How do we maintain friendships?

If you haven’t read my last post on making friends, take a pause and check it out first. 

As I mentioned in my last post, it can be hard to make friends at any stage in life, but I have found it especially challenging in adulthood. I’ve heard people say “I can’t make new friends, I can’t even keep up with the ones I do have.” So how do we do it? How do we maintain and strengthen the relationships we already have? (Especially right now as we are being told to socially distance.)

You have to prioritize. 

I hate to even say this out loud, because I wish it weren’t true, but you can’t be friends with everyone. To me, strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet. I want to be friends with everyone. There have been seasons in my life when I’ve tried to be close to all the people, all the time. When I’ve done that, even though it may have seemed that I was thriving relationally, my relationships have felt shallow and strained. You can’t be close to everyone, take it from me. You have to prioritize.

How?

Start off by making a list. Who do you feel closest to? Then next to the names you write down, write down how often you see them. 

What do you notice?

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I find that I spend the least amount of time with the people I feel the closest to . 

How do we change that?

Learn to say no.

We are so much more in control of our time than we act like we are. We don’t want to miss out and we certainly don’t want our kids to miss out, so we say “yes” to things that we should really say “no” to. Friendships grow and are sustained with time and through shared experiences. If we truly value our friendships we need to learn to say no to good things so we can say yes to great things.

Reach out.

I mentioned this in my last blog post, but most people desire close, deep friendships – yet very few people initiate them. Don’t be that person, take the first step. Make the call. Set up the coffee date. I get it, it’s hard to be the pursuer. But look at your options. 1. You can choose not to reach out and live a lonely life. 2. Or you reach out, connect with the people you love and live a fulfilling life. 

Remember, don’t confuse people’s lack of pursuit with a lack of desire to connect. We are created to live in community. People have a deep desire to connect,  but oftentimes don’t know where to start.

Be creative in connecting.

Covid has really forced me to re-evaluate the way I connect with people. I am a quality time person, so the more I see people the more connected I feel to them. Historically I have dreaded phone conversations. Why talk on the phone when you can meet someone in person? I wouldn’t ever consider Facetime, it felt too impersonal. Then Covid hit. I resisted at first, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to stay connected with my people, I was going to have to be creative. Please hear this: nothing will ever replace the connection you feel to someone when you are with them in person. But even outside of a pandemic, there might be times where meeting up for a weekly coffee just isn’t realistic. That doesn’t mean the friendships need to be over,  you just have to be creative. 

Here are a few creative ways I have found to stay connected with people when I can’t see them in person:

-Don’t have time for a coffee date? Set up a time to Facetime with a friend after the kids go to bed. 

-Set up a time to talk on the phone. I know, I hate talking on the phone. But you know what, I love my people more than I hate talking on the phone.

-Invite a friend to do something with you that you are already doing. Do you need to workout? Workout with a friend. Do you need to go grocery shopping? Meet up and grocery shop together. Do you need to prepare meals? Do it with a friend. 

-Text someone to just let them know you are thinking about them. Ask them how they are doing and follow up with something they shared in a past conversation. That point of connection can go a long way and strengthen a relationship. 

-Set up your next get -together while you are still together. Then guard that time as if it were an important appointment. There have been so many times where I have left a conversation genuinely saying “Let’s do this again soon” and then months go by with no contact. 

-Put your phone down and shut your TV off. Do you have time for TV? If so, you have time for your friends!

Know when to let go 

It is important to reach out to your friends. There are times when you have to be creative to keep friendships alive. Then there are times when you need to be willing to let go. I don’t know where or when I established this rule, but I will only reach out to people 3 times. If I don’t get a response after 3 times, I don’t take it personally, but I move on. Either that person is too busy to connect, is not interested in connecting at that time or isn’t interested in connecting with me at all. That’s okay! If they reach out later on, I will welcome them with open arms. It’s important to reach out, but not to overwhelm. 

Remember, some people are in your life for a season. 

I touched on this in my last post, but I believe that God brings people into our lives for different reasons, for different seasons. Our needs are different in different seasons and places. That’s okay! If your friendships change when your circumstances change, don’t despair. Thank God for those people and the purpose they played in your life. 

(Side note: I  don’t think this should be the case for all your friendships. It’s important to have people that can speak into your life that you have depth and history with.)

It’s okay to grieve when friendships change. 

I’m not saying that every time your friendships change, you need to go through an agoniszing grief process. But there are times you might need to,; it’s okay, embrace the process. When my kids were little, I had a best friend. We did everything together. We worked out together. We went to church together. We raised our kids together. Her husband got a job out of state and she moved. I was devastated. I found myself mad at her, I couldn’t believe she left me. What I realized was that I needed to grieve. I needed to grieve the fact that our lives and our friendship were changing. When I was able to do that, I didn’t find myself mad at her anymore. Our friendship looked different, but that didn’t mean it was over. When I was able to grieve what had been, I was open to what it could be.

Learn from your mistakes.

Some of your friendships will end and they won’t end well. Do what you can to make things right and then you have to let go. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Just because one friendship didn’t work, doesn’t mean others will not.

We need friends more than ever.

I don’t know about you, but in these uncertain times I need friends more than ever. We weren’t created to go on this journey alone. So make a list, make a call and make a plan. Send a text, FaceTime a friend, do whatever it takes to connect.

 I promise you, my friend, you won’t regret it.

Because there is more,

Lisa

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