How To Nurture Adult Friendships

I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately. I'm enormously grateful for the friendships I have developed and have also experienced painful changes in relationships over the years. So many of us lose our friendship footing while we're in the early parenting trenches, and even as sleep deprivation becomes less of an issue, the general pace of life can make it challenging to prioritize people beyond our social media feeds. 

I decided to canvas a bunch of my squad for simple, creative ideas to nurture adult friendships and I was simply blown away by the honesty, thoughtfulness, and vulnerability of the responses, which span big picture to practical ideas. Some of the ideas are deep, many are simple, some made me laugh so hard I almost peed in my pants (#27), some made me hungry (#39), and all of these ideas will help you show your friends that you love and see them in ways that we all wish to be loved and seen. I hope this list helps you and I'm grateful to the incredible human beings who contributed to this post. If you have other favorite ideas for how you nurture friendships, drop them in the comments below!

BIG PICTURE

1. Be the friend you want to have

“Support your friends by pre-empting what they might need based on what you know you've needed at different stages of your life: career transitions, new baby, move, etc. Those moments when I've been aware of gaps in needing someone to step up has spurred me to fill those gaps for my friends.” –Quiana Agbai of Harlem Lovebirds

2. Lead with kindness

“The older I get, the more I value the joy, stability, and loyalty that comes with having true girlfriends. It sometimes takes work to nurture these relationships, but it is so worth it. I always focus on how I would love to be treated: I lead with kindness. I focus on the little things: an unexpected note sent via regular mail, listening instead of talking, seeking and celebrating the good that is happening in that friend's world.” –Danielle Smith of Pretty Extraordinary

3. Show trust through sharing and asking for help

“When I think of the friendships that really mean something to me, even if they’re newer, later-in-life friendships, the tie that binds is sacred space. We’ve gone beyond the surface, and are open to sharing the parts of life that are hard or painful, and have asked for help from each other. Providing and receiving that space creates a bond that’s hard to replicate any other way.” –Paige Lewin of Tess & Ted Interiors

4. Be bossy (in a good way)

“People are often ashamed of their struggles (they don't want to be that needy friend), so avoid asking for help. If your friend is struggling, don't ask ‘How can I help?’ Just barge in and start helping. Show up with burritos, a bottle of wine, work gloves, and a big smile, and then don't take no for an answer. It's a bit of a risk, but when taken with love, a small one.” –Asha Dornfest

5. Shake your pom poms

“I will always be the friend who cartwheels for you—whether it is a promotion, a new home, a leap in to a new business venture, a full 8 hours of sleep, or a child making the team of their choice.... being your cartwheeling friends means you know you always have someone in your corner, someone who knows it isn't bragging, but living in the joy.” –Danielle Smith of Pretty Extraordinary

6. Tune in to your friend’s favorite things

“I delight in tuning in to what my friends love, and connecting around those things in different ways (especially when it’s unexpected). For example, when I learned about my friend Karen’s love of wasabi peas, the next time I was at the store I picked up a container for her and mailed it to her. Or when my friend Asha and her son Sam stayed with us during a college visit, I asked Asha’s husband what their favorite cakes were and Laurel and I baked them.” –Christine Koh

ESTABLISH ROUTINES

7. Create friendship mindfulness

I'm notoriously bad at nurturing friendships, but one of the things I've started doing is asking myself every morning, ‘How can I feel connected today?’ It's just a little mindfulness exercise that prompts me to think about what I can do to stay in touch with the people I love. Sometimes the answer to that question is ‘organize a happy hour with a couple of pals,’ but more often it means simply sending an email at the beginning of the day to a friend that simply says, ‘Thinking of you. I hope you're doing well, sister.’” –Karen Walrond

8. Put a regular date on the calendar

“We have a monthly ‘Sunday Spaghetti’ with two other couples that we prioritize. Sunday nights are usually free in the calendar and if we skip a month or two, we go back to it. We also have Taco Tuesday in our house weekly with an open invitation for anyone around to join. We’ve had neighbors, friends, and extended family jump in on it at different times.” –Casey Brown of Life With Roozle

