Life in the second act can be lonely – kids leave the nest; parents become older. Even with the best of spouses and a fantastic family, everyone needs good friends. Whether you are entering into new friendships or navigating ones that are decades old, here are things to consider when evaluating important relationships (and by important I mean the inner circle.) Good friends act like the foundation of a house; they have to be solid in order to hold us up. Here are 10 qualities to look for when diving into second act friendships.
- Compassion. A lot of stuff goes down in our 40s and 50s. From caring for elderly parents to walking around empty houses when the kids leave the nest, we have a lot of emotional stuff on our plates. Find someone who will not only listen to your dirt, but also cares about the struggle as much as you do.
- Laughter. If you can’t laugh together, you need to hightail it out of that relationship. We all have bad days; we all deal with an incredible amount of stress. Laughter, however, can counteract all of it. Make a friend who knows how to tell a bad joke, or who can joke about herself. Look for someone who knows when you really need to laugh.
- Consistency. Choose someone who is rock solid. I don’t mean they have to text you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, they have to be present whenever you are with them. We all have good days and bad ones, but it shouldn’t change the essence of who we are. Look for someone who feels like the same core person each time you are together.
- Accountability. Issues arise in all relationships. However, it’s how we deal with them when they happen. The best friendships are the ones that get dragged through the mud and end up better because someone fessed up that they messed up. Surround yourself with people who can apologize and have an open and honest conversation. By the same token, you need to be just as accountable.
- Inclusion. Making new friends as an adult is not easy but can be a pathway to a whole new community of pals. If a new friend invites you to an event with some of her other buddies, it means she values you enough to include you in her life. It also means she is a keeper.
- Motivation. There are some days when staying under the covers feels like the best life option. A friend who invites you to volunteer at her favorite charity or asks you to join her at a spin class is the kind of friend whose enthusiasm can be contagious…and just the thing you need to get up, get out and make your own life happen.
- Shared Values. When our kids were little, we sought out friends with same aged kids and bonded around the lives of our little ones. Now we have the luxury of seeking out people who like the same things WE like. I met some of my best new friends these past few years in workout classes and through volunteering. Step one is joining things; step two is striking up a conversation. Often you will find that you share more than just a love of spinning or a desire to help a particular organization.
- Joy. Like Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t bring you joy, toss it. There is no reason to hang out with people who dim your light. Invite people into your second act that lift your spirit and make you whole.
- Truth. Why have a friend if they can’t be honest with you? Of course, it doesn’t mean they have to spill their darkest secrets. A few pertinent nuggets will do. When a friend shows you that he or she is vulnerable, it helps strengthen your shared connection. A friend who claims that everything is perfect all of the time is not being true to herself. She may not have the room in her heart to absorb your toughest truths.
- Reliability. If I can’t call you at 2 am with an emergency, then we are not a good fit. If you are too busy to text back after I said my day sucked, we won’t make it to the second base of friendship. We need each other to survive. There is no such thing as a one-way street in friendship and no room for “I can’t help you” at this point in our lives.
Mimi L. Golub is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Living the Second Act, an online magazine for women in their 40s and 50s who are seeking the truth. She is the author of the someday-to-be-published novel, Boxed In. Mimi is also the writer and a staff editor of From Our Kitchens, a nonprofit cookbook that was released in 2018. In her spare time, Mimi loves to workout, drink tequila, and volunteer with many local causes. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband and has twin girls who have left the nest. You can find her former work on: tequilainbed.com