What does friendship mean to you?

Three Irish Times readers answer our questions

Carol Ann Conlon

Do you think we live healthier lives with friends and friendships?
Of course. I believe there is a direct link between health and happiness, and the more people we have in our lives that we can be our true selves with, the happier we are.

What is your definition of a true friend?
I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. Who were your childhood friends? Some of my closest friends, though not all, are also my oldest friends. I am still in touch with most of them and it's simply irreplaceable to have friends who share your history and remember the child you once were.

Who do you describe as your best friends?
To quote Mindy Kaling, a "best friend isn't a person, it's a tier". I have a lot of people in my life I'd consider best friends and, for me, it's not about the big moments, it's about the small ones. Responding to a worried text in the middle of the night, listening with interest when I'm worried, all those things add up.

Do you think there is a difference in what we gain from different friendships?
As we age we know ourselves better, so the friends we make as we get older are in some ways meeting a truer version of ourselves, but it can be tough to make friends as we get older. I think if we're very lucky, in addition to picking up new friends as we go, we grow alongside our oldest friends.

READ MORE

At different points in our lives we can struggle to maintain friendships and fit them in, how do you manage?
Living abroad, I have to make it a priority to keep in touch and I'm not always as good at it as I'd like to be. Technology like Whatsapp and Facetime have made it a lot easier.

Do you think women and men maintain friendships differently?
I'd say that women's friendships are just different from men's. I don't think men are socialised to expect the same depth and breadth of friendship as women are.

Do you think friendship can be unhealthy?
I think if your "friend" is more interested in competing with you than anything else, it's probably best to let that friendship fade. What are the three things you look for in a friendship that is good for your health? I don't need three things. If I feel happier and more confident in myself after spending time with a person, I think that friendship is good for my health.

Carol Ann Conlon (31) lives in Dublin and works as an accountant. She is originally from Long Island, NY.

Gary Flood

Do you think we live healthier lives with friendships?
Of course we do. Friends are essential to mental health, particularly as they afford us the opportunity to spill our guts, empty our heads and float our maddest ideas to a (usually) non-judgmental audience.

What is your definition of a true friend?
A true friend is someone who makes you laugh like a drain, allows you to cry like a baby, knows when to be there with you and, importantly, when to leave you the hell alone.

Who were your childhood friends?
My childhood friends were Gerard Siggins and Eamon Bohan. We were the Three Musketeers, largely due to each of our houses having '3' as part of the door numbers. I lost touch with them after primary as we didn't go to the same secondary schools.

Who do you describe as your best friends?
I have three best friends. It used to be four but, you know, death. Each of them plays a unique role in my life and I suppose I'd be inclined to keep them separate 99 per cent of the time, expert as I am in compartmentalisation. I know I certainly wouldn't be the same person I am today without their presence in my life.

Does it matter when we make friends?
I think there are fundamental differences between the quality of friendships we make as we go through life. Our needs, interests and motivations change and, ideally, develop as we grow, and the quality and sometimes quantity of friendships we make will reflect those changes. When it comes to deep, lasting friendships, I don't think it matters when or where we meet them. What matters is how we feel when we are with them.

Do you think men or women are better at maintaining them?
Maintenance is really not my strong suit and I'm certain I have neglected some friendships to the point of destruction in the past. I feel that women have the upper hand in maintaining friendships through thick and thin.

What are the three things you look for in a friendship that is good for your health?
In no particular order: love, listening and laughter.

Gary Flood lives in Dublin and is a TV director, scriptwriter and producer.

Sinéad Ryan

Do you think we live healthier lives with friends and friendships?
Absolutely. I love all my friends, but each friend brings something different and special to your life. With the right set of friends you have someone to be there for you, whether you need a good laugh or a good cry.

What is your definition of a true friend?
Loyalty. A true friend has your back. Who were your childhood friends? Are you still in touch with them? No. I couldn't wait to get school over with. I moved on and rarely look back.

Who do you describe as your best friends?
I have a motley crew of best friends and we've had many "interesting" times together. Our lives, ages and professions vary wildly but we are close.

Does it matter when we meet friends?
For me, the friends I have made in my adult years have been the best friends. I suppose you are more fully formed and the friendships endure.

At different points in our lives we can struggle to maintain friendships and fit them in, how do you manage?
I make a conscious effort to keep in touch. Social media can make you lazy but it doesn't do enough. I was titled the 'Tour Manager' at one stage for my fondness for organising get-togethers, nights out, and so on.

Do you think friendship can be unhealthy?
If you try to hang on to a friendship beyond its useful life, yes. You need to know when it's only nostalgia that keeps you in touch, and not the value it adds to your current life.

What are the three things you look for in a friendship that is good for your health? Loyalty, a sense of humour and a corkscrew.

Sinéad Ryan is a director at Presence Communications and lives in Dublin.