All the tables around us had long been bussed and wiped. The wing of the restaurant was empty except for our table. Four hours earlier, one of my best friends and I had left our children home with our husbands just to sneak away for a late-night dessert — and much needed girl time.
We laughed and cried and laughed again. By now, our cellphones were buzzing with text messages from our worried husbands. And yet, even after four hours, we felt as if we had twice as much to still talk about.
We returned home later than expected but in a much better state of mind.
Female relationships are unique like that. They soothe us and strengthen us. They fill in the emotional gaps in even the strongest marriage. They keep us focused on what’s most important and even reduce our stress.
For over a decade, studies have shown just how crucial friendships are to our actual health and well-being. In fact, with good relationships, we are 50 percent more likely to thrive. A BYU study conducted in 2010 proved that lack of relationships is more harmful than not exercising, and twice as dangerous as obesity on our health.
So why don’t we talk more openly about the importance of relationships like we do the epidemic of obesity or other health hazards? It can be so hard to admit that we need more friends or better friends — or a single friend.
So how do we keep these relationships a priority? How do we make a true friend out of a casual one?
- Engage in shared interestsHaving children the same age may be enough to get a conversation started, but to really connect with a new friend — or reconnect with an old friend — engaging in shared personal interests is a great foundation.Jennifer Wanlass is a mother of four in Syracuse, Utah, who knows firsthand the value of shared interests.“When I was training for a half marathon with some of the ladies in my neighborhood, we were running together sometimes for two hours a day, five days a week,” Wanlass said. “(Our friendship) quickly moved past just talking about children. We talked about everything.”
In addition to good conversations, Wanlass experienced even more benefits from her female friends.
“I always felt happy and content, and sometimes spiritually uplifted, when we were done with our runs,” she said.
- Make consistency importantThe example Wanlass shares also shows the importance of consistency in building deep friendships.Shasta Nelson, CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com and author of “Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends,” explains the ah-ha behind our childhood friendships.“Friendship may have felt like it just happened to us when we were kids,” Nelson writes. “What did just happen was consistency, seeing each other regularly.”
“Figure out ways to add consistency,” she continues. “Without built-in consistency, we have to be more intentional to find an hour here and an hour there to connect with our friends.”
This may very well be the clincher. We have to consistently make time for these people in our lives if we want to get to know them and experience a friendship on a deeper level, beyond just our children.
- Be the friend you wish to haveEasier said than done, I know. Especially considering it’s difficult to exert extra energy and effort if you’re not sure it will be reciprocated. But do it.Pick up the phone, send the email, offer your home for brunch; be the friend you would like to have.My friend Michelle McCullough wisely pointed out, “Friendship isn’t about things being equal, it’s about me giving everything I can, whenever possible. Perhaps I’m just what my friend needs.”
Of course, neither of us advocate a one-sided or abusive friendship, but quite possibly reaching out will serve you both well.
This article originally published on KSL.com