What is Friendship?

Recently I wrote about focusing on friendship to build stronger relationship connections in this next stage of life.   With the loss of so many of my connections post-working, I’ve had to re-think what does friendship really mean.

When I retired, I lost a significant portion of people I considered to be friends. These friends were really convenience friends are based on shared proximity. In my case the shared proximity was work and our connection was work-based. Without work, there wasn’t really any shared, common element to connect us and over the past 2 years, those friends have slowly drifted away.

I then thought friends were all about the soul-enhancing relationships. The be-there-for-you-at-2AM people, the ones you talked with daily, the “sisters by choice”, the ones who made you a better version of yourself.   It took me awhile to acknowledge that this is “THE best friend” – the true BFF.   And my singular BFF is my husband.

Then I thought – what about just “good friends” – the ones you share affinity and affection. The ones you can be yourself with, who know you deeply – whether you connect weekly or monthly.   These are the friends who show up to celebrate things – the kids’ graduations, the kids’ weddings, the big birthdays. The friends who support you – for the relative’s funerals, the hospital stays. And I had to realize that it’s OK if sometimes that support needs to be requested or is virtual.   These friends tell you to “go for it”, whatever it may be – the beginners yoga class, the trip to Africa, or the writing of the book. They ask about the plans, listen to the details of the activity, encourage you when things get tough. When I think about friendship this way, I have many folks that fit this definition!

What about the “casual friends”? The folks you meet for lunch/dinner once a month, the people you network with for gig opportunities, go with to yoga or zumba, or who like/comment about your posts on FB.   They help round out your life and shouldn’t be discounted as they are.  And perhaps nurturing some of these relationships could result in more good friends.

 

So looking at friendship though this new lens I still realized… I need more friends in my life!  I need more people to connect with and to create that support network so crucial in the retirement life stage.

My current reality is many of my good friends are still working. And have kids, spouses, and close extended families.   So very often, getting something scheduled can take awhile.   And on more than one occasion recently, I could find no good friend to do something with me that I wanted to do.   I’m not a solo adventurer so the opportunity passed. (Perhaps solo-adventuring is a skill I need to develop?)

Another reality I’ve noticed is with 90% of my friends (both good ones and casual ones), I am the one initiating the connection.   Very few reach out to connect with me.   I’d love to have some reciprocating invitations!   I’m not sure how to foster that; obviously role modeling the behavior hasn’t worked.

 

So as I move into 2017, as part of my new years resolutions, I’m focusing first on continuing to intentionally reach out to my good friends to connect – acknowledging and nurturing those relationships.   And I’m exploring more regularly occurring circumstances (in areas of interest) to meet new people that could potentially become good friends – to tap into for different activities (so I don’t need to develop those solo adventure skills) and provide that support network in life.

And if anyone has suggestions on the challenge of invitation reciprocity, please share!

 

What does friendship mean to you as you move into retirement?

 

Picture Credit: Pixabay

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13 thoughts on “What is Friendship?

  1. Friendships are complicated. I’ve learned to keep my expectations low and what happens will happen. As for reciprocity, that is a touchy one. I am also the “reacher.” Mostly I don’t mind but sometimes I’d like to feel like someone wants to spend time with me. We have a couple friend who will never initiate although when we get together we have a great time. They live across the street. I decided to back off and see how long it would take. Although I’ve seen them a number of times and they always say, “We have to have dinner together” there is no follow through. So far it’s 4 months and counting. One day I will just give up and call but I won’t feel valued. Maybe that is the difference. I do have friends who will take turns with the planning. I’ve also come to understand that most retired people do not like to host things in their home. I’ve cut back too but a nice low key evening with burgers on the back porch is delightful. My bestie is my husband too.

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    1. I’ve often been told I need to lower my expectations in life so I won’t be disappointed. Sigh. We’re getting to know a new couple and they reached out to us for a “second date” – Wow! I was so excited. My monthly foodie group always sincerely thanks me for setting it up, so I do feel valued and do it another month. Another couple we are also into month 4 of not seeing because I felt un-valued there. I’m still not sure of my best approach, but have realized if the relationship is important enough to me, I will do the work! And I still have my bestie. Thanks for the comment Kate.

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  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Pat. There are many kinds of friendships, and we need all kinds in our life. Reciprocity is tricky. Sometimes it takes much time and patience. When we first moved to our new location I felt that I was always the one putting myself out there. Now that we have been here a while I am seeing the reciprocity shift more into balance. Too bad that we didn’t live closer (or even in the same country). I think that we have many common interests!

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    1. There are a number of women I wish I was physically closer to because I think they might even border on the 2-am friendships over time…. you are one. Every time I read one of your blogs, it touches something deep within me! I am learning to appreciate all kinds of friendships, including the long distance and virtual ones! Wishing you and Richard a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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  3. Join some groups with common interests. Aauw is a good one. Churches often have women’s groups. I started a lunch bunch group at my church, choose a time and place and make it a regular thing. Look for volunteer things. Take classes. You are right, it does take a lot of effort.

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    1. I also started a foodie group; I really appreciate the fact that they ALWAYS thank me for setting up the monthly dinners! I’m continuing to reach out… thinking to use the MeetUp site for a link to a book cub or dog-walking group this spring. Yeah, it takes effort. Not something I thought of on retiring!

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  4. Friendships can be complicated in retirement. I had lots of work friends who are now out of my life… unless I happen to run into them when I’m out and about (but then we usually end up talking about work). The few work friends I keep in touch with are very special to me. I think you described the different types of friendships very well. It’s important to have some of each kind in your life. And, you are so right about the challenge of reciprocity. It can be tough and sometimes you just need to understand that that’s the way it is – it’s more a reflection on them than on you.

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    1. The one thing that has helped in my foodies club (which I do all the planning) is they always thank me each time. We were invited to a dinner gathering last night – a casual friend – so as well as thanking her last night, I sent a written thank you today. Small steps. And appreciating the friendship even if there is no reciprocity!

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  5. I agree with the previous commenter. If you wait for others to initiate, you may lose casual friends as they drift away for no particular reason. When people stop accepting invitations to events… that’s a concern. 😏
    So I keep calling or otherwise initiating contact and am happier for it.

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  6. I share your frustration with reciprocity. I don’t have a suggestion. This was something I noticed long before we retired. We mainly got together with couple friends if we invited them. Rare is the invitation from them. Yet all seem to gladly accept our invitation. So I’ve tried to focus on being happy to be together rather than on the fact we are the ones to always clean and cook. I’ve decided to “suck it up” and be the coordinator for a quarterly cooking club because the club was dead since no one else was willing/able to make the group happen. I’m accepting that if it’s important to me, I do most of the relationship work even though I’d like to feel that someone else was willing to put in the effort. But if I wait for that, I’ll be very lonely. Fortunately for me, even very casual acquaintances seem to be enough – chatting with a fellow exercise regular while fixing our hair/makeup after class, discussing a book at the Y Book Club where I only know their name by the name card sitting in front of them. I wish you well.

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    1. Your statement about “if it’s important to me, I’ll do the relationship work” really resonates. It is important, so yeah, I’ll do the work. (and stop begrudging it perhaps) Thanks for your comments and insight!

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