How Your Family Friend Really Fits Into Your Life

When You Have a Friend of the Family in Your Social Circle

The term family friend is actually a strange way of referring to someone you have probably known a long time (like family) but who is usually not really your friend in the traditional sense. Very often a family friend is someone your parent's know for whatever reason (they worked together, used to live near each other, etc.) and they stayed in your family's large social circle. 

Why You Need to Pay Attention to the Family Friend

Even though the family friend isn't someone you're particularly close to yourself, you need to make sure you're on good terms with them. Or, more importantly, you need to be careful about how much trust you give them. You might be lured into thinking a family friend is a trustworthy person just because he or she has been around for years, but unless you've spent some one-on-one time with them and really know them, go slowly when it comes to showing vulnerability. 

This is because a family friend might know as much about you as a distant cousin or uncle and they may tell others about you. Or they might give you advice or act as a mentor. Just because your family (or more specifically, your parents) are friends with this person doesn't mean you need to be (or should be.) A family friend may have the same access to your family's personal information and secrets as you do, without really being an official family member. 

How Do Family Friends Affect Our Lives?

The way your family friend interacts with you depends on your individual situation. On one hand, you might decide to bring this person into your inner circle as a trusted friend. On the other, you might feel leery.

Family friends shouldn't:

  • Comment on personal family business.
  • Be present if someone in the family is not comfortable with them.
  • Expect the same benefits of being a family member (like free vacations, paying bills, or invites to family gatherings)

There might be times when a family friend is so close to your family that they become a spokesperson. This is true when a family trusts someone to help them through a crisis, like a priest, pastor, or lawyer. 

Is Having a Family Friend a Bad or Good Thing?

The family friend relationship is usually a positive one, but even so, if there is someone who hangs around you that isn't really your friend, you need to put up some boundaries so you feel safe. This is especially true if you see this person once or twice a year or don't really know them as you well as you do the rest of your extended family. 

Often family friends are still just acquaintances to the rest of the family, but they are seen fairly regularly at family parties and events. They might be cherished, "honorary" members of the family or they may be people that you just put up with because someone in the family is friends with them.

The term "family friend" either applies to someone in a negative or positive way. If someone has spoken highly of the family friend, you might speak up and say, "Oh, I know them very well. They've been a family friend for a long time."

On the hand, "family friend" is also used in a negative way, like when someone else is sharing a bad quality about the person, or talking about something off-putting they did. People then use the term "family friend" to distance themselves from the person by saying, "Oh, I don't know them very well at all. They're just a family friend."

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