I will be the first to admit I struggle when it comes to making friends. I always have. Over the last several years, fellow bloggers and regular readers have been my only real source for most of my relationships.
Since I have explored this question before, I know I am not alone in this regard. Especially as we age, inviting someone into our life seems more difficult. Even so, enough research has shown that having even just one or two close friends can be important. So, as much for me as anyone, what are the characteristics to look for when making not just acquaintances, but true friends? Inviting someone else into our life? I may not adhere to all these suggestions, but they make sense.
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 can be another test. Being together for several days while away from the security of home and routine may strain 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 beliefs and the acceptance of different convictions 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. Different beliefs may be about spirituality or religion, political affiliations, and hot-button issues of the day. Friendship requires that those differences are never used as a wedge or weapon. Spirited discussions and honest disagreements should create a stronger bond between two people who value that relationship.
There must be no pressure to "perform." Think back to a dating relationship you have 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. 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 in learning 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 is an important part of a life lived well and fully. Maybe it is not too late for me!
Thank you for the very heartfelt post, Bob. As you know deep friendship for me is a very difficult thing. I just tend to drive people away with my directness. I have had a few close friends in my life, but most were the result of helping someone in a very difficult situation.ReplyDelete
First encounters for me are most often last encounters. I am finding that out even more now in my life. But, I am glad to say that, like you, "fellow bloggers and regular readers have been my only real source for most of my relationships". Of course, I include you in that list.
Thank you for making my birthday today a little more pleasant.
Happy birthday, my dear friend!Delete
First impressions are fraught with dangers. Unfortunately, too many of us use that initial exposure as the deal-maker or breaker. Humans are much too nuanced for that to be accurate.
Happy Birthday RJ!!Delete
Happy Birthday, RJ!ReplyDelete
I’d like to share a story of an unlikely friendship and the rewards of putting yourself out there. Back in 2017, Alan and I were on our way to the Seattle area to buy our new Outdoors RV travel trailer. On our way, we stopped at the ORV factory in Oregon to take the factory tour. ORV is a small company. Alan and I were the only ones on the tour, so we spent the entire time in one-on-one conversation with our tour guide, Kevin. Alan and I enjoyed Kevin’s company as much as we enjoyed the tour. He was an enthusiastic representative of ORV, knowledgeable, entertaining, a great conversationalist and we loved his sense of humor. We thanked him profusely and, despite the fact that we really seemed to connect, we expected that we’d never see him again.
Fast forward six months, and Alan and I found ourselves returning to the ORV factory for a major repair. (It was a one-off thing; we still love the company and our travel trailer.) On a whim, I asked Alan how he felt about reaching out to Kevin, to see if he and his wife might like to go out to dinner with us while we were in town. Alan agreed that it would be fun if it worked out.
Now that it’s too late to make a long story short, Kevin agreed to go out to dinner with us. Interestingly, he said his wife, who is quite shy, wanted to come along, too. Apparently, after our tour, Kevin told her what a great time he had with us! Little did we know, the connection we felt had been two-way.
Fast forward five years. We’re in regular (cross-country) contact with this couple via texts, emails and holiday cards. They’ve welcomed two children into their family and we’ve celebrated both arrivals. When we were in Idaho last year, the family (of three, at that time) came to visit. This is definitely an enduring friendship. But here’s the thing: Kevin is just a year older than our son. There’s more than a 30 year difference in our ages. And that’s what had initially given me pause when I considered reaching out. But I shouldn’t have worried. It was the connection we had (all) felt that sparked the friendship, not our ages or our stages of life. The moral of the story (and I apologize for its length) is that the awkwardness of putting yourself out there and the fear of rejection should never stop you from reaching out to someone you think might become a friend. You have nothing to lose – and much to gain.
Your comment was the perfect length to make your point, and an encouraging story to boot.Delete
One of the mistakes we can make is to restrict our interaction to those in our own age group. As Kevin proved, a connection between people can have nothing to do with age. Shared interests, values, even a sense of humor might be enough. Look at all you, Alan, Kevin and his wife have gained from a chance encounter.
True friends are hard to come by. My wife and I have one couple we have been friends with for about 30 years now. They started out as neighbors in 1991 and quickly became good friends. We traded babysitting date nights as we had two kids and they had twin boys. The friendship continued even as we each moved to different cities but continued to stay in touch. We are al back in the same area again and keep in close contact. We have all shared in each other's struggles and celebrations and we could not ask for better friends. We met another couple that was housed in our same apartment house during my wife's cancer treatment. The other couple was going through the same thing as the wife was getting treated for lung cancer. We became good friends and are seeing each other in two weeks for checkups at the same time in Houston then we are following it up with a 5 day cruise together. It will be so much fun! I think this couple will be another set of lifelong friends.ReplyDelete
You are very blessed to have these relationships in your life.Delete
I seriously envy your bond with others. Have a great cruise.
I've met at least one blog friend in real life and enjoyed her company. Several others have met her two and even vacationed together. I love shamelessly invited myself along next time. But, I do think there is a lot to be learned from written words, so why not blog as a way to maybe meet IRL friends.ReplyDelete
Betty and I have personally connected with eight bloggers and some spouses. Every one of these meetings has been a treasure.Delete
There are nine men and women who are part of a weekly gathering on our ham radios. I have known most of them for ten years. We do gather in person as a group usually once a year for a luncheon. It is good to see each other in the flesh.
