November 27, 2021

Building Friendships Takes Work

 


I have lots of acquaintances. I have made some good friends through blogging, both virtually and in person. Even though I am happy with my own company, I understand that having a few companions can make this time of life more fulfilling. Having someone to turn to during a tough time can make a problem less fearful.  Before making a decision, asking for an opinion from a trusted source helps us make a wise choice. What are the characteristics we look for when asking someone else into our life?  

One of the keys is the ability to share openly. If we are with someone and we must constantly watch what we say or self-censor too much, then a real friendship is unlikely. Sharing both joys and sorrows is critical to a meaningful friendship. That can't happen if communication isn't open and expressive. We shouldn't be hesitant to open up to a real friend.

Be willing to try and experience new things together is a good test of friendship. When any of us leave our comfort zone there is some tension and nervousness present. Even something as simple as trying a different cuisine because your friend likes it can reveal a lot about the state of the relationship. Traveling might be a good test. Being together for several days while away from the security of home and routine can quickly test a budding friendship. If you can laugh together at misfortunes and share great experiences, then a deep friendship may be possible.

A core of common ideas and the acceptance of different beliefs must both be present. While these points might seem contradictory, I believe they are critical. Common beliefs might include the importance of respect for other people, that discrimination has no place in our society, or that children deserve the very best we can provide. 

Obviously forefront in our lives today seems to be highlighting differences in place of similarities. Where we stand spirituality, politically or in one of a dozen hot-button issues of the day can make finding people to share time with seem like a continuous struggle. For a deeper relationship, these differences can't be used as a wedge or weapon. Honest disagreements should create a stronger bond between two people that value that relationship.

There must be no pressure to "perform." Think back to a dating relationship you had. Small talk and overt politeness are part of that world. We want to present our best possible face to the other person. But, in a true friendship, it is perfectly OK for one person to be having a bad day and admit it. We don't have to always look or feel our best all the time. That isn't real life and friends don't want someone to put up a front or play a part. "Dress-up" isn't part of this type of relationship.


There must be a sincere interest to learn more about that person. Nothing could be more unfulfilling than to spend time with someone over a long period of time and never learn more about each other. That would mean one or both people are being dishonest about their feelings and needs. It would mean that the relationship would never become more than skin-deep.

Many people much wiser than I have made the point that friendship brings depth and joy to someone's life. True friendship is a special gift that two people give to each other. As Proverbs notes, "Disregarding another person's faults preserves love." Deep friendship can be an essential part of a life lived well and fully.

Luckily, my wife is my best friend, and my family (daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids) are a close second. My retired life feels nicely complete because I am surrounded by people who let me be me while still inviting me into their lives.

16 comments:

  1. Nice post, Bob. I envy you in that regard. Now that my spouse of 36 years is no longer here, I am for the most part alone. Of course, I share/talk about many personal things on my blog and that has brought some good virtual friends like you, but having another heartbeat always close by is something I will never have again. 😥

    The only clan I have within 600 miles is a niece and her family. We are getting close, especially now and that helps. But, a close friend as you elegantly describe above is likely never to happen again. But, despite all that, my life here in my new retirement community is getting more joyful. I am really starting to enjoy being around so many people. I didn't think that would happen.

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    1. There have been several adjustments in your life, each one has the potential to throw you for a loop. Your blogging tells me you are finding your footing.

      I am happy for you in developing some comfort around other people. Your previous homestead was quite isolated. After your wife's passing having even mundane things like smiles, bits of conversation and feeling accepted are so important.

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  2. My best friend of 32 years, lives 5K miles away in upstate NY. We live in different countries and time zones but, technology allows us to be in touch almost every day. Before technology, it was harder to keep in touch but, we always stayed true friends. Sensing that I was very depressed after mom's passing in June 2020, she started this tradition of watching TV shows (police procedurals, murder msyteries mostly) online together. She made me know that she is always there for me. I am so blessed to have her in my life. I have other close friends too but, the closest is the one who lives the farthest.

