Friendships can change depending on the stage of your life, as well as whether you are both growing & changing at the same pace and in the same ways. One of the hardest things to know is when should you put the effort into maintaining an old friendship? And when is it time to let it go?
The Sugar Doctor and Kia Handley talk about navigating friendship.
[Full Transcript Below]
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History can mean a lot in a relationship. The longer you've known someone, the stronger the bonds can grow, but things can also change in that time. You and I have talked about it when it comes to marriages and long-term romantic relationships, but what about friends and old friendships?
Just because you've known someone forever, is that a good enough reason to continue being friends if things are changing and evolving? Let's find out - Tara Thomas your regular guest talking all things, relationships with The Sugar Doctor.
How Important Are Friendships?
Let's talk friendships. How essential are friendships & old friendships as relationships?
Absolutely crucial. I mean, your friendships in your life are the leading indicator of your longevity, health, happiness, and satisfaction with your life. So you know, outside of your intimate relationship (whether or not you have one) your friendships are the most important thing for how are you going to feel about your life when you come to the end.
Yeah. Tell us why. Why, why are they so important?
There's been a lot of research around actually the impact of loneliness. If we're sort of to look at the flip side of it and, and the health impacts of loneliness are, you know, a lonely person is less healthy and more likely to get sick in, in many different ways than for example, a smoker.
So the, the health risks of loneliness are extraordinary and, and having really strong friendships, having that network of support means that as you traverse life and encounter all of the inevitable challenges that you will, you have that support to fall back on.
And that's the factor that makes things easier or, or you know, more likely for you to get through to the other side, still feeling supported and happy.
And they often support your other relationships, like, you know, your friends, your relationships with your family, your relationships, with a significant other, like your friendships actually help boost those and make them all healthier because you're not relying on one person to do it all.
Absolutely. And like you say, ideally, you know, your friendships provide a community so that you do have people to rely on and people to do different things.
You have, you know diversity of friendships so that you have people to go to, to, you know, help you move house or people to go to, to help you decide whether to take that job.
So building that community is crucial. You know, they say it takes a village to raise a child. And I really think it takes a village to just…
Be a human, you know…
For those people to call on when you need help.
And not just when you need help, when you want fun, when you want support. And I think people are really, really noticing that, especially in the last 12 months, 12 to 18 months now, really, as they're not having as easy access to those friendships and noticing what the absence of their old friendships and that support network is, is creating in their lives.
Does Proximity Make Friendships Easy?
And also I think that it takes work because sometimes friendships can be easy because of proximity;
You're seeing them when you're dropping the kids off, or you're seeing them, you know, at yoga every week or you're seeing them at work, you know, but when we've been working from home, when things have been canceled, we have had to actually put effort in…
That's right. And often that's when relationships, you know, you've come together for a purpose, whether it's an activity, whether it, like you said, your kids go to school together, you work together. And when that proximity, when the, the already shared contact ends, quite often, that's when old friendships end and putting the effort into making sure that you do maintain those points of contact is really important. Particularly as you get older.
At the same time, I feel like it was really easy to make. I mean, not for me, but it was really easy to make friends as a kid. You were like, Hey, you're in my class. Yeah. My friend.
And then as adults, it's like, oh, should I ask them to go for, or do they want it? I don't know if they want to be my friend. Do you want to be, Hey, you want to, don't worry about it.
Is It Harder to Make Friends as an Adult?
Why is it so hard to make friends? And is that why we sometimes hold on to our old friendships for a long time?
Yeah. Look, when you're younger, you have your criteria, you know, your bar for entry is a lot lower...
I like cars, do you like cars?! [both laugh]
In the same class, those are the factors that keep you together.
And as you get older, I think you become more discerning and you begin to know yourself better, and you begin to make more choices.
And also, you know, the time available to you becomes less because instead of having school, as the sort of primary focus for you, and then outside of school, you're free... as you get older and as your life and your lifestyle changes, you have to factor in work.
And now you've got a family and you've got kids and you've got your own hobbies and your own passions.
And so the time available for friendships becomes a lot less than a, and it takes a little bit more effort to make sure that they're blocked in, in terms of, you know, it being harder to make friends. I think a lot of the time, particularly if you move cities, people sort of have their established friendship groups, and it can be hard to break in to those. When you're looking to.... I call it 'recruit'
I've had many conversations with my friends since moving to Newcastle - friend dating is the hardest dating because at least with dating, you know, that you can just have a one night stand and move on if you need to. But friend dating is hard.
