One reason "Friends" was a hit is likely because TV audiences resonated with the idea of close friendships — people who laugh and cry together and give each other strength. But it's more than that. A study in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America" found people who are isolated away from friends have a 26 percent higher death risk. Take steps to strengthen your friendships and keep them from drifting apart today.
Friendship Is a Contact Sport
Some people argue that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but strong friendships need constant contact for each person to feel connected and in-touch with what's going on in the other person's life. There's nothing like an in-person meeting over coffee or a meal where you two can connect. However, that's not always possible, whether due to a busy schedule or geographic distance. In such instances, social media, phone calls and emails can be the next best thing. Make an effort to update your friend electronically about day-to-day life and any big life updates that you face.
Let the Past Pass
Even the best friendship can experience relationship problems, especially since you're not perfect and your friend isn't perfect, either. Over time, not discussing past wrongs or hurts can create bitterness that can build an icy wall in your friendship. If you feel that something in the past is causing your friendship to drift apart, have the courage to discuss it now instead of waiting for your relationship to fully fall apart. Express your emotions in an honest, yet gentle, way, using words like "I felt hurt when such-and-such happened" instead of "You did such-and-such." Focusing on "I" phrases helps you communicate in a way that's not accusatory, and this helps to start the friendship repairing process without your friend feeling cornered or judged.
Play Within Your Friendship Limit
Sometimes, friendships can start to drift apart when one person begins to tire of the other person's actions or lifestyle choices. Learn to set boundaries for yourself within the friendship. For example, perhaps you get upset when your friend dates a certain type of person, and this causes you two to argue and fight. Recognizing and owning that this is a trigger point can help you to learn to communicate your viewpoint once, then step away from the issue and respect your self-set boundaries in your friendship. That being said, a key to long-term, healthy friendships is simply letting the little things go. Every friend may do something sooner or later that annoys you, but recognizing that your friend is human can help you appreciate the bigger picture and enjoy the friendship without bickering over small details.
Show Your Appreciation
Put a concerted, conscience effort into showing your friend that you've thought of her during your day. For example, shoot her a social media message of a funny picture you took that reminded you of her, or send her a postcard when you're on vacation. This helps to continue to build a bond between you and your friend, and shows your friend how much she means to you.
Surgeon General's Warning: Some Friends Are Toxic
If your friendship is drifting apart, honestly ask yourself if this is a friendship worth saving. You may have friends in your life that don't contribute positive energy to your day. These are known as toxic friends. Look at your friendship and how it affects your life. Does he make you smile, or do you get angry or feel depressed when you're with him? Does he build you up and support you, or does he drain you of energy and constantly criticize every choice you make? If you have a toxic friendship, letting it slowly drift apart may be one of the best things for the long term.
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- Ladies' Home Journal: Friendship Breakups
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All-Cause Mortality in Older Men and Women
- Psychology Today: Eight Tips for Maintaining Friendships
- Wall Street Journal: Delicate Art of Fixing a Broken Friendship
- Psychology Today: How to Express Feelings... and How Not to
- Redbook: Can This Friendship Be Saved?
- Self: Should You Save Your Friendship?
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images