Monday, February 7, 2011


By Lisa Verge Higgins

A recent study by Oxford scientists states that you can only have four-to-six true friends in your life. I stumbled upon this recently—while surfing the web instead of writing—and I read it, beginning to end.

Actually, what the study is really about is what happens to your core group of friends once a new lover enters your life. Apparently, the addition of a lover means the subtraction of two good friends. I can't believe the Brits spent government money on this study, because every woman breathing has witnessed a buddy subsumed into a sensual haze of new love.

Still, the basic assumption struck me as wrong: The idea that a person can only have four-to-six "true" friends. Considering that the title of my current novel is THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP, friendship and its limitations has been a lot on my mind lately.

According to the study, the reason we can only have five friends is that the time and energy required in maintaining a deep relationship limits humans to only a handful. The study suggests we all have a "core group" in whom we invest the most emotional energy. The next layer out is the "sympathy group."

Well, okay, here's where I have to argue with those Oxford scientists. Yeah, I have a core group of friends who are close geographically, whose kids I know as well as my own, whose pets I've watched and with whom I've shared a lot of neighborhood pot-lucks. But then there's my "sympathy group." And, honestly, I can't say I'm any less close to them.

My "sympathy" group is scattered all over the country. We went to school together. We're a jumble of religions and races and socio-economic classes and political beliefs; there are rough edges to our relationships, and there's also respect, humor and empathy. We keep each other honest. And on the rare times when we get together, we tend to embarrass our children.

It's the presence of these women in my life that make me question the study by the Oxford scientists. We see each other mostly at reunions, with an occasional plane layover. When we do get together, magic occurs. All the awkwardness you might expect from being separated for so long, by geography and time, simply dissolves away. We talk about politics, sex, money, and religion. We roll out the old stories, and then tell new ones until we laugh ourselves to tears. By the wee hours of the morning, we're at the local pub singing hair-band power-ballads and dancing as if no one is watching.

Just five "core" friends?

Sorry, Oxford Scientists: I don't think so.♥

Lisa Verge Higgins is the RITA-nominated author of thirteen historical and contemporary novels. Her latest book, THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP, is currently on the shelves. Visit her at

1 comment:

  1. I believe that we have the family we're born into, and then we have the family we create through the bond of friendship. I've been blessed with a core group of friends who have been a sister or a brother to me. I've also had buddies who are friends with common interests or who I work with and who support me and cheer me on. They are the people who make my work day more bearable, lift my spirits, or offer help when I need it most. Friendships are vital and should be cared for and treasured. Thank you for the blog, and I look forward to reading your book. I know it's a great read.