One Loyal Friend is Worth Ten Thousand Relatives

July 16, 2009, by Connie Stetson


Connie Stetson muses on friends and relations, relatively speaking.

Not to speak ill of relatives, of course, but Euripedes got that right. I’m grateful that my sister and have become good friends, and I’m glad I only have one sister to work my shit out with, but we never had a choice. It’s the combo-pack with family. For good or ill, with deeper issues to work out, old wounds to mend; we’re all so invested in the story we made up about when we were kids that it’s nearly impossible to show up as changed, or better, or over that, ya know?

Ah, but our friends… To be able to say to someone, “I absolutely support your change and growth, but you never have to change for me to love you.” Knowing that there are a select few out there who hear your truth and your inconsistencies, and you theirs, is a mighty, mighty force indeed. To allow a dear friend, in all loving honesty to say, “your ass looks like a giant bag of potatoes in those pants, take them off now!” To stand with a friend as she walks through loss, illness, change and all of the boundless joyful stuff too—well, this is what helps keeps me anchored.

Susan Sarandon said on Oprah, “ We marry so that we have someone to witness our lives.” I really like that. But, I think that’s a truer statement about our deeply abiding life-long friendships (as marriage ideally should be, of course). At this point, I’ve witnessed my friends’ marriages and divorces, even their kids’ divorces. So as a witness, friendship wins.

I have often fantasized with my long-time girlfriends about when we’re ancient and finally in “the home”, rocking on the porch at twilight with our martinis, cats in our laps, dogs at our feet, laughing and teasing each other over the follies of our youth, maybe looking over some old photo albums, the tears of laughter streaming down our cheeks—I can almost not wait to get there.

I’m not sure I have adequate words to express what I’ve come to feel in my midlife about loyalty, forgiveness, indulgence, support and true unqualified love, for me the very definition of friendship, but here are a few quotes from wiser friends than I:

“A true friend stabs you in the front”—Oscar Wilde
“The best mirror is an old friend”—George Herbert
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you anyway” —Proverb
“A real friend is one who walks in just as the rest of the world walks out” —Walter Winchell

And the one I like the very best:

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.”

Don’t know who said it, but I’m glad to know that a handful of people have memorized my heart song and are out there singing loud and strong. I love you all, my dear, dear friends.

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15 Responses to “One Loyal Friend is Worth Ten Thousand Relatives

  1. Dwayne Young Says:

    Great post Cuz!

  2. Jeff S Says:

    Lord knows I LOVE to sing. And there is almost no one I enjoy singing to or with more than my “Pal” Connie.

    “I got the horse right here, His name is Paul Revere”.

    Keep singing baby! And thanks for being my friend!

  3. mellimel Says:

    Yeh…like that! Esp the first bit about the family thing. Geez!

  4. Rosemary Says:

    So true! Lovely.

  5. carine Says:

    Knowing that there are a select few out there who hear your truth and your inconsistencies…

    I like the part about the inconsistencies! I know it’s not okay to change your mind or to be of several minds about your “truth” but it happens all the time. And when that happens, you really want someone who’s not going to judge your for it, just remind you!

  6. dearpru Says:

    What is it they shout in the British Parliament? “Here-here!” or something like that.

  7. Pam Meyer Says:

    I go back to Khalil Gibran, “Your friend is your needs answered.” Whether it’s your time of sadness or happiness, they are there for you, feeling your pain or sharing your joy. They just show up. Or, the phone just rings. And there they are,loving you.

  8. Cathy Says:

    I’d add to your quotes about friendship, the one about your ass looking like a sack of potatoes! So true that honesty and friendship go hand-in-hand. And unlike relatives, we get to choose our friends. I’m so lucky that I chose you back in the day, when I was just 19. You have really been a true friend, one that shows up during the bad and the good, through thick and thin (waistlines or otherwise), for a laugh, a martini, shopping or just hanging out and as nurse and knight while I’ve been healing. It’ll be a hoot on the porch. Rock on sistah! Love you.

  9. Diane Owens Says:

    I love that line from Susan Sarandon! Actually she first said it in the movie Shall We Dance about her screen husband Richard Gere, my personal heart-throb. But I agree with you–even if I were married to Richard Gere–it’s our friendships with women that sustain us.

  10. Gwen McCauley Says:

    Good article. When I have coaching clients who have really difficult family relationships they feel stuck with, I always ask them “If you met X (your parent, sister, brother, cousin) at a cocktail party, would you spent 5 minutes chatting to them?” If the answer is no, I think you have to ask yourself why you think it is that you need to feel obliged to engaged with that person just because the same DNA runs in your veins.

    Many times people are horrified to think of giving up such relationships in favour of what I like to call ‘chosen family’. And yet, I have seen time and time again that the starting point to healing and moving forward in those relationships is the moment when you get honest enough to say “Thanks, but I’m moving on and choose to no longer interact with you on this basis, under these circumstances.”

    Scares people half to death, and yet when they find the courage to step into it, truly magical things can happen …mostly not over night, sometimes taking many years. But if and when they ever do reconnect, they are often the most powerful and growthful relationships imagineable because each party has learned to engage the other as a full fledged human being, not a uni-dimensional caricature of who you were when you were 4 yrs old!

    And if it turns out that no reconnection is possible, at least a person knows that they are not living the lie of collusion that is often the basis of family dynamics. And their ‘chosen family’ allows them to have authentic relationships that satisfy and gratify.

    Thanks for the opportunity to express my views.

    Gwen McCauley
    follow me at

  11. Gwen McCauley Says:

    My best friend’s saying about friends:

    “A true friend knows where the bodies are buried and keeps her mouth shut.”

  12. Barb G. Says:

    Soooo ture. Friends let you unpack your baggage and then pack it up and put it away so you don’t have to deal with it any more.

  13. Conz Says:

    …Or helps you unpack your “baggage” when you must.

  14. julie markovitz Says:

    Connie…this was so beautiful…some of my heart friendships began on my block where I grew up as a child, some at summercamp, some in junior high, some in highschool, college, work and beyond… Some I’ve known for 47 years and some began recently… I’m very grateful to the dear ones in my life. Here’s to heartfriends!

  15. christie Says:

    It feels so good to read your blog and all the responses. I think all the friendship circles are rippling…

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