6 Ways to Cultivate Friendships that Last
6 Ways to Cultivate Friendships that Last
Friends: the ones who make you belly laugh so hard that you cry, the ones by your side when tragedy hits, the ones who send texts or cards or flowers just when you need them most, the ones who make life joyful and beautiful and meaningful. And best friends? They’re the ones there through thick and thin, over months and years and decades, across miles and surrounded by memories. That kind of deep, lasting friendship is one of the most beautiful gifts in life. There have been seasons of my life where loneliness has hit me hard and I’ve struggled to connect with the people around me, and there have been seasons where I’ve felt wonderfully wrapped up in community and love. In both, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to connect with other women and build friendships that thrive.
Here are some of the best things I’ve learned in my lifetime about cultivating friendships that last through the changing seasons:
1. Be available and be open. As an introvert, this can be challenging for me, but it’s an essential element in the process of cultivating friendships. Say hi to the new face in the room at your next social gathering, strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never gotten to know before, go to new places and events and gatherings, and put on a warm, brave face. You have to be open to people before you can be in relationship with people!
2. Remember the little things. The littlest things can make the biggest impact in friendships, from ones that are just beginning to ones that have lasted years. Noticing new haircuts, remembering to check in about how an exam or interview went, sharing an article about something they like, or even just complimenting a piece of jewelry can make our friends feel seen and appreciated. Just this past week, one of my closest friends sent me a text reminding me of a hilarious thing I said many months ago. It was such a little thing (and something we so easily could have forgotten) but her incredible memory and that short little text message reminded me of a great moment in our friendship and of how deeply I value having her in my life. It’s as simple as a “thinking of you on your first day at the new job!” text, a “just wanted to chat” phone call during your daily commute, or sharing lattes together on a Saturday morning.
3. Celebrate the victories, the milestones, the holidays. A healthy dose of celebration sprinkled into our daily lives can help keep joy at the core of your friendships. New jobs, promotions, engagements, baby announcements, progress in recovery from addictions or surgeries or health issues, Thanksgiving, Galentine’s Day, or even a great hair day can be reason to celebrate! Take a few minutes to look at the upcoming birthdays of your friends on Facebook so you can get a card in the mail—it’s such a great way to make your friends feel loved on their special day. Mark everything on your calendar or put notifications in your phone so they don’t slip by you, and get that confetti ready for tossing and the champagne ready for toasting!
4. Use your words. Communication is absolutely essential in any relationship, especially ones that are long lasting. Ask good questions and pay attention to their responses so conversation can flourish. Use your words often to express how you’re feeling, especially when things get messy! Hiding your emotions can easily create space for resentment or frustrations to mount, when talking openly and honestly can provide space for growth and healing. It can be scary to be vulnerable, but doing so fosters real connection in our friendships that will be stronger and better as a result. Opening up and sharing your story creates a lasting bond.
5. Keep learning and keep growing. The key to lasting friendships is learning to adapt as circumstances and seasons change. Even if you’ve known someone since you both were in diapers, there will always be more to learn about them. Ask questions! Make time for conversation that goes beyond just talk of the weather and the latest life updates. Discuss events in the news and talk about how they make you feel. Read the same book together and share your thoughts throughout. It can be surprising how much you can learn about even your closest of friends when you ask questions and are eagerly interested in getting to know more and more about them as time goes on. A friendship between college roommates won’t work the same once both people have new jobs or relationships or locations, so flexibility is key! The best friendships are the ones that are constantly evolving as both people grow and change and adapt together over time in new ways to new depths.
6. Give grace and forgive freely. Friendships aren’t always easy, and people won’t ever be perfect. The longer you know someone or the closer you get, the more opportunities there will be for feelings to get hurt or mistakes to be made. Those same things also create opportunities for us to extend grace (even when it feels impossible or undeserved) and to forgive even if we’ve been hurt. Remembering how much grace we ourselves have been given and how much forgiveness we’ve received puts things into perspective and can help us fill up our friendships with acts of love.
Life is so much better lived together, whether with one lifelong bestie or dozens of acquaintances. Here’s to opening up, pressing in, loving well, and laughing often with lasting friends!
Rachel Dawson is a writer of blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, daily journal entries and doodles. She blogs about her life and faith at www.racheladawson.com and as part of the Rethink Creative Group. She is always reading, whether it’s C.S. Lewis or Timothy Keller, Twitter, her study Bible, or vegan and gluten-free cookbooks. She wholeheartedly believes in having adventures, having passion, sending snail mail, and having complete faith in the Lord. Find her on Twitter here or check her out on Facebook.