I’ve noticed a pattern since moving to Los Angeles: it’s nearly impossible to sustain friendships. I know I’m not the only one who experiences this because I’ve talked to several people about this challenge and everyone agrees it exists. To be clear, making friends in LA is easy. You meet at a networking event, through a friend, or on a project that you’re both working on. You become fast BFFs. But over months, sometimes weeks, communication evaporates and soon you find yourself being invited to the occasional show or the annual birthday outing but not being sought after to share in the daily and weekly joys and trials of life.
So what’s the deal with LA? Why is friendship so hard to sustain?
I’ve thought a lot about this because all of my best friends live in other cities, which means that in the town I currently live in I often find myself wishing for more connection. And this also means I often find myself wondering why developing deeper relationships in this town is so challenging. I’ve come up with a theory and a solution. So if you’re facing the same struggle I am, I hope you’ll try this out. And my wish is that it helps you sustain the relationships that will help you thrive.
As creatives in LA, we are each working on our own unique goals. You and I might have similar journeys and experiences, but day-to-day we each have to worry about our own tasks and projects. For example, if you and I are both actors, we both have classes, relationship building efforts, and auditions. But in any given week, we are each working on different classes, on different relationships, and on different auditions. So we are not actually experiencing the same things. Sure, we are experiencing similar things, but on a day-to-day basis, you might be having the best day ever because you booked your dream role, and I might be struggling because I just got my tenth film festival rejection. No two lives are ever exactly the same, but when every single day, every single transaction, every single experience, every single schedule (the one night I’m free is the one night you have class), is different, it diminishes the opportunity for organic relationship building. Schedules became impossible to coordinate and when we do finally get together every quarter, we have to provide a book report on our lives just to bring each other up to speed, and that leaves precious little time to take the relationship to the next level.
When you meet someone who makes you feel safe, who brightens up your day, and—most importantly—who understands you, be brave, be vulnerable, and ask: “How can I be a good friend to you?”
Remember the five love languages? These apply to friendships as much as they do to romantic partnerships. They are:
- Words of affirmation, e.g. “Your friendship means a lot to me,” “You’re so inspiring,” or “Your project is going to win all the awards.”
- Acts of service, e.g. helping your friend clean their place before their mom comes to visit, offering to touch up their new headshot for free, or sending them your notes from that workshop they couldn’t attend.
- Receiving gifts, e.g. buying your friend a coffee in the morning when you both have to be on set at 6 am, getting them some ridiculously cute journals from Daiso to use for their class notes, or giving them your turquoise cardigan that you don’t wear much anymore and would be perfect for their commercial auditions.
- Quality time, e.g. meeting up to watch a movie every Friday night, for tea every Sunday morning, or at the dog park every Tuesday afternoon.
- Physical touch, e.g. giving them a giant bear hug when they have a hard day, or letting them literally cry on your shoulder.
All of these are positive ways to connect. But each of us feels most supported and loved when our friend or partner expresses their affection in just one or maybe two of these ways. So when you’re embarking on a new friendship, ask what the other person needs. Do they want daily inspirational texts, do they need to hang out in person on a regular basis, do they need a hug when they’re feeling down? The more you’re able to give them the support they need when they need it, the better chance the relationship has of standing the test of time. If you find someone who understands you, you owe it to yourself to find out how you can make them feel loved.