I’m excited to write this post because the importance of making time for friends as an adult is something I’m super passionate about. I absolutely love and cherish my friendships. I’m crazy about my friends! I know everyone feels this way, but I truly think I have the best friends in the world. I feel so lucky to have so many friends from so many parts of my life. When Edwin and I got married, my bridesmaids consisted of family members (my sister, sister-in-law, and one cousin), friends from preschool, friends from elementary school, friends from high school, friends from college, and friends from post-collage (my bachelorette was a blast!).
Two of my other besties passed out programs and two of my best male friends were ushers in our wedding. Edwin’s groomsmen and ushers were equally represented from across his life. In addition to those 32 people (yes, 32!), we had another four 10-top tables at our wedding of friends between both Edwin and me. Just writing those last few sentences makes me want to pinch myself because friendships are such a blessing and I feel forever fortunate for mine. However, I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have friends from so many different stages of life. Maintaining friendships takes work and effort and lifelong friendships don’t just happen overnight! Below are my thoughts on changing/evolving relationships, letting go of friendships, and how to successfully maintain friendships as an adult.
There are definitely phases of life when friendships line up more and are more effortless. For example, if you go to the same school as your friends, then you see them everyday. Also, when you are in college, you live with and see your friends constantly. This is the best and such a joyous time of life! However, even in those circumstances, the above isn’t always the case. I met one of my best friends in preschool and we didn’t go to elementary school, high school, or college together (we did go to middle school together!) so we always had to carve out time for our friendship. I didn’t go to high school with many of my best friends and then I didn’t go to college with any of my best friends. Still to this day, we are still as close as ever! Spoiler alert, it took effort!
Another thing I find so fascinating about friendships is that we all change as individuals within friendships. Now, at 28 years-old, my friends and I are in more different stages of life than ever before. In middle school, high school, and college we were all more of less going through the same things (i.e. school, sports, extracurriculars, parties, jobs etc) and living relatively similar lives (with or without significant others). At this point in my life, Edwin and I am married but we don’t have kids yet.
I have some friends who are in the exact same spot as me, which is incredibly fun!
We relate to our stage in life in so many ways! However, I also have friends that are single and dating, single and career-focused, in relationships, engaged, and married with kids. I have friends living busy city lives, friends living slower suburb lives, and friends living abroad. I have friends starting new companies, friends deciding to stay home as mothers, and friends who are students in grad school. In addition, I have friends buying houses and friends renting apartments. Never before in our lives have we all been at such different stages of life!
No stage of life is the “right” stage to be at as we are all at the exact right stage for ourselves! In fact, the other day, one of my best friends said “we are just a little bit behind you and Edwin.” I remarked that she and her husband are absolutely not behind because we are on our own timelines and there is no “perfect” place to be. You can image though that, with so many of us experiencing drastically different things and stages of life right now, we are very busy and very wrapped up in our own lives. We can all relate to each other in completely different ways too! My friends who are mothers have their own thing going on that I simply can’t relate to because I haven’t experienced motherhood yet (and that’s okay that they share that and we don’t!).
With changing and evolving friendships, I’ve learned that the most important thing to do is to listen and be present.
While I can’t personally relate to being a mother, or to living in the hustle and bustle of New York City while starting a new company, or to the ups and downs of dating in Los Angeles, or to still being in graduate school, I can listen to my friends when they share their highs and lows and be present for them. A friendship is a two way street so I try to be as present as I can be in my half of the friendship. By present, I don’t always mean physically present. I can be present by picking up the phone, sending a birthday card, or asking for photos of my friends baby/office/classroom/significant other etc.
While people evolve, friendships evolve. We become increasingly busy with our own lives and we may become increasingly closer to our friends at the same life stages as us. Before you know it, so much time can pass and with that time, friendships can fade. Your world will get smaller and I promise you that you will wake up one day yearning for your friends and for more than a very small circle of family. As your friends evolve and your friendships change with that evolution, continue to be present because you will learn so much and be so enriched from their unique experiences and stage of life! I have friends who are incredibly similar to me and friends who are incredibly different than me and I treasure and treat both types of friends equally!
Letting Go of Friendships
I just spent quite a bit of time talking about how it is natural for friendships to evolve and that it’s so important to maintain those friendships during times of change; however, it is also okay and healthy to let go of friendships. I have definitely let go of my fair share of friendships over the years and I really don’t look back with regret. Now, I would regret it if a friend slipped away because we both got caught up and stopped picking up the phone. However, I do not regret letting go of friends who became a source of negativity in my life.
Time is precious and we only have so much of it. We all balance so many different things from family, kids, spouses, significant others, dating, jobs, health + fitness, school, faith etc. and all of this doesn’t leave a ton of extra time for friends. The time you have for friends should be a source of joy and positivity not stress, self-doubt, or negativity. This is a huge lesson I’ve learned throughout my life.
My time and relationships are precious!
