The relationships we have with our friends are some of the most profound we will experience in our lives. They can also be the most complicated. As we get older and no longer have time or proximity on our sides as we did in high school and college, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain friendships.
There is an abundance of relationship advice buzzing around the Internet, but the majority of that advice pertains to romantic relationships. It can be all too easy to get caught up in our daily lives and adventures in love and forget to prioritize our relationships with our friends.
As the wise Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Mary Schmich, once said,
"Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young."
When it comes to friendship, there will always be growing pains. Life will sneak into the spaces in between when you're not paying attention. Luckily, it’s the little things that can make the difference between maintaining friendships and drifting apart.
Issue 1: You live far away
There comes a time when you can't go across the hall of your dorm to see your best friend. It's always a painful adjustment when you or your friend moves away. All of the habits, comforts and conveniences are gone and it's a true test of any friendship.
Though social media is a great resource for keeping in touch, it shouldn't be relied on as the only means of communication. It's too easy and it's not as personal as a phone call. While phone calls and Skype chatting are more personal, they can also result in a dreaded game of phone tag.
For a sweet, personal way to remind your friends you care, use snail mail! Send a care package or a card and personalize it by adding stickers and doodles or write funny inside jokes around the box.
Issue 2: You're in different places in your lives
One day you’ll wake up and your beer pong partner will have suddenly found a new one. They'll move in together, get engaged and before you know it, you'll be going to their wedding… stag.
Everyone's life moves at a different pace. You might be ready to have a family while your friend is still perfecting his or her keg stand. It can be jarring to feel like you no longer have anything in common with your best friend, but instead of focusing on those differences, remember what first brought you together.
If your friendship formed over a mutual love of fashion, continue to go shopping together. If you both love Marvel movies, set a date (together or separately) to see the latest flick and talk about it after. Tighten those common threads.
Issue 3: The green-eyed monster
One of the most beautiful aspects of friendship is being able to share your dreams with someone. As you get older, these dreams start turning into realities, but not everyone's dreams come true as planned. Life often has a funny habit of not turning out the way you thought it would.
Maybe you'll find success right away and maybe you won't. Maybe your friends will. It's difficult to watch someone's dreams come true while yours lie dormant. Regardless of how much you love someone or how happy you are for that person, the green-eyed monster of envy can rear its ugly head. If you feel that way, don't hesitate to be honest with yourself or your friend.
Admitting, "I love you and I'm so happy you got that job, but as happy as I am for you I also can't help but feel jealous because I'm so unsatisfied with my job," can take a huge load off. If you ignore these feelings, that little green-eyed monster could very well grow into Godzilla.
Issue 4: There's a new BFF in town
"I've met someone else" is a phrase typically associated with a cheating significant other, but best friends can meet new people, too.
When your best friend starts a new friendship, those primal, selfish feelings are bound to surface. Whether you live in the same city as your friend or across the country, that jealousy is a side effect of missing your friend. Schedule a time to meet up or talk on a regular basis. Having that steady time to look forward to will establish a sense of control and normalcy in the relationship.
So while you might not have any control over your friend's other friendships, you have control over maintaining your own.
Issue 5: Can't find the time
Between work, grad school, paying bills, boyfriends/girlfriends turning into husbands/wives, pets, children and everything else, time becomes a precious commodity. There should be a healthy level of understanding in your friendships of what each of you has going on in your respective lives. However, there’s a fine line between being busy and being neglectful.
Making time and compromising are crucial in sustaining friendships. If you know your friend is juggling two jobs, grad school and a breakup, work around his or her schedule. Get up early Saturday morning to bring him or her breakfast. Even the smallest of deeds will go a long way in bettering your friend’s spirits.
Do you have a lot going on and you haven't talked to your friend in forever? Call him or her on your walk or drive home from work. Ten minutes is better than nothing.
Issue 6: Dollar discrepancies
The reality of managing your finances is probably the harshest part of adulthood. Your financial situation can also have a direct effect on your friendships.
If you're struggling and your friend isn’t, it’s likely he or she may not understand when you have to turn down offers to indulge in a little fun. Financial inhibitions from one person in a friendship can be frustrating for both parties. If you live far away, it exacerbates the problem because it prohibits visiting. There needs to be a mutual respect for each person's financial situation in an adult friendship.
If you're struggling, invite your friend to come over for dinner instead of going out. Likewise, if you see your friend struggling, suggest activities that don’t requiring dipping into your bank account. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that friendship requires compromise and understanding.
Photo via We Heart It