Group Therapy in Mature Adulthood: Good Reasons for a Get-Together
I’ve come to the conclusion, in my seventh decade, that there really is no such thing as too much fun. It seems to follow that people with more friends tend to have more fun. So, I’m branching out and meeting new people.
But there’s something about reconnecting with people who knew me decades ago that feels good for the soul and my quest for long, happy life. The experts agree. It is important to invest ourselves in friendship.
“Genuine and lasting friendships are a key part of a fulfilling life, shown to improve health and increase longevity by boosting optimism and connection,” says Frank Lipman, M.D., in his book How to Be Well.
Yet a third of us over 45 say we’re lonely. I know, I know. Some people really do prefer to be alone. But I watch how they are aging, and it makes me sad.
We boomer kids have a magic friendship wand unknown to earlier generations. Social media gets a bad rap from some, but not me. It’s like the white pages of the world in one little pocket-size phone. If you haven’t started reconnecting yet, now is the perfect time.
If you’re old-fashioned, buy some extra Christmas cards. You can find many addresses in public records. It’s not stalking. If people don’t want to be found, they won’t respond. Just do it. Your life will change.
From a Friend’s Perspective
My October could be a movie. Honest. Five college girlfriends, some unseen for 35 years, visited my home town. We planned the adventure after they found me via a friend of a family member. It took a couple years, but they hunted me down.
They have been taking getaways as often as they can since reconnecting five years ago. Vegas. Door County, WI. Weddings of two members of the group. Weddings for children of others. I’m proud to tack Anna Maria Island, FL to the list.
There is nothing tame about a six-pack of 60-plus women on a tear in a beach town. We shook booty at tiki bars and talked to strangers. We watched sunsets and discussed all matters of the heart.
There was no need for small talk. We enjoyed adult beverages and unhealthy food. We laughed a lot. I’m still laughing.
These women are a mirror of who I’ve become. They knew me and loved me then, just the way I was. They know me and love me now, just the way I am. Therapy like this doesn’t happen very often. There’s something about lots of sharing and hugging that’s curative, inside and out.
Here’s what I urge you to do:
- Pick up a notepad. Right now.
- Make a list of people in your life you’d like to see again.
- Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and find them.
- Try to connect. Nothing ventured … just sayin’.
I can’t believe how easily we pulled off our getaway. All it took was one of my friends asking, “Are you sure we’re invited?” I said, “Of course,” and was a little apprehensive at first but needlessly so. The next week, I started seeing texts pop up: “BOOKED!” “Me 2!” “Can’t Wait.”
Our Original Friends: Our Siblings
Back to “My October,” the movie. Two weeks after my life-changing college reunion, my sister (retired and determined to see me more often) and my brother (recently retired and reinventing himself as a Honey-Do Handy Man) visited for a long weekend too.
Besides adult beverages and unhealthy food, my sister and I share long walks wherever we go. It’s special time. And my brother said, “Honest. Make a list of chores you need done.” His new biz card reads: “No job too small.”
I hope his gorgeous wife understands what I’ve learned. Women are going to want him. If he does work for homeowners and house flippers like he did for me, he’s going to be overbooked. Being his big sister, all I had to do was pay with lunch and a beer.
Time with family is such a gift. Just remember, when it comes to family outings, if you don’t go, you will be talked about. It is inevitable. So best bet: just go. Don’t miss weddings, funerals, chances to play and celebrate.
If there’s a riff in your family, take a stab at pulling out the knife. We’re too grown up to be judgmental of each other. We’re too mature to be competitive. But we’re still young enough to be better friends. Love your family – your original friends.
Back to Real Life
When my friends and family left, I was lonely. As I quietly got back to the business of my everyday life, I was crashing from unfiltered fun. The more I dug around those feelings, the more I realized I need friends near me, people I can just pop in on.
Friendships are more important than I understood before, and now I see older men and women who didn’t take the time to make and keep friends. Maybe they’re happy that way. But I know I cannot be.
A different perspective can give us a boost when we get home too. A comment by one of us married more than 25 years: “I don’t think he even likes me anymore.”
But after she thought about it, she realized there was a lot she could go home and adjust as they continued on their path toward retirement and financially easier times as a married couple.
I think all of us went home appreciating our relationships more. It’s the old absence equals fonder heart thing.
In her enlightening little book The Secret Lives of Wives, Iris Krasnow says of her research on long marriages, “The biggest takeaway for me is the importance of sustaining a strong sense of an evolving self apart from the relationship.”
No one else, not spouse or friend or family, is responsible for our happiness. That job is entirely up to us.
A lot of us in our 60s are in a rebirth phase. We’re meeting new people, stepping into new projects or launching careers in an opposite direction. Maybe we’re opening a little retail shop or planning an exotic cruise with a lifelong friend or making time for a longer camping trip to the Smokies.
Me? I think I’ll pull out all those notes and finish the book. My friends and family believe I can do it. There’s never been a better time to be brave.
What do you imagine when you think about seeing people from decades ago? Are you lacking the freedom to have friends? What’s one way you can shake up the family tree? Let’s chat about it in the comments below.