How to Deepen—Not Just Maintain—Your Friendships
January 18, 2019
After an amazing catch-up session with a close friend you haven't seen for weeks, or even months, you head home feeling comforted by the familiarity—they just get you. As you walk away grinning, you wonder why it is that you both don’t do this more often…
Time passes by, schedules fill up, and plans to “do this again ASAP” get pushed back further and further, or perhaps canceled altogether.
When you do eventually get together again? You find yourselves having to recap the last few months of your lives, leaving you unable to ever really dig deeper than a simple catch up.
Feel familiar? I know it does for me.
As we get older, the standards and basis for our friendships change, but that doesn’t make them any less necessary. In fact, as we age the friendships we have become even more important.
Studies have shown that true and positive friendships have a number of mental and physical benefits:
●︎ They increase your sense of belonging and purpose
●︎ They boost happiness and reduces stress
●︎ They improve your sense of confidence and self-worth
●︎ They help you to cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one
As adults, our lives are consumed with a number of priorities—work, finances, our families and overall health, which can cause friendships to take a back seat. Personally, I can relate to this struggle.
A little over a year ago, I moved in with my boyfriend from an apartment in Harlem, New York to one in New Jersey just across the Hudson River. It's still close to the city, but just far enough away that there’s a bit more effort and planning that goes into getting together with friends. Though I love my friends and all of our times together, when the group text fires up about our next gathering I can't help but think about all the other things on my plate, too. it’s hard to shake that “they’ll always be there” mentality and skip out on a night with them.
What I've learned, though: If you don’t nurture friendships, how do you expect them to sustain or grow deeper?
I'm recommitting to deepening my friendships this year, and you can join in, too. We’re all continuing our self-care journeys in 2019, and what better way to do so than to make sure your crew is solid?
I did a bit of digging on the best ways to truly deepen friendships, and I also tapped the ladies of The Fourtress—four roomie-friends living and working in NYC—for their take on doing so. The Fourtress—made up of Candice Frank, Tierra Taylor, Kiara Bass, and London Coleman-Williams—has been making a splash on Instagram with their uniquely curated and vibrant posts that inspire and empower women to fulfill their purpose—and support their besties, too.
Prioritize Touching Base
“Make it a practice to check-in every time a friend of yours crosses your mind,” the ladies of The Fourtress suggest. “Whether that be first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, while you're on the train—if something makes you think of your bestie, then shoot him or her a quick text at that moment.”
You may not always be able to maintain an in-depth conversation, but you can at least show them that they are on your mind and in your heart.
Also, by reaching out when you actually are thinking of them, the conversation will feel much more authentic when you get together—you'll already know the highlights of your time apart.
Make Plans and (This Part's Tough) Try to Stick to Them
“You've likely surrounded yourself with friends that are just as busy as you, so make it a point to plan your next outing," say the ladies of The Fourtress. "And don't feel guilty for having to pencil someone in or for planning far ahead.”
If you and your friend have made an effort to get plans in the books, do your best to stick to them. Moods change, and circumstances arise, but in the event that you can, try to hang in there. You’ll surprise yourself with how happy you will be afterward by not canceling.
Initiate Intentional Conversations
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. When we open up to others, in most instances, it makes that person more willing to open up to us in turn. Also, a close friend can be a great outlet or bring a different perspective that you may not have known you needed.
This relates back to the benefits mentioned earlier—positive friendships are very helpful when it comes to coping with tough situations.
Intentional conversations aren’t solely those that are emotionally trying—why not discuss hopes and dreams, goals and desires?
To get into deeper conversations, try asking open-ended questions outside of “What did you do this week?” Some other ideas:
●︎ What's been inspiring you lately?
●︎ What are you looking forward to in the next few months?
●︎ What's your new favorite way to spend your free time?
And while chatting, try to unplug and be present. When together, put your phones away—make it a point to immerse yourselves into the moment. Also, be mindful and take turns actively listening and speaking.
Get Away Together
Not all of us live in the same cities as our closest friends, so long spans of time before seeing one another can be inevitable. If this is the case, why not plan a trip together? Perhaps a weekend in a nearby city or even a staycation at one of your homes.
Getting away with one another is a great way to remove all the noise and distractions of our everyday lives and really get in some quality time.
But Still: Know Your Boundaries
If it truly is a tough time for you, and you physically or emotionally don’t feel able to commit to deepening friendships, that's completely fine. Communication is key.
If you’re focused on your own growth at the moment, simply letting a friend know and then picking things back up when you are both ready to invest is well worth it.
According to the ladies of The Fourtress: “The time we dedicate to our growth as individuals shouldn’t be viewed as time away from our friends, but instead should be viewed as a means to elevate one another as a whole. True friends will always respect your hustle, and you should do the same.”