According to a recent report on friendship, spending time with friends is the nation’s favourite pick me up proving sixteen times more effective than therapy. The report, created by card and gift specialist Hallmark, also revealed that the average person keeps at least five close friends in their social circle with the average friendship lasting 17 years and seven months! However, 41% admitted that they could lengthen and strengthen their friendships if they invested more time in them.
Rather than raging rows and sulky silences, a lack of regular catch ups is the most common cause for a friendship ending with people failing to keep in touch as often as they would like. And, when it comes to the most challenging times for keeping contact, the most common hurdles include:
1. Moving home.
2. Changing attitudes.
3. The beginning of different lifestyles.
4. Having children.
5. Getting married.
Here, Relationship Expert Jenni Trent Hughes shares her advice on how to face these challenges and cement a long and lasting friendship with those you value the most.
Hi Jenni! What’s your top tip on keeping a close friendship?
I often say that keeping a relationship is like looking after a pot plant! Just like the plant needs light, water and space to breathe, your relationships needs attention and care too. The good news is, there are lots of great ways to connect with people nowadays but I tend to think that the traditional types of communication are the best. I like to send cards, go for coffee and even write letters to my closest friends. In fact, I recently wrote a letter that was over seven pages long!
In your opinion, what are the top five most important ‘ingredients’ for a close friendship and why?
1. Honesty. You need to feel that this person is being totally open and honest with you.
2. Trust. This person is going to have access to many of your thoughts and secrets. You need to feel as though you can trust them to guard them well.
3. Feeling safe. You should feel like this person isn’t going to do you any emotional harm.
4. Shared interests. Shared interests are an important ingredient for ‘having fun’ which is vital in a close friendship.
5. Being there. As the saying goes, it isn’t those that ride in the back of the limo with you that count; it’s who will pick you up from the airport at 1am…
55% of the 2,000 people surveyed in the friendship report said that trust is the most important quality in a close friendship. A further 17% also admitted that lying had caused issues within their close friendships in the past. How would you suggest overcoming a breach of trust or lie in a close friendship?
Without trust in a friendship – especially a close one – there is no point. Of course, it’s possible to overcome issues in any friendship but, as close friends are usually the ones we let our barriers down to the most, when this trust is broken it is likely to hurt the most.
The first thing to realise is that you can’t sweep it under the rug. If you want to overcome the issues, a proper conversation is going to need to happen. Before this conversation, have a think about how much you value the friendship. Do you want to throw all of the good history away? During the conversation, try and remain calm – venting anger will only work if you have no plans of moving forward with the friendship. Furthermore, don’t look to punish your friend. The conversation is about talking and listening – if you want to punish your friend you’re not ready to have a conversation yet. Remember that a good friend can last a lifetime so don’t walk away lightly. We are all human, and we all make mistakes.
The top five most challenging times for friendships cited in the report have been outlined below, do you have any advice on how to overcome these hurdles as friends?
As humans, we’re all creatures of habit. Whatever the reason, the fact is that change – unless initiated by us – is unsettling to most people. Something changing can rattle our sense of security and the closer we are to that change, the more unsettling it is likely to be. For example, when our best friend changes something in their life one of our first reactions, perhaps subconsciously, is “How is this going to affect ME?” It doesn’t matter even if the change is positive and won’t have an effect on your own life on a daily basis, the feeling is the same.
The fear of change is a prevalent factor in all of the above. The best tip for all of these is the exact same thing: think of how the situation will impact on the person and make specific points related to this. Use these points to think of events and actions that you can use to combat the change. Using getting married as an example, thinking that nothing will change is silly because of course things will change. To combat this change and overcome this hurdle, you need to acknowledge that it is going to be different and come up with ways that you can still be friends, such as meeting up once a week for lunch and having a ‘girly night’ every other weekend or so.
Further tips and guidance available on the Hallmark’s Facebook page. Hallmark has dedicated ranges of gifts and cards specifically designed to help friends celebrate their relationships. Available from www.hallmark.co.uk/friends and in selected stores across the UK.