Sometimes friendships just happen and it can be a really beautiful moment when they do. It's as if all the stars aligned just to allow you two to meet, laugh together and make a quick connection. But what happens next? How about someone who is going through a difficult time and needs a friend to step up? What about a friendship you see potential in but only get to see or talk to them in passing?
If we're lucky, we'll have a couple of those magical connections in our lifetime. For the most part though, maintaining friendships can be difficult. We all have a lot going on in our lives, so how do you go about creating an intentional atmosphere for diving deeper within a friendship?
Ah, yes. There's that word I love so much. Intentional. I'm a big fan of intentional friendships, and as I get older and after moving around a bit, I realize there are two important things I've learned about them.
1) We need them.
2) It's really unlikely that you'll develop deep relationships in an organic way.
Sure, these probably sound like no brainers, but sometimes we need a gentle reminder. Friendships aren't as easy to develop with spouses, kids, and work schedules. To maintain deep and meaningful relationships, we have to put effort into them which also means leaning into the discomfort of putting yourself out there. These relationships don't fall into your lap anymore (and if you really think they do, we may need to address your friendship expectations). You both have to work at them. Both of you will have to make a minimal amount of investment of your time, your energy and your concern in order to move outside of a shallow friendship.
However, it's scary to put yourself out there. It can be forward and get a little uncomfortable that you're intentionally going against the norm of dropping a line like "let's get together soon" and then just letting that opportunity fade away. Sometimes it takes people by surprise that I'm willing to put something on the calendar for a month or two out. But hey, if that's when you're available, I want to be penciled in. Personally, having the opportunity to get to know someone on a deeper level is worth the risk of being considered too forward, pushy or aggressive.
My favorite way to dive deeper is to have what I call a "friend date." It's similar to a traditional date in that it's a gesture that essentially says "you're is worth putting myself together and I'm willing to invest both some time and money into the opportunity to get to know you better." Again, it's very similar to a regular relationship in that a friend date basically says you're worth the effort. It's an opportunity to ask intentional questions to get to know each other in an attempt to move a relationship forward.
So what do these dates look like?
For me, they usually involve going out, one-on-one, for food. Notice how I didn't specify a meal. Coffee, brunch, or drinks are my go-to choices for friend dates because they are relatively vague when it comes to a time frame. I prefer to go with small plates over a full meal, because sometimes you end up in that awkward situation where the food comes out fast and now you have the bill, but you're nowhere near done talking. There is some intentionality with choosing to go out over staying in or meeting up at each other's home. Having friends over is awesome, but there are still distractions that come with that. Especially in my house where Kyle also has his office and there's usually a toddler running around (and likely screaming, too). A lot of my friends now have kids, pets and spouses so going out on a casual date allows for the ability to dive deeper but also minimizes distractions. Not to say you should always go out. I understand there is value in being home in that you're saving money on both ends plus hospitality definitely builds the relationship on both sides. It's just that I prefer getting out to minimize my own distractions. This one is more of a personal preference rather than a general rule.
Being in a one-on-one setting is a rule, though. Having double dates or friends over for game nights is a blast, but that's different from a friend date. The answers to questions about how you're handling a tough situation, how your relationship is with your parents or what goals you have for the next couple of years are going to have a much different vibe being asked in front of Kyle, their partner and whoever else is present versus in a one-on-one setting. To be clear, I'm not saying that you should always hang out by yourselves. I'm just stating that it needs to be done on occasion in order to move forward with a relationship. You can't only hang out in groups.
I'm personally pushing myself to be more purposeful with my friendships over this summer. James is easier to handle during both weekends and weeknights, so I'm able to slip out more often. The days are longer and my involvement with youth ministry calms down during the summer meaning I'm also seeing some friends less than I normally would. So, I'm making a personal goal of trying to make friend dates a more regular thing.
Take a moment and think about the friends you have. Think about those friends who you're wanting to get to know better, deeper and in a more intentional way. I encourage you to push through that discomfort of putting yourself out there and ask them on a date. Shoot them a quick text asking about their schedule, whether it be within the next couple weeks or possibly even a couple months out. It'll be worth it.