In this blog, two of our bloggers answered the same set of questions about making friends, having friends, and losing friends. They speak to their own experiences and take an honest look at their friendships. Being at different stages in their lives, they offer two very different perspectives. Take a look…
Name: The Duchess
What do you find most difficult about making friends?
Hannah: The most difficult things about making friends is deciding if I actually have time for new/more friends! Between working a full time job, working a part time gig, volunteering for a few organizations, and maintaining my existing friendships and relationship, it’s hard to imagine adding anything (or anyone) new to the mix.
The Duchess: The most difficult thing for me is finding new friends to make these days! I have been told I don’t look very approachable, but I am also not much of a people person. I can socialize easily, but I find it very difficult to connect with people on a personal level. That combined with the lack of social situations at which to meet new people go hand in hand.
Do you feel like it’s harder to make new friends as an adult? What’s different about the process now than when you were younger?
Hannah: I’m not sure that it’s harder to make friends as an adult, it’s just different. When you run into someone in public that you think is really cool and that you could be friends with, it’s hard to approach them and furthermore hard to make plans with them. The people you meet at work can be friends, but it’s rare you spend time with them outside of work unless you really click. Adults are busy, and making new friends isn’t really a priority for most. I’ve been really lucky to be able to participate in activities outside of work, more attuned to my personal interests, where I’ve made some friends as an adult. I think it helps to have hobbies to help you meet people who have made priorities out of the things you both enjoy.
The Duchess: It is 100x harder to make new friends in your late 30’s. When I was younger I feel like a lot of my friendships were very surface level. I was also betrayed by women who were supposed to have my back because I gave my friendship so freely. Once your trust has been violated in a friendship that makes you a lot more careful about who you let into your circle. I also had more opportunity in my twenties to meet girlfriends because I went out six days a week. I don’t live the same lifestyle I did at that time in my life.
How do you keep your friendships healthy?
Hannah: I keep my friendships healthy by setting goals with my friends. For instance, if it’s a long-distance friend that’s moved away, we might set a goal together to talk on the phone once every week, and visit once every 3 months. If it’s a friend at home, maybe we’ll set a goal to get together every other week. That way, the commitment falls on both people to stay in touch and keep things interesting. I also love to send my friends postcards, even if they live in the same city as me! It’s an extremely simple reminder that someone is thinking of you.
The Duchess: I keep my friendships healthy by being available. The older I get the less time I spend with my friends. Pretty much all of my friendships at this time in my life have been for over ten years. I don’t get to talk to or spend a ton of time with a lot of them. We have different schedules, are in different stages of our lives, and some of them live in other states. But, when things get hard and my friends need me, I am there. I also make time when the opportunity opens to be with my friends. It could be another two years before we see each other with some of them.
How have friendships of yours changed over time, and what did you do to keep them meaningful?
Hannah: It’s been interesting transitioning into full-blown adulthood with some of my friends. We’ve gone from slumber parties to all-nighters in college to drunken wine nights on our couches complaining about commuting to work, and sometimes it’s bizarre to see how much things have changed. In order to keep my friendships meaningful as we’re all entering the stressful space of “adulting,” I think it’s been so important to remember that we’re all going to tackle it in our own unique ways, and we’re going to find extremely different opportunities along the way, and to just be unconditionally joyful for your friends while they figure it out. It can be hard to avoid comparing yourself to your friends when one is getting engaged and the other got a raise in her first year at work and another is traveling the globe; just being happy that we’re all ending up where we’re supposed to be preserves meaning, because our journeys all started in the same place and nothing can change that. We’ve got the same roots.
