I have talked about loneliness before and how I think it can be damaging to one’s health. As a senior I feel friendships are always important, but vital as we age. Loneliness can have a devastating effect on ones’ life. A while back my husband and I had dinner with some friends. It was a birthday get together. These are people we have known for quite some years but in more recent years our bond is growing. There is a common interest which has brought us all together and now being in the senior age category, there is more time to socialize and commit to friendships.
As we do become closer questions become more inquiring and conversations are more in depth. For me personally this is a cathartic experience as I love discussions around human behavior, and I find most people’s lives are filled with interesting facts and usually a little drama. My group of friends are fantastic and never push issues or demand answers. I think this is not the same for all though. I can imagine that some friendships could be difficult as certain people like their privacy and don’t feel comfortable discussing personal subjects. On the reverse of that others asking questions can become too intrusive and not know when to stop. After our dinner I found myself thinking how lucky we were to have this group of friends and how difficult it could be if this was not the case. This got me thinking about the process of building and cementing a bond with someone you have just met.
Through previous experiences we learn that to bombard someone with your life story can quickly result in a lost friendship. People need time to digest and contemplate information. All those hidden secrets in one go, can be a recipe for disaster. Experiences vary in life, with some good and others not so good. Where one person finds a story intriguing, the same story can be considered abrasive to another. Some find talking about past events or revealing details of one’s family to be difficult or emotionally draining others have no trouble blurting out their entire history.
We can all look back and remember those people whom we called friends in the past. People who we no longer see or hear from maybe due to differences of opinion or dwindling mutual interests. Friendships do not automatically come with built-in trust and respect. This has to be earned and valued over time. Those who are lucky enough to have long term friendships will have realized this.
As seniors we often find ourselves in the position of having to make new friendships. Loved ones have passed, families have busy lives, the workplace is no longer part of your social network. One of the difficulties I see with this situation is that at this stage in our life, we do not always have the benefit of time on our side. I believe relationships are stronger if we take our time to get to know people. As we age we don’t have as much time to waste so we are impelled to speed up the process. With limited time it can be tricky and often results are not what we expect.
To understand why this happens, we need to look at the process. By this, I mean look at the factors which go into a friendship. Feeling comfortable in conversation, having similar likes or dislikes, mutual values, mutual respect, and acceptance. Not feeling judged, bullied, or intimidated. This is a lot to determine and to digest in a single meeting, so where does one start.
Find out who we are first. When we are young, we hide so much from others and not always intentionally. I believe we do not really know ourselves in our younger adult years. Of course, we think we do, but now having lived to a ripe old age, I realized once I retired and finally had the time to do things, I knew little about myself. Certainly, we know what makes us laugh or what makes us relax but do we truly know what makes us happy. I think we need a lifetime to figure that out.
I know I for one do not worry about what others think as much as I did when I was younger. I am not afraid to say what I like or afraid to disagree with someone. Therefore, when we are older, can we assume that our piers are more open and more honest with their discussions because they are more comfortable with themselves.
Let us hope they are as it speeds up the “getting to know you” part of building friendships.
Having said all that, ask yourself what sort of person you are and what would you like in a friend. Are you a serious person, someone who is a happy go lucky person, do you like books, movies, sports, do you like to drink, party, quiet nights, dinner. If you know yourself than you will know what type of friend, you seek. Next time you join a new group or meet a new person, listen with interest to what is being said. Often, we are preparing our input, or our next question and we miss what is actually being relayed. When you really hear what someone is saying the response becomes automatic.
If you really do not know what you like, then the fun is in trying new challenges. If you don’t like it you now know a bit more about yourself. You will figure it out eventually and hopefully make a whole group of new friends.
As this is sounding a bit like a relationship seminar, I will not bore you further but I hope I have helped someone out there who is struggling with the thought of making friends.
A question to answer or just to ponder.
The saying “we should accept everyone for who they are” what does that mean to you?
To me it means everyone is an individual and has the right to represent themselves however they want. We should accept them as part of the world in which we live and afford them the same rights as ourselves. We should not criticize them just because we have different thoughts to them, however we do not have to be best friends with them either. I would love to hear thoughts on my comments. Feel free to comment and subscribe if you want to see more of my ramblings.