*This is Part Two of my Tri-umphant Friendship series where I explore what friendship means to me and others.*
The social skills that you learn as a kid will carry you for the rest of your life. I was at a wedding recently and it just amazed me how children make friends with each other so easily. No one was concerned about “not having anything in common” or “different interests,” just pure innocent fun. Something that has surprised me as an adult is how often I’ll be in situations where I have to be social. My parents assumed that I simply talked too much when I was a kid, but that’s turned out to be my greatest asset.
But at the same time, networking/mingling isn’t the same thing as making new friends. I have a lot of acquaintances and people that I enjoy talking to, but someone that I would consider to be a real “friend?” Don’t get me started on what a friend* is. I can honestly say I have about 8 or 9 people I consider to be a close friend. I’m not sure whether that’s a small or large group, and to me it doesn’t matter because making friends is really difficult, and when you’re super-busy, maintaining a relationship with 8-9 people that you’re not dating or related to, is a real challenge.
Making friends as an adult has its own challenges — how do you approach them without being weird? What’s the protocol for social media? What if they’re married, are you obligated to hang out with their spouse as well? Kids?
I think that’s why it’s a lot easier to maintain the current relationships that you have. When you’re seeking someone to be romantically with, the situation is different. You’re both seeking out something that is specific and unique. A platonic friendship is something that is supposed to happen organically. Like you both happen to be taking the same spin class, and then you notice you’re carrying the same gym bag and you guys end up bonding over smoothies. But is it so wrong to go through life specifically seeking out new friends? Why is it ok to be seeking out love but not friendship? Is one relationship more important than others?
I feel like that’s why there are so many people who go through their adult lives not having any close friends. People move away, have kids, grow apart etc. That’s why people become so codependent on their significant others. It’s understandable why couples only want to hang out with other couples, but it’s important not to lose your own identity. Just like with work and family, it’s about having balance, being able to balance all the priorities in your life and still maintain the most important aspects of who you are as an individual.
Nourishing your inner perspective is about the ongoing challenge of having balance. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to balance work, love, family and friends but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying my very best. I mean, what else can you do? Just give up and spend every evening alone when your husband is busy?
Here’s what’s been working for me so far:
Don’t forget where you’ve come from. When you get a new job and meet a ton of new exciting people, it’s really easy to get caught up in the new adventures you’re having and forget about about your older friends. But remember who’s been there for you from the beginning. Chances are, half of those brand new friendships you’re making won’t even last. You don’t really get to know someone until you’ve known them for years. It’s fine to spend time with your new friends, but make sure to pick up the phone when that friend you’ve known for 12 years calls. Maintaining the real relationships you currently have are equally important as creating new connections.
Don’t burn any bridges. Even when I get into a huge falling out with someone, I refuse to delete them off of Facebook or Instagram. Why bother? Chances are, if it’s someone that you’ve known for a long time, you’re most likely going to make up with them eventually. Even if it’s a year later, it’ll likely happen. You’re not a child, you’re not going to “stick it to them” by deleting them off your Facebook. Besides, when you close that door, often you don’t get a second chance. You never know when you’ll run into someone again and be put in an awkward situation. If they delete you, that’s on them. When you run into them, just kill them with kindness, and they’ll be the one that’s uncomfortable because they’re spending the whole time wondering if you’ve realized that they deleted you. Trust me, that’s way better.
Keep friendship and business separate. Unless you’ve specifically worked with them before, DO NOT start that business with each other that you talked about in high school. Someone who may be great to hang out with can be a totally different person when you’re working together. Checking your friendship at the door and knowing when to get down to business is a messy situation. If you’ve been a bridesmaid before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The hilarious stories about how your drunk friend is late for work all the time, stop being funny very quickly when you’re the one waiting for an hour by yourself with a potential client. I’ve seen so many friendships fall apart on account of business, just save yourself the trouble and avoid this. PLEASE.
Be there for them during the hard times. Maintaining a friendship is relatively easy when your friendship consists of lunches, parties, cocktails, brunches, and dinners. But what about when you need someone to visit you in the hospital? Who is there for you when you need someone to help you move? Who forgets to text back when you’re stuck with a flat tire? A real friendship when you’re an adult is about being there for each other through thick and thin. The people who aren’t there for you during the thin? Those aren’t your real friends. The people that you suddenly can’t count on are people who don’t truly care about you. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who don’t care about you. Forget them.