You have had friendships through your lifetime. Some lasted, some didn't. Friendships change or fade away, and that's OK. You need friendships for many reasons.
What is friendship?
Friendship is a special, informal relationship that is voluntary. You can't choose your relatives, but you can choose your friends. A close friend gives you someone to have deep, meaningful conversations with, that you can count on in good times and bad, who respects and listens to you, and that you can enjoy a common interest with. Friendships can change over time for many reasons, such as starting elementary school, leaving your hometown to go to college, and making a move across the country.
Reasons we need friendship
Some of the many reasons friendships are necessary are:
. positive health benefits
. relief of stress, loneliness, isolation, and depression
. support during difficult times
. increase in self-worth
. support while reaching for a goal
. information sharing to increase knowledge
. expansion of social network
You may have 200 online friends, but if you never interact with them other than by a click and a "like," they aren't true friends. You need more than online friends. These friends can't necessarily be there for you when you are sick or simply need a hug. Emoticons can't always take the place of that physical connection. Humans need in person interaction.
Stages of friendship
According to Dr. Paul Schwartz, a child and adolescent psychology expert, a child's friends provide, among other things, companionship, stimulation, support, social intimacy, and affection. In childhood, friends are fun to be around. They also help you learn life skills and development, such as sharing, kindness, and understanding of other people's feelings. Children who have friends tend to be less lonely, and those who have both male and female friends seem to be more socially adept and stable. In adolescence, friends are important in helping you work out your identity and values, as well as providing a boost in self-esteem and emotional support. In young adulthood, you seek out friends who share your values.
According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, young adults may hang out with friends 10 to 25 hours a week. Those who go away to college have a harder time keeping the bonds of friendships forged in childhood and high school. Once adulthood hits, it's even harder to devote time and energy to friends, especially after marriage. Some adults have many acquaintances rather than close friends, others have a few close friends, and still others stay in touch with old friends but also relish making new ones. In middle age, your new friends are most likely connected to work, school, church, and other common interests. As retirees, you tend to have more time and desire for close friendships, so prioritize them. You may reunite with old friends you've lost touch with over the years.
When Friendship Changes
Friendships change over time, just as you change. Those friends you loved to spend time with as a child may gradually change into people you don't like anymore. Attitudes, ideals, values, personalities, and opinions change over time. This is a natural part of life. That doesn't mean it is easy letting go. It could be akin to mourning a death. So, how should you handle this change? Give these tips a try:
. Leave past friendships in the past. You can honor and hold positive memories of them, while at the same time letting them go. This helps avoid hurt feelings and poisoning the dear friendships they were.
. Don't force friendships that are fading. If a friend isn't enjoyable to be around anymore, doesn't return phone calls, or keeps making excuses not to meet up, that friendship may have run its course. Go with your gut. Forcing a friendship that isn't satisfying anymore can also lead to negative thoughts of this once important friendship.
. Different friends belong at different times in your life. Ending these friendships doesn't mean you are dishonoring them or that they never mattered. They most certainly did matter in their rightful time. Again, hold onto the memories and be grateful for the times you shared.
Friends provide many important benefits. The fact that friends change and may even disappear from your life at some point should not keep you from seeking them out. The advantages of having friends far outweigh the disadvantages.
By Amy Colgan-Niemeyer