Have you ever noticed that some friendships just fizzle out as time goes on?
One minute you’re as thick as thieves and then, in a flash, it has been years since you have seen your partner in crime. You may have moved house, changed jobs, had kids, stopped playing social sport, now party a bit less (or more)—and before you know it, you’re a loner.
Okay, it’s not necessarily that dramatic, but you’ll find that as time moves on, so do some friends. If this sounds familiar, pay attention, it could be the start of a worrying trend.
There is a reason that we tend to have fewer friends as we age, and it’s not because we choose to. Some friendships are simply not built to last. So will yours?
There are three main types of friendships. Each has a set of distinct characteristics that determines their robustness.
The most common, surface level of friendship is friends through shared experience. Often these friendships begin in structured social environments—school, work, sports teams. Most of your conversations are based on events, like that crazy party you both went to a few years ago.
This type of friend is valuable because they are a link to your past. You have fun with them but as soon as things change, they’re gone like the wind. The friendship is not built to last because, before you know it, that crazy party you always talk about is suddenly 15 years into the past. If you haven’t built a deeper connection by this stage, these friends disappear, often when the structured meetings cease.
In reality these are more acquaintances than they are true friends.
Slightly deeper than shared experience friends are shared interest friends. For men these are the friends you call when it’s horse racing season, when you need extra people to fill the fishing charter or when the local footy derby is on. Most of your conversations are based on one of these common interests. They are slightly more durable than shared experience friends because the common interest allows for regular ongoing contact (e.g. watching the weekly footy game).
These types of friends are valuable and important because they give you a sense of connection and commonality. They provide some fulfilment but they are still prone to spontaneously vanishing, as your interests slowly dwindle in your more senior years. Once you stop playing footy and become busier with family and work, your leisure time can suffer, and before you know it, it’s been a year since you’ve seen these friends.
The deepest and rarest type of friendship are friends through shared beliefs. These friendships have often been developed over a long period of time, forged through a level of adversity. You discuss your worries, your dreams, your insecurities and your passions—the things that really matter to you. Most of your conversations are based on exploring these shared beliefs. These friends will always be there to give you a sense of validation, connection, affection and growth.
However, these friendships rarely just happen, because talking about your emotions carries a social risk—vulnerability.
Vulnerability is tough, particularly for men. It is often bred out of us, or beaten out of us, because it is seen as a sign of weakness. This is where the root of the problem lies. By never allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you never build connections deep enough to withstand lifestyle changes.
Building Bulletproof Friendships
Believe it or not, friendships follow fairly similar rules to romantic relationships. They require effort, open communication, empathy, compassion and most of all, reciprocated vulnerability.
Now, I am not saying that you need to sit staring into each other’s eyes or anything like that—but you do need to be willing to open up and talk about what is really important to you.
For men, this can be tough. Start small by sharing a worry you have. It could be simple and low risk, like a problem at work or something you have coming up. You don’t need to be all gooey and sappy, but it does need to be open and heartfelt. Hopefully your friend will offer some advice or reassurance. When they do, genuinely thank them for it. This will open the communication lines and show that it is okay to talk about your worries.
If your friend instead calls you “soft,” or makes jokes about you wearing a blouse, they are probably not ready just yet. That’s okay, they just need a little time to catch up. Wait a few days and try again.
Ultimately, if they don’t seem willing to reciprocate at all, they might not be a good choice of long term friend. But that’s okay too – you don’t need that many close friends. Research tells us that the number of close friendships needed to facilitate long term happiness is somewhere between one and five.
When you find a friend who you would like to keep, it is up to you to actively work on the relationship. Think of how you would treat them if they were your partner, as weird as that thought might be. Would you send them thoughtful text messages, cook them dinner once in a while, do things for them? Well then, that is what you should do to build your friendship.
Book in quality time and make an effort to get to deeper levels of conversation. Be giving, thoughtful and kind with your words and actions. Most importantly, be willing to be vulnerable. It is the undoubted key to keeping long term friends.
Author: Garrick Transell
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Courtesy of author.
Facebook is in talks with major corporate media about pulling their content into FB, leaving other sites to wither or pay up if we want to connect with you, our readers. Want to stay connected before the curtain drops? Get our curated, quality newsletters below!