Our friendships change over time, and can get better and deeper as we get older.
Recently I was thinking about friendship and how it has changed as I’ve gotten older.
I often hear people lament about not making new friends or expressing how hard it is to maintain friendships as life is busy. I can definitely relate and have been wondering if more people feel this way.
I’ve often thought a great tool would be an app to help remind me to reach out to people on a more regular basis. It isn’t that people don’t cross my mind or I don’t enjoy their company. It’s that, like most people, the days turn to weeks and suddenly it has been three months since I reached out to some friends. We exchange a few tweets or comment on a Facebook post, but that isn’t really catching up. And these challenges aren’t just with current friends. It seems to be even more difficult to build on relationships with new ones.
Out of curiosity I posted a few questions on Facebook recently, asking friends about their experience.
The questions I asked were:
- Is it harder to make friends as you get older?
- Is this different for men/women?
- Does it bother you or just part of life?
There were five main themes that arose from the responses, and that I could definitely relate to:
1. Phases of life
As I think about the close friends I have now, very few of them are ones that have been around for years. At each stage of life we tend to have people come and go in our lives. This got me to thinking about my parents and the friends they stay in touch with.
My middle name is Jeffries. It was chosen from one of my father’s good friends in college. I’ve met him a couple of times, the last time maybe thirty years ago. I think my father has been in touch a few times more recently, but it certainly isn’t often.
Point is, we go through phases in life as it relates to friends. There is a natural coming and going of people in our lives as we get older. People move, get divorced, change jobs, etc. These things all impact the close circle of friends and while it can be disappointing that people we were close to aren’t in our lives anymore, understanding that this is a natural thing can make it easier to accept.
2. Social Media
One of the best things about Twitter is being able to connect to new people with similar interests and ideas, affording us the opportunity to not only share them through social media, but also turn those into real life friendships.
I host a weekly podcast (shameless plug: @inkblotpodcast on Twitter) with a good friend I first met through Twitter. Facebook, while it certainly contributes to being irritated at the different political opinions from old friends and family, has given me the ability to reconnect with people I only knew a little bit years ago, and create a new, more mature dynamic. We may not have had much in common on the surface, or didn’t know each other well in high school, but some times personal things are shared on social media that really strike a chord and give people the opportunity to reconnect.
As one of my friends said, “It has gotten easier to make friends, but harder to find time to spend with them.”
It’s an obvious idea that most of our friends come from proximity to our lives.
One of the Facebook responses said, “Daycare is the new bar scene.”
It’s accurate. Our lives are generally pretty predictable day to day. We have routines around work, the gym, our kids’ school or daycare and people we see in the neighborhood. As we go through the same routines each day, we tend to see the same relatively few people.
I recently finished a two year leadership program that included 120 people from all over the metro, different industries and backgrounds. I knew a few people going in, but most I didn’t. I couldn’t think of one person I knew before with jobs like architect, commercial real estate developer, employment attorney and many more professions. Prior to this program, I wouldn’t have realized my circle of friends was so limited.
As we get older, we get more comfortable in our own skin, build families, and settle in. We are less willing to put up with bullshit…whether that at work or with friends.
So where we want to spend our time and energy becomes very narrow. A significant focus of our time and energy is obviously split between work and family. We have more responsibility as we get older and the quiet alone time becomes much more valuable. While I have a long list of people I need and want to catch up with, a quiet night on my couch restores some energy and helps relieve stress. Our choices change.
5. Quality over quantity
There may have been a time when you wanted a lot of friends, and, of course, the party was much bigger if that was the case.
The older I get, the more I realize it is certainly quality over quantity.
Our discernment in what type of people make us better and add to our lives becomes much stronger the older we get. The friendships we have become more valuable.
There is certainly something to be said for the friends that have been with you for a long time, but that doesn’t replace the need to continue to add friends to our lives as we get older and go through different experiences. It takes more time and effort to build these relationships later in life, but they can often be the most rewarding.
Photo Credit: flickr.com/FredJohnsson
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