“During our teenage years, we spend nearly one-third of our time with friends. For the rest of our lives, the average time spent with friends is less than 10%.”      – Tom Rath

Friendship in adulthood isn’t easy. It’s different than the friendships we had as kids. 

I met David Cervantes in Mrs. Wallen’s kindergarten class. In the years to come, we shared countless hangouts, sleepovers, and juvenile escapades. We hung out at each other’s homes and became part of each other’s families. As teens, we stayed up late and talked about everything. In our 8th grade year, we got arrested for curfew and spent a night in a jail cell together. We were inseparable. Thing One and Thing Two. 

In 2019, after losing touch for so many years, Dave and I reunited. When he came to the door, we looked at each other, burst into laughter, embraced…and started to cry. 

Friendship as Adults

As adult life unfolds, friendships look different. We take different paths and meet new people. We get jobs, find love, start families, move around, and go through changes. Friendship as adults can still be wonderful, but as Ringo Starr said, “it don’t come easy.”

Tom Rath is the author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. In this book, he underscores how important friendship is, how it can enrich our body and soul. He quotes Eugene Kennedy, Ph.D., who says, “Friendship has a profound effect on your physical well-being. Having good relationships improves health and lifts depressions. You don’t necessarily need drugs or medical treatment to accomplish this — just friends.”  

But if friendship for adults is important, it can be elusive as well.

Vital But Elusive

Did your mom ever arrange play dates for you? In such cases, she may have had a friend with a kid your age, so “voilà!” — you have a friend too. Whew. Glad that’s over. Of course, mom meant well. She didn’t want us to be alone and friendless. And without her around to make such arrangements, we have to figure out friendship as adults ourselves.

As I reflect on this, I feel grateful for my friendships. Some go back years, even decades. For instance, I meet my good friend Jon Holm every week for coffee. I’ve done so for over thirty years. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Good friends make your life better. You do the same for them. Rather than stress and drama, a true friend sparks joy.

And don’t forget that most vital of relationships, marriage. Friendship fuels this relationship. Commitment matters and sex is a gift. But don’t forget the role of companionship, sharing, playfulness, and growth. Otherwise, we get distracted, go through changes, and lose sight of the basic, essential elements so key to all relationships. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”

Eight Vital Friends

Friends are one of the sweetest things on earth…if you nurture relationships in healthy ways. Here’s a key: be aware of the different kinds of friends you might need. Here’s Tom Rath’s list of vital friends: 

  • The Champion – “I’ve got your back.”
  • The Collaborator – “We have things in common.”
  • The Companion – “I’ll be here for you.”
  • The Connector – “I can hook you up.”
  • The Energizer – “Let’s have fun!”
  • The Mind Opener – “Ever think about this?”
  • The Navigator – “I’ll help you find the way.”

That’s quite a list, right? There’s a lot there and we’ll explore them next week. For now, remember this: your best friendships don’t have to be in the past. Truly vital friends are much nearer than you think if you have eyes to see.


I’ll share more on Vital Friends next week. For now, please share your thoughts in the comment box below:

  1. Who’s coming to mind for you?
  2. What kind of friend is missing?
  3. What kind of friend are you?

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