A Monthly Friendship Ritual

Yesterday I did a round of new friend check-ins.

It’s a ritual I didn’t anticipate when I started this search, probably because I had every intention of emerging with one or two people who would be my goes-without-saying playdate. I figured I’d meet a BFF, maybe a few of them, and we’d talk three times a day. Or at least three times a week.

That’s how it was with BFFs back in the day. Whenever that was.

Thus far my search has developed differently than I anticipated. I’ve made more friends than I ever thought I would, but very few, if any, are the we-talk-all-the-time type. This is partly because our relationships haven’t gotten there yet, and partly because chatting on the phone is soooo 2005. As I’ve mentioned, my friendship with the newbies are all email and text message. It’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Given this progression, there are times when I’ll go a month without speaking to certain friends. And then will come a day, like yesterday, where I shoot off a bunch of emails and text message just to say “hi” and “let’s make plans soon.” (And no, not the noncommittal, “We should go together sometime” check in. The actual, “Are you free next Wednesday?” type. I’m no amateur.)

I had the misguided idea that once I’d found my new friends I wouldn’t need to make these conscious efforts of communication. Friendship and hanging out would be easy and effortless.

Well here’s a cliché that holds up: Relationships take work. Always. Even after years of friendship, when one person stops putting in any effort the bond will disintegrate. When the friend is a new one, it’s even more important that you do the work—it’s not like you have a lifetime of history to sustain the relationship if it goes through an uber-long phone tag period. There’s very little stopping a budding BFFship from petering out.

So every month(ish)—this isn’t a scheduled activity, but I’d say I do it every four to six weeks—I reach out to the friends I haven’t seen or heard from in ages. (“Ages” can be anywhere from two months to two weeks.) Sometimes I’ll write as brief as “Hi friend! Let’s catch up. When are you free?” and others I’ll give a whole life update. But mostly it’s my way of saying hello, making some plans, and reminding my potential BFF that we’ve got a friendship to pursue.

I can’t tell you how often someone will tell me she met a potential BFF, but then never heard from her again. And after a bit of prying (yes, I pry) I’ll learn that the lack of communication went both ways. “Well I’ve been really busy,” she’ll say “and I reached out for the first friend-date.” The truth is that everyone is busy, so just send the email. You’ll both be glad you did.

And one bit of advice: There’s a fine line between “Hey… Just checking in, hope all is well! Would love to get together again sometime,” and “Why haven’t you called or texted to set up another dinner? I thought we got along. Do you even want to see me?”

Please, please, please. Go with the former.

13 Comments

Filed under The Search

13 responses to “A Monthly Friendship Ritual

  1. Layla

    This is a good idea. Someone from my hometown goes to school here and I never see him… this just reminded me I should hang out with him sometime

  2. Relationships do take work…which I tend to forget when I’m wondering why the radio silence from my pals. I often forget that I need to make the effort to check in, rather than worrying about why they haven’t called. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Lorrie Paige

    Good advice.

    If someone really wants to make friends with you, they will find the time. No one is truly that busy. It’s all about priorities…..

  4. Joanna

    Rachel, I loved this post – and I do this too! My best friend and I became best friends partly on the promise we made to see each other at least once a month, once we stopped working together. I’ll put reminders on my Outlook calendar, or sometimes just look at my contact list – to remind me of people I’d like to get in touch with. I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone else makes the overture, but am happy to be the initiator if it means good times with a friend. That is an effort I am delighted to make!

  5. I am earnestly trying to do more of this, but I find myself struggling with what types of activities to suggest for get togethers/friend dates. Sure – you can invite a new friend to have drinks or dinner or even brunch, or you could plan ahead and do something like a cooking class, or a hiking trip with a larger group, or even a trip to a museum – particularly on weekends. But what if you want to do something one evening in the middle of the week, where you can engage in conversation and not have it revolve around food? Any thoughts?

    • Maria

      To Nikkidd,
      We have a walking trail in our town where the railroad track used to be. Now that the weather in nicer I plan to make friend dates for a walk. No food plus some exercise!

  6. April

    Great post! I’m trying to do the same thing, so I love your insight as always.

  7. Good advice Rachel. But do you ever get tired of doing all the checking in? Shouldn’t it go both ways?

    • Christine

      I agree rudrip! I feel like I am always the one reaching out to my friends. If I wasn’t initiating contact we would never talk or get together. Any ideas Rachel how to get around this or a better way of looking at it?

  8. Liz

    I actually print up those tiny 1.5×2″ post-it notes with my monthly checklist of people to touch base with and put them on the monthly page of my calendar. I came up with my list by listing out 1-30, then writing my friends’ names next to the date of their birthday. Whenever there are doubles or triples, someone gets moved to an empty date nearby. That way, I have a better-than-average chance of a) actually remembering to wish them a happy birthday; b) have one, amybe two people a day to touch base with (via FB, phone, email, text); and c) have a visual reminder of who I have talked to each month, so I can see at a glance who I’ve been neglecting. After a couple of years, I need to re-evaluate my list (remove some & add some) but it’s working for me. I can see who I haven’t talked to in a year, and think about why that is and what my next action needs to be.

    Somewhat related: I am looking for advice on a semi-related matter.

    I have a childhood friend who is also my 11 yr old daughter’s godmother. However, in going back through my calendars, CF has been a sporadic-at-best presence in the past few years (2-5 contacts/year and never just one-on-one with my daughter – always in groups, at birthdays, at the tail end of seeing someone else in the same area). But she goes on trips & to concerts and spontaneous weekends with her other two (slightly younger) godchildren (1 boy, 1 girl) every 6-8 weeks. ???? I’ve recently had a conversation with her about it, and she assures me that everything is fine – but it’s not, and I’m not sure how to push it a little farther (in a gentle way) to get at the root of the problem. My daughter was really heartbroken when CF said she was coming to her concert earlier this year, but then cancelled at the last minute; however, (unbeknownst to my daughter) CF was at godson’s house 10 minutes away (overnight for a birthday party) 2 days later but didn’t call/stop in.

    Any advice would be much appreciated – this situation is really starting to take over my thoughts, and if I am overreacting, I want to push it aside and move on. Thanks so much everyone!

    • Maybe try talking to her again, and tell her everything you’ve written here so she knows how much she means to you and your daughter. And perhaps you and your daughter can make a trip to visit her sometime, and see if she puts more effort into coming out to see you guys after you’ve visited her. If after all that she still doesn’t seem to make any effort to keep in touch and visit, then I don’t know if there’s anything else you can do really.
      Take care, and best of luck!

  9. Keeping up friendships does take some work, especially when people get busier. I like how you make sure to reconnect with your friends you haven’t talked to lately every month or so, hopefully they do the same for you!

  10. girlinterrupted

    At what point do you write the friendship off? I have a friend (been over 20 years now) and I am always last on the priority list for her. All of her other pals come first and I cant help but get upset by it. Is it time to just excuse myself from the “relationship”?

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