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Adult friendships are hard to begin and cultivate. Without the designated time for shared schooling, living (e.g. dorm rooms, flatshares, etc) and socializing (e.g. after-school soccer practice, marching band or weekend art club) we often find ourselves yearning for the structure and institutions that made it feel reasonable to simply meet someone new and connect with them. 

As we get older friendships also seem to take a back seat to other relationships with romantic partners and children. They’re just not prioritized in a society that focuses on what you can produce and achieve in a relationship. However, the fulfillment and happiness we gain from friendships should not be overlooked! In fact, many studies point to the immense benefits gained from friendship – increased sense of belonging, reduction in stress and helps people cope through challenging life events. 

Throughout the past two years of pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders many have had the chance to reflect on their current relationships – where they feel support and where they feel a bit lonely or unsettled. As we slowly, cautiously make our way back out into the world, you may find yourself doing so with the desire to cultivate existing friendships or make new ones! If this is the case, it may help to keep the following interrelated tips in mind: 

  1. Friendships Require Time – the vulnerability and connection that come with solid friendships doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of a multitude of little things that lay that foundation. So if you’re looking to cultivate or make friends, try first by setting aside time to do so. For example, one day a week is “friend day” and during that day you can FaceTime a friend, meet someone for a coffee, join the neighborhood for a walk, etc. 
  1. Be Intentional – friendships require emotional energy and attention, as such you can’t be there for everyone all the time. Be intentional about which friendships you’d like to prioritize at this point in your life. If you’re looking to make new friends, let your family and those around you know that you want to make friends! With that level of intentionality and willingness, new friends have a way of making their way into your life. 
  1. Be Patient – related to the first point, friendships take time so be patient with yourself and those you meet/know. We’re all growing at our own pace so try not to put too much pressure on yourself or others. 

It may also help to journal and reflect about what you’re looking for in your friendships, what you are capable of giving and how you’d like to grow. Try the below prompts! 

  • Take an inventory of your current friendships. Make 2 columns, one for friendships that may no longer be serving you or you find yourself struggling with and the other for friendships you want to grow and cultivate. List your friendships in each and reflect on why that may be the case
  • What are you looking for in a friend? What makes a good friend in your eyes? How do you show up for other people? 

Struggling with friendship is NOT a reflection of who you are or your worthiness. It’s a part of living in a society that prioritizes a multitude of other things over this type of connection. Taking the first step in seeking and nurturing a friendship is a beautiful act of courage and love.