How to Maintain Your Friendships As An Adult
A few months ago, I was catching up with my friend, Rachel, over the phone. We text each other every few weeks and call about once a month. When I told her I had been feeling lonely, she said she felt the same way before she headed off to grad school. We talked about how you’ll reach out to friends to hang out and catch up over a cup of coffee and people always say they’re busy. I usually get responses like, “Aw I’d love to, but I have to do some laundry tonight”. It’s awful when laundry has taken priority over friendship in the United States. It’s no wonder they say millennials are a lonely generation.
“It’s interesting how when you’re in a relationship, you check in with your partner to make sure you guys are good. Why is it that we don’t do the same with friends?”
Rachel has a point.
One of my biggest pain points with Facebook is that we’ve settled for knowing what’s going on in a friend’s life without actually having to reach out to them. We get stuck hiding behind our screens even though we crave connection. But living our lives through our phones isn’t going to make us happy, live longer, or feel like we have community. As Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, “Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” When we’re vulnerable, THAT is when we experience true connection.
How Being Vulnerable Led to One of My Greatest Friendships
I was a few months into my Fulbright year in Madrid, when I suddenly got hit with a case of homesickness. Let me tell you something people… as someone who has been away from home since I was 18, I don’t get homesick. That is why this feeling felt so odd. After much contemplating, I realized that what I felt was a longing for the community I had back home because I hadn’t quite found my crew yet in Madrid. I shared how I was feeling to our private Facebook group and that’s when I got a message from our Fulbright mentor, Rachel.
The same girl I talked about at the beginning of this post. By sharing my feeling of loneliness, I got an invitation for a one-on-one coffee chat, which has turned into a friendship going on four years now. Our friendship spans time and space. As I mentioned earlier, we check in regularly, but not every week. When we do, I clear my schedule to give my soul sister my full attention for a few hours. It’s in thinking about this friendship that I realized many people my age are also feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation. One of my goals in life is to connect people because I know how much it’s made a difference in my life.
How to Maintain Your Friendships As An Adult
Identify What You Want
As adults, we are much busier than when we were younger. That is why you have to know what you want so that you can attract it. Think of a friendship that has had all of the qualities you want in a friend. What made/makes this friendship so special? What are the qualities of that friend that make you feel that sense of belonging? Much like when we’re in search of a partner or a new job, it helps to write down your non-negotiables so that you can visualize what that feels like for you.
I know what this looks like for me. For nine years, I had the most incredible best friend. She was like a big sister to me. We seemed like the odd couple of best friends from the outside, but from the inside, we valued the same things. We would spend hours at a café sharing everything, often laughing until we cried, or in the unfortunate situation, peed ourselves. We both loved simplicity and enjoying experiences over material things. We both loved traveling, bookstores, and wandering through new cities together. In that friendship, trust, honesty, openness, curiosity, and spontaneity reigned supreme. Though we aren’t friends anymore, she set the bar for what true friendship looks like for me.
Now that you know what you’re seeking, reach out to those friends in your life who embody those qualities. Be mindful. When you reach out, get them at a time when they might not be so busy. Say something along the lines of:
“Hey! The other day, I was thinking about that time we [...]. That was so much fun! It made me realize how much I miss you. Are you free next week to grab a cup of coffee or catch up over the phone? Let me know! I’d love to know how everything has been going for you lately”.
If you haven’t spoken in a while, a message like this is perfect. You’re reminding them of a moment that elicits a strong emotional reaction, you’re telling them you miss them, you’re giving them a specific time frame and an activity you’d like to do, and you’re ending it with telling them that it’s about them, not you. Understand that everyone is dealing with something, so if they don’t get back to you right away, don’t stress it. Divert your attention to another friend until they get back to you.
Make Relationships a Priority
Many of us are great at the initial reaching out and catching up but have a problem with sustaining that over a long period of time. Rachel and I are intentional about meeting up once a year and checking in at least once a month. I finished grad school in 2013, but my grad school friends and I have dinner reunions in Downtown LA. My Spain sistas I studied abroad with in 2010 get together once a year to catch up and reminisce about that glorious summer Spain won their very first World Cup. Reach out; you’ll be glad you did.
If you treat your relationships like gold, you’ll notice changes within yourself too. Often when we reconnect with people from our past, we find we’re also connecting to parts of ourselves we’ve left neglected. Recently, I reconnected with my French professor, who first taught me in 2006. It had been a few years since we’d last seen each other, so we had much to catch up on. It filled my soul to see her. More than a mentor, she’s like a European mother to me. Seeing her made me reflect on the last 12 years and how much I’ve grown. That’s worth more than any “like” on a social media post.
How do you maintain your friendships when life gets busy? Are there any special ways you reconnect with those you love? Share your experiences below :)