wheaton College in Illinois describes the levels of friendship as a wide net and voluntary in nature. She suggests that the attachment theory, generally recognized as applying only to family relationships, can be applied to deep friendship as well.
The attachment theory has three components:
1. Time – Friends who are attached have a desire to see a lot of each other and know what is going on in each other’s lives.
2. Safety – Best friends offer each other safe harbor. When things go wrong, they are there to support each other.
3. Security – Attached friends provide a secure base for each other. It allows them to go out and explore other relationships that might be viewed as scary like dating or new groups. They can be confident because they know they have a true friend in their corner.
Some would even argue that in some ways a best friend may be more beneficial to your health and well-being than a spouse or blood relative. Family may face various legal, cultural, and societal expectations to look after one another. A friendship on the other hand, someone that shows up for you not out of genetic or contractual obligation but only because they care about you, makes that type of bond priceless. Regardless of the nature of connectedness, those with whom we choose to form the closest bonds are more crucial to our overall well-being in the long run.
I believe that everyone deserves to have their own chosen family to enhance their lives. This level of friendship requires intention. A friend turns into a friendship when two people make a conscious decision to take the relationship to the next level. It starts by taking time to get to know each other one-on-one doing things like: scheduling a coffee date, going out to lunch, meeting up for a cocktail, and going on a walk or hike together. Deep friendship requires an investment of time, attention and enthusiasm. It is a process, a journey, and some would even say an art. I would define friendship as the positive effort two individuals take to build a platonic relationship, establish common interests, and develop caring feelings for each other. Building these relationships and adding a few chosen friendships to your family will enhance your sense of security and overall well-being.
All my love,
Brenda Ridgley is an author, speaker and connection guru helping people connect intentionally and meaningfully, finding success and joy through relationships. She has an MA Degree in Human Resources Development and her first book Lady and the Tribe will be available in bookstores and on Amazon early this fall.
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