Cultivating Adult Friendships with Intention

After long periods of isolation and worry, the summer of 2022 is one of reconnection.  Friends and families are gathering to celebrate graduations, weddings, and births, or to honor the lives of those who were lost.  The pandemic has forever changed people, and many have found that when time slowed down, they were able to discover what was most important, and as a result, some adult friendships were permanently altered.

Research has shown us how important social interaction and strong adult friendship groups are to support a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age.  But there are times when political, religious, or other core values lead us to let go of friendships, or loved ones pass away and we must work to find a new tribe.

For people who are retired, or continue to work remotely, it can be more difficult to meet others who may eventually become friends.  Fewer people are going to church, and once finished with schooling, it may take a deliberate attempt to make new social connections.  Joining a fitness class, or even using a friendship matching app like Bumble BFF, can help put like-minded people together.  

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there are six forces that fuel friendship.  The first force is accumulation – it is estimated that to build a casual friendship it takes about 40 to 60 hours of time spent together during the first six weeks of an acquaintance.  Another 80 to 100 hours of shared time can move a casual friendship onto the next level of closeness. 

Attention is the second factor in making friends, according to Julie Beck, author of The Friendship Files, and senior editor at The Atlantic.  Paying attention to opportunities to make new connections and develop friendships is key because potential friends may appear in unexpected places.  Building new friendships requires us to step out of our routine when we click with someone new, and we must seize the opportunity to venture forward with intention – the third force on the pathway to friendship.   Taking action to move forward in a new relationship takes a bit of bravery, and the willingness to be vulnerable and even a little awkward. 

Creating rituals together is a fourth force that bonds new friends.  It could be a daily walk, a weekly lunch date, or a monthly game night.  Sharing a tradition gives a friendship a depth and culture of its own, something that becomes ingrained in the relationship.  Although in life friendships can often take a back seat to marriages, family, or work, strong adult friendships often survive the loss of a spouse, retirement from work, and empty nests.  It can take imagination to show friends how much they mean to you, but these close relationships can often be the most important in older age. 

And finally, for adult friendships to endure, we must give one another grace when life gets busy, or other commitments take priority.  Friends who can, within reason, offer grace rather than let resentments, frustrations or anger grow are the ones who will continue to reconnect even after long periods of absence.  With a short note, a school reunion meeting, or a simple phone call, old friends can rekindle relationships even after decades if the bond is strong.  Now more than ever we can find delight and joy in the company of good friends.