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    1. From Istanbul to upstate New York would have been a solid barrier before technology. Watching shows together online is a tremdous idea for you, your friend, and anyone to share a experience.

      I envy you having such a committed relationship that does not let geography get in the way.

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  3. I am so fortunate that one of my closest friends lives 2 doors down from me! I met her in 1988 in another neighborhood, and fate has put us on the same block , here in Gilbert, since 2013. I walk down for happy hour, we go to movies and lunch, and we’ve met 2 other ladies on our street who have become friends and card playing buddies.I stay in touch with some old high school friends, who were in my wedding, and have traveled to Cincinnati and Denver to have reunions with them.I have some new friends I’ve met through a local art collective, where I go every Thursday. Making new friends as an adult is harder than it was when we were younger, but worth it! I am a “social introvert” which means I MUST have lots of time alone to regroup, read, cook ,and enjoy my own company. AND spend time with Ken, my BEST buddy!! But I value my friend-times and the conversations, surprises, and support it brings!

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    1. I'd say you are very lucky to have the setup with the lady two doors down and all the relationships you establish through your social engagements. For most of us it is more difficult to make friends as we age; you don't seem to have that problem!

      I know the Covid social separation was hard for you, but things are getting better (keeping fingers crossed over the new variant).

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  4. Hi Bob! And happy Thanksgiving Weekend. So true about what it takes to make a GOOD friend. I was just listening to Brene Brown talking about her new book about Trust and so much of what she said, and you say in this post, is the level of our connection with others is either deep and based on a high level of trust, or we are just social friends. I think if we can define it others (and ourselves) it will help bring us closer to people who can really be the connections that we hope for. Thanks for the thoughts. ~Kathy

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    1. You are right: there is different levels of interactions with others. What I lack are the deeper connections with non-family members. Except for a few notable exceptions, I operate at the surface level with most of my acquaintances. I know I am missing out on some important parts of a a full relationship.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and Thom. Hopefully we can make a springtime in-person visit possible!

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  5. As I think I have mentioned before, I get together twice a year over a weekend with six other guys I graduated high school with. It has been a great experience to have that many 50 year friendships in my life on a regular basis. We have a rule that "what is said at boy's weekend, stays at boy's weekend (although nothing particularly shocking or scandalous has ever surfaced). We are coming up on our 20th year of doing this. Time passes quickly!

    Another friend and I meet one evening a week for a "beer" over Skype. We chat about our lives, family, hopes, challenges... wherever the conversation wonders. It would be better if it was in person, but COVID and geographical distance will not permit that. I highly recommend this for those who feel more isolated. Our weekly meetings are something I look forward to.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Some great examples of the power of deep friendships, Rick. 50 years of of twice a year meetings is a powerful statement of commitment.

      And, using Skype or Zoom to stay in close contact during our trying times is using technology to its fullest.

      Some excellent examples for this post.

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  6. This was a thoughtful and thought provoking post, Bob. My close friendships include two childhood friends, a group of about a half dozen high school friends that has remained connected over the years and a small group of couples Alan and I met and remained close to via involvement in our kids’ schools. (Two of those couples date back to our kids’ pre-school.) I believe those are all examples of typical friendships. But, over the years, some unusual and unexpected friendships have developed outside the norm.

    I met the mother of a friend (one of the school –related couples mentioned above) when she was temporarily living with my friend. The mom and I saw each other only twice, but immediately connected. She has since moved to live with another one of her children and we remain pen pals to this day, despite a 25 year age difference.

    Years ago, when I was just starting my banking career, I connected with a woman in the lending department despite a 25 year gap in age. She and her husband enjoyed RVing and that was what initially brought us together. We maintained our friendship with her and her husband even after they retired out west, and we camped with them in Yellowstone on one of our cross-country trips.