So if a friend brings me down, isn’t a morally good person, is stress inducing, is super negative or pessimistic, or is hurtful, then I absolutely don’t feel the need to nurture or maintain that friendship. In all honesty, it can take years to come to this revelation about certain friends because it is natural to want to see the best in people and because negative actions can often be sneaky. I’m here to tell you that it is okay to move past these people even if it is tough to actually do so in the present moment. I promise you will feel lighter and more grateful for your amazing friends!
Truly invaluable friends are ones that light you up, celebrate your successes and happiness, support you through loss, stress & change, make your heart sing, and make you strive to do the same things for them as well. With all types of friendships, listen to your heart and follow your gut. You will know which relationships serve you and which don’t. Be brave and stick up for yourself and for your true friends! You’ll be able to be a better friend to the friends you love, if you let go of the friendships that no longer serve you.
How to Successfully Maintain Friendships
Now that I’ve shared my thoughts on evolving friendships and letting go of friendships, you might be wondering how to successfully maintain the friendships you want in your life. Let’s dive into it with my tips!
1. Work the Calendar.
I think it’s important to not let busy schedules get in the way of nurturing friendships.
– For friends who live in your same city or town, reach out to plan get-togethers in advance. You can set a standing date (say, the first Thursday of every month) and rotate where to meet. Everyone will know to keep their calendars open that day and those who can make it will be there.
– Create a Google Doc for your friend group to use to find weekends you are all free. My college friends and I do this because we live all over the country! We pick a season (say, fall) and put every weekend date in a google document. We then all go in and enter our availability of yes, no, or maybe. Super quickly we can see which weekend works best for everyone so we can plan a trip!
– Know your schedule and maximize it. For example, Edwin travels a lot for work. When I know he has a big work trip coming up, I look ahead to my calendar and reach out to friends to schedule coffees, lunches, drinks, dinners, workouts etc. because I know it’s a great opportunity for me to dedicate my time of my friends! P.S. it took a few work trips of Edwin’s for the lightbulb to go off for me to do this!
2. Pick up the Phone.
I know talking on the phone can take up time and be inconvenient when it’s so easy to text and DM but keeping up on the phone has been one of the single best ways I’ve maintained my friendships. As mentioned, my friends live all over the United States in four different time zones. It can be difficult to connect but I find the time. When I am in the car driving anywhere that will take more than 15 minutes, I pick up the phone and call a friend. When I am folding laundry, I call a friend. Also, when I am walking our dog, I call a friend. And, when I am making dinner, I call a friend instead of putting the tv on in the background. It is amazing how much better I feel in my day-to-day life when I connect with my friends!
3. Don’t Underestimate the Little Things.
Little things can go so far in people’s lives. There are simple things you can do like popping a birthday card in the mail or sending flowers to celebrate an accomplishment, promotion, engagement, or baby announcement. There are also super thoughtful but incredibly easy things you can do like sending your friend an Uber Eats gift card when you know they are stuck at the office late and won’t be able to leave for dinner or are struggling with a loss and too down to make dinner.
Your friends are your friends for a reason but they can’t read your mind. Be open and honest with your friends instead of placing blame or hiding from confrontation by closing off lines of communication. This brings me to my next tip…
5. Apologize and Forgive.
Earlier this year, I unintentionally brought up a point of stress in a friend’s life. I thought I was highlighting a positive that came out of it but instead I just reminded my friend of past pain. I could see how much it hurt her feelings. About an hour after it happened, we had a moment to be alone and I went straight to her and apologized. I burst into tears because it crushed me that I hurt her feeling so much but we both moved on immediately after the short and simple apology.
Just like that, we understood each other, hugged, professed our love for each other, and went back to our otherwise great day. I know she would apologize to me if the rolls were reserved so we love and respect each other so much! Can you imagine if I didn’t apologize and let that fester and get buried away? If I took the easy way and didn’t apologize, then I bet I’d be doing it in other similar situations. Overtime, what kind of friendship would that be? Forgiveness is a great skill but still lots of damage would be done in the first place.
6. Recognize that we are all at Different Stages of Life.
As I mentioned above, my friends and I are all experiencing different things right now and are all at drastically different stages of life. I bet that if you are in your 20s or 30s that this is true for you and your friends too. Recognize that this is okay and that we are all evolving, but that it doesn’t mean we can’t still reach out and support one another at our different stages of life.
7. Maintain your Relationship with Yourself.
Just as it’s impossible to have a healthy and loving relationship with a significant other if you don’t love yourself first, it’s impossible to maintain relationships with your friends if you don’t maintain a relationship with yourself first. Be your own best friend because people are attracted to and can feel that! Support yourself and give yourself grace so that you can do the same for your friends. There will be times in your life when you have to put yourself first and when you have less time for friends. That’s okay because once you invest in yourself, it will pay out in the long run with your other relationships.
8. Put in the Effort.
If a friendship is important to you and worth it to you, then reach out, be present, be supportive, and be a champion of your friend. I promise that if you do this, your friend will be doing it back to you! Let your friends, near and far, know how much you mean to them! Remember, a simple phone call goes a long way. 🙂
How do you maintain your friendships as an adult? I’d love to hear any strategies that work for you and your friends! Thanks for reading such a lengthy post! xx