Letting friendships develop, even when it doesn’t feel easy

We all sat around my living room, sharing vulnerably as we had been all summer, an unlikely group of friends, seemingly thrown together by divine hands– because how else would we have all ended up together?

As the conversation turned to friendship, I began to see a trend, a sort-of truth emerging. It seemed like the older we got, the harder it was to find kindred spirits— those friendships that came naturally and easily like when we were younger.

There are a lot of theories and research as to why that is. A couple of years ago, a New York Times article broke it down like this:

“As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.”

But the more the ladies in my home chatted about it, another more profound truth emerged. Some of the deeper friendships we have now as adults started out with people who were seemingly unlikely to be our friends. These friendships emerged and over time, grew roots and became true kindred spirit relationships.

And those three factors that Adams mentioned were definitely critical in the development of these adult relationships; in most of my own newer friendships, they are with people who I see frequently (despite all the challenges of busy schedules), live somewhat near, and with whom I’ve been able to be vulnerable.

This particular group of ladies I have, the women from my community group (a small group set up through my church), demonstrates great examples of these kind of friendships. If I were to describe an imaginary kindred spirit, she would probably look a lot like me– similar life stage (or further ahead than me), shared interests or experiences, and that is probably how most of my friendships formed when I was younger.

But my newer friendships have surprised me. These women, who are different from me in a variety of ways, have become true heart-friends.

Here are a few ways I’ve seen these relationships develop into unlikely friendships, because as Anne Shirley said, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

  • Spending time together— Preferably more than once a week, whether that’s scheduled/regular, planned, or spontaneous.
  • Staying in frequent contact— texting and social media are great for this (and fun, too).
  • Serving & blessing one another— “Seeing the need before it is spoken,” as one of my friends so eloquently said recently.
  • Taking time to research/get to know her interests— I recently learned that one of my husband’s friends has been known to look up baseball stats in order to connect more with David; I just love this.
  • Teaching her about something I like— Chatting about blogging over coffee with an interested friend has been a fun way to grow a few friendships. Lending and borrowing favorite movies (or better yet, watching together) is another fun one.
  • Finding commonalities— there’s gotta be something, whether it’s something small like a shared love of ice cream, or something foundational like a shared faith– nothing unites my little group more than our love of Christ.
  • Figuring out the purpose— I truly believe that every person is brought into our lives for a reason; seeking out what that providential reason might be will go a long way in how we grow in relationship with him or her.
  • Breaking bread together at home— Hospitality and enjoying a meal together go a long way, providing a less-intimidating environment where that letting-down-the-guard can begin in that relationship. This can happen anywhere really, but opening the home is also a great way for the new friend to really see who I am.

One of the most beautiful things about these unlikely friends is that they are able to offer me a different perspective and speak into my life in ways that someone more similar to me in life stage or preferences might be able to. They’ve opened my eyes to new things, too, and helped me grow in various areas. These friends who I might not have chosen or sought out have become real blessings in my life.

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6 Comments

  1. Guest

    Really interesting and much needed in my life right now. I’m curious how you can meet up with friends more than once a week? I work full time and am a mom. I’m fortunate to get together with a friend twice a month.

    • Andrew Burgon

      Even when my wife and I became parents I was able to still make time for friends. I arranged to have a week night off to meet up with them. I would also usually hold a group event on the weekend like a board games party, movie night or wine and cheese party. I loved group events because they enabled me to accommodate more friends in my life. Another way to accommodate friends in your life is to consider all those solitary activities in your life and whether having a friend along would be preferable. Also, some couples fall into the trap of only doing things together like seeing a movie or going to a restaurant.. Consider on inviting some friends. Don’t forget family outings, too. A trip to the zoo could be done with another family and the kids are bound to have more fun especially if the other couple’s children are around the same age.

  2. Steph

    Some of my closest friends aren’t people I would’ve necessarily picked from the get go. And the developing friendship never felt easy at first. Great advice!

  3. priest's wife @byzcathwife

    Making friends is very hard- I usually ‘end up’ being used as a resource (for counseling, babysitting, etc) and not receiving in return. It is lonely.

  4. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Love this! I’ve moved many times and so have had to rebuild relationships a lot. One of the things I’ve had to learn is not to assume I wouldn’t connect with certain people. Some of my sweetest friendships have been pretty unexpected. I’ve also learned that in this season of life (mom to littles), I have to work hard and get creative about finding times to connect with friends. Sometimes it’s pretty challenging, but I think it’s worth the effort. 🙂

  5. Alissa

    This would have described my community group from college. We often joked that we were five women who “never would have met each other” if we were not randomly plopped together with a mentor woman to lead us. But… we met weekly, often pushing through awkward silences those first few months, and we were all committed to sharing as openly as we could muster. Proximity, frequency, vulnerability. Those times togehter are some of my most cherished college memories.

    I feel like meeting new friends as an adult feels a lot like dating. Inviting someone to coffee can feel a lot like asking someone out on a date… awkward! But, a dear friend told me the secret: “I just pretend that the new person is ALREADY my friend and then it’s easy invite them along to your park visit, lunchtime outing, etc.”

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