01 June 2016

The Friendship 411

Friendship is hard. Anyone that says otherwise must live in a different universe. I've realised in the past year of my life that as my life has changed, my relationships have changed. I've lost people from my life that I never thought would leave and I've had people walk into my life that have added so much value to it. I recently was discussing this with a friend and she said (literally copy and pasted from a text!) - "...people come in and out of our lives for a reason. If they are meant to be there, they will. Be thankful for the good memories you may have had and embrace the new memories to be made with new friends". Her words really inspired me to write this post and share what I've learned from the past year of my changing relationships. 

My friendships are hugely different to how they were when I was a teenager or at university. The structure of your life really starts to change when you are working 9-5 and are more tired mid-week. I was always someone that loved to be doing something every night but now, I'm quite happy to be on the sofa with a big cup of tea and reading a magazine when I come home from work. However, it took me a long time to realise this. I was working a 9-5, running to blog events, trying to see my friends, go to choir and be a daughter & a grand-daughter. Sometimes you can't be everything to everyone and you have to learn to prioritise what is most important in your friendships. 

Just like any relationship - romantic, platonic or parental, it can break down if it deemed that one person is making all the effort. It is in some people's nature just to be more giving - I know this is certainly in mine and I really enjoy being able to give people my time. I certainly think that getting the balance right can be a challenge but sometimes you do need a little friendship health check - what are you getting from the relationship? Are you being drained all the time? Sometimes these can be hard conversations to have if you have been friends for a long time or if you have always been the "picking up the pieces" friend in the relationship. You often don't realise this until you need support or encouragement yourself and your friend isn't there. 

My friendships have changed in structure, but never in heart. I think this is a common feeling amongst people my age. Actually, I would say I love my friends more than ever and realised I need them more than ever. Growing up we had a fridge magnet that said "Friends are the family you choose for yourself". I don't think I realised this until last year when I had to go to hospital for a procedure and my friend offered to take me. It sounds silly but it was such a practical thing to do and her being there made a huge difference to my anxiety levels and how I dealt with having needles poked into me. 

I have three top things that have really helped me with my friendships over the past year. If like me, you might be struggling because of other factors in your life - whether that be work, kids, family or something else, I hope my tips can help you out. 

1. Have a mate date
Everyone arranges romantic dates with their other half to keep the spark alive but often forget to do the same for the friendships in their life. I've found that arranging dates with my friends - whether it's for brunch, cocktails or dinner, is the easiest way to keep in touch. Texts and phone-calls are great but there's nothing like giving someone a big hug - if you have a long distance friendship you'll particularly know this feeling. I have found that you tend to fall into a rhythm with mate dates. Some people you see every week for a standing slot and some you see once a month if they live further away or your schedules don't fit. You'll find what works for you but keep it up! Take it in turns to do the arranging and take turns to pick where you want to go. 

2. Start a shared hobby
One of the greatest ways for me to make new friends was by joining a choir. Some of my existing friends then joined the choir too! Your hobby doesn't have to be singing - it could be the gym, crafting, gardening or just about anything you can imagine! The best bit about a shared hobby is that not only do you get to spend time with your friend but you also start to make tons of new friends together to expand your friendship group. This is something that amazes me even as an adult - you're never too old to make a new friend! 

3. Weekends away
This is an obvious one but often an over-looked one. Whether you go once a year on your friendship anniversary (which I think should be celebrated!) or a few times a year if you can afford it, spending quality time together away from the stresses of normal life is so healthy for your relationship. I have found it is often when I am away with a friend that I have found out something new about someone I love or our friendship has managed to become even more strengthened. Whether you go for a facial at the spa for the afternoon or you go to France for a week, there is nothing better in the world than quality time with someone that makes you feel good. A weekend away is often a good time for the aforementioned friendship health check!