The Duchess: I have let go of a lot of friendships in the last couple of years. The reason was because I grew out of them. Some friendships have cycles and when I was a party girl they were great girlfriends. But, as a lot has changed in my life spiritually and I’ve come to realize that those friendships were only about fun. I couldn’t name some of my friends’ favorite song, food, or band; I didn’t know anything about them. I also am married, in my late thirties, living in a very traditional conservative city, and I am child-free by choice. I started not being included in a lot of activities because they felt that since I am not a mom we could not relate. Now the friendships I do have are few, but I really do cherish them. I trust and care about my girlfriends unconditionally. They love me for who I am without judgement and I don’t have any drama in my life anymore.
How do you cope with losing friends/growing apart from friends?
Hannah: I have grown apart from so many friends in the last five years: college and graduating college are turbulent times. I’ve coped with growing apart from people by recognizing that growth is a natural and inevitable course in life, and not everyone grows at the same speed or in the same direction (I own 28 house plants, I should know). I think it’s really beautiful to be able to watch friends and acquaintances from my past succeed and head in the direction they’re happiest with; it makes me realize that I’m doing the same.
The Duchess: Some friendships have their season and then they are released. But, sometimes there really is a break-up and it is really hard. I had a girlfriend whom I never once had an issue with over the ten years we spent together. Then we suddenly had drama as a result of an outside situation blowing up. We just stopped talking one day. Both of us were stubborn and neither ever reached out to the other. A few years have passed and I still think about my old friend. I do miss her and wonder what if, but sometimes things go unsaid for too long, and that is that.
How do you balance friendships and relationships?
Hannah: I have yet to figure this out. I hate double-dating for the most part, so that’s never going to be a great way to balance my time, and I find that when I have the choice to hang with my boyfriend or hangout with a girlfriend, I almost always choose my man. I feel like I’m getting better at this as I’m getting older (and as my taste in men improves, because college is a weird time in a girl’s life), but I still struggle constantly with finding time for my relationship and then all of my individual friendships. As much fun as hanging out in a group is, and having drinks with all of the girls, you can’t help but want that one-on-one time with your friends to really check in on each other. However, I only have 7 days in a week and when we’re spread out over the entire midwest/globe it makes things tricky. When I figure this one out, I’ll let you know.
The Duchess: Before my husband, my serious boyfriend and I were in the same social circle. It was both a blessing and a curse. We always hung out with our friends even when we didn’t want to be around each other and it was rather dramatic. But, when I met my husband he was an outsider so we had to make our rounds so he could get to know my friends. That made things easy because everyone was interested in meeting this mystery man. But, now we have our couples that we mesh with easily so we tend to invest more time in hanging out with them.
As you can see, friendships you have now and have had in the past are constantly growing and changing over time, for any multitude of reasons. Getting married, having (or not having) kids, graduating from school, moving, lifestyle changes, and any other number of things can get in the way of your relationships, challenging their strength and resilience. Friendships can present us with equal parts stress and relief, depending on where we are in life; it’s important to recognize the good and the bad, and decide who in the long run is worth all of it.
A study from Harvard University has shown that women live longer and healthier lives when they have a “tribe,” or a tight-knit group of friends. The study didn’t include how many people need to be in your tribe, just that it’s important to have one. The study also didn’t say it needed to be the exact same people your entire life. Recognize that friendships and all relationships are dynamic and transformative connections that we share with others, and let yours be as fluid as you need them to be.
Find the people who bring you joy, offer you support, and who refuse to pass judgement on you: keep them close. When you grow apart, or life gets messy and in the way, allow yourself some space and move on, or revisit your old friendships and work things out. Do what feels good to you, to your family, and to your tribe. One thing is certain though: none of us can get through this life alone – we truly do need friends.
So, call up your college girls when you need a weekend away. Get in touch with your long-lost childhood best friend when you need to feel young and carefree again. Write a letter to your current best friend to let them know how much you love them. Send an apologetic card to that friend you fought with two years ago, even if you don’t want to see them again. Meet new people and be open to them becoming a part of your life. Go out one afternoon by yourself and be your own friend for a day. Explore all of your options, be open to change, and make sure you know who your friends are – you’re going to need them.
Hannah & The Duchess