How to Make Meaningful Friendships as an Adult

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Do you wish you had more friends? Wishing for the good old days when you had a big circle of friends to support you through life’s ups and downs.

It can be hard to admit to yourself that you are lonely but think of it as an invitation. I think loneliness is a sign we need to reach out to others. But what’s stopping you from connecting with others?

You are not alone. It is much harder to make friends after you start your own family or enter the workforce. Your friends no longer live in your neighborhood or go to the same school. It is harder to have consistent contact when you are balancing jobs, kids, and marriage.

In Shasta Nelson’s book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen (The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends), she gives hope for adults wanting to make friendships work amidst their busy, mobile, active lives. Shasta shed’s light on assumptions we make as well as offering practical tips for meeting new people.

4 Ingredients for Co-creating Meaningful Friendships

While Shasta’s book is packed with practical tips and stories about friendship making endeavors, I think the following highlight her main points. In co-creating meaningful friendships, it is important to add these 4 ingredients:

1. Embrace Variation in Friendships: The friendships we create won’t all be our best friends. Embrace all friendships, even though they possess varying levels of intimacy. We need more types of friendships than we think. In her book, Shasta identifies 5 types of friendships along a continuum.

“I developed the ‘Circles of Connectedness Continuum’ to help women visualize the varying shades of relationships based on two primary factors that create friendship: consistency and intimacy.” ~ Shasta Nelson, Author & Coach

When you realize all of your different types of friendships are valuable, you can more readily enjoy each of them. You may even invest more in the ones you want to get to know better. And you will stop stressing about the ones that aren’t as deep as you would like.

2. Keep Your Arms Open to Friendship: Once you realize that no one friend will completely meet all your needs, you start to welcome all new friends into your life. It’s unrealistic to think that one friend will relate to all of your interests and be with you through all of life’s stages. If you accept that friendships will always be changing, you are less likely to fear getting hurt. There is always another friend to meet, grow, and let go.

“We are all amazing women, even when we feel lonely. Our worth doesn’t drop one iota when we recognize that we need to make new friends.” ~Shasta Nelson

3. Make Consistent Contact: I keep thinking friendships will just happen like when I was a kid. It took reading Shasta’s book for me to realize that they didn’t just happen, it was just easier to have consistent, regular contact when I was I was younger. We never had to pull out our calendars to fit in time with our friends, we just literally walked down the street or across the hall.

There is no shame in realizing you have to schedule in your friendship time. I schedule my kids play time, so why not our own. Find ways to make contact and keep making it. When the contact isn’t reciprocated, it’s not personal.

“The strength of our friendship isn’t as dependent on how much we like each other, but more on how much time we spend together developing our friendship in broader and deeper ways.” ~Shasta Nelson

4. Be Known & Get to Know: Many friendships are valuable just relating on a common activity or life stage. But if you want to deepen a friendship, you eventually have to share more of yourself. It is so tempting to talk about our kids (if you have them) or someone else. Friendship is a process, so to be known you will eventually want to share a little more about yourself. And as always ask meaningful questions, so you can get to know your friend too.

“Sometimes the greatest intimacy isn’t knowing who you could call, it’s actually having someone you do call.” ~Shasta Nelson

All too often, we feel lonely and we wait on people to make a move toward us. It’s like wanting a date, but not making the first move to introduce yourself. If we want more friends, we need to muster the courage to meet more people. And if we want the friendship to be more intimate, we need to be more intimate too.

When you embrace the process and stages of friendship, you can let go of your fear of rejection and hurt. You can also embrace friendships that come, stay, and even go. You no longer have to take this personally. Instead cherish the level of friendship just the way it is.

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Want to make more progress toward your friendship and relationship goals? Consult a coach and make a plan to move through your stuckness!

 Photo Credit: “Starvation” by Mark Bellink

6 responses to “How to Make Meaningful Friendships as an Adult

  1. This is a great post, Marci! I think most adults struggle (in varying degrees) with friendship. These are helpful suggestions and I really like the “Circles of Connectedness Continuum”. It’s okay to acknowledge the limitations of certain friendships (or people themselves) and enjoy them for what they are!

    • Megan, it really is a great book. I don’t think the author sees the circles of connectedness as a limitation. She really embraces all levels of friendship. And sees value in the friends we have just one area in common, but don’t share other interests with. As well as having someone to talk to at an event each time, but not getting together outside of the event. Shasta calls it a tribe that we are developing, and they don’t all have to be our best friends. I thought that was the liberating part. Putting less pressure on the friendship as well as ourselves.

  2. Hi Marci,

    Thanks for another great post!

    I will be buying that book, because I have struggled to make the kind friendships that I want in my life. When I was younger it wasn’t a problem at all, but as I get older sustaining new deep friendships is something I find difficult.

    I do have some wonderful people in my life (I am really blessed) but sometimes I want people to be something they are not. I have learnt that with those people, you have to accept who they are and be grateful for their role in your life. You can’t force someone to be something.

    As you say, I now put less pressure on people to live up to the friendship model that I have in my head, and I allow them to be who they are. It seems to work much better.

    Thanks for addressing real, day to day challenges in your blog.

    I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Kim

    • Kim,

      Thank you for the feedback and kind words!

      Shasta makes a great point in her book about the pressure you are speaking of. Once we realistically understand what level of friendship we have with each of our friends, we will stop expecting them to be meet all our needs. She has some free print outs on her website to help evaluate your friendships. Hope you enjoy the book!

      Marci

  3. awesome – it seems to get harder and harder to make new friends as you get older, your advice is great
    http://finkling.com/2013/07/17/birds-of-a-feather-finkling-together/

  4. Pingback: Increase Emotional Intimacy Without Pursuing More | Liberating Choices