    Four years ago, Alan and I took the factory tour at the company that manufactured our travel trailer. We felt an immediate connection to our young tour guide, and he and his wife agreed to have dinner with us when we came to town again six months later. (Apparently he, too, felt some kind of connection since he went home and told his wife about what a good time he had with this couple on the tour that day.) Long story short, we’ve stayed in touch, celebrated the birth of their first child and got together again on our recent trip to Idaho and Oregon. That age difference? Almost 40 years.

    Maybe the most unusual “age-gap” friendship belongs to our daughter who, when she was still in school, connected with my manager in the school district in which I worked. As a high level administrator, my manager was part of our high school’s graduation ceremony and was able to hand Kyra her high school diploma – to the delight of both of them. That’s another 25 year age gap. That friendship is still going strong – more than four years after graduation.

    While I apologize for taking up so much space in your comment section, I wanted to point out that friendships can develop anywhere, any time and can be blind to age, location and other potentially limiting factors. With each of the friendships above, some type of connection was felt on both sides and it was only due to a willingness to reach out over the age barrier that some of our best friendships came to be. Coincidentally, one of the two childhood friends and the young tour guide noted above are mentioned in my second blog post about Idaho that went live today – our visits with them were two of the best parts of the entire trip.

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    1. No apologies, necessary, Mary. You have given us a very different take on the "normal" friendship route. At first blush, the age gaps would seem to mean those type of relationships wouldn't last. After all, you and the friend were in very different stages of life.

      Yet, they remain solid. Your experience shows that age or circumstance or even geography shouldn't prevent a lasting relationship from developing. We benefit when we don't establish artificial boundaries that might prevent a tremendous addition to our life (and that of someone else).

      Thank you for this important addition to our discussion. And, I will be sure to check out your blog's new post (Reflections Around the Campfire).

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  7. I've had female friends all my life, and they have been more important as I age -- some through book groups, some co-workers that became good friends, etc. But I have one huge exception. Fourteen years ago, without warning, my closest friend of over 30 years ghosted me. It was a shock to say the least. We don't live near one another, but had done semi-annual trips together, visited one another regularly, etc., and always always stayed in touch via phone and email. I reached out multiple times and have never gotten an answer, so after a while I gave up. But I have to say it is like a death in many ways. A friend who has lived your history, supported you through thick and thin, knows your family, your kids, your siblings, etc., isn't possible to replace. What a loss.

    When DH and I retired, I was worried because most of his connections were via work. But about five years ago, he attended a 50 year reunion of his college fraternity where he and others were founding members. He connected with several good friends he hadn't seen in years, and unbeknownst to us, one of them lives 10 miles from us. To say this was a happy coincidence would be a real understatement. We have since vacationed with the friend and his wife, but even better, DH has recreated a group of friends in retirement that have a shared history and common values. As well, this guy connected him into his golf league and they play weekly during golf season. It's made his retirement so much better.

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    1. The "ghosting" concept is new to me. I have heard the word several times, but your explanation makes it clear how hurtful such an action can be. Not knowing why must be the most upsetting aspect.

      This would have been the 50th anniversary for my fraternity reunion for those of us who graduated in 1971. Unlike your husband's situation, I am sure, if invited, I would not have gone. I was never that close to the brothers and wonder if I'd even recognize any of the names. Your husband is a lucky man.

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  8. I am lucky to have several people in my life who are treasured friends (you among them). Lately, though, I've been thinking about the term "best friend." At times in my life, I've had a friend like that, someone I could tell absolutely anything to, someone who knew me better than I knew myself, and loved me, and vice versa. I don't have someone like that in my life now, and I miss that. That is not to take anything away from the value of the friends I have, but a best friend is something different. So if you have one, spouse or otherwise, that is something to be treasured.

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    1. You are right: a best friend is a relationship to be treasured and celebrated. I have no male friends who fit that description and that is a void in my life.

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