Updating My Thinking on Friendship

It always amazes me that when I start thinking on a blog topic, I begin seeing it talked about/written about everywhere. This synchronicity has happened recently on the topic of friendship.

Relationships is a big component of retirement transition in general and one I focused heavily on at the beginning of my retirement as I lost almost 80% of my day-to-day connections when I stopped working. Now, more recently, in our Big Move, I needed to establish new IRL friendship circles. While I do want to maintain my connections with friends who are now physically distant, I know I need IRL friends. Touch is one of my top Love Languages (see link to love languages here). Words of affirmation and quality time are my top two but touch is number 3; I need hugs! The pandemic has certainly been hard on this one for me. I also feel a need for some deep female connections as I explore my emerging feminine consciousness. So some deeper thinking about building and maintaining friendships seemed a good place to start.

The idea of doing a “friend audit” came up, as did building more language (a lexicon) related to different types of friends. Exploring “what are friends” was interesting. One definition I liked: “Friends are people you select based on shared values, ideals, experiences, interests and beliefs. Your friends are your chosen family.” I am coming to understand that not all friendships are created equal and that is okay. It is good to have different groups of friends.

With the synchronicity that happens, Kathy at SmartLiving365 (link here) talked about: 1) friends that have your back no matter what; 2) fun friends; 3) deep conversation friends, 4) now and then friends; and 5) just above acquaintances. I also read about “toxic friends” who “suck the energy out of you” every time you see them, versus giving you energy when you’re together. (I think this could also be a toxic family member, but that’s another blog!)

I started to think about my own various types of friends – Blogging buddies, play pals, compatible couples, foodie friends. Thinking about building more friend language, a few friend types that really became clear to me are my:

Chosen Sisters – We have so little in common anymore, I wonder how we can stay friends and yet, they reach out to me and I reach out to them. I do want to know how their life is going, but I do refrain from going on too deep about the learning spaces I’m diving into. It’s similar to my birth sister – we have very little in common, just a heart felt wish that the other is happy and healthy and knows I love them. These long-term friends could also be called my legacy friendships, another term I read that I really like. We’ve been in each other’s lives for a long time, it’s comfortable and familiar and I want to maintain them always.

Deeply Intimate Friends – These are the few who I can share my hopes and dreams, fears and concerns, my ugly self. She is the one who I delve deep into the (crazy) learning spaces I get into, the things I’m ashamed of, and the feelings I’m almost afraid to admit to feeling. She doesn’t let me get away with lying to myself and I appreciate her open and honest perspective. To me, she is inspirational as well as aspirational and has enriched my life by exposing me to new thinking and ideas. We have deep soul level conversations and she really knows the whole me and I hope I know the whole her, too.

Inner Circle of close everyday friends. This is where chemistry and common interests come into play. This is the circle I’m working to create in Florida; the circle I’ve also never felt I had. It’s more than the Fun Tribe below, but not quite the Deep Intimacy above. It’s an extension of family – the ones who enjoy small get-togethers, will run errands with you, and ask you to join them to just hang out. They’d be the ones to call at 2 AM to come bail you out of jail (OK, that would never happen!). I hope one of this Inner Circle will be my “hell-yeah girl” – the one who is up for trying anything.

I’ve come to an acceptance of having two larger circles – my Fun Tribe and Acquaintance Zone.

The Fun Tribe people are my activities pals. Fun with Friends is a key element of my retirement transition. With these people, there is a sense of camaraderie, whether we are going to an art festival, a play, a concert, or a shuffleboard evening. I’ve come to accept that with this group, I am the designated planner, but luckily an appreciated one! These friends are not for steady emotional sustenance, but are really good company. We enjoy the things we do together! I also am beginning to accept the Fun Tribe participants will come and go with the seasons in Florida.

The Acquaintance Zone is a new idea for me. I read that it typically takes more than 200 hours, ideally over six weeks, for a stranger to grow into a close friend. This in-between zone for me (not a stranger but not my Fun Tribe, nor Inner Circle) is what Blue Zones calls “the acquaintance zone”. A Blue Zones article (reference here) said (paraphrased): “If you ask someone to hang out three times and it’s a no-go, move on and don’t take it personally. If you realize you don’t have a lot in common or you don’t really have chemistry, let it go. There’s nothing wrong with letting people go back into the acquaintance zone.” My Acquaintance Zone has been expanded with book club(s), garden club(s), neighborhood folks, and FB ladies meet-ups. And yes, it’s a different kind of relationship for me, as someone who worries about inclusion, to have so many folks in a more distant acquaintance zone.

