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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

How many friends do we need?


Some people have 1-2 close friends, others have many, and others still have many acquaintances but no one they feel really close with. Others of us will just have a partner (boyfriend/ girlfriend/ husband/ wife) and expect them to meet all of our needs. So what is the “right” way of doing things? How many friends/ connections do we really need?

As with most things, the answer is not quite that simple. Here are some questions to help us along.

  1. Who do you feel most comfortable with? (can be more than 1 person)

  2. Do you feel like you can be yourself with them?

  3. What important parts of you are energized by interacting with them? What values or interests are aligned?

  4. Do you feel like your needs are important to them? Like you matter?

  5. Do feel able to accept / receive support from them?

  6. Do you feel able to provide meaningful support to them? (Does it feel like a 2-way relationship)

  7. Are there parts of you that do not have an outlet or connection with someone? If so how important are those parts of you?

Here is an example.

We have 3 lovely boys. We are very family oriented and structure our life around our value of prioritizing family and nurturing those relationships. This means we eat together daily, we share our Best/ Worst at dinner, and what we are grateful for before bed. We have weekly 1:1 time with each kid and we have a rotating family day, where we each get a chance to pick family day activities to share our interests with the family so we can continue to get to know each other as we change through the years. We also have weekly Family Meetings to discuss what is working or not working in our home so we can all contribute to creating a home we feel emotionally and physically safe in. All in all, this has all made us a very close family and provides a fair bit of structure and predictability despite our very busy lives and there being 3 boys and multiple pets around.


The boys get along quite well overall, EXCEPT when parts of them are not being met.

We have one guy who is quite athletic, thrives on challenge and is into football. He is very physical and competitive by nature and does best when he has that as a healthy outlet for all of that drive. Right now he has a football injury and consequently no longer has a healthy outlet for all that energy and competition. This means it is coming out more in ways that require redirection.


Then we have our youngest guy, who is 3 and 5 yrs younger than the other boys. He DESPERATELY wants to keep up with them and be included, despite the age gap. It is not uncommon to see our eldest run by, the middle guy hot on his heels (they are 18 mo apart) and then count 10 Mississippi’s and you will see our youngest huffing and puffing behind trying to keep up for all he is worth! A while ago we recognized that he was being more of a bug to his brothers for some reason. We started to pay closer attention to when it was happening and realized it was when he had long periods without playdates with kids his own age, or when the older boys had lots of friends over and he was the only one who couldn’t keep up. In short, it was when he didn’t have his own tribe around, people with similar interests and abilities as his own. Anyone would start to feel not good enough and get agitated if we were always around people who could do things we couldn’t, no matter how hard we tried. If they are our only comparison, how could we not feel defeated and eventually act out some of those feelings! Especially if the things we actually enjoyed were not even on the table as a consideration.

In both cases, when important parts of who they are were not being addressed, when they didn’t have healthy connections to help them acknowledge, validate and grow those parts of them, they became dys-regulated and it started to come out in unhealthy ways.

Meanwhile, right now our eldest guy has a great group of friends who he feels very connected with. His athletic side is met through Judo which he does after school, his musical creative side is met through playing saxophone, he hangs out in tress when he needs a nature fix, spends time with our pets for his love of animals, and he gets his “geek on” with his friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. The important parts of himself are met right now and it shows. He is calm, generally happy and even when stressors show up he is able to take them in stride.

Ok, so lets bring it back to the rest of us…

In the 5 Things we need to be well video, we talk about how in order to have HEALTHY TRIBE, we need to have people (1) we feel emotionally safe with AND (2) who are like us in the ways we identify ourselves.

Let’s break it down…

(1)  EMOTIONALLY SAFE means we feel our needs are equal to other people’s needs, we feel comfortable asking to have our needs met, we feel comfortable setting boundaries and we don’t feel the need to compromise ourselves or back track if they are upset by these, trusting they will deal with their stuff and we still get to matter.


(2) Having people who are SIMILAR TO US IN THE WAYS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO US means that if I see myself as an artist, writer, entrepreneur, activist etc, I have other people who share those parts of me. An example may be that if I was a particularly religious person, I could be in a room filled with emotionally available atheists, but I won’t feel like I belong, like they “get” me.  Sometimes we may find more than one of the important parts of us are met by a single person, but it is uncommon for all of them to be met by one person. When we expect them to be, we get upset with the other person for not sharing our interests or passions and feel rejected when they are not as enthusiastic as we would want them to be, because it is feels like they are rejecting a part of us. Even when we do have most of our needs met by one person, if something happens to that person, it is a huge loss that can be quite emotionally devastating and destabilizing. So it seems prudent to invest in at least a few relationships when possible.



  1. Most of us need several people to feel like the most important parts of ourselves are fulfilled and have an outlet, exactly how many will depend on who is currently in our life and how much of our needs they currently fulfill

  2. It is wise to have a couple of people when possible for the most important domains that matter to us

  3. When important parts of ourselves are ignored or don’t have outlets to connect with others, we tend to become agitated, unsettled and that energy often comes out in other unhealthy ways (ie. anxiety, being a bug).


So how are you doing? What are the important parts of you? Who helps those flourish?

Are YOU making time to address them?

If you don’t have anyone- what are you going to do about that? 

Have a great week!

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