By: Rachel Goldsmith, MS, MA

As adults, it can be hard to know who and what to spend your time on and where you should focus your attention. We often have a variety of people and responsibilities in our life, each pulling us in a different direction. For many, that can mean that friendships fall away as we focus on our partner, children, job, and family. Although this is somewhat natural as we get older, it also means that we miss out on the positive, life-enhancing benefits that friendships bring.

Indeed, our romantic partnerships, no matter how satisfying and healthy, often do not provide us with everything we need. Friendships enhance our lives and can offer us something unique that, at times, no other relationship can.

These are the people who know us deeply, are there to support us when we are experiencing struggles, and offer a different perspective that often gets us out of a difficult situation. Friends contribute to our sense of well-being and feeling secure, and when other areas of our life may suffer, friends can be called upon to offer a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, and an ear for listening.

If you have found that your friendships are not getting the attention they deserve, or if you simply feel that you do not have many strong friendships but would like to, here are five ways to build and rebuild these important relationships. Give yourself permission to turn your focus toward your existing friends and to making new ones, knowing that a strong friendship can boost your happiness and satisfaction in life, ultimately helping you be the best person you can be.

  1. Schedule dates. Although perhaps they do not occur with the regularity and frequency of your date night with your partner, setting aside specific date nights with your friends can be essential to keeping this relationship afloat. Relationships need time and attention, so work that into your busy schedules by agreeing on a biweekly coffee date, a weekly phone call or Skype session, or a monthly afternoon spent together doing a fun activity. Your friendships will continue to grow and develop when you invest this kind of time and energy.
  2. Show up! Sure, life happens and we sometimes need to cancel plans and reschedule, but try to prioritize your friend and the plans you have made by making a true effort to show up. If you are trying to make friends, make the effort to be present: come to the party they are throwing, meet a potential new friend for lunch (and make the plans yourself!), or just send this person an email saying how much you enjoyed your talk the other day.
  3. Share life updates however you can. With technology making it easier than ever to stay in contact, use it to your advantage in your friendships. Send text message updates, email notes, or leave voicemails. Doing this takes only minutes out of your day but keeps the friendship connection strong.
  4. Show your appreciation. As time goes by, it can be easy to assume that your friend inherently knows how much you love and appreciate him or her. But how much closer and more connected would you be if you really expressed your love and appreciation to your friend? This means calling, writing, or saying in person how much you value this person. It means simply saying what you feel and never operating under the assumption that your friend will read your mind and know.
  5. Repair. Over the course of a long-term friendship, you can expect to have some conflict or disagreements. Don’t let these small conflicts build up and spoil your bond with your friend. Apologize when needed, talk openly when things turn south, and make whatever repair efforts you can to ensure that you keep this friend in your life. You’ll be grateful that you did.

If you are looking for help with your friendships, a trained counselor can help. Contact us today to book a session.