Early in life we fell into friendships. The girl you sat next to on the bus was your bestie within a day. The neighbors’ son played soccer in the yard with you every day. When high school and college came around the same rules applied: friendship was the outcome of convenience. It was easy to stay friends when you had class together every day and were up until 2 AM working on thesises.
Then adulthood hits and you’re at a loss. You don’t seem to have common interests with your college friends anymore and you find that running into friends in the grocery store doesn’t exactly make up for not seeing them in the cafeteria three times a day.
Twenty-somethings experience this friendship fallout even more profoundly than other generations since we tend to move around and relocate for work much more than our parents did. You wonder, “Should I just move on? Is the fact that it’s so challenging to connect a sign that we’ve outgrown each other?”
Look, just because things aren’t easy doesn’t mean they’re not worth fighting for. Weeds will grow quickly without any care at all, but a garden of beautiful blooms demands attention and love. Catch the metaphor?
The best part about taking an intentional approach to relationships in your life (I’m talking about friendship here but these steps can apply to any relationship in your life) is that there are some wonderful side effects.
It will help your friends to feel more valued and loved since you will be paying them special undivided attention and it will help you to live a more paced and balanced life since you will be prioritizing what’s important to you.
Can’t wait to get in on the good stuff? Here’s how to be more intentional in your relationships:
1. Communicate your intentions.
It will help things along significantly if you and your buddy are on the same page. This is a great way to eliminate back and forth texting to find a good day for coffee. Put your noggins together and arrange a monthly activity or a weekly pre-work coffee date. And if you’re putting in twice the effort she is then that’s a clue that this friendship may not be worth sweating over.
2. Ask them what they like to do.
How many of us have bailed on plans because the activity in question was not our cup of tea? I’m raising my hand. It’s so much easier to stick to a friend date when you’re looking forward to the person and the place. Figure out whether she’s a margaritas-and-gossip girl or a picnic-and-chill girl. Bonus: she’ll feel flattered that you sincerely want to include her in your plans–and in your life.
3. Be sincere.
Stop with the “We should get coffee some time!” b.s. Everyone says it and nobody means it.
If you’re not interested in continuing a left over friendship then take a kinder route to move on. Don’t lead her on because you feel awkward. If you are interested in making her a part of your life, let her know! That gives her an opportunity to communicate if she feels that she doesn’t have a place for you in her life anymore.
4. Hearken back to college.
Put your thinking cap on: what was it about your uni days that helped you to bond so closely? Was it the experience of suffering through a cranky professor’s 8 AM class together? Try going rock climbing together and shout words of encouragement to her as you sweat your way to the top.
Maybe you were tight during your days in academia because all those late nights led to heart-to-heart discussions. Why not plan a grown-up sleepover? (And now that you’re of age and don’t have a morning seminar you can actually throw back a few tequila shots without regret!)
Taking intentional steps in my relationships was a wonderful experience for me. There were some sad moments when I realized that not all my friends wanted to make an effort to keep me in their lives, but the sadness was more than made up for when my true friends doubled down on their efforts to keep in touch.
My two closest friends live four hours away from me and work crazy schedules, making it difficult to pay them visits. This makes it necessary for us to plan weekend-long hangouts and text regularly, and guess what? Our friendship is even deeper than it was in our college days!
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I’d love to hear how your efforts to be intentional pan out. Leave me an update in the comments!