Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.
Whether it is to be the voice of reason or to be a partner in crime, a friend is someone you can count on. They are our confidants, with whom we share our deepest and darkest secrets. We share a special bond with our friends, enabling us to see something, share a look and know that the both of you are thinking the same thing. A friend is that one person you can count on to be with you through thick and thin, and have the ability to read you like a book.
People of all ages need friends with whom they can converse freely, do activities of mutual interest, and make everlasting memories with. However, the reason why we make friends and the meaning we give to friendships change throughout the course of our lives and thus, we may not have the same friends we made in our childhood in our adulthood. Our expectations of who a friend is and what we need from such a relationship also changes. As a result, we tend to modify our friend circle, gaining and losing friends, to fit these varying expectations. Additionally, the creation of a strong emotional bond takes quite a long time, thus people usually have a limited number of close friends to begin with, making it a challenge to maintain friendships that are strong.
Though all of us would like to keep our friendship strong till the end, unfortunately we are not given any manual on how to do so.
So, how do we maintain a friendship throughout our lives?
As cliché as it may sound, consistent interaction and engaging in shared activities play an important role in the preservation of a friendship. Even if there is no constant contact between the individuals, they should be perceived as “being there” for the other. Though everyone becomes busier when they reach adulthood than when they were a child or an adolescent due to having their own responsibilities, it is important to keep contact with friends. Contact does not necessarily just mean face-to-face interaction; rather, any form of communication would suffice. An occasional message or email, ensuring an open channel of communication. The advance in technology and the emergence of social media has made communication significantly effortless. It has also made finding friends from the past and rekindling relationships easier. This being said, communication has been found to be of central importance not only in the conservation of the relationship, but also in maintaining commitment and the satisfaction that the friendship provides. It is also important for each to believe that the other puts in the same amount of effort as they do in preserving the friendship.
Furthermore, a key contributor to the sustenance of any relationship is affection. Contrary to popular belief, physical intimacy like cuddling or hugging, or constant verbal reminders including proclamations of love is not the only way of displaying affection although it aids significantly in the strengthening of relationships. Spending quality time with each other doing something that is found interesting by all parties involved also helps in building trust and bond between friends. The aim of this is to show the other person that they are someone of worth. Proximity is another factor that has been found to be of importance in friendships of all ages. Openness between friends, being able to share without being subjected to judgement, have also been found to predict greater intensity of relationship. Being able to self-disclose to friends and not being reacted negatively to provides ego support, and consolation.
One of the main advantages of friendship is the support and assurance that your friend gives you. The happiness that we feel when our friend assures us that we look good when wearing that one outfit in our wardrobe which we bought on an impulse is irreplaceable. A friendship that provides support and assurance has a higher chance of prevailing. Individuals will have a stronger friendship with a higher chance of longevity of the relationship if they view each other as their social equals. This reduces the chances of one being jealous of the other’s achievements and thus endangering the relationship. Ending of many friendships can be attributed to a lack of mutual perception of the other as their equal and a general inability in being able to be happy for the other without a feeling of inferiority attached. One important thing to take note of and practice in friendship is communicating when there is a misunderstanding, instead of giving the silent treatment and holding onto one’s pride. Research suggests that though familial relationships are important, friendships help diminish feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of connectedness, which is important for the well-being of older individuals.
Why is it hard to maintain friendship as an adult?
As mentioned above, the idea of who a friend is and what we expect from them changes as an individual grows. This causes us to lose some of our friends from childhood and adolescence due to them not fitting our expectations. This, along with the increase in responsibilities as an adult reduces the time available to create friendships. Furthermore, we fail to understand the importance of friendships and do not find the need to make time and develop friend relationships. Adults do not typically prioritise friendships rather give more importance to other aspects like job, finding a partner, starting a family etc. People being more wary of others as their age increases could also be a reason why adults find it harder to make and maintain friendships, especially in people who have had negative experiences previously. Despite all of this, it is essential to have friends as they are a salient form of social support.
How can we maintain adult friendships?
Well, we’ve listed a few things you can do to maintain the strength of your relationship with your friends.
Be friends with people who have similar principles as you.
Maintain contact: give your friend an occasional call or message and be up to date with the happenings of their lives. Meet up once in a while at your favourite place and engage in activities you both enjoy.
Be present and offer support: be there for your friend when they are going through something distressing. Ensure that your friends know that you are there for them.
Accept help: some of us find it hard to ask for and accept help from others. Accepting help, when needed, from your friend shows them that you trust and need them in your life.
Be open: make sure to clear any misunderstandings and resolve conflicts. Differences of opinions are present in every relationship and are normal.
Appreciate them: your friends will be the ones who have your back through everything. Make sure your friends know that you appreciate them and they are important to you.
Be authentic: Being genuine and honest with each other is important in fostering trust and protecting the bond against breakage.
Do not judge: establish a no-judgement zone for each other. This helps in being open and free to engage in self-disclosure without having to worry about what the other person would think.
Prioritise the friendship: make the friend a priority in your life, spend time with each other, make time to listen to the friend.
We all need at least one friend with whom just one look or eye-contact would be able to convey all that we need to say, forgoing the need for a verbal language. To have that one person who would call you out when necessary and tell you when you are being ridiculous, and at the same time be protective over you and fight others when they bad mouth you. Everyone in this world requires a friend whom you can always count on.
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