Friendships have always been of the utmost importance to me. I hold on to my friendships fiercely and try to nurture them as much as I can. People are often surprised that I have friendships that have spanned from as young as my birth to people I have recently met in the past five years. No matter what has happened to me in my life, I have always believed that friendship has made me who I am and got me to where I am today.
There are many different types of friendships. In my own life, there are the friendships I have where we check in and are connected every day and some where it is every few weeks. There are some friends I see in person at least once a week. There are the friends who will always be considered some of my closest friends that I don’t talk to nearly as much as I’d like but when we do, we pick up exactly where we left off,Â like nothing ever changed.Â All of these friendships are important and have a special place in my heart. My closest friends have gotten me through everything difficult in my life. The majority have been there for me solidly for the past 10-25 years. My closest friends know me better than anyone. They’ve seen me through awkward phases, ups and downs, milestones, achievements and personal tragedies. When I was most alone, these were the people who knew, who I could call at any hour of the night and they still are.
From a therapeutic perspective, one of the questions I often ask clients is what their support system looks like.Â I ask this because usually, the stronger the support system, the easier it is to cope through hard times.Â I have several friends who have said the only thing that has gotten them through hard times was the support of strong and genuine friendships.Â It’s beneficial to have different outlets and different types of people to talk to about different things. It makes life richer and more interesting.
People often tell me they are disappointed when on occasion, a person they were once good friends with drops off the face of the earth for a relationship. Truth be told, life gets busy as you get older. People start serious relationships and families and they work long hours. In a city like Washington DC, people go above and beyond with hobbies, committees and social involvement. It becomes difficult to juggle all these things and feel sane. Amazingly enough, I know many people who do a good job of juggling ALL these things.Â These people beautifully juggle marriage, children, work, exercise, hobbies, personal time and friendship.Â How do they do it without going crazy?Â How do we maintain connection and closeness with our friends when life feels so overwhelming?Â I’ve come up with a few pointers through observations of people that juggle it all and some that I’ve personally developed over the years that have helped me maintain the close bonds with friends who live far away or have very busy lives.
1. Prioritize friendships: This might sound a bit mean but sometimes it is impossible to maintain all the friendships you once had when your life starts changing and becomes busier. Prioritizing might mean spending less time with periphery friends and focusing your friend time on the friends you are closest to. For me prioritizing the important people in my life (including husband, family and friends) meant having to cut out some hobbies. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was just where my priorities were and helped me to feel less overwhelmed balancing everything.
2. 1-on-1 time: Being able to bond with someone on a deeper level can happen best over quality time spent together where you can really talk and connect. Even small groups of 3-4 close friends catching up is good but larger groups are harder to get deeper and go beyond surface conversations.Â Try to carve out some time at least once in a while to do a one-on-one meal or coffee to catch up and connect with your friends.
3. Phone dates: A lot of people hate the phone but I’ve noticed that for long-distance friendships, it’s crucial to stay connected through phone dates. When life gets busy, I schedule phone dates with my friends to avoid playing long drawn-out games of phone tag. Sometimes a phone date can be in the middle of a busy work day during a lunch break or a weekend morning. Either way, it’s a wonderful way to stay close to people who you can’t see in person.
4.Texting and e-mail: Although in-person or phone is ideal, sometimes we are just too busy to connect. I constantly g-chat, e-mail and text back and forth with close friends. Although it might not be the same as a real conversation, it helps keep us frequently connected so too much time doesn’t go by and we lose touch of what’s going on in each others lives.
5. A Partner who supports your friendships: If possible, it’s nice to have a partner who supports and encourages your friendships. If you feel your partner isn’t as supportive of your friendships as you would like, try talking to them about how their support of your friendships means a lot to you. Make sure you support their friendships as well. Having a life outside the relationship is also important in keeping things exciting in the relationship!
I don’t know what I’d do without my husband or my family but I also have no clue what I’d do or where I’d be without my friends. My close girl friends are the sisters I never had and sisters are not people that come and go from your life. If you’re one of these people who has these type of friendships, consider yourself extremely lucky. Cherish and nurture those friendships as best you can, they are an important source of love that we need in our lives.
**Punch Purpose Correspondent Lena Aburdene contributes to enriching peopleâ€™s lives with purpose.Â She is a psychotherapist at the Imago Center in Washington DC where she works with individuals, couples and groups on a variety of issues.Â Â She currently writes a column for the online Washington DC Examiner on Feminism and Relationshipsthat explores many of the issues that come up for her clients. Lena lives in Washington DC with her husband and her cat Lou.Â @LenaMarieAÂ Blog:Â http://imagocenterdc.com/
**Punch Purpose Correspondent Lena Aburdene contributes to enriching people’s lives with purpose. She is a psychotherapist at the Imago Center in Washington DC where she works with individuals, couples and groups on a variety of issues. She currently writes a column for the online Washington DC Examiner on Feminism and Relationshipsthat explores many of the issues that come up for her clients. Lena lives in Washington DC with her husband and her cat Lou. @LenaMarieA Blog: http://imagocenterdc.com/blogs/lena-aburdene **