A less intentional (more open-ended) social life

by Kristin on February 18, 2009

in Love, family & community

Photo by Brad Edwards

When it comes to friendships, it’s been sort of a rough 12 months for Jason and me.

Well, that’s kind of misleading. We have plenty of wonderful people in our lives to call up when we need help with a project, or want a couple of people to play cards with or share a meal with. What we haven’t had for the past year are “best friends”—those favorite-any time-anywhere-go-to-without-thinking people that you have in your lives every now and again.

I realize writing about best friends might sound very “high school.” But the few times in my life that I’ve had this kind of friend living in the same town with me—I think exactly four times since college—I’ve been really happy. As human beings, we’re all oriented to needing friends. But maybe some people are more geared to intense friendships. And maybe I’m one of those people.

In all four cases, these friendships involved my husband and I loving both halves of another couple. In all cases, we were happy hanging out as two-guy- and two-girl-pairs, or all together. Each of those friendships involved eating dinner together at least once a week, often spontaneously, and calling each other first whenever we had a babysitter and a reason to go out—a birthday to celebrate, a show to go see, or some other adventure.

But that’s enough over-romanticizing about best-friendship. Like I mentioned, Jason and I don’t have that right now, and I’ve been feeling a certain, vague sadness about it. The feeling sort of comes and goes, but it’s there.

Heading in a new direction rather than seeking a replacement

Here’s something I’ve observed about human nature: When we have something we see as good, and then somehow we lose it, our first impulse is to get a replacement. Pronto. Do you have that impulse, too? I haven’t exactly been pursuing best friends, because I know it doesn’t work that way, but I have probably had some low-range friendship radar up.

I’ve also been trying to be less intentional. (If you missed what that’s all about, I wrote about in the posts Striving to be less intentional in 2009, The less intentional party,  and Retracing my steps to the original idea.) And this morning, I found myself drawing a line from this “friend issue” to my “less intentional” concept.

Jason and I were driving downtown, talking about our plans for the weekend, and this thought occurred to me: Not having best friends allows us to be more open with our time, which gives us more opportunities to invite different people over, and add depth to several of the more nominal friendships. We don’t have those automatic, go-to friends that we call every time we feel like hanging out with people, so we’re forced to be more open and creative in how we think about our social life.

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking I’m a perennial glass-half-full kind of girl—the kind who’s always finding silver linings and taking lemons and making lemonade. But I do think that trying to be less intentional—more open—these past several weeks has helped me to see more positive potential in things that look negative on the surface.

And that feels good. So I think I’m going to run with it for now.

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  • http://oktober5.com Ryan

    You’re much braver than I would be… then again, I was never an intense friendship person. My motto: the fewer friends the better and if I saw them infrequently, that was super great. Of course, then I got married and now spend every day with my wife, and it’s fantastic. But I think I’ll stop there and leave the courageous tasks to braver people :)

  • http://www.tjhirst.com/ TJ Hirst

    From your tweets you seem to be doing fairly well at finding people to hang out with. My husband and I are in need of a little mix-up in the friend department. We’ve not had couple friends that we go out with regularly in a long time. That’s harder to create in a small town, when you’re a transplant and everyone has kids to consume their time. We can always hope it will happen on one of our weekly dates, but I think I actually have to be intentional about it.

  • http://notsoliteral.blogspot.com JRMoreau

    It can be easy to slip into a passive existence. Suddenly you realize you’re doing nothing but work and haven’t seen or heard from your friends in a long time.

    It’s all about waking up and changing your actions. I’ve been forcing myself to call friends after work rather than waiting until the weekend.

  • Trina

    we have been re-evaluating our social lie of late too, me thinks we may need to be a it more intentional…

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Ryan, I don’t know if I’d call it “brave,” but thanks! I think Jason and I are just natural extroverts. We both have a lot of social energy (and I’m by myself for hours every work day, so I’m all fueled up for evenings and weekends). Now I’m just thinking more about shifting *who* we spend our “social time” with, and trying to let go of old patterns of friendship and what I think it should look like.

    TJ, it’s true—we don’t have any trouble finding people to hang out with when we want to hang out. The problem is more internal, in my own expectations and longings around deep friendship. I’m trying to see what kind of positive shift might be taking place because we’re currently lacking “best friends.” Does that make sense? I don’t know. I feel like I didn’t explain myself very clearly in this post…but I know I’m not alone. Adults go through friendship needs/wishes/changes, too, just as you described.

    JR, ah yes, the passive existence versus the proactive one. It takes effort, doesn’t it? I think everyone needs and enjoys some level of social interaction and fun, but I think those who are more extroverted among us actively crave it and need it It’s like realizing you need caffeine because you’re starting to get a headache. If I go too long without good conversation and fun, I start to feel the side effects.

    Trina, this “less intentional” idea that I came up with doesn’t really work all of the time. Or at least it doesn’t always come across as clearly as I’d like. And you’re right—evaluating your social life and determining what changes you need to make involves a certain intentionality. But maybe not planning out every weekend in advance allows for something unexpected to come up, like a last-minute dinner invitation, or an opportunity to run into friends you haven’t seen in a while and to decide spontaneously to grab a beer. I guess I’m thinking about “less intentional” as being less planned out, and more open-ended. It’s a tricky balance, and I’m hoping I can find the sweet spot.

  • Cobalt-Blue

    At this stage of the game, its par for the course. We are at a stage of our lives where responsibilities and schedules pertaining to family, life, and career fill up our time. Although social engagements have to be planned, you still appreciate the friendships and maintain a good outlook upon finding the balance. In the big picture, when children move on to create their own lives and adult careers are more settled, there will be more opportunity for those ‘less-intentional’ gatherings with best friends that you desire. Its all in time.