We all tend to lead such busy lives these days, particularly as we enter our thirties and forties. Many of us find ourselves working, raising children, managing relationships and family commitments. As much as we feel we love and value our friends, we just don’t have time to nurture that connection. This seems reasonable to us, and we will actively justify this as a circumstance rather than acknowledge it as a choice.
Priorities are called into question here, as no matter how busy we are, at the end of the day we can always make time for something we REALLY want to do. We may be guilty of only making time for our friends when we need something from them – favours, a listening ear, to borrow something, or to utilize a contact of theirs etc…. Sometimes we may actively realise we have neglected this friendship when we discover it could be useful for us. We may experience pangs of guilt, and make an effort at the friendship again before we broach what it is that we really want…. Unfortunately we don’t always keep up that same effort after the fact.
Sometimes we may only realise we have neglected a friendship when we need someone and they are not there for us. Or when we see them experiencing meaningful connections with others and feel the pangs of jealousy and exclusion. Sadly there are times when we don’t even notice we have neglected a friendship at all. We may simply say they just “drifted away” – which is rarely the case. Each of you made a choice to stop putting in effort to your friendship.
So what can you do if you recognize in your situation that you have been too busy, but genuinely feel too busy to actively make time for your friends? The first step in solving any problem is identifying it, so congratulations on taking the first step. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. Your next step is to physically write a list of how you are spending your time each day. Once you have done that, highlight some time that you could use more effectively.
Maybe you like to watch your favourite show each week? Do your friends like it too? Why not make it your regular thing you do together, and you can catch up and chat in the ads? If you find an hour here or there just isn’t really enough to catch up with your friends, or doesn’t match up with the hour here or there that they can find, perhaps dedicate that time to communicating with them. You could give them a quick call, or commit to sending one friend a week a detailed email catching them up on your news and showing interest in theirs. Without communication you have nothing, so keep up the communication!
Now it would be wise to look at the people who do get your social time and communication. Who makes you happiest? Who would you want to spend your time on? Who would you miss if they weren’t in your life in years to come and who meets your needs the best? Sometimes we find we are spending more time on the less important people for whatever reason and less time on the important ones. This doesn't add up, so make sure your action is in line with your preferences and priorities.
The next thing you can do, once you have identified which friends are worth the extra effort to you, is get organised! Do some research, and plan for your friends upcoming events. Know which ones she celebrates, and which ones are important to her. When is her birthday? Her anniversary? Her child’s birthday? What should you get? When can you plan to get together with her to celebrate? If you plan these things in advance, not only does it show that you were thinking of her and it was important to you, it also ensures you carve out that time for her so you MAKE yourself free. If you have mutual friends you could also suggest inviting them along too, a great way to capitalize on the social event. As an added bonus, if you make the effort for them, you can look forward to reciprocation on your special days too!
The last thing you should do is think about the future. When the kids are grown, and you are retired, how much of what you are investing your time in right now will still be important then? You will need your friends again uncomfortably soon, and if you do not put in the effort now, who will still be around then? Will it be easy to make new friends in older age? While I hope you will continue to make new friends at every age and stage of life, there are a precious few for whom you should make the time. You will be glad you did. Being healthy today usually leads to being happy tomorrow. This is true of our physical health, mental health and relationship health. You do the maths!
Remember it is not the journey or the things we accumulate along the way that really matter. At the end of the day it’s who you have shared it with and who you continue to share it with.
Your Best Friend ForNever