Apologies for my horrible phone thumb mistyping. You understood my words though.Delete
I find that most of my new friends come from groups that I participate in. I belong to a couple of hiking groups, one here in Caneda and another where we winter in Mexico, and a motorcycle riding group. I would not say these are close friends but certainly people I hang out with during and outside of organized events. True friends, ones that truly know me are very few, one or perhaps two. These are long standing friendships of many years, even decades.ReplyDelete
One thing I don't do is vacation travel with friends or even family outside my immediate "nuclear" family. There is just too much opportunity for conflicting ideas about what we should do and it often ends up with someone being disappointed and a little peeved. My wife's family often used to travel with friends and she said they'd usually come home at the end of the trip with one side or the other upset. Personally I'm not surprised and find it stressful so I just avoid it. I can, however, travel quite happily all on my own so maybe I'm just oriented that way.
In the past Betty and I have vacationed with another couple. While sometimes frsutrating, our overall experience was positive.Delete
Now, vacations are just the two of us or all or part of the nearby family. We share so much of our lives, that it just seems natural and easy to be with the family while strengthening memories.
Do you have a blog post on your Ham Radio Hobby? That sounds very interesting to me.
I do not but should consider writing one.Delete
Friendship is always a blessing , even when you fall out occasionallyReplyDelete
The late legendary basketball player Bill Russell had many friends and said "Friendship is a full-time job." I wouldn't go that far, but I find friendships are worth the time and effort to maintain, even though there is a risk of rejection. Extensive research reflects the fact that the mental and physical health benefits of friendship cannot be overstated. My friendships play a significant role in rich quality of life.ReplyDelete
One of my friends is very funny and witty. When he and I talk on the phone I make sure the speaker is on a high volume which allows my wife, in the background, to laugh too. My dinners with him in restaurants are memorable. His humor is infectious to the extent I laugh more. ( I'm trying to be less serious and smile more.) I would love to have at least one more very funny friend. A merry heart feels so good. I am very grateful for the few friends I have.
I envy you. A true friend adds something to a life that is unattainable in any other way, especially one with a sense of humor.Delete
As I age, I'm finding that the newer friends I make mostly feel like acquaintances. I guess that is to say, they're great but I probably wouldn't share my deepest thoughts or rely on them in an emergency. I have a large family, so a lot of our social interactions involve that crew. The best way I've found to meet new friends at this age is via activities like volunteering, book groups, etc. With few exceptions, my work friends have drifted apart as our retirement interests and locations have varied. I do have one online friend that started out in person on a W. Coast bike trip 25 years ago. We stay in touch via email and holiday cards, but have seen each other once or twice in person when we're in the same area. And I feel like I have some friends online via blogs I follow. One of my favorite bloggers died unexpectedly a couple years back, and I was surprised by how sad I was to hear the news.ReplyDelete
I do have several volunteer-level friends who enrich my life. But, like you, they do not rise to the level of deep sharing. Family is my safe space for that level of intimacy, with my spouse, my primary source for unfiltered feedback.Delete
Having just lost a friendship in a painful and humbling way, this post was right on time in my life! I do treasure my friends and I'm grateful for the blessings and lessons they bring to my life.ReplyDelete
Without embarassing you, Betty and I agree that you are one person we would trust with any part of our life. And, yes, we will rebook the train trip.Delete
So well written and thoughtful. You are quite right about the nature of relationships and the part each fills in another's life.Delete
With that more expansive definition our circle of friends does expand a bit. Still, I remember my parents having bridge parties and gatherings several times a month with people who seemed to play a key role in their lives. Maybe times have changed, but I would welcome a little of that type of friendship in our lives.
Speaking of bliggers that became literal relationships, Betty and I send hugs back to you and Mike. We hope life is treating you well.
Bob, you and Betty honor me. Thank you.Delete
Hi Bob, I've been reading your popular +enjoyable posts, since my retirement in December 2014, as a registered nurse. They have helped with the transition from actively working to retirement. Definitely a change in Lifestyle! Regarding friendships: I read once, that it's always a great thing to remain friends with the younger generation. It's obviously why: Our current friends your own age, may happen to pass on, and leave you alone! At least with a younger set of friendships, you'll continue to have the companionship of friendship.ReplyDelete
I had a friendship with a woman my own age, We are currently going to be 73 years old. We met at age 18, in nursing school. Our dorm room were right next to each other. The friendship ended last Fall, in 2021. I had to tell her the truth about her comments to me. When I told her, she said they were hurtful, but I said they were helpful. She was on a cruise, and emailed to me at home, how "fat people were, and in bathing suits!" I told her you are a retired nurse practitioner, and should know better. The "fatties" may have personal problems with their health, and I didn't like her comments. Her retired doctor husband, would never go out as a couple with my husband, a retired self-employed computer programmer, and me. Forget traveling together: He wouldn't go out socially with us, though never met my husband. In addition, I can't tell you how odd they were; not that they were not "nice people," but generally odd in their responses to others. And then she spoke about their sex to me. She didn't like it at her age, but her husband did! Told her I was no sexual counselor and to discuss with her doctor. The final straw came when I invited her and her Italian husband, to meet us at an Italian restaurant in Newport, RI, and they never showed up! We severed the relationship. Apologize for the long response but felt good to discuss on an open social media page.
Your story is a powerful reminder that people change over time, and not always for the better.Delete
I am sure you have great memories of your time together that help manage the pain of the breakup and put the whole relationsip in perspective.
Thank you for your many years of readership and taking the time to share your tale.
Ha! There are some that have that effect on others.ReplyDelete