The importance of friendship for our overall happiness is massive, yet many of us struggle to maintain friendships, or with making new friends, once we enter adulthood. The relationships in our lives usually start to take a kind of priority hierarchy with spouses and partners, children, and parents coming out on top. The lack of structure that friendships are based on means there’s not always pressure to see friends often or prioritize them like we do with our immediate families.
As a result, maintaining our friendships can be hard and we often find that many people end up floating out of our lives as easily as they came in.
The Greatest Enemy In Adult Friendships
The greatest downfall when it comes to adult friendships isn’t actually what you think it is – and we all have a habit of doing it. With our adult friendships, we tend to be too polite and by this, I don’t mean we should start being rude to our friends. Let me explain.
As we get older, our responsibilities and busy lives start to get more complicated. This results in a tendency to avoid meeting, texting, or ringing someone up on the phone in the polite circumstance that we’re interrupting their busy life. We often easily forgive people when we haven’t heard from them for months or they didn’t respond to our last text message. This isn’t something we would necessarily put up with in other relationships, such as a spouse or child.
Emily Langan, an Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College who has done numerous studies on friendship, believes our relaxed expectations for maintaining friendships and initiating contact is one of the main reasons why we leave them to fall through the cracks.
The Key To A Lasting Friendship In Adulthood
While politeness can cause friendships to become more infrequent than they should, many people still maintain a friendship with sporadic communication. It’s a different dynamic to those friendships formed during childhood and adolescence when we would hang out and meet up on a daily to weekly basis. But with adult friendships, distance and circumstance can naturally restructure the relationship.
But the key to lasting friendships going forward in your adult years is dedication and communication.
This doesn’t mean having to communicate or meet up on a regular basis, but it’s all about the type of communication you have between you. Shared past experiences, inside jokes, and heartfelt communication are how you keep those special friends in your life, even when you feel you don’t speak as much as you used to. Referencing back to those shared moments and memories can keep the spark alive and the bond strong. For example, travels you shared or funny memories from school or university.
Another factor in lasting friendship was highlighted in a longitudinal study of best friends by Andrew M. Ledbetter that suggested the more you’ve invested in a friendship, the more likely you are to keep it going. Therefore, lasting friendships need to be based on equal investment from each side. Once this stops happening, the friendship can start to break down or graduate out of your life.
What About Online Friendships?
Social media is making it seem easier to stay in touch with friends, but how much is this adding to a friendship? Online communication can suit some people who are living apart from certain friends, and even create a level of maintenance. However, relying too heavily on online communication can cut off a level of meaningfulness and investing further, making us question whether we have the means to maintain a satisfying friendship outside of an online medium. This sometimes leads people to not pursue any more effort in a friendship, never causing it to grow.
It seems lasting friendships come from not assuming that you’re taking up your friend’s time, and making more effort than just texting every now and then. Our happiness involves our friends too, so try carving out some time to catch up and reconnect.
Featured photo credit: Kevin Culala via pexels.com
|||^||Business Insider: People of all ages have the same 3 expectations for friendships|
|||^||Wheaton College: Emily Langan, Ph.D.|