Written by therapist Brianna Moreland

Having intentional friendships is something most people long for. In my own life, it is something that I have desired and struggled with. As humans, we need to feel intentionally connected to others in order to feel loved and cared for. Connection is a basic need of survival just like eating and sleeping. Even though connection is a human need, loneliness and depression keep rising every year. One recent study sought to know how many people felt they had one person to confide in. Most people put down zero. Why is it so hard for us to gain intentional friendships? I believe the answer to that question is that we are scared of the one thing we desire…connection. 

Being Haunted by the Past

I bet we can all think of someone in our life that hurt us to our core. This person might have been a best friend, significant other, sibling, or parent, and ever since that hurt, we have built a strong wall around our hearts. The one person we thought would never hurt us did, and now we never want to feel that pain again. Every time we try to connect with someone, we are not only having other people smacking into our wall, but we are also smacking into our own wall. Our past hurts and pains have built this wall to protect us and now we are suffering the lack of connection we so desire and need. 

Inspect that Wall

It is normal for our conscious to build a wall so we do not experience hurt, but we need to learn to build a wall that is protective and inviting for others. Unfortunately, we live in a world where hurt people hurt others and we will get hurt. Connection is scary because it opens us up to being hurt again. So how do we learn to protect ourselves and make intentional friendships? First, let us inspect your wall. What does your wall look like? Color? Shape? Size? Are some parts tall, but others small? Is it all brick? Is it a glass wall? Is there something else helping guard your wall?

Gain Understanding 

Okay, so now that you’ve figured out what your wall looks like, let’s add some meaning to it. What caused this wall to be built like that? How do you feel about this wall? Does it make you happy, scared, angry, etc? As you are understanding why you have built this wall, take time to reflect on your desire for connection and acknowledge that it is scary to build an intentional connection with someone. 

Be Courageous 

Being closed off to connection will eventually hurt you in the long run. When we lack an intentional connection with others, we are at risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. I understand you were hurt and it is scary to think about being hurt again, but I can guarantee that you will feel a lot better seeking intentional friendships rather than feeling isolated. Acknowledge your feelings and honor them, but do not let them build a wall that forces you to be isolated. It takes bravery and courage to be vulnerable with someone and I believe you can do it. Evaluate where you are in this journey and figure out your first small step. For example, maybe you are not ready to join a small group at church but instead, you invite someone out for coffee. 

Note: Building connections and intentional friendships takes time. Be patient with yourself and others. A recent study found that it takes about 40-60 hours of time spent together in the first few weeks after meeting to form a casual friendship. To transition from casual friend to friend it can take about 80-100 hours of time spent together. To enter into the best friend stage it can take about 200 or more hours.

Building intentional friendships are hard and take a lot of work. Remember, you have to be intentional with seeking people out. It is scary, but I know you can do it. If you would like to heal from past relational hurt and desire to learn to seek intentional friendships, please reach out to a therapist here at Optimum Joy.

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