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Friendships are necessary at any stage of life, but as we age they become more important and sometimes harder to maintain. Long-term, lifelong friendships are treasures, indeed. If we have that kind of relationship in our lives, we’re very lucky. Lifelong friends have a shared history and understandings that come of many years’ experience together. Memories from childhood can cement a friendship as it grows and changes over time. These friends look back together over the span of their lives and know both the laughter and the sorrows that came along the way. We don’t have to explain ourselves to life-long friends, they already know.

Shorter term friendships can be important, too. We love finding people who share our interests or hold the same values in life. For some reason, we “click” with certain people, and find we’re drawn to them. We enjoy getting together for coffee or lunch. We like to check in with them via phone or texts. We enjoy knowing what happens in their life and they express interest in our lives, too.

There is some skill involved in building new friendships. We look for people who have common interests or common beliefs. We enjoy folks who have a sense of humor about life and know how to laugh even though life may be difficult. We long for those we can share our thoughts and important questions with—those with substance and depth.

In today’s fast-paced culture, we may lose friends to mobility, busy schedules or even misunderstandings that cause a fracture in the relationship. We realize that maintaining friendships requires time and effort. True friendships require a willingness to give and to be honest that can be challenging, but is so very important.

What are the marks of a true friendship?

  1. A true friend is constant, and available. Not every minute of every day, but often, and when you need them.
  2. A true friend knows how to speak the truth to you and will accept it in return. They care enough not to cover over problems.
  3. A true friend understands you, knows what you need and is willing to give. In return they expect you to reciprocate.
  4. A true friend will tell you what you need to hear even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. In short a friend cares about your welfare.

Where can you find new friends? Your hobbies or interests are a great place to begin. Do you quilt, play tennis, or enjoy a certain television show? Search out folks who enjoy the same things you do. Find a quilt club or a book group or a tennis club and get to know the participants. Volunteer at a local food bank or shelter. Give time at your local schools or community service organizations. Find your people—the ones who share your values. And even if you aren’t as mobile as you once were, there are many online groups to enjoy.

We all long for friendship—for the comfort and enjoyment of time spent together. We all love to laugh and have some fun.  We may have let old friendships slide as we age and that’s a mistake. Who do you count as a friend? Who can you count on when times get hard? If you’ve lost some of those important relationships, it’s time to reach out and make some new ones. The effort it takes is definitely worth the cost.