Friends are Family?

Friends are the family we choose.[1]

A noble, kindly intended word expressing a two-fold reality. We do not…cannot choose our families of origin. However, we do select our friends who can be as near and dear (and, given the complexity and sometimes difficulty of our familial relationships, nearer and dearer) as blood kin.

Reflecting on my life, countless times I’ve shared important matters with friends before (sometimes not at all with) family. Largely, because my friends were friends because they accepted me for who I was. With no questions asked and without an agenda for me to fulfill. As such, my friends, no matter how close, always one or more degrees of separation from me, didn’t have the same investment as my family in my attitudes, ambitions, and actions, and the outcomes. Thus, what I did and didn’t say and do didn’t have the same weight of care on my friends as my family.

So, are my friends the family I choose? No. Friends are friends because they aren’t family. Moreover, I can define “friend” as I choose. And that definition, from time to time, circumstance to circumstance, changes. (Daring to universalize my experience, I think this is true for all of us.)

Thus, at the proverbial end (and beginning and middle) of the day, friends are the friends I choose for myself.

© 2023 PRA

[1] An adage attributable to countless folk.

2 thoughts on “Friends are Family?

  1. Good Morning Paul! So I have really mixed feelings about this post and thought a lot about it. Years ago when I heard your term “frienily” (sp) for the first time which you defined as “friends who become family” I was thrilled! Our family and your family became “frienilies” (sp). While I get that people and situations do change over time, if it were not for the frienilies that I’ve chosen I’d have very little family. Of course there are Kim and Kendal who are family by marriage, but I don’t physically see them that often and they have their own lives. In the DC area, even as close as 10 min away I have a first cousin I haven’t seen since Tim’s funeral and a second cousin who I see maybe every other year on our birthdays. I have another first cousin about 45 min away who I talk to once or twice a year but haven’t seen since Mom’s funeral. My niece and her kids have become part of my life after my sister’s death and they too live 10 min away but we are mostly Facebook friends. I spell this out because where would I be without my family that I’ve chosen, several of whom know me better than ANY of my family members. When I first read this I was in NY to spread the ashes of my best friend’s son. She too is in the same situation as me. She has very few family members left outside of her kids & grandkids. She had family who actually live on the land where all the family remains are buried, YET neither they, nor her only remaining sibling attended the “spreading” of the ashes on Monday. All of the rest of the family including 3 frienilies came 7.5 hours to get there and she was grateful that we joined her actual remaining family. In my case I KNOW my chosen family would show up for me whenever I am in need, whereas my actual family would show up “if they can” of if there’s nothing else better going on. When I do talk or see them, I’m the one initiating the call or visit. I show up for my friends who have become family and while I don’t actually have a name for them like the one I borrowed from you, I know I’d go anywhere and do anything for them just as they would for me. My actual family…. Not sure if they’d come or not, but I wouldn’t bet my house on it. I often do think about this, especially when I’m out on the road alone and I grateful that this post has reminded me of how many people love and care for me though we are not blood, including you.



  2. Thank you, Loretta, for this, your always wondrously insightful and soulful sharing…

    I ached when reading of Kris’s experience in the spreading of Bobby’s ashes in that her, there, local family did not appear. Similarly, I felt an immediate gut-twinge in reading of your ruminations about your family and the distance of your connectivity with and to them (much of which, of course, over time, I have known about you and them).

    All this said and felt, please, know that this post arose from my recent reflections on my life in relation to family (mostly distant, very distant; the reasons for which I continue to discover and upon which I reflect), spurred by the recent visit and time with one of my longest-lived friendships with Marvin Alexander. (Indeed, I am writing more this very day about family and friendships. Something, clearly, deeply, is stirring within me; doubtless, in part, having to do with my continued aging and my daily, reckoning awareness with my mortality.)

    As for frienalies (or, as Vicki Street used to say, “framily”), that is, friends who become family, yes, I do still believe this. Surely, about you. Nevertheless, in this post, I was called to reflect generally on some differences between family and friends, e.g., the sense of greater investment that, more than friends, families (most, I think) have in a given member’s intentions and actions. Thus, the degrees of separation (and, given the circumstance, detachment) that exist between friends.

    All this said, I wrote to you that none of this, for me, applies to you, given, for me, the uniqueness of our bond, which, again, for me, abides unto death.



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