My husband Dan and I have been taking an inventory of our life this year. We've narrowed life down to seven key areas— spiritual, physical, mental, professional, financial, family, and friends. Though we both place slightly different weight on each area, we both placed friends at the bottom of our priority list right now. Not because we don't need them or like them. But because we have them. This hasn't always been the case.
If we'd done this exercise earlier in our marriage—say, 25 years ago—friends most surely would have ranked toward the top. At 23 and 25 years old, we were first among our peers to marry. We bought a house in an old, established neighborhood that consisted mostly of empty-nest adults, or families with school-age children. For a long time, we felt like the new kids on the block. We struggled to find common ground with our neighbors, though they were kind beyond measure. To make matters worse, Dan and I worked opposite shifts, so he and I rarely had time together, much less time to cultivate friendships with other couples. Those were lonely days.
What I didn't realize in those first five or so years was that things would change. The longer you live in a place and become integrated in the community—whether through work, church, or your kids' sports— the easier it is to make friends. As years went by, we naturally met people whose lives matched up with ours. In fact, today our main circle of friends is made up of parents of our youngest son's friends. Our life as a couple has been deeply enriched by shared friendships.
I've been blessed with friendships at church, work, and in my neighborhood apart from Dan too. When I think of the tears and laughter I've shared with girlfriends over the years, I don't know how I would have made it this far in life without them.
That said, I'm fairly introverted, so I have to push myself to initiate friendships. I don't enjoy talking on the phone, and I'm not good about making plans with people. As a result, Facebook and texting have become my default mode of communication. Lately, I've become increasingly aware of the shortfalls of technology for maintaining relationships. I rely too heavily on it for connecting with friends virtually instead of making time for in-person conversations. Sometimes the best I can do is shoot off a quick instant message to let a friend know I'm thinking of her. But if this becomes the only way I stay in touch, it won't be long before my friends decide I'm not invested in the relationship.