There are times in life when it’s clear just who your true friends are. One of those times, I’ve discovered, is when your marriage is on the fritz. I’m so lucky to have Charlotte*, who took a panicked call from me a few weeks ago—while she was visiting her daughter at college. And Claire*, who’s had the kids and me over for impromptu dinners on more than one occasion when I’ve been too strung out to cook. And Martin*, who lets me vent over coffee several times a week, and then offers up all sorts of helpful advice from the POV of a man who’s been through his own marital break-up.
In fact, I have so many amazing friends that I’m going to stop naming fake-names here, at the risk of screwing up like an overwhelmed Oscar winner and forgetting somebody. Besides, I have a more general point to make, and that is: Whenever you’re going through a tough time, don’t underestimate the power of pals to get you through. There’s all sorts of research to support the importance of a strong social network when it comes to personal satisfaction and contentment. One of my favorite and most heart-warming studies (if you can call the results of hard-core science “heart-warming”!) came out about a year ago: Researchers at Harvard and the University of San Diego reported that happiness is “contagious”—they found that one person’s happiness spreads not just to that person’s immediate friends, but also to the friends of that friend, and to the friends of those friends! They were even able to quantify this: If one person in your social network is happy, it increases your chances of being happy by 15 percent! It just so happens that I interviewed the lead researcher of the happiness-is-infectious study for an article in a parenting magazine, and discovered that there’s a bonus: He told me that within families, the happiness bug is as catching as pink-eye: If you’re cheery, your kids are likely to be as well. (You can read more about this study here.)
And so I, for one, plan to siphon off all the blissful vibes I can from my BFFs—because I know that I won’t just feel better myself, I’ll also spread some joy.
* Names have been changed, of course, although I wish I could mention these amazing folks by name.