There are many books and movies that regale the benefits of friendship. Friends offer comfort, support, laughter and joy. Religious texts are full of examples of friends who care for each other, even when no one else does. Everyone seems to understand intellectually how important it is to have close friendships.
In "Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close," Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman also reveal that friendships take the same kind of care that other relationships do in order to thrive over the long run. Many people start out their adult lives with strong friendships that fade or disappear altogether as one or both parties get married, move away or have children. The pain that results for the ones left behind or left out can be devastating. Even if people are happy with the way their lives are going, something may seem to be missing. That something is friendship.
Forged in Transition
What makes the relationships formed in early adulthood so strong is the camaraderie created by shared transitions. College students in particular are in a constant state of being between childhood and what they're going to be when they grow up. Learning to navigate those struggles together is a powerful bonding experience. Maintaining these relationships after college is over, however, can be tricky.
This is especially true as people find partners and start having children. A lot of emphasis is put on building a strong marriage and family, particularly in churches. This focus is valuable, of course, but it also tends to shut out how vital other relationships remain to your overall well-being. People need the support of others, and no matter how great a partner is, he or she cannot fulfill every relational need. No matter how busy life gets, you need your friends, especially as changes such as becoming a new parent occur.
Regained in Intention
The good news is that, even if your old friendships have gone by the wayside, you can always make new friends. While it may seem awkward at first, there are many ways you can meet new people as an adult:
- Take classes. Find a new hobby or interest you want to explore, and sign up for classes at your local college or community center. You will get to meet a lot of people with whom you know you will have at least one thing in common.
- Volunteer. If there is a cause about which you are passionate, volunteer your time with a local group to support it. Working together to make your city a better place is a great way to bond.
- Join support groups. Difficult life circumstances often keep people busy and make them isolated in their suffering. Joining a support group can ease the pain of what you are going through and introduce you to new people who understand.
- Sit by someone new at church. Churchgoers are often set in their habits, and the act of breaking out of them even a little bit may be enough to get a good conversation going that leads to a stronger connection.
If all else fails, simply invite people over. Chances are that you can think of a few people whom you'd like to get to know better. Be brave and take the first step by having them over to dinner one night or making plans to go out for coffee. They may be looking for new friends too.
Valuing familial relationships is something that churches tend to do well. Where many people of faith may be lacking, however, is giving friendship its due. Building a rich support system both inside and outside your household is an important factor in living a happy life.