And what happens is you have all the same emotions, You know, rejection and acceptance. And what if I'm too weird? And you know, what if, or is that just me? [laughs] Right.
All of those things come up for you, but there's not really the acknowledgement in the general public of how hard that can be and how emotional that can be. So we feel like, oh, well, you know, maybe not doing it right. Or how do you do it?
And I think the intentionality behind it to bring the intentionality of dating to friend dating is really, really helpful. And to, you know, to look for those people, I know I've spent many years being quite intentional about thinking, you know, who do I want to spend time with in retirement? Or what are the kinds of people that we want to have over for dinner and not just relying on the, you know, kind of mushy relationships that you just fall into and being a little bit more purposeful,
Do Old Friendships Naturally Evolve or Fade Out?
How natural can it be if a friendship sticks long-term or if it just kind of fades out?
Yeah. I think it depends on whether you are a natural fit, whether your styles sort of mesh, whether it feels like, you know.... some friendships feel like they're a lot of work. Like there, it feels like the person is high maintenance. But it's likely that your, your requirements or your expectations are just different.
So one of the examples of that is, you know, how often do you want to see someone? For me it's like once a month, max, really? I mean, I'm quite introverted, but someone who's a little bit more extroverted and wants to be around people. You know, there are people who see their friends or speak to them every day. And there's neither of those ends of the extreme or wrong or better. It's just, it's good to find someone who has a bit of a match around that.
You know, if I had a friend who wanted me to talk to them every day, that's not going to work out, they're going to be frustrated. I'm going to be annoyed, you know? So finding someone whose, whose expectations and desires kind of fit, you know;
Do you want to do an activity together? So are you going to go for coffee or are you going to play sport or are you going to go to choir or are you just happy to go to the pub? So the activities matching is really important.
And then, lifestyle things as well. So, you know, do you have kids the same age is a factor that, that helps people to stay together for longer? Are you in the same cities?
So it's tricky to kind of pick sometimes the ones, sometimes the relationships that last from your earlier years and through into your adulthood are a surprise. You'd never pick it. Yeah. And yeah, you know, it's, it's tricky, you can't know in advance, but I think when it happens, it's really precious and it's worth putting more effort into
When is it Time to End Your Old Friendship?
You can hold onto history as being very important. But they've known me since I was, you know, insert age here. They're my oldest friend. They're my longest friend. When he's history, not enough to hold up a friendship,
It depends on how it's making you feel. So the best measures for whether you want to stay in an old friendship. You know how is that impacting on your, your personal life? Are you finding that that person is putting in the effort? Are you finding that when you spend time with them, you know, before you spend time with them during, and after you spend time with them, are you feeling good and happy and excited? Right. If you, if every time you see someone you go home and you feel down, then maybe that's a really good indicator that it's not as supportive relationship.
So you, you kind of want to be checking, you know, and also I think, are they evolving in their life with you? Whether that's not at all, whether you're both quite happy to be the same as you were when you were 20, which is fine, you know, doing whatever 20 year olds do at 40 or 50, I might roll my eyes a little bit, but I mean, if, if you're both cool with that, then that's cool. Yeah. Or, you know, is there someone who's holding you into old behavioral patterns that, that where you at 20, but maybe now at 30, 40, 50, you've moved past that and you feel like they're holding you backs on what, in that friendship, like when you see them, you have to do this old thing that you don't really want to do anymore.
Hey, that handshake that's right. Yeah. [both laugh]
And you have the handshake and it's embarrassing in a corporate setting, but because you're still friends with this person you have to.
And so it's really sort of checking in along the way, is this old friendship something that I find to be resourceful and healthy and supportive? Or is it something that I'm ready to bring to an end?
Thoughts are coming through on the textline about old friendships;
Kate from Terrigal says she's a lone Wolf. "From the get-go, even when I was a kid, I had trouble making friends it's impossible as an old person. And with my few friends, they are long-term is however, I love them to bits and would fight to the death for them. True friends are like diamonds precious and rare, false friends, like autumn leaves found everywhere. " says Kate from Terrigal
and Jan, I love this term says the, "one of the loveliest things about getting older is the weeding of her friendship garden. She's unknowingly, trimmed down her closest friendships to those from when she was aged pre thirties. And those created in the last 10 years or so" Jan has had an abusive marriage and a nasty divorce midlife and says "I've recently realized that the friends I made during those troubling times are still negative and angry people and no longer have a place in my life".