9. Have a weekly work commitment

“KJ and I wanted to start a podcast together anyway, but it’s become our standing weekly hour together, one I love more than just about anything else in my life. 115 episodes in, it’s made our friendship stronger and allowed us to become more honest with each other, as we work to become better writers, interviewers, and podcasters.” –Jessica Lahey of #AmWriting

10. Create and embrace simple traditions

“Life is busy, and staying in constant touch with friends can be incredibly challenging. Tradition is important to help bridge that gap between talks or visits. If you know you have a special tradition with a friend—it can be as simple as a place you like to eat together, as involved as a trip you take together each year, or just a shared history to which you’re able to refer back—tradition helps glue the friendship in times of absence.” –Paige Lewin of Tess & Ted Interiors

SHARE

11. Swap books

I regularly exchange books with my BFFs from Momtrends. Every quarter or so, all my team brings in our faves and we do a big book swap.” –Nicole Feliciano of Momtrends

12. Swap skills

“If your friend is good at something you're not skilled at, ask them to show you or tell you how. Good friends champion and challenge each other, and this does both. Your friend will feel seen and encouraged, and you might learn something new.” –Elan Morgan

13. Get together to go over your to-dos

“I know, it doesn’t sound very sexy but being with your friend and allowing for a “brain” dump of sorts will allow you to feel less stressed (because you are getting all your to-dos out of your mind and down on paper) and getting to see your friend and chat about things.” –Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company

14. Share kitchen love

“One of my favorite things about baking is sharing with friends in the neighborhood. Never underestimate the power of an unexpected piece of cake on one’s doorstep! And it goes both ways...a friend in the neighborhood recently dropped off a jar of refrigerator pickles (abundance from their garden plot) and I swear pickles have never tasted so good to me.” –Christine Koh

EMBRACE SNAIL MAIL

15. Send a card

“I try to send out handwritten notes once a year to friends who have shown up for me to thank them and remind them that I love them.” –Danielle Slaughter of Mamademics

16. Send small gifts

“I travel so much and don't get a lot of face to face time with my friends so I like to pick up little gifts to let them know I am thinking of them. This can be little—like a packet of local coffee from the country I'm visiting—just to make sure we feel connected and they know they are on my mind.” –Jane Mosbacher Morris, of Buy The Change You Want To See

EMBRACE QUICK TOUCH POINTS

17. Pick up the phone

One of the simple ways that I nurture friendships as a busy working parent is through 5 minute phone calls. If I am walking or driving somewhere, I’ll do a quick 5 minute phone call to check in on a friend and preface the call by setting that expectation. It’s amazing what 5 minutes can do to grow a friendship!” –Phyllis Myung of Napkin Hoarder

18. “See someone” through photos

“I do text regularly but even more importantly, I send photos...if something reminds me of someone I send it. The flip of that is the most wonderfully diverse people send me photos of sunrises and sunsets, and every single time I get one I feel seen, and loved, and it makes my day.” –Lindsey Mead of A Design So Vast

19. Communicate from the road

“I love sending postcards when I am traveling to let friends know they are on my mind and important to me no matter where I am.” –Clarissa Laskey of Clarissa Explains It All

20. Remember that just a few words can be powerful

“Saying thank you or I'm thinking of you can be a big boost in any relationship. I want my people to know I'm here, I see them and I care. When in doubt? Do it with flowers.” –Danielle Smith of Pretty Extraordinary

 This creative collection of ideas will help you nurture your adult friendships!

This creative collection of ideas will help you nurture your adult friendships!

UTILIZE THE GOOD OF TECHNOLOGY

21. Schedule a digital happy hour

“I schedule Google Hangout/Facetime lunches or happy hours with friends who do not live nearby (and many of my friends don't live nearby).” –Jen Reeves of Born Just Right

22. Share unbeatable GIFs

“My crew uses a WhatsApp group. It’s a really easy way to share victories, photos, unbeatable GIFS, and general love bursts and appreciations (I try to do this regularly).” –Jessica Alpert of Circle Round

