Something I have come to know in my personal life and professionally as a therapist is the need for connection, even for those of us who consider ourselves to be quite independent. There are so many ways to communicate with others now that one would think loneliness should be non-existent at this point. But as most of us know, social media friends are not the same as real friends.
There is an assumption when we are young that our friends from childhood and teenage years will be our friends as adults. I know for some people that may be true, but many of us struggle to connect with others as adults. We get busy with children, careers, family obligations, and other projects. We may have many acquaintances, but not friends.
I have kept up with some friends from high school through social media, but my core group of friends now I did not grow up with and that is ok. Actually, its more than ok. They are great. I met them as an adult and have nurtured and maintained those relationships over the last decade. Funny thing is, we live in different states: two in Illinois, one in Kentucky, and I am in Tennessee. But I have learned some valuable lessons about friendship as I drifted away from some people and closer towards others.
- It is ok to grieve the loss of friendships, even those from childhood
- It is ok to make new friends
- If you want to maintain friendships you have to put in the work and true friends will put in the work too
- Distance matters but not as much as we think it does.
- True friendships are definitely strengthened through hardships
I know some of those are pretty obvious. But I have learned that what we find to be obvious and can easily point out in others, we often fail to see for ourselves. It really hurt to see one of my best friendships from my teenage years end, and for a long time I tried to hide how much it hurt. Even typing this now, it hurts. Making new friends is hard, even for an extrovert like me. It is scary to put yourself out there, even as an adult and risk rejection. But when you do and you find those who you can truly bond with it is a beautiful thing.
All relationships take time and effort to maintain, and friendships are no exception. Those friends I spoke of earlier, we see each other a few times a year, but it is a priority for us to do so. We communicate via text often, encourage one another, and laugh together. When life happens and tough circumstances arise, it really shows true friendship. I have seen this with my work and personally. Someone who is willing to sit with you in the dark is a true friend.
If you can relate; if your past friendships have faded and you are lonely wanting to build new friendships, then get out there. Connect with that other soccer mom who always sits by herself, join a local group through your church or other organization, and find those with shared interests. Of course it is scary. Being vulnerable is scary. But it is the only way to build true connection and end loneliness. I am telling you, it is worth it.