Jen raises an interesting point that sometimes it can be a time of your life or a big event in your life. And there just has to be a bit of a line in the sand. Yeah. The before and after.
And that is absolutely fine. You know, if seeing those people is bringing up old memories or making you feel like you're in a time of your life that you didn't want to be then it's absolutely fine to, in fact, at any point in your life, it's absolutely fine to choose not to be friends with someone for any reason!
There's no real rules about this. Whatever works for you, whatever makes you feel like you can be your best self and maintain your own boundaries and, and be happy and well.
In terms of bringing an old friendship to an end or having conversations to see where it's going in the future, is it very similar to a relationship?
Yeah. It is. It's, I mean, that's hard. It's hard. Look, as I just said, at any point you can just decide not to be friends. That's fine. Take care of you.
Don't ghost, All right!
Look, ideally I think it's generous and I think it's mature to bring to someone what it is. That's a challenge between you or what it is. That's a challenge for you with your friendships.
So, "Hey, you know it's really frustrating for me that every time I try and book a coffee with you, you're too busy and you don't get back to me. I find that really hard. Can we just make a day and book it in?" and give, you know, give your friend that feedback so that they have an opportunity to know what the barrier is.
Or, you know, "I find that the way that you want to text from me every day is just a little bit too much for me. I'm more comfortable with speaking to you once a week. Yeah. Would that be cool?" So giving them that feedback, because assuming that there's something wrong with that person or that they're a bad friend, just because the way they do things is different. I mean, that's really unreasonable.
Well, and they may have expectations from other friends that they're meeting and just assume every friendship requires that. Exactly. They might be relieved to hear that they don't have to go every day!
Exactly. Right. You know, being conscious about what your expectations are. I call them The Invisible Friendship Rules.
Quite often we don't know that we've made them rules. And then we'll say things like, "oh, I can't believe that he would do that. No one as if you do that to your friend" but that's just your set of beliefs around what friendship looks like. And that person could be very different.
So it's, it's nice to be a little bit flexible around what your rules are and to be able to have conversations with people about that. So you can explain to someone, you know, what you, what you find challenging, make a request to them.
So I, you know, I'd really like it if we could go and play skee-ball (I don't know where that came from!).
I was waiting for the kayaks to come out again.
Perfect opportunity missed! You know, "I'd really like it. If we could book a kayaking trip next month, I know it's cold, but there's less people on the water."
So make the request and then just check in how it's going, because if you just walk away from a friendship, it's a real missed opportunity to deepen that relationship and to, you know, maintain the longevity of your old friendship with all of that rich history as well,
I'm gonna need to do a little bit more on friendships. Cause we're getting a lot of reaction to this.
This text says "this hits close to home, I'm pretty introverted. And many of my close friends are now married and busy with family. It feels like I'm losing all my friends"
It is hard. That's a really big one, actually that transition from, you know, all my friends are getting married and now that they're all couples, friends or everyone I know has got children and they don't want to do the same things that we used to do.
That's a really, really tricky one. We should talk about that. Yeah. So there's always a point. Let's talk about like how to make adult friendships. That would be helpful. Let's see that those transitions between sort of age groups and stages can be really tricky because lifestyles do just change. So, so much so quickly,
And everyone has their choices. You know, you may be the couple of friends who were childless and so then you don't get invited to the one year old birthday. Anyway, it's a whole nother topic. Let's talk about it in a fortnight,
Lock it in!
Thank you, Tara Thomas, Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor, she'll be back in a fortnight's time.
Maybe let's do like a little, few weeks focusing on friendship because it, you know, it is a really big one and a really important thing in your life. I hear you. I see you feel you I'm there with you.
For full transparency you should know: This transcript has been lightly edited for flow, and to optimise the SEO on my website. That means that I have substituted some words or phrases so that the article is more likely to appear in a google search. In this article "old friendships" has been optimised. I only do that in a context where the meaning will remain the same, for example instead of "...but what about friendships?" I have said "...but what about friends and old friendships?"
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