This week I (Michelle) want to talk about friendship. Just weeks ago, one of our dearest friends died suddenly, unexpectedly. It was – and still is – heartbreaking. It can be so hard to make friends as adults, but my husband and I became friends with Dan just a few years ago, with all of us in our 40s, and he quickly became an integral part of our friend group.
There has been a regular feature about the nature of friendship in The Atlantic that I’ve been following. The latest piece was the last, and, due to its timing, it really made me think about our friendship with Dan.
Over three years, Julie Beck interviewed 100 sets of friends to discuss friendship. As she wrapped up the series, Beck reflected on the ways friendships change our lives. She believes there are six forces that help form friendships and keep them going.
- Accumulation: One of the main forces that forms and maintains friendships is time spent together. One study estimates it takes spending 40 to 60 hours together within the first six weeks of meeting to turn a new acquaintance to a casual friend, and 80 to 100 hours to become a closer friend.
- Attention: Making friends can be hard—but there may be more opportunities if we’re paying attention. Noticing when you click with someone, being open to chance encounters. We met Dan at a local pub, when we were already with friends, but his humor allowed him fit quickly into our group and I am grateful to have made such a friend at that point in our lives.
- Intention: Friendships, like any relationship, take attention. Beck says, “Friendships take work. But I have never liked framing our friendships as labor. Showing up for our friends takes effort, yes, but it shouldn’t be drudgery. It should be a joy.”
- Ritual: Rituals makes it easier to maintain friendships. Life is busy, but if there’s something your schedule, it’s much easier to stay connected. Book clubs, yoga, regular gatherings – like Friday happy hour – help keep you close to your friends and builds a shared culture that knit you more tightly together.
- Imagination: Currently, society tends to treat friendships as a supporting role, with work and family coming first. It takes imagination to make friendship play whatever role you want it to play. As our friend group grows older, we talk about living close to each other so we can help take care of each other as we age. Don’t be afraid to make your friendships whatever works for you.
- Grace: Everything already mentioned are ideals to think about and strive for, but difficult to live up to all the time. That’s why grace might be the most important force. Life can get in the way, but true friendship is flexible. I have friends who I may not talk to for long stretches, but we always pick right back up like no time has passed.
Dan was a smart, funny guy who could tell a story for hours. He became a regular to our happy hour gatherings and in the process became one of our dearest friends. We were privileged to meet him and spend time with him. To have that shared history, those inside jokes – his seemingly endless stories were often met with his friends crying “land the plane!” He was someone we could count on and someone that gave us grace when we fell short.
I will leave you with this. Dan never left us – either in person or virtually – without telling us he loved us. I wasn’t raised to say I love you easily, but knowing Dan showed me I need to say it more, and I always said it back to him. I’m so glad I got to say it as we signed off of what turned out to be our last virtual brunch shortly before he died. It can be a hard thing for friends to say, but not for Dan. Make sure you take every opportunity to tell your friends that you love them, just in case.
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications