For many, many years, I struggled with a lack of connection, feeling like I didn’t have any close friends I could talk to—or even any prospective friendships to pursue.
As an introvert, I don’t need a lot of close friends because my capacity for interacting well with many different people is limited, but we all long for a couple close friends.
Now, for the first time, I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum—as I’ve recognized the importance of those relationships in my own life and found my “tribe,” I have old friends that I want to reconnect with, existing friendships that I want to protect and cultivate, and new friendships that I’d love the opportunity to explore.
But time is limited, and I just don’t have the time or the bandwidth to juggle a dozen close (or even not-so-close) friendships at once.
As I’ve been thinking through this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no easy answers. At the end of the day, we’re all limited in the number of friendships we can do well (although you might be able to handle more than I can!). The only solution is to make the hard decisions about which friendships to intentionally invest in. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to cut the other potential friends off or ignore them. But you have to start somewhere, and refusing to make a decision will likely mean that none of those friendships will grow.
So how do we choose which friendships to pursue? Here are a few ideas:
- Which friend(s) are you most excited to see? There are some friends that I just get really excited about seeing or talking to right from the beginning. They might not be the most “logical” choice for a close friend, but—as in love—there’s something to be said for an instant connection even when it defies logic.
- Evaluate each on practically. Which friendships would be easiest to invest in based on your locations, schedules, the stage of life you’re in, the activities you’re involved with, the ages of your kids, how well your spouses get along, etc.? It’s worth the hard work to connect with some people, but there’s nothing wrong with choosing friends because you know you’ll be able to get together more often, spend more time together, or invest in your friendship more easily.
- Evaluate which one fills a need in your life. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that we should only seek friendships that do something for us. That would be selfish and probably not very healthy. What I am saying is that if you already have a best friend who is at the same stage of life as you, maybe it makes sense to invest in a relationship with an older woman who can act as a mentor for you rather than another friend that is also at the exact same stage as you. Or if you already have a running buddy, it might make more sense to connect with someone who works in the same field as you rather than another runner.
Clearly, choosing friends is not an exact science, and you may even find that some friendships develop despite your lack of effort, but sometimes investing in friendships does require prioritizing one over another.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Have you ever had to make hard choices about which friendship to invest your (limited) time or energy in?
- What criteria do you use to evaluate your friendships?