Make New Friends and Keep the Old — Maintaining Friendships
Friends are an important part of our lives. While we can make new friends throughout our life, nurturing and tending to our current and long term friends is also rewarding and so important. That doesn’t mean hard work, but maintaining friendships doesn’t just happen either.
How do you maintain your friendships over time and distance and differences? You may use various strategies or habits for different friends and situations.
Maintaining Friendships Over Time
I have a friend I walk with weekly. Unless one of us is out of town, we’ve barely missed a week since our kids were little. Our lives have changed — a lot — over the years, but we keep showing up for each other. Why? We enjoy each other, there’s also a lot of trust and support in our relationship. Both of us are able to say anything without being judged. I feel fortunate to have somebody like that in my life.
Do you have a friend or friends you have regular appointments with? If you do, you know you are lucky and also that you need to keep your time with your friend sacred. Do you have a friend you’d like to see more regularly? Find a time that works and block it out on your calendar. Let it become part of the rhythm of your week or month. Let your friend know that seeing them matters to you. It doesn’t need to be weekly. Maybe a monthly coffee date works. The regularity, and both people prioritizing getting together makes a difference.
Personally, I am pretty shy, so reaching out takes a bit of effort. But it’s so worth it to make the effort to connect. I have set a goal to reach out to at least two friends each week. To keep me on track I write down on a list who I talked to and how it made me feel. Writing about how it made me feel (usually something positive) can help motivate me to connect again. How about you? What would help you reach out and connect?
Maintaining Friendships Over Distance
What if your friend doesn’t live near you? Many of us have moved, maybe several times, in adulthood. That means leaving behind people we love. It doesn’t mean losing those friendships though. Sure, some relationships will peter out, but you can keep the deeper ones going. Try:
- Regular calls. You could Zoom or Facetime, but I also love just a phone call to connect with friends from afar. If you used to walk together, walk while you talk. If you used to meet at a favorite cafe, pour yourself a coffee and settle in for a chat.
- Write a letter. I love writing letters. You can add letters into any other friendship activities. Letters give you a chance to share things in your life that you didn’t get a chance to talk about, and they are a great place to share stories and memories. Next time you find yourself thinking of a friend, take a little time to write them a letter (I love postcards for connecting this way).
- Meet when you can. I’m looking forward to meeting up with my four best college friends this month for the first time since the pandemic. We text often so I know what’s been going on in their lives, but I cannot wait to hug each of them.
- Maybe you vacation in the same place and see people summer after summer, can you stay in touch when you both go back home? You can also take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Maybe you are taking your kid to look at a college or going for an interview near where an old friend lives. Reach out. Say I’ll be nearby, I’d like to see you. And you can be intentional about planning something annually (or more regularly if you can swing it).
It may feel awkward sometimes to see friends you haven’t seen in a while. It may take you a little while to reconnect and settle in, but often it quickly feels like no time has passed.
Maintaining Friendships Over Difference and Change
We move, and we also change over time. Our situations may change. Our views may change or a difference could become more of a divide. Sometimes relationships weather those changes and sometimes they don’t. You get to decide if it is worth it putting the effort in.
It can be tricky if you and a friend start out in similar situations and then those situations change. If you have kids while the rest of your friends are single and kid free, you may have different availability or priorities that make maintaining your friendship more challenging. Maybe a friend has a more lavish lifestyle than you can afford. Talking about what you feel comfortable doing when you get together is important. Honest and vulnerable communication is vital to keeping any friendship going.
And change in a situation can also strengthen a friendship. I had a friend I saw a lot, but she never really opened up, never really got vulnerable. When a health crisis hit her, she needed connection and dropped her guard. Our friendship developed and deepened.
Friends are an oasis in a lonely world. They help us feel a sense of belonging. They help us feel seen and heard and supported. Good friends bring joy into our lives and show up when things are hard. Is it worth maintaining friendships? Absolutely.
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