Based on the book Stop Being Lonely. Copyright © 2016 by Kira Asatryan. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com
In many ways, friendships are the least “official” relationships we have. We ceremoniously commit to our spouses and arrive into this world legally (and often genetically) bound to our families. But friendships rarely – if ever – hold such consequential standing in our society.
And yet… friends have the potential to be the most loyal people in our lives.
It’s often our friends who stick with us through deaths, divorces, and life’s dramas. In fact, it may be precisely the “looser” nature of friendships that allows for this kind of devotion. Friends don’t feel pressure to label the relationship or meld lives together. They don’t stay together because they have to; they stay together because they want to.
Friends are allowed to just be together.
Everyone wants the kind of friendship where you can simply exist together comfortably. So how does one turn casual acquaintances into long-standing witnesses of your life?
The trick is not to demand allegiance or expect quid pro quo. Instead, try to inspire devotion – the kind of devotion that makes others desire to be around you of their own free will. Here’s how to get started…
1. Be Their Sanctuary.
In our busy, frantic world, people hunger for a place of peace and tranquility. The first step to life-long friendship is this: be that place for your friends.
When the two of you are together, make an effort to create a space where stressors are quieted instead of amplified. This doesn’t mean avoiding “real” discussions. It simply means avoiding the temptation to create an echo-chamber of worries and grievances.
If spending time with you is refreshing and rejuvenating, your friends will always come back for more.
2. Hold Them Loosely.
Friends often move away, have children, and make major life changes that don’t directly include you. They may even make choices you expressly disagree with.
While it’s natural to feel strong emotion during times of change – including negative emotions like sadness, confusion, or worry – change is inevitable. Don’t let a desire to hold onto your friendship just as it is create a tense, angst-filled environment. This will have the opposite effect and may drive your friend away.
The key to keeping a friend devoted to you during times of change is to let them live. If you allow the relationship to evolve naturally, it will never go extinct.
3. Judge Infrequently.
Passing judgment is a thorny thing. We all do it… and yet we all dislike it when it’s done to us. While it would be impossible to never judge a friend – and it would be inauthentic to hold one’s true thoughts and feelings inside – it is possible to judge friends infrequently.
The benefit of judging a friend rarely is that the less they feel condemned or scrutinized by you, the more easily they’ll share their vulnerabilities with you. And the sharing of vulnerabilities is a cornerstone of closeness.
In other words, if a friend feels they can truly be themselves around you – weak points and all – the friendship will likely stand the test of time.
4. Get Ceremonious.
While families and married couples tend to have traditions thrust upon them (“Thanksgiving is for family,” “the honeymoon are for the couple,” etc.) life-long friendships have to create their own. Traditions – particularly ceremonies – are how we integrate people into our lives and give them a special standing in our hearts.
Some very easy (and effective!) traditions to create with friends are: develop a day-before or day-after birthday ritual (to not interfere with family or couple plans on the day-of), integrate inside jokes into your texts and emails, or invent a “letting go” ceremony that only the two of you know.
These rituals will give the relationship a sense of comfort and predictability that lends itself well to the long-term.
5. Cheer From the Sidelines.
The reality of friendship is that you won’t always be the center of attention in your friend’s life. Meeting the needs of their children, spouse, or parents will often come first. Or, their work may be the part of their life that takes precedent.
None of this should imply, however, that just because you aren’t “first” in a friend’s life, you don’t matter. A good friend will value you tremendously… and your support and encouragement from the sidelines likely means more to them than you know.
Births, divorces, retirements… these events may not be directly related to you, but you being there for them makes all the difference.
6. Believe in Balance.
Inspiring devotion in another person starts with you – your actions, your beliefs, your behaviors. But any life-long friendship should be predicated on the idea of balance – the idea that no one person is doing all the “heavy lifting” in the relationship.
Take a moment to think about whether or not your friends inspire devotion in you. Do they cheer you on? Are they your safe haven? If not, you may be doing more than your fair share of the heavy lifting.
If this is the case, ask for what you need. Getting your needs met is a prerequisite for a life-long friendship as well!
A faithful friend is worth their weight in gold. Give these suggestions a try – and watch devotion grow!