So here is the truth:
I have a lot of friends. Really, really good friends.
I hold them dear and close like family. The friendships don’t end or disappear after a few years, but keep accumulating.
And so my social calendar has to stay VERY busy to maintain all the relationships.
It can be hard. It can be overwhelming. It can be an enormous amount of effort.
And…IT. IS. WORTH. IT.
In my second career, I’m gonna coach people on friendship. I’m gonna write books on how to make and maintain friends.
But this isn’t a book, so I’ll just give you the Cliffs Notes version.
For just a moment I would like to be Tough Love with you…
If you think you are too busy for friends, you are incorrect. If you think you don’t need friends, again, you are mistaken. If you want to tell me about how your friends don’t show up for you or disappoint you all the time, well then, you should get better friends.
And the easiest way to get better friends is to be a better friend.
In my life I have been a good friend 95% of the time.
That 5% when I messed up was because I was too self-centered, too lazy, or too distracted to be a good friend.
I’m not proud of those times.
Just like in a romantic relationship, owning up to mistakes and hurtful behavior in friendships is hard, but important. Even though you don’t want to, you have to talk about it.
And I have found that in every friendship, we grew closer when we worked through misunderstandings.
Another thing you should know is that the relationships you have with your friends will suffer as you transition into different phases in life.
My single early twenties looked different than do my work-focused late thirties.
Relationships, kids, travel, and family all require time and attention, and all of those things change our schedules and what we like to do for fun.
I am 38 and don’t have children.
My core friend group started having children 13 years ago. Of my 20 closest friends, only four others are childless.
This means I spend a lot of time at kiddos’ birthdays, at home picnics, going on walks during nap times, or “visiting” on the phone.
While all of these are good, it changes the dynamic of our hanging out and sometimes I get salty because it feels like I put in more effort.
When I start thinking that way I ask myself, what’s really at the heart of the problem?
For me, friendship is a priority and my feelings get hurt when it seems I am forgotten about for years while people raise their kids.
I am sure you have all either been this friend or had this friend in your life, and so how do you grow closer during the struggle?
Well, the first thing I do is to stop thinking about myself. I try to put myself in the shoes of my parent friends and imagine how they are feeling. True friendship isn’t selfish and isn’t all about me and what I need.
Sometimes being the best friend means showing up for stuff that is important to the person you love.
Another fix is to continue making new friends who are available to go out socially. And I also started planning monthly hangouts with my parent friends.
This way I don’t focus on what we used to do or how different the friendships have become, but instead on get-togethers that let me appreciate my friends for exactly where they are in life.
In a perfect world, you would transition through all of life’s phases synchronized with your best friends. But that didn’t happen for me, and it probably only happens for a very lucky few.
What I’ve learned is that being a good friend means being interested and available even when your lives look very different.
I see my friends during toddler bath time, at kindergarten graduations, during soccer games, or for “middle-of-the-night” phone calls (I go to sleep late!).
It also means that a few times a year, moms dress up in sparkles, in wigs, in robot costumes, in regency attire, in pleather and in furs, and we all dance together until the wee hours.
Also, I cannot stress enough how much effort I put into having friends.
I plan and host social gatherings at least twice a week.
I also always show up.
Weddings, birthdays, funerals and big life moments don’t get skipped. My housework often suffers from our schedule, but our friendships never do.
What I’ve really learned is that we talk about friends and fun like they go hand-in-hand, but really to me friendship and family are more closely tied.
I have stood side-by-side with these women through it all. I don’t have a single big life memory where they weren’t beside me.
We’ve been through divorces, heartbreak, the loss of parents, of children, of husbands. Through sickness, through job loss, home loss, and when we’ve lost our identities.
And there will be so much more to come, because these are the people I will grow old with.
So now that I feel like my lady friendships are in a great place, I’m taking on friendships with men as a married woman...
More to come!