The definition of relationships has drastically evolved over time. What once was only thought of as romantic, relationships mean everything from friends to family to lovers. While the definition has expanded positively to encompass all types of relations humans have with one another, it also has its downsides. As a society, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve treated our relationships like they are dispensable instead of treating them as if they are indispensable.

150 is the magic number

According to Dunbar’s number, a theory that suggests the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships, humans are only able to sustain 150 stable relationships. This means anyone from family to friends to acquaintances. Any more than 150, and it’s information overload for the brain. From this 150, they break down into three subgroups: top 50, top 15, and top five.

  • Top 50: people you’d call close friends, those you might invite to a party at your house. You like them but probably wouldn’t confess your deepest secrets to them.
  • Top 15: you’re closer to them than the top 50
  • Top five: we spend 50 percent of our social time with — the people you would feel able to go to in a “deep emotional or financial crisis”.

Even Facebook confirms this data; 50 percent of users have 200 friends or fewer. From that, we only talk to three to 10 friends on average, which are considered real friendships. Some argue that technology could possibly change this, but it’s not possible due to the amount of time that relationships take.

Spend your time wisely

The reason that we can’t sustain more than 150 relationships is the time that it takes to maintain each relationship. We all know that we only have so many hours in the day, most of which we devote to working, leaving a limited amount of time to leave to social activities. That being said, time plays a critical role in relationships in that the amount of time you invest in you invest in your relationships is what makes them a relationship.

If you’ve ever had a close friendship or an intimate romantic relationship, you know this to be true. You feel closer to someone the more time you spend with them. Most of us know that closeness in a relationship comes from face-to-face time as opposed to digital time. This provides better communication than any other form. The more we laugh with someone, the stronger our bond will be as laughing releases endorphins in the brain akin to a slight opiate high.

A dispensable world

In the world we live in today, there are many things that are dispensable: jobs, food, money, etc. But the one area of our life that we shouldn’t make dispensable is our relationships. Let’s face it, we are all guilty of dropping relationships for one reason or another. Maybe they were toxic. Maybe you were only friends with them because you shared a class with them. Maybe it was only because they were dating your best friend. Regardless, we are all guilty of doing this.

What we forget to take into consideration when cutting people out of our lives is how it makes the other person feel. Whether you are the culprit or the victim, we’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the impact of a friendship break up. Not going to lie, it doesn’t feel great. Especially if they were one of the top five people that we invested a lot of time with. A lot of the time, these people will cut ties out of the blue, without an explanation or to make an effort to fix problems at hand. They just treat the other party as if their time is dispensable.

Creating indispensable relationships

While it’s so easy to just cut people out of our lives, we don’t have to. We don’t have to do what everyone else out there is doing. We can still make our relationships the one part of our lives that are indispensable. Remember, our relationships are human, and they have human feelings. At the end of the day, how we treat others is a reflection of our character, which is one of the most important traits we have.

You’re probably wondering how to create indispensable relationships. Relationships can be kept without needing to be close to every single person you meet. Not everyone you have a relationship needs to be in your top five. Maybe you have a relationship with these people on a professional basis or they are a networking connection. Regardless, you don’t have to cut them out of your life at the drop of a hat.

Reevaluating your relationships 

Like anything else, it’s a lot easier said than done. Since we are approaching a new year, take the time to do an evaluation of your relationships. Which ones are working, and which ones aren’t? Which ones are you getting a return on investment from? Which ones are you not? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when doing a relationship audit. Maybe it’s time to move some people from your top five to your top 15 or 50.

Take the time to do this will ensure that you aren’t just spending your time on meaningless relationships. You want relationships that are fulfilling and worth your time and investment. Doing this will also give you the knowledge you need to make your relationships indispensable in this dispensable world we live in.

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