Make new friends, but keep the old

One is silver, and... once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout, I suppose. The holidays may be in our rearview mirror, but you might be missing the glow of longtime friendships from back home. It can help to make new friends in your new place by thinking about the successful friendships that you have had, and how to keep them going. This week, we dig into how to sustain relationships over distance, time, or, well, life.

ICYMI: Welcome to our new subscribers — we're now 300+ strong! Catch up on last week's issue here, where we were challenged to think about what specifically concerns us about making friends as adults or about moving to a new place. Here's what some of you said: 

How can I maintain my friendships with old friends who are living in different cities?

I’m moving to Fort Worth, TX and I’m just afraid that I’ll never be able to make the same types of meaningful relationships I had made in school.

It's hard to have enough energy to decorate a new place, keep up old relationships, learn a new job, have projects outside of work, exercise, eat healthy AND make new friends.

So it's fair to say that this is a concern. Before we dig in, a quick note about sharing: I value your trust, and I value your contributions. If you choose to share with me in response to the newsletter, the default identification will be first name + state so that we can actually build this community (though I honor anonymity, if requested.) Read our full editorial guidelines here, and reach out if you have any concerns! Onward.

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This is not just a you problem.

"The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way more formal relationships aren’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit. You’re stuck with your family, and you’ll prioritize your spouse. But where once you could run over to Jonny’s house at a moment’s notice and see if he could come out to play, now you have to ask Jonny if he has a couple hours to get a drink in two weeks."

I've had this Atlantic article by Julie Beck saved in my bookmarks bar for a few years now, but it's still worth the read.

Personally, I have two groups of close friends and I don't live in the same city as any of them. One set has known each other since high school. After we split off for college, we’ve stayed in touch with our group text and our (10th!) annual holiday tradition of traipsing across Chicago and taking the same goofy pictures at the same touristy spots. My other set of close friends is from college; even though we built an amazing quote list as roommates and are now all in the same time zone, we've broken off into our own worlds. Our work schedules vary like crazy and sometimes it can be hard to relate. There's no guarantee that we'll all return to the same location, like my high school friends with our families in Chicago. Sometimes I worry that we won't be as close as we were.

The Girl Scout song reminds us that older friendships are worth gold, and it's not fair to ourselves to expect us to instantaneously create new friendships that are just as golden. (There's a reason why some are silver! They're in training to become gold medalists, but aren't there yet.) Long-distance, and especially long-term, friendship can keep you grounded and can be maintained with four components. We should also acknowledge that not all long-term and long-distance friendships will survive.

Part of maintaining these long-term and long-distance relationships is acknowledging that we will not be living in the same apartment, we will not be in the same Zumba class, and we will not necessarily be able to carry on the same birthday traditions. But, as the first researcher found, those routines and traditions become a part of ourselves: "these friends provided each other with a sense of history and served as part of each other's self-definition."

Okay, so how do we do that?

The four basic behaviors for maintaining a friendship, according to researchers: 

  1. Self-disclosure (let her know what's up)
  2. Supportiveness (listening and not just hearing)
  3. Interaction (not procrastination)
  4. Being positive (not just a license to vent)
Okay, so how do we actually do that? Here are some tips from the experts and from our own experiences.
  • It's basic, but write or draw her a letter/card/postcard. She has something tangible that makes her think of you, plus you get to color
  • Focus on being patient instead of feeling ghosted. Maybe you, like me, berated your sister over the holidays for taking days to respond to your texts, but she's still adjusting to working the night shift. How can you be there for her? But also don't be afraid to speak up if you need more support. She won't know if you don't tell her.  
  • Start a sisterhood of the traveling ________. Pants were the OG, but two of my high school friends started sending a poop emoji hat around the country between us with the requirement that we take a public, likely embarrassing photo of ourselves wearing it before we send it along to the next victim.
  • If friendship via social media and snail mail aren't your things, set up a reminder for yourself to text or Skype a different person every week. Here's a script you can copy and paste: "Thinking of you! I know we haven't talked in a while but I hope your 2018 is off to a spectacular start. What's going on in your life?" 

Go sow: Challenge for the week.

The challenges are a key part of Sown — poking us to try something new or contemplate a concept every week, and to do it together.

You know that friend of yours? The one you always mean to get in touch with but keep forgetting to?

Reach out. Say hi. Say thanks.
You don't get close friends by being a distant friend.
Get in touch after completing the challenge. How did you feel about doing it? Did she respond?

LOOK AHEAD: One year after Trump's inauguration and the inaugural Women's March, how do we come to terms in a place with people that may have different political beliefs than us? Are you facing that now? We'll dig into this next week.

Also, if you're a new subscriber, please reply and let me know what you want to get out of Sown. I'm all ears!

Grow the Sow.

We are now growing across 43 states (including Alaska!) and D.C.! See if there's anyone else from Sown in your area.

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