As you enter your forties and fifties, it may seem that your circle of friends has slowly diminished. In your earlier years, relationships may have seemed to come more naturally, as you went through school and parenthood with peers at your side. As you navigate an empty nest and your later years, isolation often sets in. While your spouse may be a wonderful partner, having a network of support outside of the marriage will enrich both of your lives. Fostering strong friendships as individuals and as a couple is important.
Below are some basic tips to cultivate and sustain healthy friendships that last a lifetime:
Advice for Old Friendships
1. Clear space on your calendar. Begin to treat your social life as if it is as much a priority as a business meeting or doctor’s appointment. Schedule regular time to make calls, grab dinner or take weekend getaways with your friends.
2. Find excuses to meet up with long-distance friends. While social media and technology can help to preserve relationships across the miles, nothing compares to time spent in person. Plan pitstops near those you miss most when you are traveling for business or pleasure.
3. Pursue new interests together. Whether attending a book club as a pair or training for a marathon apart, taking on a challenge together can provide additional motivation to connect regularly.
4. Determine if you should move forward. Sometimes the best of friendships come to a natural close. If you find that you have drifted apart and no longer have much in common, it might be time to let go.
5. Consider old friendships that may still enrich your life. Invite your former neighbor or coworker out for coffee to catch up! Odds are, (s)he would welcome the chance to reconnect.
Advice for New Friendships
1. Seek opportunities to pursue your hobbies. Sign up for a cooking or art class, audition for a theater troupe, or join a running club. By doing things that bring you joy, you may just find like-minded individuals that would make great friends.
2. Utilize social media and apps. There are plenty of opportunities through modern technology to form new connections.
3. Serve in your community. Volunteering for a cause that is close to your heart can increase your joy and provide an opportunity to make new contacts. Sign up for projects within your church or work in the local soup kitchen.
4. Step outside your comfort zone. Friends come in all shapes and sizes. When you are out and about, start conversations with men and women of different ages and seasons in life.
5. Don’t take it personally. As you try to bring more people into your circle, you may experience some rejection. Pat yourself on the back for making the effort, and let that prospect go.
6. Relax. It takes effort and time to foster new friendships. Keep involved in the things that refresh your soul and maintain a positive attitude. Show kindness, extend invitations, and be patient as you wait for the right opportunity to present itself.
Advice for Healthy Friendships
1. Be transparent. Good friendships are built on trust. As you become more comfortable together, be vulnerable and share your heart.
2. Seek quality over quantity. Invest your energy in a couple of meaningful friendships rather than trying to maintain dozens of surface connections. A small but strong support system is far greater than a large circle of acquaintances.
3. Make sure your relationship is mutually beneficial. The best of friends will take turns showing up for one another in difficult moments as a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a voice of reason.
We never outgrow the need for connection. In midlife you still have many years to create beautiful memories; it is well worth the effort to surround yourself with quality friends that will laugh, mourn, and celebrate at your side. Use the tips above to foster strong friendships that will stand the test of time!