I have a confession to make: when it comes to making friends and friendships, I’m pretty hopeless. Not intentionally! I have always only had a small number of people around me that I consider real “friends”, even though I have many acquaintances and chat to many people in my day to day life.
That isn’t to say that you can judge a person by the number of friends he or she has. When it comes to friendships, I strongly believe in quality over quantity.
I’m hopeless because I have let so many friendships, or potential friendships, slide away because I was always too busy to keep up with everyone. Sometimes months and years would go by before I would see a friend. One of my oldest friends: we would see each other once every two or three years and the beauty was that when we did finally catch up, it was as though we had just seen each other the previous week. Time never mattered to us, and we both understood that we were leading completely different lives with different priorities.
But ideally, we should be making more time to cultivate strong friendships because friends are people who bring us happiness and help us out when we are in need. Friends are an extension of our families and in many cases, friends ARE our families. As the saying goes, we can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends.
An article in the Huffington Post in 2012 outlined the results of a British study into friendships amongst middle aged people and found that people aged in their 50s who had at least 6 close friends were happier than those who had fewer or no friends. The article also pointed out that there have been studies that show that friendships have just as much an impact on the risk of death as smoking, obesity, drinking and physical activity do.
But why are we too busy for our friends? What makes us put busyness ahead of friendships?
Investment in the wrong friendships
Often the issue surrounding spending the time with our friends and working on our friendships is that we often invest time with the wrong types of friends- people who in fact are not our friends and do not deserve our friendship. This brings about feelings of resentment, anger, stress and tiredness. Who wants to spend time with someone who brings us down, someone who brings out the worst in us? Yes friends are allowed to have disagreements and issues, but there comes a time when we have to cut ourselves free from this type of friendship and accept that it’s time to move on.
Our time is valuable, and we want to spend our valuable time with people we care about who nurture us and bring out the best in us. These are the kinds of people we want to hang out with, laugh with and share life’s special moments with.
Getting caught up in life
When we begin a new stage in our lives, sometimes our friends take a back seat. It could be that we have married before our friends have, or have started a family and are going through different trials and tribulations to what our friends are. This can cause two friends to suddenly find that they no longer have anything in common, or they have to make more of an effort to find the time to spend together.
I can definitely attest to this. Getting married, having kids and moving to a new part of the city caused me to become so focused in what I was doing that I drifted away from many friends I had beforehand. Again, not intentionally, but because we were leading different lives. I didn’t feel like going out on a Friday night when I had a baby I was breastfeeding. Sitting at home in my pyjamas watching TV started sounding more appealing than weekends out partying. That’s just life.
But when we start to focus more on things that are not truly important, and we are so stuck in our busyness that we can’t even look up to see what’s going on around us, that’s when we need to start asking ourselves whether our priorities need to be shifted. Are you working two jobs, not having the time to spend with those you care about and not seeing your friends because you need more money to be able to buy more things: a bigger house, better car, better appliances? Are these things that important to you that you are willing to stop spending time with friends? Lose a valuable friendship over?
Our own definitions of friendship
How we define friendships may play a role in the amount of time we invest in them. Do we hold onto friendships we have had for over 20 years regardless of what is going on in the present moment- are we turning a blind eye to things that are hurting us, because we have known Johnny since we were five years old? Are we too afraid to get out there and meet new people? Do we have a “comfort zone” of close friends and are too comfortable to introduce someone new to our group? Is making friends more difficult when you are an adult than when you are a child? The answers to these questions may be contributing to not creating new friendships.
Today is the International Day of Friendship, a day to think about the friendships we currently have and maybe look forward to the new people we will be friends with in years to come. Let’s try and spend a few minutes today catching up with our mates: maybe a quick phone call, a text or email. Let’s think about the types of friendships we now have- are there any that we can begin to let go of? Let’s spend some time engaging in a conversation with someone new we have just met. Who knows where the friendship will lead to?