23. Start a podcast club

“A dozen or so women in my neighborhood have a podcast club, one that my friend Karen and I started together. It feels like less work than a book club, which can be overwhelming for some friends, and there are so many wonderful podcasts out there with so many great topics for discussion. Podcast club is the best!” –Jane Maynard of This Week For Dinner

24. Chat via video

“My friends and I make sure to chat using video apps as often as possible. Texting is easy. Phone calls are better, but nothing beats seeing someone you love laughing in real time after you tell a funny joke.” –Vera Sweeney of Lady and the Blog

25. Connect IRL via your text squad

“I am part of a couple of small friend groups. We meet for coffee or happy hour a couple times a month. No one person coordinates our together time, but we all toss out times as times become available (via text). Sometimes all gals can make it, sometimes only a couple. We just keep trying and no one person has the pressure to make it happen. All that to say ... MISSION IRL TIME  & CREW IS ESSENTIAL. When too much time passes there is always someone who initiates and brings us back. Sometimes it’s an hour. Or two. Or one person will stop by for 10 minutes just to hug and make eye contact. I can’t imagine life without these women. I am so grateful for these “crews” and without all of us working to stay in touch, it wouldn’t work.” –Jenny Ingram of Jenny on the Spot              

26. Utilize calendar reminders

“When your friend mentions something they're doing/worried about that takes place on a future date (think: travel, work project, surgery, exam), make a quick note of the date and set a reminder to ask them about it a day or two before.” –Asha Dornfest

GET TOGETHER AT HOME

27. Host an unforgettable regular get-together

“I LOVE to host my friends at my friend-famous Chocolate Party. We pick two adorable ‘chocolate’—i.e. African American—actors we love and a fav movie in which they starred, and I play that eye candy on my TV while we eat all manner of chocolate—chocolate covered strawberries, candy, spiked brownies and my signature chocolate martinis. We spend the entire night laughing, eating, enjoying each other’s company and, of course, ogling cute boys like Morris Chestnut, Kofi Seribe, Denzel Washington, and the like. Oh, and we don’t discriminate: we also occasionally do the Lemon Drop party, featuring lemon-flavored treats and cute light-skinned guys.” –Denene Millner of My Brown Baby

28. Host game night

“My friend Tracy hosts a monthly game night at her house where friends come over and drink wine and play games like Telestrations, Cranium, and Pictionary. It is off-the-charts fun.” –Katherine Center

29. Organize a wine and crafting party

“The great thing about this kind of gathering is the crafting part of the party is hands-on and gets everyone off their digital devices while learning a new skill. For example, I do watercolor and hand lettering so I could easily teach a small group of friends how to paint and letter their own stationery or flower pot. I have a friend who makes quilts. She can show everyone how to make a lap blanket. Take this to another level by inviting friends who don't know each other so they can make new friends.” –Lucrecer Braxton

30. Cook together

“I cook with my friend Mimi. We invade one kitchen with ingredients to cook 2-3 meals each, enough for both of our families, then spend the day making it happen and go home with 4-6 meals for our freezers, and we have a great time doing it (it's worth noting that we love to cook).” –KJ Dell'Antonia

31. Host a vision board party

“Who doesn't love blank journals and collaging your hopes dreams and goals? All you need to bring to the gathering is a blank notebook to decorate, magazines, cool pens and some quality glue. Don't skimp on the glue. This activity makes for a nice yearly ritual around the new year when you are setting intentions.” –Lucrecer Braxton

32. Enjoy a book club of two

“Somehow in the parenting years, an actual book club has felt like too much to organize—but a friend and I, who have similar taste in books, started a book club of two for ourselves where we’d just meet for breakfast after dropping the kids at school and talk about the book—and then, of course, everything else.” –Katherine Center

LEAVE THE PREMISES

33. Don’t work at your desk over lunch

“As a mom who works in corporate America, I have to make getting together with friends a priority, or it doesn't happen. One strategy that I have found works well is getting together for lunch on my lunch break. It gives us roughly 45-50 minutes to catch up and focus just on one another, with no kids around. These lunch dates are so life-giving that I try to schedule at least one friend lunch a week.” –Jessica Turner of The Mom Creative

