Joe and I recently had a conversation with a close friend of mine, who was curious to know if we had any thoughts on maintaining friendships through the various transitions/stages of life — particularly, how can single friends stay close together, even after one of them gets married?
Between the three of us, we ended up with the following ideas, which, I think, apply to most friendships, because the real question is: What makes a good friendship last?
#1: Talk about it.
I don’t know about you, but I can name several times when I’ve held on to unnecessary anger, or pent up emotion, without first clearly relaying reasonable expectations.
In other words, this is where I’m coming from, how about you? And, what do we want to accomplish together?
This dialogue makes your relationship a team effort, leaves you feeling less alone, and allows for more accountability/release.
So set the stage by developing emotionally-safe communication before the point of critical mass. This means sitting with your friend in his/her feelings, versus judging, sanctioning, or fixing.
#2: Offer understanding.
Realize that, expectations aside, change happens. It is not fun, but it happens. Support each other’s growth, even when the timing is difficult. Be willing to re-assess, and you may, honestly, get the short end of the stick sometimes.
Ask yourself, what is the minimum I need to give/receive to get the most out of this new normal, continue to be understanding of your friend’s new normal, and do your best to lovingly adapt.
#3: More Intentional, Less Spontaneous
Part of this process might include intentionally making and keeping appointments, rather than the traditional spontaneity of early friendship.
You might not be able to hit the latest party, or talk on the phone on a whim, but you can plan a game night, video chat, or keep an eye out for an event the two of you might enjoy.
#4: Quality Over Quantity
Whatever you decide on, go for quality over quantity. Oftentimes, by nature of moving and “adulting”, you’ll wait a long while before the next opportunity arrives, or only have a few short minutes over lunch.
But you can still make the minutes count. Talk about your feelings when it comes to catching up, not just your checklist. Laugh, cry, laugh until you cry, and get right to the point. Make time to listen, so that your friend can do the same.
#5: Don’t take offense where none is intended.
Expectations, communication, scheduling — none of this is easy. When you disagree, or something gets you on edge, try to get to the heart and intention of the matter.
But “Hell is paved with good intentions”, isn’t it?
Every time I hear this I deflate a little. Do good intentions excuse every misdeed? Of course not. But when we fail to take well-meant into account, we aren’t seeing the whole picture. You need to look at both action and intention, and extend to others the same grace that is so freely extended to you.
#6: Have patience and stick with it.
More to that point, have patience and faith that your friend will come around.
As I adjust to being a mama of two sweet, but demanding, kiddos, I find myself feeling grateful for the friends that stuck it through with me, set most of the lunch dates, sent most of the texts, and put up with my mood swings through pregnancy, postpartum anxiety & depression, self-imposed loneliness, overwhelm at my to-do list, and more, that I had to learn how to navigate — and it took time.
Knowing that I was worth sticking around for has made those relationships all the more precious to me now. Hopefully I do them justice!
#7: Try for an equal footing.
As a caveat to patience, grace, and forgiveness (which you will need in abundance), I would say, watch out for repeat offenses, and don’t feel like you have to be a doormat.
Your friendship needs to be built on equal footing. This doesn’t mean you will each make the same amount of effort 100% of the time. But you will be able to tell when you both care equally, and if you are each giving your best.
Seek out friends who cherish you as much as you cherish them.
Because you deserve to be cherished!
And that’s all I have for you! How about you?
You are going to make mistakes, and so will they, so here’s to learning from them and moving forward with kindness.