A friend for every occasion Friendship types that work for you
We might have lots of acquaintances on social media but in the real world we all need solid friendships to enrich our lives...
We all need our friends, but who’ll always be there for you? The bestie you’ve known since school may still be around, but getting through life’s bumps relatively unscathed means having a team of cheerleaders. And making new friends in midlife can come as a lovely surprise. The chatty fellow dog-walker who’s never seen you with make-up on. The workmate you can always call on for a tipple and a laugh. The neighbour who drags you to Zumba…
Friends come in many forms and they really matter to our wellbeing. “Friends can lift us up out of misery, buffer us from pain and give us perspective, helping us be happier and live longer,” says psychologist Sam Owen.
As our friendship needs change along with our lifestyle, we can end up with a variety of friends for different occasions. They may only know us in one context – or have chapter and verse on our darkest secrets. We asked the experts to talk us through four midlife friendship types – and how to make them work for you…
‘We clicked straight away – it’s a bit like falling in love’
‘It’s an easy, undemanding friendship’
Natalie Haverstock, an entertainer, 42, lives in London with her husband John. She met beauty entrepreneur Claudia, 50, at a networking lunch.
I met Claudia four years ago when she joined Sister Snog, a women’s business club I belong to. She was seated next to me at lunch, and I soon discovered what a laugh she is – and as I was the only other person at the table who wanted more wine, she saw me as a kindred spirit!
Claudia became a close friend within a very short space of time. It was totally unexpected and a wonderful thing. If either of us has a problem or something to celebrate, we’re quick to get in touch. She’s been going through a divorce and when she’s down, I say, “Come on girl, I’m taking you out.”
I thought that I didn’t have time for anybody else, but actually when the right person comes along and you click, it’s a bit like falling in love.
THE EXPERT VIEW
When you form an instant bond with a new friend it can be intense. “This type of connection can develop rapidly, due to the recognition of oneself in another,” says Anjula. “This in turn can fuel the desire to share emotions, strengthening the feeling that you’ve truly found someone who really understands you.” This can be particularly rewarding if your existing friendship circle doesn’t “get” an aspect of you. Says Sam: “We sometimes attract people who fulfil a newly discovered part of us.” However, these intense feelings do calm down. “This is when you start to notice differences,” says Anjula. “However, if you are able to accommodate the differences, then this friendship has potential to last.” Presentation expert Stacia
Keogh, 57, lives in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, with her children Declan and Kayleigh. She met jewellery designer Janis, 54, at the local health club nine years ago.
I’d known Janice for a long time before we met properly – I just hadn’t realised it. One day I was at a local fete and she grinned: “Hi, I know you from behind!” For years, she’d been in the row behind me in a fitness class at the Marlow Club.
Whenever we have to grab a partner and do some wacky squat thing, me and Janice work well together as a pair, always geeing each other on and chatting between moves. Unlike some people we are both committed to actually doing the classes and breaking a sweat. We encourage each other to go for it, whether in life or workouts.
Whenever we see each other at the club or around town we stop for coffee. It’s an easy, undemanding friendship. Being a single working mum, the gym is where I go for the adult conversation I need. With
Janis I can just be myself.
Because we’re not in each other’s pockets and it’s only going to be a brief conversation, we get straight to the point. And once you’ve been in the changing rooms together, there’s nothing left to hide!
THE EXPERT VIEW
Having a shared interest – whether it’s flamenco dancing or dog walking – gives you an instant bond, and while your chats may be brief, they can be pretty intense. “Often we can feel a stronger bond when we’ve shared an experience, and be open in a way we can’t with older friends because we’re not carrying baggage with us – they simply see us as we are in that moment,” says Mel. Keeping this relationship in its context can be the secret to its success. “Being able to leave it in the room and go your separate ways takes the pressure off, so you can enjoy the time spent together and appreciate the positive value that this dynamic may bring,” says Anjula. >>
‘We will always look out for each other’
Assertiveness coach Antoinette Dale-Henderson, 48, lives with husband, Steve, and her two daughters in Kent. She met Heather in East Sussex, where they both grew up. Heather now lives in the US.
I’ve known Heather since I was 16 when she started dating my boyfriend’s best mate. As we got older we’d dump the boys and take the bus to the seafront where we’d down a bottle of peach schnapps before hitting the nightclub.
In our late teens we went Interrailing and we always looked out for each other.
Heather moved to Connecticut in 1999. Her husband, Pete, grew up there and they both wanted to move back. Because of the distance it’s not like we can just pop over for a natter, although we manage to meet up at least once a year through work trips. Our conversations are so easy and comforting.
THE EXPERT VIEW
The “comfort food” of friendships, she’s the keeper of your darkest secrets. No matter how infrequently you meet, you always find it easy to pick up where you left off. “You’ve gone through growing pains together – and come out the other side intact,” says Anjula. “And the fact that this friendship has survived gives our mind very powerful messages about our self-worth,” says Sam. But long-distance friendships need nurturing. “If you only call on them when you’re in trouble, you can make a long-distance friend feel like an agony aunt,” says Mel. “So give each other regular quality time, whether that’s FaceTime, on the phone or in person.”
Photographer Lucy Williams, 45, lives in Highgate, London, with her husband Chris. She met retired geography teacher Gill, 69, when she moved into the flat below her.
I’m Flat A and she’s B, and over the 11 years I’ve lived here we’ve built a fantastic friendship. We’d always chatted on the stairs but got close when I organised the Big Lunch for our road six years ago. Gill’s both intelligent and funny – and I soon discovered how much we have in common.
Apart from regularly being on the same pub quiz team, we also just potter around together shopping, doing bits in the garden or creating art.
For me, Gill is an amazing friend and support. She helped me make my bouquet when I got married last year and even did my dress alterations. She was also a massive support when I was going through ovarian cancer treatment, checking on me daily and bringing me cake.
Because she’s upstairs we see each other almost every day, even if it’s just for a chat in the hallway. Life simply wouldn’t be the same without her.
THE EXPERT VIEW
A cheery face to say hello to can make your home feel more special, especially if you live far from loved ones. And a hug on a bad day can be very powerful. “Someone supportive close by can help alleviate so much stress from your life,” says Sam. The challenge is to maintain firm boundaries, says Anjula: “Being able to see what is going on in your life may encourage intrusiveness, or judgement of your lifestyle – but kept in its place, this friendship can work well.” w&h
‘When I was ill, Gill checked in daily and brought me cake’
Natalie (above right) and Claudia formed a close friendship within a short space of time
Stacia (far left) and Janis bonded at their local fitness clubThe Shared-Interests Friend
Heather (far left) and Antoinette have been friends since their teens
Gill (left) and Lucy love living close to each other