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Last Updated on October 16, 2017

Friends Don’t Have to Grow Apart as You Grow Older

Friends Don’t Have to Grow Apart as You Grow Older

When you were young, the friends you made tend to be defined by common experience, for example living in the same neighborhood, going to the same school, having parents who are friends, riding the same bus, or participating in the same sports or extracurricular activities.

        As you grow older, though, these elements change. You and your friends may move to different towns, have different works, come across different challenges in life, and may even lead a different lifestyle. Some may already get married and have their own children; some maybe traveling around all the times; some may always be busy making money.

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            This is when you realize your friendship with these friends has changed.

            Research has shown that three main factors of developing adult friendships are proximity, repeated/unplanned interaction, and settings that encourage conversation.[1] If you’re constantly moving and working, though, these friendships can be harder to sustain.

            A Shared Life Is Not Enough to Maintain A Lifelong Friendship

              Too often, people focus on having a shared life with others. It’s actually less important for friends to physically be in the same life space. Friends need similar core values, which refers to subjective perspectives and beliefs on topics. You can align core values with someone who lives down the street or someone that lives 2,000 miles away.

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              Think about it like this: if you know someone who lives down the street (proximity), and you see them a lot at events (repeated/unplanned interactions), and it’s often in settings like bars and parties that encourage conversation, theoretically you should become friends with this person, right? Not necessarily.

              If you and that person’s core values are completely misaligned, communication will be nearly impossible. Both of you may try to constantly prove the other person wrong and conflicts will be common.

              Core values for humans are not easily changed, without an alignment there, it’s very hard for two people to become — and remain — friends.

              Only the Values We Hold Can Build True Bondings

                Humans are social animals. This is the core of the human experience. Humans came to dominate the world because we were the only species that could collaborate well, and form bonds, in large numbers.[2] We don’t seek just physical company; we seek mental company and an exchange of ideas and values.

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                Sharing your core values with another, and attempting to understand theirs is akin to sharing a piece of mind. This exchange of value and idea is crucial to satisfying basic human need. You can have a friend who you consistently have fun with, but if this core value exchange isn’t there, the friendship will erode when the environment changes. If you have a friend who’s fun and you’ve exchanged life values with, that friendship will remain despite the change of the environment.

                Not every core value needs to overlap, it’s nearly impossible across any two people. For example, one friend can value punctuality and the other friend can constantly be late. This will make hanging out and communicating harder. But if the friend valuing punctuality is also flexible and adapts to different situations, now the timing is less relevant.

                It doesn’t have to be a perfect alignment of core values between two people. But there needs to be some, and it needs to be shared.

                Find out the Values of A Potential Friend

                To find out whether you have shared values with another person, talk openly about your values. Of course, don’t say “What are your core values? My core values are.. blah blah blah…” This will sound awkward and the other person may feel uncomfortable about the question.

                What you can do is asking “why” in conversations. “Why” leads to deeper answers and discussions then “how” — which primarily goes to process, and  “what” — which are only the basic facts. “Why” is the pathway to the thoughts and values of a potential new friend for life.

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                You don’t have to dig into the very deep philosophical questions at the beginning, start with something light like “what’s your hobby and why do you like doing it?” or “what’s your favorite place and why?” will be enough to get you to understand a person.

                To help you have a better idea of what kind of things you can talk about, I’ve got you a list of questions to try with a potential friend:

                1. Why did you decide to move here?
                2. What’s your favorite podcast/book and why?
                3. Who’s your favorite author/artist and why?
                4. What’s your favorite movie/music and why?
                5. What do you do and why do you do what you do?
                6. Who’s your biggest inspiration, and why?
                7. What do you think about when you’re alone?
                8. Are you closer with your mom, dad, or neither? Why?
                9. What makes you happy and why?
                10. What upsets you and why?
                11. What do you like to do during weekend? Why?
                12. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever seen, and why would you say it is?
                13. What motivates you the most, and why?
                14. Are you religious, and why?
                15. Who’s your best friend and why are you guys so close?
                16. What’s the main thing you’d like to change about yourself and why?
                17. Are you proud of some accomplishments so far? If so, why?
                18. Is there anything you’re afraid of and why?
                19. Do you like traveling and why?
                20. What’s your idea of a perfect vacation and why?
                21. Do you want to get a tattoo? Why?
                22. What are most important to you and why?
                23. If money were no object, what would you do all day and why?
                24. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do?

                Save this article and take this list out when you’re trying to make a new friend. Understanding the core values of another person is the first step to a strong and lasting friendship.

                Featured photo credit: Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash via unsplash.com

                Reference

                [1]The New York Times: Friends of a Certain Age
                [2]Ted Idea: Why humans run the world

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                Anna Chui

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                Published on July 13, 2018

                Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

                Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

                What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

                By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

                When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

                In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

                Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

                What is attachment theory?

                Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

                The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

                His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

                The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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                When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

                Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

                How attachment develops

                Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

                Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

                The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

                It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

                In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

                Different types of attachments

                In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

                • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
                • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
                • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
                • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

                What attachments mean to adults

                So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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                As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

                • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
                • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
                • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
                • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

                Here’s where it gets really interesting:

                Move towards secure attachment

                The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

                Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

                The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

                If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

                The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

                Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

                How to restructure your thoughts

                Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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                For the Avoidant Style

                As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

                Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

                Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

                Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

                Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

                If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

                Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

                And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

                For the Anxious Style

                For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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                First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

                Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

                For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

                The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

                Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

                When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

                For the Secure Style

                Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

                Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

                Strive towards Secure Attachment

                As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

                • Positive self esteem and self image
                • Close and well adjusted relationships
                • Sense of security in self and the world
                • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
                • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
                • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
                • Trust in self and others
                • Close, intimate relationships
                • Strong determination and problem solving skills

                If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

                It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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