I recently packed up all my belongings, got in a car with my daughter, two very angry cats, and a happy but confused dog, and moved across the country. Although the move was the right choice for many reasons, it meant leaving my support system and the network of friends I spent 20 years cultivating. I was excited about starting over, but I quickly realized that making friends as an adult isn’t quite as easy as it was in childhood. Most adults are consumed with careers, families, and/or already have a circle of friends.
As a life-long social butterfly, suddenly being isolated left me feeling lonely, a bit sorry for myself, and on bad days, quite sad. As a single mom with a disabled child, it has been difficult to even find time to attempt socializing, much less create strong friendships. But in developing my WRAP, I realized how important relationships are to my overall well-being and happiness and that spending time with friends who “get” me is one of my most valuable wellness tools. For me, having friends is as vital as drinking water or breathing air.
Mutuality and Personal Responsibility in Friendships
Because spending time with friends is so central to my happiness and emotional balance, I have been stepping out of my comfort zone. This means both building new relationships and maintaining my long-distance ties. For the first time in 40+ years, I am taking real time and effort to build and maintain a circle of support, so I turned to some past WRAP articles for advice.
“A Wellness Tool: Developing and Keeping a Circle of Support” reminded me of the attributes of a good friend, including mutual like, respect, trust, support, and acceptance, and it got me thinking about what I can do to improve my relationships. If I’m not working to strengthen the bond, I cannot expect the other person to keep offering support. The same holds true if I am on the receiving end of a friend who isn’t supportive, constantly criticizes me, or betrays my trust. I am learning it’s okay, and even important, to end unhealthy friendships/relationships, even if the other person doesn’t want to let go.
I also asked myself what more I could do to maintain the friendships that are now long distance and made a list of ways I can be a better friend, even from 2,000 miles away. The article “Maintaining a STRONG Peer Support System” helped me think about steps I can take to keep my long-distance network strong. That means active contact, reaching out to friends more than once every six months, and keeping tabs on their lives, experiences, and feelings.
My Relationship WRAP
Inspired by these ideas, I decided to create a relationship WRAP. The concept of relationship maintenance and having a “plan” for friendships is completely foreign to me. At first glance, it felt scripted and unnatural to have a plan for friendships. But I realized that some of my close friendships are slipping away simply because neither of us puts enough effort into maintaining the connection. My WRAP is helping me recognize what I need to do to maintain those ties and which friendships are worth preserving.
Writing down my plan also gave me the courage to attend a party last week. I felt a bit panicky driving there and almost turned around. When I arrived, I was so nervous that I knocked on the wrong door and was greeted by two very confused guys in their twenties who were wondering why a 40-something woman was standing on their doorstep with a smile and a bottle of wine.
I did eventually find the right door, and I’m glad I stuck with it and gave the party a shot. By the end of the night, I’d met another single mom who, like me, is both a writer, an educator, and a former opera singer. We became Facebook friends and now have plans to meet for dinner. I told her I’m relatively new to the city and don’t have many friends, and she offered to introduce me to other like-minded people.
My Next Steps—And an Invitation to Join Me!
My risk paid off last week, and I plan to take more risks as I embark on my relationship WRAP. I’m also going to read The Loneliness Workbook: A Guide to Developing and Maintaining Lasting Connections to learn more about how to keep building and maintaining my network of relationships.
Along that line, I plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day in two ways: first, by sending a text or email to each of my close friends telling them what I most appreciate about them and, second, by attending the free February 14 webinar WRAP for Happy, Healing, and Healthy Relationships. The presenter, Amey Dettmer, is an Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator (ALWF) who had this to say about WRAP for relationships: “Using WRAP for my relationship has significantly increased my hope that our life together can and will be as happy and healthy as we both want it to be. Building our relationship WRAP together helped us express our needs with each other and, overall, shined the light on the wellness tools and action plans we can use together for the wellness of our relationship.” Amey will be joined by fellow ALWF Cheryl Sharp. I can’t wait to get more inspiration from their ideas. I hope you’ll attend, too. Click here for more info and to register.
Do you have a WRAP for relationships? If so, how has it helped you build a strong support network? And how have you gone about developing new, healthy friendships? I’d love your tips! Visit our Facebook page and comment with your ideas, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll feature some of your suggestions in upcoming articles!