Friends Are More Influential Than Family or Partners, New Book Claims

Jessica Ferri

It's been a bad day. Your bank account is overdrawn, you're stressed at work, you had a fight with your significant other, and it seems like nothing is going your way. Sometimes the only thing that will make it better is talking it out over a bottle of wine with your best friend.

And perhaps many of us would acknowledge there have been times when a friend (along with a bottle of wine) offered more support than a boyfriend or a family member. But now there's actual science behind the importance of friendship. Recent studies have shown that women who have close friendships are more likely to survive breast cancer than those who don't. And a new book claims that our friendships can be a bigger influence on who we are than our relationships with our partners, or even our family.

8 Ways to Rekindle a Friendship

In Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, Carlin Flora, a former writer for Psychology Today, argues that our friendships may be the most important relationships in our lives.

One reason is demographics. People are leaving home at the same age, but getting married later, opening up lots of years when friends will be more involved in our daily lives than families or partners.

Another is that relationships with friends tend to be easier. We don't expect as much from our friends as we do from our family, or even our spouse. At a dinner with friends, we're able to relax and enjoy ourselves. At a family dinner, we may be worried to offend, or

Influence, however, can be either positive or negative. Back in 2009, The New York Times asked "Are Your Friends Making You Fat?," and argued that research shows that a friend's bad habits like smoking, overeating, or drinking too much, can be contagious.

The biggest influence that female friends have on each other is in the realm of romantic relationships, Flora told Yahoo! Shine. Your friends, "are the ones most likely to introduce you to new sex partners, more so than family members. They are the ones you are likely to analyze your relationship with, so they have a major affect how you approach dating and love." Friends can also help you keep your love going, she found. "Keeping up your friendships when you are in a committed relationship helps you to be happier. Leaning on friends to meet different needs makes you less likely to expect a spouse to be your end-all and be-all, a recipe for disaster," Flora said.

There are a few ways, though, that too much commiseration about your relationship with friends can be a bad thing, Flora said. "Researcher Amanda Rose found that co-ruminating, or endlessly dissecting relationship problems with a friend, can lead to depression, especially among young women."

But what about those of us who don't have close friends, or have been burned by a bad falling-out?

"My advice is to gently bring it up when something is bothering you with a friend, and to avoid being defensive when she brings up an issue with you," Flora told Shine. "Avoiding conflict altogether can cause you to drift away from your friends needlessly. Instead, let your friends help you understand yourself better, and all your relationships will improve."

And here we thought friendships were supposed to make our lives easier! Turns out they are just as complicated and just as important, if not more so, as family. In other words, worth the extra effort . . . or at least that second glass of wine.