Friendship: In a Time of Loneliness

Updated: Feb 17


gif

"I’ll Be There For You..."


Maybe you’re too young to have been a part of the Friends generation. Or maybe you’re young enough to have enjoyed its revival. There’s a reason why friendships are central themes in our visual storytelling. Though much of our societal narrative focuses on the importance of romantic relationships and creating a nuclear family, friendships are not just nice to have---they are a necessity.


Day after day, clients come in and tell me a host of issues that they face. Top of the list time after time is loneliness. Weird, right? The correlation between our “connectedness” through social media and feelings of loneliness has been discussed ad-nauseum, but for each of us, this feeling can seem unique, isolating, like we’re the only ones who feel this way. It’s especially easy to think this is the case when we see otherwise in posts of get-togethers where people are having a great time, presumably without us.


Take a moment and do a quick inventory. How often in a week would you say that you feel lonely? How many friends can you say that you have? Of those friends, how many do you feel very close to? If you have friends, and ones that you are close to, you are very fortunate, indeed. Making and keeping friends as an adult is a challenge all its own. When you’re a kid, you become friends with the kids of your friend's parents, then whoever is in your class. In high school, maybe you make friends with people in an extra-curricular activity. If you go to college, maybe you get along with your roommate or people in your field of study. As the scope widens, your exposure to the same people day in and day out decreases, making it harder to build friendships. Friendships in childhood are ones born often of proximity and convenience. When we become adults and our proximity and convenience are limited, so too are our opportunities to build friendships, particularly deep ones. What makes this sting the most is when people believe that 1) something is wrong with them that they don’t make friends as easy as they used to now that they are older, falsely believing that there is something inherently wrong with them, or 2) friendships are nicer to have, but not as important as other things, such as a thriving career or family.

As a Couples Specialist, many couples mistakenly and tacitly think that once they choose to spend the rest of their lives with each other, that each other should be enough. Not only is that too much pressure to put on one person but having good friendships feeds and benefits the marriage/romantic relationship. These beliefs are dangerous and here’s why. What we know about people are the most successful in life, the people that thrive---have good physical and mental health, fair stability in housing and finances, etc.---are the ones that are interdependent. This runs counterculture to the notion that we must be independent, take care of ourselves, figure it all out on our own. We hear about the risks of codependency and over-correct, landing us in a ditch on the other side---hyper-independence. If you’re looking to make friends, but having a hard time knowing where to start, begin with the list below.


Get Active

Whatever it is that you have been thinking about learning more about or that sounds fun, now’s the time to try it out. Whether it’s axe-throwing, woodworking, cooking classes, nature school, D&D, softball, you name it---run full force towards something fun and you’ll likely find other people there that, wouldn’t you know it, have some similar interests.


Host

During the times when I had the least resources, like no time, money, energy, or even means of transportation, I would host brunch at my house. Was it perfect? By no means. It was cheap stuff I got at Aldi (iykyk), some mimosas, and coffee. Yoga pants and messy buns. Kids or no kids, whatever worked for you. Very low-key. If I had even an inkling that I wanted to get to know someone better, I would invite them. I made it a regular thing, so it eventually became an event we all looked forward to. As my network of friends grew, I loved getting to connect other people to one another as well.


Be picky

There are different kinds of friends and different seasons of friendships. Some people you shop with or craft with. Some people are in your life for a brief season and others never leave. The hard part is going into each relationship not knowing which it’ll be on the front end and accepting the friendship as it unfolds. When you find the friends that accept you unconditionally, friends that make you feel seen and heard, friends that show up---hold on to those. If there are friends that you have to edit yourself to be around, friends that make you feel worse after being with them, you need to critically reconsider whether their season in your life is coming to a close.


Invest

If and when you find those friends that I mentioned above—the really wonderful ones, invest in them. Investing in friendships is just like investing in anything else. It requires your time, money, and energy. Have difficult conversations with your friends. Be vulnerable with them and show up authentically. Prioritize them—not above everything else, always, but make sure they are on the list. Keep showing up. We know that if we want to succeed in our careers, feel good in our health, enjoy a fulfilling marriage we must invest in those and friendships are no different. Invest now and reap the dividends in a myriad other areas of your life.

 

Suggested Reading:


Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close

by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman



 

If you're struggling, seek help. Sharp Wellness offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy to help support you and help you live your best life. Contact us now.


Rachel Innerarity, MA LPC

18 views0 comments