We thought we’d take a break from the Valentine’s Day Industrial Complex to talk about another important type of relationship; the one we have with our friends. It’s hard to imagine getting through the challenges life throws our way without our dearest friends to cheer us on. But what does it actually mean to be a good friend? How can we continue to nurture these relationships so they can continue to grow with us? We turned to one of my dearest friends and gifted psychotherapist, Jessica Walker, to discuss how to be our best selves for our besties.
Friends are the family we choose. What advice do you have for tending to and helping those friendships grow and evolve over time?
Friendship is such an important emotional investment, and the ones that are cultivated and nourished can last, well, forever. It can be a challenge to carve out time with all the demands of life, but even if you’re just snatching coffee dates when you can or checking in over text, meaningful conversation is a core building block of connection. Inquire after people’s hearts. Share what’s in yours. In the event of conflict, as hard as this might seem, get soft when you might want to get rigid, or if you get too attached to being ‘right’. Obviously not all friendships last (in some cases that’s not a bad thing), but there are so often reasons two people choose to get close. If those reasons are still dear to you, keep showing up. People like to be liked. And, after all, as Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Enjoy your stroll with your favorites.
It’s easy to be friends when things are going smoothly, but a friendship is really put to the test when one side is going through something difficult (a break up, divorce, health issues, loss of a parent, etc.) If your friend is going through something really difficult, it can be hard to know how to support them in the right way. How can you support a friend you love when they’re going through a painful experience?
Knowing what feels supportive to another person can be tricky guess work, so I encourage anyone who’s wondering what someone else needs to just ask! I try to check in with friends when I know they’re hurting, and I’ll even ask if the check-ins feel good (or too much/not enough) and if there’s anything I can do for them. This way I can let them know I’m here for them while also staying open to the fact that what they need will change as the situation evolves. Hopefully that provides the space for them to need a hug one day and to need a little alone time the next.
Meeting friends as an adult can be hard. We have a very wacky backstory of meeting in trapeze class! While we don’t fly in the sky as much as we used to, the friendships we made in that unusual setting endured. What advice do you have for women looking to find meaningful friendships as an adult?
It’s true, I met some of my absolute favorite humans in trapeze class (like you!). I also met some of my dearest friends volunteering for causes I care about. I recommend following up on your own individual interests – you will meet like-minded people there! Where do you think your tribe would hang out? Improv class? Pottery groups? City sports leagues? It is such a fundamental human desire to connect and be part of a community that you’re not alone in seeking closeness and relationships – it’s just a matter of choosing something you’re into and bonding with other like-minded lovers of writing haiku, knitting, spinning, hiking, yoga, or whatever it is that captures your imagination.
Jessica, you’re always full of the wisest of words, thank you for sharing them with our readers. I consider myself very lucky to personally benefit from your therapist-insight during our classic Korean spa marathons. Thank you for being such a great gal pal!
Jessica will be back later this month to discuss the most important relationship of all; the one you have with yourself.
About our expert:
Jessica Walker is a psychotherapist who received her MSW from the University of Southern California School of Social Work. She’s also trained as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner by the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, and has done touch skills training for trauma therapists with both Kathy Kain and the Nueroaffective Touch Institute. In addition to her trauma training, she has trained with Postpartum Support International to provide specialized care for pregnant and postpartum moms. She sees individuals and couples. Visit her website www.jwtherapy.com or contact email@example.com to learn more about her practice based in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.