We need to invest as much time and effort into our platonic relationships as our romantic ones

SOMETIMES it’s the simple things: a flurry of WhatsApp messages, someone’s garden, a few bottles of prosecco (or, in my case, elderflower cordial), and we might even have snuck in a contraband hug or two.

Seeing my friends again post-lockdown has been a revelation. I felt as refreshed as if I’d had a two-week spa break.

And it struck me how strange it is that we invest so much time and effort in our romantic relationships, but often let our friendships drift.

We obsess about finding The One, but nurturing a group of friends who make you feel like you belong might actually be the real quest.

For me, friendships at school and university came easily enough – all you needed to bond was double maths or a few Jägerbombs.

But when you get into the tricky transition time that is your 20s and 30s, it can feel like your friends are moving on without you.

Weeks fly by and all you’ve done is like their Insta post. When you do see each other, it seems like you just take turns to download your respective news.

Priorities change and even the closest friendships buckle.

When I was single, child-free and 34, I remember glazing over while my best mates talked intricately about breastfeeding, and trying hard to be patient when our plans had to revolve around naps (not mine).

But rather than feel resentful and lonely, I realised that I had to be proactive. I learned to seek out new friends who reflected my lifestyle and interests.

This week I'm…

Watching… I May Destroy You

Late to the party with Michaela Coel’s BBC drama, but I’ve binged it in one go and… wow.

Loving… Kit & Kin

The Magic Salve, £7.99, is a wonder balm that can be used on everything from lips to babies’ bums.

Reading… Lido

Christopher Beanland’s book about the best outdoor swimming pools has made me excited to dive in again.

At first it was daunting striking up conversations with potential new pals in coffee shops and at work events.

Those tentative early stages of courting a new friend can feel a lot like dating.

You’re crafting witty text messages to each other, not wanting to appear too keen and feeling as excited to see them as you would a new partner.

What I realised is that we need to cultivate our friendships as we might a well-balanced diet or a portfolio career. We need the right amount of friends, each fulfilling different roles.

So there are my school mates who have known me since I was 11, my work friends who can empathise about the pressures and perks of my career, the pals I made after my divorce who helped me enjoy single life again, and so on.

Now that I’m embarking on a different chapter of life – motherhood – I’m looking forward to making some “mum friends” to add to my circle.

I’ve signed up for antenatal classes – not to learn how to change a nappy or pretend to give birth to a plastic doll – but to make some new mates. I’m sure it will feel forced at first, but I know from experience that the initial awkwardness is worth it.

Forging new friendships and maintaining old ones can be challenging, but it’s so important. Seven out of 10 people say they feel lonely and 31% admit they find it difficult to make friends.

Yet good-quality friendships can literally save your life – a study found that women without close friends were four times more likely to die earlier than those who had 10 or more friends.

Lockdown stripped life right back to its essentials, revealing what we really
missed – in my case friends (and salon pedicures). So never again will I bail on a long-diarised dinner date or sigh at doing a Doodle poll.

I might not share a bed or a bank account with them, but my friends are the real love of my life.

  • Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites

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