When I was in college, I never had a hard time making or maintaining my friendships. I was single and ready to mingle, which meant I was always up for going out. I was actively involved with my college’s dance department and Sacramento’s swing dance scene, which meant I spent a lot of time around outgoing people who were also single and ready to mingle. In college, I had many close friends whom I saw all the time.
However, since I’ve been out of college, a lot of that has changed; I feel like over the last two years, I’ve a) lost touch or grown apart from a lot of my close friends and b) have had a hard time making new friends. Here’s why:
- I met Chris a month before I moved to Korea and he became my boyfriend. We all know what happens when a girl or guy enters into a new relationship: they fall off the face of the Earth.
- I moved to South Korea for a year. International long-distance friendships are definitely hard to maintain, especially when you’re balancing them and an international long-distance relationship.
- I got engaged when I moved back from Korea. Planning and saving for a wedding definitely takes away from going out with friends.
- When I got back from Korea, I realized everything had changed. A lot of my friends had moved on with their lives with new jobs, new boyfriends/husbands, new priorities, and *gasp* new friends. News flash, Gina: the world doesn’t stop for you.
- I haven’t been dancing much since I’ve been home. It’s hard to meet people through your hobby when you don’t, you know, do your hobby.
- Being married puts me into a different life stage than a lot of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some married friends, but I’d say a majority of my friends are in a relationship or single. Sometimes, being in a different life stage than someone else makes it hard to find things in common.
This is what I’ve been struggling with since I moved back to California: maintaining my existing friendships and making new ones. I even went through a phase a couple months ago when I thought, “Who needs friends anyway?! Everyone’s too busy, including me! I’ll just hang out with my husband!” Luckily, that phase passed after reading two great books: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. I absolutely loved these two books because they helped me realize the importance of having and maintaining friendships, and how to do so. These are some of the books’ main points that stuck out to me:
- We, as humans, need close long-term relationships; we need to be able to confide in others, we need to belong. (The Happiness Project)
- Studies show that having strong relationships lengthens life, boosts immunity, and cuts risk of depression. (The Happiness Project)
- Show Up! A big part of friendship is showing up. Unless you make consistent efforts, your friendships aren’t going to survive. (The Happiness Project)
- Remember your friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, and important dates. And do something for them, whether it’s a card, email, phone call, etc. (The Happiness Project)
- Women need female friendships more than men need male friendships. Being the more emotional, talkative gender, women need a female companion with whom they can talk for hours, vent to, analyze their relationships/careers/big life decisions, etc. Being the non-emotional, non-talkative gender, men can’t always get the job done. It’s also a lot more fun to see a chick flick or have a spa day with your girlfriends than your man. (MWF Seeking BFF)
- You have to make the effort when it comes to friends. You can’t just sit on your butt and wait for new friends to come to you; you have to put the work in! Join a club, take a class, or volunteer. Attend social gatherings. Be aggressive about following up after first girl dates, instead of saying “Let’s do this again soon” and then never make plans. (MWF Seeking BFF)
- Both books agree that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness.
With all that being said, here are some ways I plan on working on my current friendships, and making new ones:
- Go on one girl date a week. I want to be more consistent with seeing my friends, old and new, so I think planning one girl date a week will help me with that.
- Send cards in the mail. For the past few months, I’ve gotten really into sending snail mail, mainly greeting cards for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I think sending an unexpected card in the mail to a friend is a nice, small effort that says, “Hey, I’m thinking about you!” I’m actually planning on sending my girlfriends Valentine’s Day cards this year, and I can’t wait! Bonus: people love getting non-junk mail.
- Host more get-togethers and parties. This is going to be so much easier now that Chris and I have a bigger place. We actually just hosted a Game Night last Saturday and it was so much fun! I invited over a bunch of our friends whom we hadn’t seen in months to eat, drink, and play Cards Against Humanity. Chris and I had a blast hosting the small get-together and agreed to host many more in the future.
- Start a book club or take a class. I’ve been wanting to do both for a while now. Now I have another incentive to do so: meet new people!
- Use text, email, and social media to maintain contact. When I’m not sending cards in the mail, I want to be contacting my friends in other ways. Sometimes my friends and I go weeks without seeing each other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t text/email/Facebook in between! When I see something that reminds me of a friend, I’m going to send her a picture text of it. I’m going to send emails just to “say hi.” I’m going to post more on my friends’ Facebook walls. I’m going to do a better job of letting my friends know that I miss them.
What are some of your thoughts on making and maintaining friendships? Have you read The Happiness Project or MWF Seeking BFF? If so, what did you think?