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How Friendships Change When You Become an Adult

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/how-friendships-change-over-time-in-adulthood/411466/

theatlantic.com

How Friendships Change When You Become an Adult
"We need to catch up soon!"

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Friendships are unique relationships

Unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into friendships. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. 

You wouldn’t go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (hopefully), but you might go that long without contacting a friend.

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3 Expectations of friends

3 Expectations of friends

There are three expectations of a close friend that people describe and value across the entire life course.

  • Somebody to talk to
  • Someone to depend on
  • Someone to enjoy

The beautiful, special thing about friendship is that friends are friends because they want to be, that they choose each other and can choose to get in, and can choose to get out.

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Friendships

  • In childhood, friends are mostly other kids who are fun to play with
  • In adolescence, there’s a lot more self-disclosure and support between friends, but adolescents are still discovering their identity, and learning what it means to be intimate. 
  • During young adulthood, friendships become more complex and meaningful. They're more likely to seek out friends who share their values on the important things.
  • The middle-aged persons define friendship as “being there” for each other but reported that they rarely had time to spend with their most valued friends, whether because of circumstances or through the age-old problem of good intentions and bad follow-through.

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Levels of maintaining a relationship

  1. Just keeping a relationship alive. Saying “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, having a friend’s tweet—these are the life support machines of friendship. They keep it breathing, but mechanically.
  2. Keeping a relationship at a stable level of closeness. Being able to write a message, being able to send some support comments if necessary.
  3. Making it a satisfying relationship.

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A child's pre-teen and teen years are a high-emotion transitory period. This is due to shifting classmates, social pressure, multiple classrooms and a period of many 'firsts'.

Deep Friendships

A study on sixth-graders revealed that friendship is crucial and real for kids, and can be as deep as a parental relationship.

Most parents and teachers do not understand the importance of deep bonding among friends at school and tend to regard friendships as a distraction or a nuisance.

Social Isolation and Bullying

Social isolation is the dark side of the school, in which many kids with no friends are at risk of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. There is a perceived sense of threat with being friendless, and the young, immature mind can deeply internalize the resulting difficulties, leading to depression.

Bullying at this age is also a major problem, with those who are socially isolated becoming the most vulnerable to being bullied.

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The antidote to loneliness

The antidote to loneliness

When people were forced into social isolation, a light was also shining on another crisis - loneliness.

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Friendship

Science shows friendship is critical for our happiness, health, and longevity.

* In the 1970s and 1980s, some epidemiologists and sociologists showed that socially isolated individuals over age 66 had a 30 percent increased risk of early mortality.

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Definition of friendship

Friendship requires at least three things: It should be long-lasting, positive, and cooperative. Friendship nearly always includes a willingness to help, especially in times of crisis.

In short, friendship is creating bonded groups that act as a buffer against life's stresses.

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Finding friends

Friendships are always about common passions. Whatever you’re into, someone else is too. Let your passion guide you toward people. Volunteer, for example, take a new course or join a committee at your local religious center. If you like yoga, start going to classes regularly.

Once you meet a potential future friend, invite them to do something. You have to put yourself out there.

It takes time

The process takes time, and you may experience false starts. Not everyone will want to put in the effort necessary to be a good friend.

Which is reason enough to nurture the friendships you already have–even those than span many miles. Start by scheduling a weekly phone call.