My business as a consultant required lots of acquaintances: clients, industry contacts, friendly competitors, and suppliers. But, those were not the type of relationships that led to enduring friendship. Because I was on the road for many days each year, I never developed many close friendships on a social level at home, either. My wife will admit she wasn't much better.
Unfortunately, I carried that situation into retirement. If Betty and I wanted to do something with another couple, we would scramble to think of who to invite. Usually, that meant we would involve family, or do things as just the two of us.
One unexpected benefit of blogging was the start of several on-line, virtual, friendships. Regular readers became people I enjoyed contacting through email exchanges. Over time, a few of those on-line contacts developed into actually meeting several of these folks in person.
Over the last several months, we have reconnected with a couple we have known for over twenty years but lost contact with. Another fellow who was actually responsible for my meeting Betty on a blind date initiated a get together during our RV trip back east last summer. After 40 years apart we picked up right where we left off and added his wife to our circle of people we consider important parts of our life. This shift to having more people in my life with whom I am developing a real friendship is a pleasant change.
One of the realities of retirement, though, is the possibility of social isolation. While both sexes have this problem, men are the ones who raise the issue most often with me. The friends lost after leaving work are not easy to replace. We guys are not as open and sharing as our female counterparts. Developing a strong friendship is more difficult for us. We are more hesitant to reveal the flaws and weaknesses that help cement a relationship.
That can be a real problem in retirement. All of us need someone to feel comfortable enough with to share problems, turn to for advice, and have fun together. A few couples or single friends to join us at the movies or at happy hour on a Friday afternoon sounds simple enough, but is a struggle for too many.
This past year I have worked on the goal of expanding my circle of acquaintances, with the hope that some of them would deepen into real friendships. I have attended men's meetings at my church, joined some volunteer organizations to find like-minded people, and been more aggressive in turning blogging contacts from virtual into real relationships. I have tried to be more open to meeting new people. It hasn't been completely successful but 2016 was a better year than most in adding to my roster of friends.
Friendship and retirement are an important paring. I will be the first to admit that strengthening this often involves hard work, and making yourself vulnerable to disappointment and hurt. But, the payoff is worth the cost.
A post from two months ago may be worth re-reading if this an area where you'd like to dedicate some extra effort. The Five Key Qualities of a Spouse, Partner, or Friend.