I never thought I would consider myself a bad friend. I love my friends and have always made an effort to spend time with them and do the “little things” so they know I care. So on the friend scale, I might not have been the best but I definitely wasn’t the worst…. Until navigating “the real world” popped up on my to-do list.
During college, I always thought I was SO busy balancing school, a part-time job, a long (sort of) distance relationship, and some on-campus activities. I honestly patted myself on the back when I sacrificed some time to drive someone to class or got a friend her favorite treat when she was having a bad day. I didn’t realize how much time I had and how easy it was to be friends with people that I saw everyday especially the ones I shared a house or even a room with. I graduated college a semester earlier than all of my friends and moved away while they all stayed together. At that point, I made an effort to go see them once every month or so – they all lived in the same place so that was definitely manageable. After that last semester, everyone dispersed and started professional/graduate school or work. I also started grad school and worked full-time but made an effort to see my friends that were in the same city and call/text with the ones who weren’t. I got engaged that first fall after college and added wedding planning to my repertoire of activities. Communication started to dwindle as I started to drown in all of my to-dos. I tried to be intentional to stay in touch and up to date on everyone’s lives but really got the first dose of real-life responsibilities. We bought a house that had to be completely renovated during our engagement so go ahead and add home designer to my 23 year-old self’s resume. We got married then moved 5 times in the first 6 months of marriage because our house wasn’t finished until 4 months later than expected. By the time we finally settled into our home, it was Christmas. We got a puppy. I was finishing school. My husband had two startup companies and worked night and day.
All of that to say, I let my obligations totally interfere with my relationships with my greatest friends. I felt totally out of the loop when I would finally talk to someone, and they would bring up what was going on in one of our other friend’s life. This past year, I got into a similar pattern of crazy busyness and completely missed almost every wedding shower and party for one of my greatest friends. Just a side note- I am amazed by women who still have a life outside of being a mother because I can’t imagine throwing some other lives into the mix. I have so much respect for those women. It’s easy to let our daily to-dos, obligations, and responsibilities get in the way of some really meaningful friendships. I also believe that when you are in a moment of feeling guilt and are down on yourself for not being the most intentional, remember that we have all been there. And your real friends know that you care.
Since I have felt that way more often than not in the past 3 years, I have compiled a list of things that I do to be intentional with my friendships – not out of obligation but because I love them and cherish our time together no matter how many items I haven’t checked off of my to-do list that day.
- When you start feeling guilty, call/text/plan a coffee date with a friend or group of friends. A simple – “I miss you! Hope all is well! Let’s catch up soon. Let me know when you are free!” – can go a long way. It’s a proactive step to get something on the calendar whether they live in the same city or not.
- Set up a regular time to call your friends out of town or hang out with those in town. This could be weekly, monthly, bi-monthly – whatever works for both of you. I like to talk to my friends out of town while I’m driving home from work. I’m usually sitting in a bit of traffic so it makes the commute go by so much faster. I’m also not worried about what I should be doing because I can’t do much else while I’m driving anyway – no texting though! I do this with my family, too!
- Hang out in groups. Sometimes it is hard to find a day that works for everyone’s schedule, but when you hang out in groups, you can all catch up on everyone’s lives in an hour or two rather than trying to schedule 3 separate occasions to catch up with each person individually. It’s pretty essential that everyone knows each other decently well so you can really catch up, but it is also a good way to introduce a new friend.
What are some tips that help your relationships flourish?