A quote I read and paraphrased:

“Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. I want to spend my life with people who make me smile, laugh, and feel loved. I will surround myself with the real friends who accept me for who I am.”

So I’m continuing to be intentional with creating new FL friendship circles – building close IRL friendships, enjoying our fun friends, and accepting new acquaintances. Many folks might not need different “labels” like this, but it helps me to appreciate even more all of the different kinds of people in my life.

Picture Credit: fun with friends… day drinking cocktails!

11 thoughts on “Updating My Thinking on Friendship

  1. Pat: Really appreciated your reflections. It gave me pause to think about the different friendships I have, especially the tried and true ones. One such friend is celebrating her birthday today — we’ve been friends for nearly 60 years and we’re there for each other till the end. Chances are that most of us have only one or two of those treasured, longtime friends, but they’re priceless. The reciprocity thing really struck me because I’ve seen that wane in some of my “friends.” Why do I always have to initiate the gathering? Where’s the response? Good friendship takes work, and some apparently just aren’t willing to work that hard. Thanks again for your thoughts.

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    1. I’ve had to put aside the idea of reciprocity in friendship maintenance. Of course, I only do that when I get something out of maintaining the relationship! If they are often inspiring me, validating me, or even making me smile…. yeah, I’ll do the work for both of us. If they are sucking the energy from me or taking more than they give, then I’m not willing to do the work for two! I do have a one friend who actively thanks me for being the one to maintain the connection – they are in different life stage and like our time together, just don’t have the energy to plan it.

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  2. The friendship issue has circulated in my mind over the past decade when I retired and saw work friendships slip away. Interestingly enough, some of those same people reached out during the pandemic restrictions and there was a slight renewal of the relationships. It will be interesting to see what happens when activities increase again. Maybe they were legacy friends? Conversely, the pandemic restrictions shifted the relationships I had with a klatch, a group of 4 who celebrated birthdays, holidays & shopping (the fun tribe?). There was a shift in another very close relationship (intimate friend?) when the difference in our ideologies widened. It behooves me to consider what I want in a friendship and reciprocity is high on the list. I’m kind of a “lifer” and am learning to let go of a lot of things including my expectations of friendships. Like all good things, friendships require time and energy and work.

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    1. Interesting. I’ve come to accept a low level of reciprocity, if there is a true “thank you” when I set something up. I’m a planner and a number of my friends just are not. That was a shift for me, and one I’ve accepted. Another shift was to realize I have a social acquaintance zone which is similar to work colleagues of the past and to not try to turn everyone there into a close friend. And yes, I agree – friendships take time and energy! And what a fab word – klatch!

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  3. What an interesting post Pat about a very deep and personal subject. I’m not sure if it’s just covid but I’ve certainly seen some friendships kind of slide away in the last couple of years. But I still have some very deep close connection friendships that are so important to my well being. I also have a couple of sets of fun friends and my husband and I share a number of couple friendships as well. I shall ponder over the friendship audit and see what steps I might take to bring back to bring back some life into some of the friendships that have sort of just slipped away with covid.

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    1. Bernie – Covid certainly shifted friendships for me as well. But getting more comfortable with things like Zoom and FaceTme has actually helped me as we made the move – I’m staying better connected to my far-off friends. It takes intention – scheduling calls (I actually put notes in my calendar to schedule them!). I do “walk & talks” quite often. With one friend we do cross-stitch/embroidery projects as we talk. But I’ve also let go of some friendships that just are not going to survive the distance. Good luck with bringing back some life into yours – hopefully the desire is mutual.

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      1. Love walks and talks but living in the country it means someone is driving for that to happen. Although my other half and I do it every day. I really enjoy a river walk with a friend when I am in the city.

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  4. Hi Pat – speaking of synchronicity, I had a post on friendship scheduled for this week – then life changed and I replaced it with the one I wrote about my new adventure. So my friendship post goes live next week. It’s a different slant on the subject, but has some commonalities with yours.

    I’ve noticed my friendships have definitely changed over the years – I don’t have the energy to invest in people who don’t reciprocate on a similar level anymore. I’m happy to keep them in the ‘acquaintance’ category and leave it there. For those who have been there for me through thick and thin – well, that’s where my time and interest goes these days. I think that’s just a part of life and the changes that come with time and life circumstances, and I’m perfectly good with that these days. I think you’re coming to similar conclusions. 🙂

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    1. Leanne, I’m learning to accept the acquaintance zone and not expect more from it. And choosing how much time I spend there, making choices based on my interests, and not trying to make every one into a “close friendship” and then being disappointed. That is a big aha for me in this thinking! But yeah, isn’t it amazing about synchronicity! Looking forward to your perspective.

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