Making and keeping friends in life’s second half might feel different from when we were kids. But in some ways, it’s still very much the same.
I spent the day yesterday with two women who have been friends since birth. Their parents brought them home from the hospital as babies to a neighborhood where they grew up across the street from each other. They talked about a photo they remember of the two of them holding hands while walking to their first day of kindergarten. And how they recreated that moment when they started high school.
Five decades later, with nearly 3,000 miles between them, they still share an unbreakable bond. A friendship like theirs is a treasure, and I loved watching them complete each other’s sentences and laugh at a lifetime of inside jokes and silly nicknames.
Friendship springs up naturally when we share a childhood.
When we’re kids, friendships often happen naturally due to circumstances or proximity. The same is true as young adults when the similarities of starting careers and families bring us together. Then our 30’s and 40’s are filled with extra-curricular activities where we bond with other parents at high school volleyball games, ballet recitals and PTA fundraisers.
By the time we hit 50 (and beyond) when our nests are emptying, and the thrills of aging are settling in, we find ourselves needing a supportive squad more than ever. We want friends who meet us where we are, inspire us to keep growing, and encourage us to pursue new passions that make our hearts beat a little faster.
The question is, how do we cultivate meaningful friendships in a season of life when the built-in opportunities to meet and hang out regularly seem to evaporate? A simple rule of friendship still applies:
To make a friend, you’ve got to be one.
Here are a few ways to be the kind of friend you’d like to find in the second half of life.
While raising our families, friends were the ones keeping pace and running alongside us, sharing encouragement when our schedules aligned. Now that we’ve got more margin in our days, we can be more thoughtful about our friendships. Be intentional about connecting frequently and make it a priority. Get a regular friend date on the calendar and spend time together in person or across the miles (thank you, technology!) Because nothing keeps a friendship growing strong like investing time in one another.
Our younger selves may have gravitated toward friends whose lives looked so much like our own we rarely disagreed. Embrace the opportunity this phase of life brings to meet people outside the world of similarities. Look beyond your usual circles and step outside of your comfort zone. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that new friends who seem very different from you are the ones who inspire you the most to keep growing and learning.
When you’ve made more time and stayed curious about your friends, you might find yourself having more heart to heart conversations. That means you’ll trust one another with more tender and sensitive information. Honor that trust by respecting privacy and boundaries and never share someone else’s story without first asking their permission. Be the one who creates a sacred space where your friends come to land.
As we age, laughter acts like an elixir of youth. Find the humor in moments when our stage of life unmistakably takes up space in the room. Like when you and friends are seated in a restaurant and realize you’re all rapidly popping your matching reading glasses off and on to look at the menu or current photos of kids and grandkids on your phones. We’re in this together, and there’s no better time to laugh than when our aging bodies keep surprising us with new features.
Spare the judgment.
By this point in life, most of us have formed a lot of opinions. And we’re not always shy about sharing them with others – which can be a good thing. But not when views become judgments. As we let go of some of the fear around what others think of us and experience the liberation of saying what’s really on our minds, remember to handle friendships with care. Be respectful of different life choices. It’s not our job to fix people, and at this stage of life, no one wants to feel like they’re a project in need of repair.
Until now, life may have seemed like one long list of responsibilities. And you might still have a list that’s filled with duties like your career, caring for aging parents or helping with grandchildren. BUT there is no time like the present to start having more fun. As your schedule changes and time opens in your day, don’t be so quick to fill it with more “must-do” items. It’s taken years to create your “do it someday” list and those things (like finally cleaning out the garage) can probably wait a little longer or be done in small chunks of time. Schedule more time for fun and enjoy that time with friends.
There’s no better time to expand your circle and deepen your friendships than now.
Making and keeping friends in life’s second half might look different than making friends has in the past. But the golden rule of friendship still applies. To make a friend, you have to be one. And with time, perspective, humor, resources, and new passions on your side, you could find yourself standing side by side in another 20 years, saying, “It feels like we’ve been friends forever.”
“Friendship is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” ~ C.S. Lewis