For many men and women, the schedule is already jam-packed with work, childcare responsibilities and other domesticated duties. Making time for a night out or afternoon coffee feels like more chaos to an already stressful itinerary.
The alternative is much worse Ė burn out or snapping beneath the pressure.
After all, we need opportunities to chat about similar hobbies and interests. We need an outlet for negative thoughts and feelings. We need another source of support when things get tough. Having sturdy friendships offers resilience, comfort and reduces the pressures of marriage.
In my life, I find that I have a few groups of different friends. Sometimes we get together in those same groups, and sometimes we have one-on-one time. I know this is the case for many people, and it makes it difficult to divide up your time to nurture each friendship.
Additionally, careers, children and other circumstances move people in different directions and to new places. Naturally, relationships become strained by distance or changes. Thatís where creativity is required to keep the relationship steady.
Keeping connected doesnít have to be that hard. While Iím certainly guilty of falling out of touch with plenty of people, I have found that even basic activities can provide enough momentum for the relationship.
These are ideas I have found helpful to staying connected:
The friends I graduated high school with love to read. We have similar taste in books and enjoy chatting about them. The natural and logical response to this was to create a book club. Thus, we assured we met up at least once a month at someone elseís house.
Reading is a hobby unique to us, but there are plenty of other hobbies that can be channeled. Sports, working out, shopping or any other interest can be used in the same fashion.
I find it helpful to develop rituals and routines with friends to assure quality time. Recently, my friend and I agreed to meet up once a week and spend the evening engaged in creative endeavors. Another close friend and I meet up at Starbucks or enjoy breakfast together. We aim to do this at least once a month.
Try to utilize lost time for friendships. Two days a week, I have a 45-minute commute. One of my best friends works from home and is able to use her lunch breaks to chat with me. One to two times a week, we are able to catch up and support each other.
Make use of social networking. This is a simple one that most of us do anyway. Take advantage of the event making tool on Facebook. I have noticed my friends using these tools for planning parties, gatherings, book club or other social events. I learn a lot more about my friendsí lifestyles and interests from Facebook and Pinterest. Text messaging, while impersonal, is still better than nothing. Itís a quick way to remind a friend you are thinking of him or her.
Depending on how many obligations you have, time spent with friends will probably still be at a minimum. This makes it vital to make use of the time you have with friends. This can be done in a variety of ways.
First, limit distractions if you are already on a short time table. Meet up somewhere simple with few opportunities to get in the way of conversation and quality time.
Venting is important, but donít spend the entire time sharing frustrations. Balance some of the tough experiences with the good ones and help your friend see some of the positivity, too. This will help you focus on what is going well in your life, not just whatís going wrong.
For females, itís especially important to validate and empathize with girlfriends. Typically, we know the solutions to our own problems, so itís not as helpful to try to fix your friendís issues. Advice is just fine, but make sure your friend is actually looking for it first.
Schedule the next outing while you are out with your friend. I find this beneficial because itís easy to forget or put off scheduling the next event. Plus, itís easier to do face-to-face rather than through the phone or computer.
While this one is obvious, I have been guilty of it before. It can be easy to monopolize the conversation, especially if something big has happened in your life or you are managing difficult circumstances. Be sure you are sharing the talk time with your friend and itís not completely one sided.
Now, these ideas are great if you have a steady group of friends, but what if you donít? Making friends is nerve racking, but definitely worth the discomfort. Before you begin, start by considering the types of friends youíre looking for. Remember to have an open mind. Different isnít bad. Second, think about the reservoir of potential friendships you have not tapped into. Does your significant other have friends with wives or husbands you could connect with? Could you hang out with your sibling and his or her friends for a night? What about work or school? Could you build any relationships in that environment? Is there anyone youíve lost touched with over the years that would be happy to hear from you?
It may not be necessary to start from scratch, but if thatís the case, itís probably best to start by choosing a hobby or interest to pursue. Meeting friends while engaged in some social group or activity reduces some of the battle, because at least they already have one hobby in common with you. The more time you spend engaged in different kinds of social activity, the better your chances at meeting new friends.
This may all be much harder than it sounds, but the energy devoted to these relationships will not be regretted. Because when youíre 85, and still getting pedicures and coffee with your best friend, youíll reap the benefits of those invested years Ė even if you donít remember every laugh or tear.
Published: July 19, 2012