34. Use an awesome local event as your hook

“Every year, I buy a gang of tickets to one of the best music festivals ever—ONE Music Fest, here in ATL—and my girls and I enjoy some of the best love performance of the year. We start our caravan at my place, where we take pics and have celebratory shots (those of us who aren’t driving, of course), then we head to the festival and dance, sing and soak up good sun and energy from the afternoon all the way until about midnight. So. Much. Fun. We’ve seen Jill Scott, the Dungeon Family, Janelle Monee, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Anderson.Paak, Jr. Gong Marley and so many more incredible artist together. This year will be our fourth OMF trek together!” –Denene Millner of My Brown Baby

35. Plan an annual girls trip

“My closest friends and I do this once a year—solo, no kids, and no significant others. We are all over the country so we try to meet in a neutral location. It is never easy to plan (so many schedules, so little time) but ALWAYS worth it—one of the most restorative and inspirational things I do all year.” –Jessica Alpert of Circle Round

36. Try something new together

“Take a class together that you both would never take (photography, gym, cooking, sewing, etc.).” –Sharon Sprague of Umommy (Quiana Agbai of Harlem Lovebirds also had the great idea of using daily deal websites as a source of inspiration for new adventures to try together.)

37. Start a ladies matinee club

“Some friends of mine have taken up the job of noticing when a fun new movie is coming out, and then sending out an email inviting everyone to a matinee on a specific day. Anyone who can show up does, and then we go on to afternoon carpool. Easy.” –Katherine Center

USE AN OCCASION OR PROJECT AS MOTIVATION

38. Make it happen on your birthday

“Since I had kids it's been hard to keep in touch with my friends apart from some random texts every once in a while. The friends I used to spend every day with I now see once a year if I'm lucky. And I hate to talk on the phone. But I have found myself missing my friends so much recently. So this year for my birthday I'm determined to get friends together to do something that allows us to come together and do something that checks off our to-do list. I'm going to have a private yoga session for friends followed by lunch.” –Morra Aarons-Mele of Women Online

39. Invite your friends into a project (that benefits them too)

“For nearly two years, while testing taco recipes for my cookbook, The Taco Tuesday Cookbook,  I'd often invite my friends over to eat tacos at lunch or after work. The conversations were always fun, animated, and we'd connect over something we all love: Tacos! Their input was extremely helpful to me while developing the book and our friendships reconnected over something we both love outside of our families. As moms, it's important to find creative ways and conversations that allow us to nurture our friendships with something other than our day-to-day kid stories. While they are a huge part of who we are, they aren't all that we are. But tacos....they are everything. Tacos are life. Kidding but not.” –Laura Fuentes

40. Make the world a better place together

“My baby sister is running for Congress, and I’ve shown up for block-walking, sign-making, strategy meetings, and I even lovingly painted a wall in her campaign headquarters with a long list of all the things we all love about her district. There’s something deep and satisfying about working together with other people on projects that you really care about.” –Katherine Center

GET MOVING

41. Work out together

“My favorite way to stay closely connected to my friends is through running. By getting together for early morning runs that are already a planned part of our schedule, we can catch up on life on a weekly basis without carving out yet another hour in the day. This uninterrupted, quality time together keeps my friendships ‘running’ strong.” –Jesica D’Avanza of rUnladylike

DECLUTTER TOGETHER

42. Help each other clean out your closets

“Schedule a time for each friend to go over to the other’s house. Having the moral support of a friend while you declutter will allow you to let go of things easier, quicker, and be way more fun. Plus, your friend can be honest with you about letting go of those jeans that are juuuust a bit too tight!” –Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company

BE SPONTANEOUS

43. Leave room for serendipity time

“I find some of my very best moments with friends come when I am open to spontaneous time together, even if sometimes it means I need to shift my schedule around. It is always worth it! I had one such moment with you when I was in Boston a few years ago and it was such a wonderful time with your family, even if short it felt full and meaningful.” –Jane Maynard of This Week For Dinner

 An incredible hand painted mural by Katherine Center, in honor of her sister's run for Congress (see #40 above!)

An incredible hand painted mural by Katherine Center, in honor of her sister's run for Congress (see #40 above!)

Christine Koh3 Comments