Having good solid friendships deepens our experience of life. They help us combat depression, anxiety and loneliness while also encouraging us to be our most authentic self, to let our hair down and let our freak-flag fly. AND they shine a light on the kind of friendship we want out of our long-term romantic/sexual relationships.
So why is it sometimes so hard to make new friends or maintain the ones we already have?
First of all, let’s just recognize that how we make new friends changes over time. It’s generally much easier when we’re younger and seeing the same group of people every day, for years on end. This kind of consistency at least brings about the opportunity to get to know people better, even if your peer group is sometimes less than desirable.
Over time, we don’t always have the same consistent environments, like school/college, to get to know people. It can take extra energy and time to meet new people in new environments. Our priorities also change, so we may look for specific qualities and shared values in a new friend than we would have growing up.
Did you ever see that meme going around on social media? Essentially it said that friends are there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. A reason, like going to the same school, being in same sport/club, or being co-workers; a season, like the duration of your time in one of these places, out of convenience; or a lifetime, admittedly something that is a rare experience of two or more people able to shift, adjust and prioritize their friendship over the long-haul.
So, in making new friends, let’s start by asking yourself the question, “What am I looking for in a friend?” This can be a similar question to what you’re looking for in a relationship or dating situation. Do you want to have shared interests or someone that brings in new fresh ideas and interest? Are you looking for an activity-partner: like a workout buddy, going out clubbing, hiking, movies? Do you want a friend that’s more similar or different than you? We all have the need for the validation that comes from someone who closely mirrors us while also the need for diversity in someone that brings fresh ideas/activities/differences to the friendship.
Do you want to be friends with someone who shares your core values? Core values are things like: loyalty, honesty, integrity, consistency, reciprocity, authenticity, adventure, compassion, responsibility, stability, trustworthiness, generosity, sensitivity, determination, persistence, playfulness, awareness, thoughtfulness, and justice. These are some of my core values but what are yours? Core values help shape our beliefs, behaviors and the decisions we make in life, like who we want to spend more time with or who we want to deepen a friendship with.
I also just want to state the obvious, but often overlooked reality here, that deepening friendships takes time so a new friend isn’t going to have the same history, depth or investment that a long-term friend will have. We need to set our expectations accordingly, and not put too much pressure on a new budding friendship to be as rewarding or have the same qualities as a long-term friendship that’s had more time to develop.