Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
I constantly feel guilty because I don’t keep up with friends adequately. My husband and I have a lot of great people in our lives, and even though we entertain regularly, I feel like there’s always someone I haven’t had over yet. It’s gotten so bad that I make a point of no longer saying, “We should get together sometime!” when I meet someone new because I can’t up with the friends I already have. Any advice?
In our mobile, fast-paced, digitally-connected world, it’s definitely a challenge to navigate our relationships. But I think you need to look at your situation from a different perspective: Knowing so many great people is a problem many wish for—you’re fortunate. If deep down you can believe this is a gift in your life, the entire situation will start to look different and you’ll be able to create better solutions. So let’s talk about what some of those might be…
First, what matters most in friendship—as with so many other things—is quality, not quantity. There’s only so much time in a busy life for nurturing friendships (and sometimes almost no time at all if you’re working and/or raising kids). Nurturing a few deep friendships is much more satisfying than maintaining many surface-level friendships. There’s nothing wrong with being selective; just because you can spend time with someone doesn’t mean you must. Obligation shouldn’t be the deciding factor here Give your time and attention to the people who bring you joy and who help you be a better person.
Also, don’t buy into the idea that all of your friends need equal face time. Some of the best friendships are between people who rarely see each other, and when they do, it’s like they’ve never been apart. Other friendships are situational—you share similar life circumstances at a given moment, such as a friendly neighbor who has kids the same age as yours. Some friendships are life-long, and others are just for a season. It’s all good. Examine your beliefs about what friendship is supposed to be because you may hold assumptions and expectations that aren’t helpful or even true.
Here’s an idea: Consider throwing an annual party (or an open house) and invite all the people to whom you’ve wanted to say, “We should get together some time!” and/or the people you’d like to catch up with. Sure, this doesn’t give you the one-on-one time you may want, but it allows you to see people you want to connect with. Some of these friendships might strengthen over time, and some may fade—and that’s okay.
Also, could you incorporate friendships into your daily routines more? For instance, if you take your kids to the park regularly, why not invite a friend along from time to time? Or how about sharing a monthly potluck (brunch?) with nearby friends, rotating homes if that works better? If your friendships aren’t always in competition with other priorities or events, it’s much easier to nurture them.
As we get older, it’s harder to make new friends—we get set in patterns, roles, commitments, and busyness. But every now and then someone comes along who we really connect with, someone who can ruly enrich our lives and vice versa. Stay open to this possibility. At the same time, be prudent: You can’t be friends with every nice person you meet. Pay attention to which encounters seem serendipitous, and let go of the others.
Hope enjoy every bit of your time with friends and family this holiday season.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, and consultant, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, Instagram, and vodka martinis — not necessarily in that order.