5 Ways You Can Maintain Your Adult Friendships

Adult friendships are difficult

Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

Have you heard that joke? The one about Jesus, his miracle was not that he rose from the dead but that:

he maintained 12 close friendships in his thirties.

Or something like that.

I recently had an epiphany. I have a friend who is hard to contact. I complained about the said friend in therapy, recently (during the pandemic & Lockdown). My friend is bad at communicating on Whatsapp. She takes at least a week to respond to a message. She does not always return phone calls. She makes plans and cancels at the last minute often.

I have known her for years.

“Why is this bothering you so much now?”

My therapist inquired.

“Perhaps because during this time you are feeling lonely and sad. But just because your friend takes long to reply does not mean she does not care. Some friends are like that.”

Yes. I know she cares. I was feeling alone and sad during the pandemic, I am sure we all were at some point.

I felt angry at her because I needed her. I doubted our friendship because it would have been easier to admit that she was a bad friend rather that I was feeling alone and needed a friend.

So instead of sulking and sitting in silence with my anger, I told her I was struggling. And how I felt lonely and sad. And she showed her care and my anger dissipated.

We are still friends and I hope to remain friends.

Adult friendships are not easy to maintain. We leave school, we grow up, we grow apart, we let petty arguments and unspoken feelings get in the way. That’s life. The older we get, the smaller our friendship circle. At least in my experience.

How do we maintain adult friendships?

1. Text/Whatsapp/phonecalls

This is the easiest and simplest way to maintain a friendship. A simple, “I was thinking about you, how are you?” is enough.

Facebook and Instagram are not enough to maintain a friendship. No one is their real selves on social media. You cannot truly know someone simply by browsing their Facebook feed. You have to pick up the phone and text or call to really know how someone is doing.

Phonecalls are so rare these days. Nothing beats a real-time conversation where neither party can hide behind their phones.

A real connection. You don’t need to meet up in person to maintain a friendship. A regular phonecall is hard enough, so don’t doubt a friendship if you haven’t seen each other in a while. Some friendships don’t need regular contact or facetime.

And it's not a game of who called/texted first!

Just call or text or send a Whatsapp message. It is easy to do. It need only take 5 minutes.

2. Call on birthdays

Don’t post a soppy Facebook message on your friend’s wall on their birthday.

Give them a call!

They will feel special. I love getting a phone call on my birthday. It takes more effort to call but so worth it and is more meaningful than a text.

3. Talk about things that upset you

This is harder than phone calls and text messages. No one relishes the difficult conversations. The one where you need to tell your friend their behavior is upsetting.

But if you don’t tell them, they won’t know, and simply ignoring them and hoping they will figure it out will swiftly end your relationships.

So many friendships fall apart because one party upset another and the upset party never addresses the issue. Instead, they quietly sulk and tell other people how upset they are. They don’t tell the one person who can make it better.

Perhaps it's an ego thing? I don’t know. We tend to avoid difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

It took me a long time to realise than it’s ok to tell your friends when they have done something to upset you. And it's not fair to sulk in silence while your friend wonders why you have gone silent.

If your friend is no longer replying to your messages, ask them why.

I have heard this many times:

“She is not responding to my texts anymore, I don’t know whats going on.”

Maybe nothing is going on or maybe there is.

But if you don’t ask you will never know!

“Hey, is everything ok, I have noticed that you are not responding to my messages? Did I do something to upset you?”

It's not rocket science. I know it's hard to be vulnerable. I have avoided these conversations often.

And I have seen friendships deteriorate because of silence.

For example, I have a friend who is upset with a friend but she won’t tell that friend. I encourage her to speak to this common friend and have a conversation. She does not seem keen on the idea even though the incident in question happened 3 years ago! And the friendship will not survive if neither party never addresses the issue.

One conversation, one uncomfortable moment, and it could end the silence and renew the friendship.

4. Never pass judgment on your friend / get upset at their life choices

We have often get upset at our friend's life choices:

“I can’t believe she took that job.”

“I can’t believe she is with that guy, she is being so silly.

“I can’t believe she bought that house/dog.”

We judge our friends all the time and get angry when they make decisions we think are bad for them. Sometimes we voice those opinions.

Don’t.

It will lead to the decay of the friendship because unwanted advice or “help” will only sound like criticism.

Your job as a friend is never to pass judgment and tell your friend how to live their lives. Their life choices have nothing to do with you. Don’t confuse their life with yours.

Listen to them when they need help but don’t tell them how to live. It will only make them angry.

5. Be forgiving

To be human is to be flawed. We all make mistakes. We are all inconsiderate and unkind.

We are not perfect. No one is. And neither are our friendships or the way we treat our friends.

Sometimes we are late to appointments or don’t text back or say things that are unkind.

And when our friends hurt us, most of the time it is unintentional and has nothing to do with us.

So forgive them.

Let it go.

Don’t hold on to unnecessary anger. Because you will lose their friendship.

One day you will also hurt your friend. Hopefully, they too will let it go.

Forgive the little things. And address the big things, head on. Talk and forgive.

Don’t hold onto anger because the only that you will be left holding, is your anger. And anger is a lonely companion.

In the end…

Adult friendships are hard but they are worth the maintenance.

It’s not that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but it’s your best friends who are your diamonds- Gina Barreca

Written by

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

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