For most people, maintaining close friendships is an important part of pursuing happiness. However, relationships that were once important can begin to dwindle over the years, and old friends often drift apart. Here are six tips that will help you to hold onto meaningful friendships for the long haul.
1. Identify true friends
If you have friends who drain your resources, don’t treat you with respect or tend to flit in and out of your life, devote your energy to caring for other friendships. If you have a busy life, focusing in on the people who really matter helps to ensure that you can make adequate time to stay in touch. Think about the friends who support you, understand you, and brighten your life just by being a part of it.
2. Be forgiving of good friends
Although it’s smart to be aware of any insincere or fair-weather friends in your life, try to be compassionate when it comes to your true friends. Everyone forgets commitments now and again or ends up running late due to circumstances beyond their control, so try not to judge good friends too harshly unless a clear and consistent pattern of thoughtless behavior begins to emerge.
3. Show that you care
Finding ways to give back is a vital part of maintaining close friendships, as reciprocity is a key element of any good relationship. Regularly small and meaningful gestures helps to show how much you value a person’s presence in your life. In many cases, offering to do a friend a favor (such as helping with decorating or babysitting) can be more significant than a material gift.
4. Allow each other to grow
When you’re friends with someone for a long time, it’s important to recognize that you will both change and grow. Be open to seeing your friends develop in terms of interests and personality, and try to offer unconditional love throughout. If, for example, you simply expect a friend you made in high school to be exactly the same when they hit their 40s, the person may feel like you really don’t know them anymore.
5. Let friends know they’re on your mind
In addition to regularly staying in touch, you can cement a bond with a friend by sending them little messages that acknowledge connections you’ve noticed. For example, recommend books that remind you of a friend’s favorite novels, refer to an old in-joke you’ve just remembered, or suggest they try a great new restaurant you’ve visited. This type of communication can keep you feeling close even when you don’t have as much time to spend together in person.
6. Be authentic
Finally, deep lifelong friendships require a willingness to be vulnerable. Be honest when you’re going through a rough patch or feeling low, and let friends help you if they can. While you might think you’ll avoid being a burden if you fake a cheerful disposition, the lack of authenticity promotes shallower and less meaningful communication.