Ripenists are smart. We know the importance of friendships.
Feeling a consoling touch, watching your friend’s eyes widen and sparkle, being wrapped in a really good hug, smelling your grandchild’s skin, sharing cheers of ‘you can do this’ encouragement, seeing tears of laughter roll down cheeks – none of these can be replaced by Skype calls, Instagram pics or comments on Facebook. But they sure do go a long way when friends are a long way away.
Being out of sight also makes it easier to not be in touch. And time passes. Which can make it that much harder to pick up the conversation again. The challenge then is to communicate somehow, anyhow – staying connected is the key.
Here are some handy hints I’ve learned along the way:
Know your meet-up preferences
Understanding your own approach to friendship should be relatively easy by midlife. After all, you’ve had a few years at it!
Think about whether you prefer:
- Spontaneous or planned get togethers?
- To interact one on one or in a group?
- Having friends to your home or being out somewhere?
- Regular catch-ups or once in a blue moon?
- Meeting at the end of day or in the morning?
- Having other Beloveds with you or not?
- Weekend get togethers or Monday – Friday?
- Chatting in a café or doing something active together?
- Getting your work done before play or playing first?
Gary Chapman’s book “The five love languages” was so helpful to me. I finally stopped beating myself up for not being a ‘little and often’ friend when I realised that I’m a ‘quality time’ person.
Having gotten clear on your meet-up preferences, consider whether there are any mis-matches that, if discussed with your friends, could make a difference to your mutual availability. Adjust accordingly.
Figure out if you’re a Caller or Receiver
Social media and technology makes communication so much easier and faster these days, if you and your friends use it. But it can also surface unconscious biases in the way we like to communicate and be communicated with.
A dear, longstanding friend told me over 30 years ago when I apologised for not being in touch, despite thinking of her often, “some people are Callers; some are Receivers. Without Receivers like you, people like me would have no-one to call”. She generously let me off the hook of making the first move. And she still does.
Caller or Receiver – which are you? Hint: Callers like being called sometimes too.
Create rhythms and rituals
By midlife we know that our friendships will need to survive some waxing and waning, but we can smooth out the curves somewhat by creating rhythms and rituals.
My beloved sister and I have fortnightly (mostly) Saturday morning phone calls. I love the notion of us both taking cups of tea to our sitting places – she, in England post-dinner, and me in New Zealand pre-breakfast – and settling in for a chat. When we are lucky enough to be in the same place, we barely miss a beat.
It’s a ritual and adds a certain rhythm to our lives, which can be especially helpful for friends that live in different parts of the country or the world. Rituals are even more helpful for friends who live nearby.
For example, do you have any ‘doing’ friends? You know, the ones you do something specific with – a concert, a movie with coffee afterwards, a house or garden tour, the once a month dinner group or book club (the book discussion being only a tiny part of the reason for getting together, right?) – whatever you have of mutual interest. These ritual outings are often the threads in the fabric of friendship at midlife.
Committing to a weekend or get together, well in advance, works well if you and your friends live in different locations. I have found that the anticipation of being with dear friends is part of the delicious ‘gift with purchase’ feeling that kicks in when I make the flight booking and block the days out in my diary.
Of course, the best of intentions won’t make things come together magically though. So make the booking!
Circumstances change. People get sick. Work deadlines loom. The quality of our friendships become increasingly precious when time and energy are in short supply – all the more reason to share them wisely with those you cherish.
How do you maintain your friendships?
Any tips you’d like to share are gratefully accepted in the comments below.