The age-old adage, “your partner should also be your best friend”, is a well-meaning one—but ultimately it can wind up narrowing your social life. Having friends outside of your family, your romantic relationship, and outside of your workplace (although you may count some coworkers as friends) has an overwhelmingly positive impact on your life. Friendships require no familial bonds, professional decorum, or formal commitment and ceremony to thrive. These relationships exist simply because two people find the time they spend together enriching and satisfying.
It is the fact that friendships are so special that makes them essential for us as human beings. However, as you may know yourself, friendships are much more difficult to maintain in adulthood than they were in grade school. In fact, the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey found that 12% of Americans now say they have no close friendships, up 9% since 1990.
Luckily, while American adults seem to be having more trouble making and keeping friends, all hope is not lost. As an executive matchmaker, my years of experience helping individuals find the right romantic partners have given me a surprising amount of insight into how friendships are formed and maintained in adulthood. They have also allowed me to see firsthand how important it is for adults to give platonic relationships the same care and consideration we give romantic relationships.
Why Are Friendships Good For Us?
Friendships are a key component of any healthy support system. They offer you a source of strength and encouragement during difficult times such as the loss of a loved one, serious illness or injury, and divorce, and unlike romantic partnerships, this support doesn’t come with the caveat of needing to constantly maintain a devoted relationship. Friends are able to drift together and apart throughout the course of a friendship. This fluidity allows people to return to a friendship over and over again throughout their lives—not something easily done with a romantic relationship, which tends to have a distinct beginning and end.
Friendships also make us physically and mentally healthier. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults with strong social connections have a lower risk of significant health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, or an unhealthy BMI. Friendships also help decrease loneliness, isolation, and stress, and help to boost happiness, self-worth, and confidence. There’s even evidence that having strong friendships results in a longer life expectancy.
Why Are Friendships So Challenging?
The Survey Center on American Life, the conductor of the American Perspectives Survey, gives a range of reasons why adult friendships are declining.
- Americans are getting married later: As U.S. Census Bureau data indicates, both men and women are waiting longer to get married than they have in the past. We know that individuals who are single, widowed, divorced, or separated are more than twice as likely to feel lonely and isolated than people living with a partner.
- Americans are more geographically mobile: Because Americans move around more than residents of any other country, we are less geographically rooted in our neighborhoods and communities.
- Americans spend more time with their children: Parents now spend twice as much time with their children compared to previous generations. This leaves them less time to focus on relationships outside of their family unit.
- Americans spend more hours working: Both men and women are spending an average of more than eight hours a day working. This is probably why a majority (54%) of people who report having close friendships say they met a close friend at their or their spouse’s workplace, according to the Perspectives Survey. We simply don’t have time to spend in the other places one might find new friends.
When you look at all of these challenges collectively, it’s clear that Americans are incredibly busy, juggling many different commitments on a daily basis. We don’t have time to seek out new friendships, and we don’t have the energy to maintain the friendships we already have. And, even if we do have the time and energy, many adults find themselves asking exactly how to go about it.
When it Comes to Friendships, Here’s My Advice:
Don’t Overthink It
When meeting a potential friend or reconnecting with an old friend, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is this: don’t fixate on the outcome. When you allow yourself to let go of what the result of a human connection could be, you’ll be able to exist in the moment and let any friendship develop organically. Before you get ahead of yourself and start wondering if they’ll be in your wedding party, you simply need to ask yourself if you enjoy spending time with that person.
Harness the Power of the Internet
Where you find friendships is just as important as what to do once you’ve found them, and the Internet is a great place to start. While social media hasn’t necessarily done great things for the dating scene, it’s an excellent place to reconnect with old friends you’ve fallen out of touch with or kindle brand new friendships. Using the social networking app of your choice, you can seek out people who are talking online about topics you share an interest in, reach out to an old friend when you see they’re in town, and even start your own group.
The challenge when cultivating friendships via the web is translating them to the real world. Having a lot of friends or followers online doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a lot of offline relationships—you have to make the effort to bring these relationships out of the virtual realm.
Parents, Meet Parents
When you’re a parent, it seems like you have even less time than other people to focus on your own social life. Between managing playdates, after-school activities, and all of the other miscellaneous responsibilities you have as a parent, where are you supposed to squeeze in time to meet up with a friend? Well, when your friends are also parents, it makes things easier.
If you’re a parent with younger children, use their playdates as an opportunity to get to know other parents. You have to be there anyways, so why not take the time to get to know another parent, and see if you’d make good friends. If your kids are a little older, you might be more likely to see other parents when you drop your kids off at school or when you attend their Saturday-morning soccer games. In these instances, I encourage you to take the initiative; ask another parent if you can sit with them to watch the game, or see if they want to grab coffee together after school drop-off.
Go at Your Own Speed
As is the case with any relationship in your life, it’s important to move at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you’re more introverted, but you still want to cultivate strong friendships, you don’t want to immediately shoot down a person’s offer to connect. I recommend responding with something like, “Let’s text and plan to do something together in the next few weeks.” This response lets the other person know you’re interested in meeting up, but it also gives you some time to mentally prepare and get excited about it.
Conversely, if you’re more likely to find yourself being the person initiating a friendly meetup, remember to be patient with others. If you want to get to know someone, take a chance and invite them to do something. It can take some people a while to warm up, but that doesn’t make them any less likely to become a great friend of yours down the road.
Give All of Your Relationships the Attention They Deserve
Whether you’re single and ready to mingle, married, separated, or have sworn off romantic relationships for the foreseeable future, friendships will always be important for your continued health and happiness. It might take a conscious effort to find them in adulthood, but good friends are well worth the work. Like in any caring, compassionate relationship, the support, laughter, and companionship a good friend provides can do wonders for your quality of life. Let’s just say, the more people you have in your corner, the better.
While a partner can’t replace a friend, they can (and should) be another loving presence that increases your quality of life. But, like friends, the right romantic partner can be hard to come by. In this day and age, it can be challenging to find people who are looking for the same things you are. Luckily, by hiring a professional matchmaker, you can specify exactly what you want in a potential partner. I’ve spent years building a trusted, vetted network of potential love prospects so you won’t have to waste any more time dating people who are ultimately incompatible with you. Are you ready to start your journey towards intentional love? Visit our services and find exactly what you need today!