My mom has taught me a lot about constructing a positive, healthy social world and it has allowed me to nurture positive relationships while consciously neglecting negative relationships. She once explained it perfectly in a metaphor of a rose bush. The real, true friends are the blooming flowers, but sometimes you need to prune some of them to allow the healthiest to flourish.
The element of time investment relationships is difficult nonetheless, especially in a world with a mantra of “time is money.” Personally, I struggle to make the time to maintain and grow relationships. I always say I am “too busy,” but I’ve found the more time I make for friends, the better I feel and more productive I become. There is a book called “Never Eat Alone,” and while this book focuses on networking and business, it is a good lesson for personal wellbeing and friendships beyond the context of business. The main gist: never eat alone when you have the option to eat with a friend, acquaintance, or even stranger. Social connection matters.
As we age, we improve our sense of self and emotional regulation; these two shifts are critical in the changes that occur within our relationships over time. We begin to know ourselves better, which means we can find friends who align with our own values and beliefs. The improved emotional regulation allows us to develop relationships despite disagreements and learn how to manage conflict. I have had conflicts with all of my closest friends, but those conflicts improve our communication and lead to a deepened mutual understanding.
In my opinion, a true friend is someone who provides support in all the different spheres of life–a cheerleader who roots for you to succeed and find happiness. Finding those friends can be hard, but it is always worth the sting of thorns. Those are “forever friends” as I like to call them, and they truly make life worth living.
Have you noticed changes in friendships as you’ve grown up? What characteristics matter to you most in a friend?