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Exploring Womanhood > Relationships > Articles

Changing Friendships in Midlife: How Exercise can Clarify Confusion

by Bob Livingstone LCSW, www.boblivingstone.com

When you reach age forty, your needs for companionship may change drastically from when you were younger. You may require more honesty and dependability or you may be uncertain about what you need in a friend.

Exercising while focusing on your friendship issues can help you clarify confusion that you are experiencing. There is research indicating that one can obtain a sense of calmness after only fifteen minutes of exercise.

You may find this emotional pain too overwhelming to be looked at while sedentary. However, you will find that dealing with the confused state of your friendships can be faced in this state of calmness that brief exercise brings.

Before you begin your aerobic workout, create an emotional pain question related to your friendship issues. You may ask yourself, "Why do I feel out of sorts with almost any topic that pertains to friendship?"

Once you have started your work out, notice your thoughts and feelings that come up. The following may come up: "I am no longer tolerant of friends that are not dependable, who are verbally abusive and who have a value system that is diametrically opposed to mine. While it was once OK to hang out with acquaintances, it now seems like a big waste of time or worse, hurtful. Why spend time with folks you have little in common with or who go out of their way to belittle me?"

You continue your workout and ponder these thoughts and feelings; your brain and heart continue to pump out information:

"At this midway point in my life, I am struggling with the very definition of friendship. When is a relationship based on a set of solid criteria and when is it based mostly on obligation and guilt. Is it OK to end it when the connection is based on obligation or is it necessary to maintain the status quo?"

Your workout is about to end and you want to be able to reflect on these feelings. You take a shower and then immediately begin to write about the new thoughts and insights you have experienced.

You write down the thoughts and feelings you had while you were working out and you notice that you are in the space to take that experience further and you write:

"Perhaps it is a myth that we become tougher and more Teflon-like as we get older. Perhaps some things do stick to us and we become more emotionally fragile beings as we age. We are suddenly hurt by slights and find ourselves looking for the comfort of true friendship.

As we grow older do we also learn that our time on this earth is finite, moves lightening fast and not meant to spend excessive time with those we do not love?

Do we look back on our lives and find ourselves smiling at the memories of time spent with real friends? When we reflect on activities spent with false friends or used to be thought of as friends, do we feel empty, angry or sad?"

During this first workout, you discovered several new insights that led to more questions. In other words, you found the safety that comes from the sense of calmness while exercising to go deeper into your feelings.

Continuing this process will help you resolve your mixed feelings about companionship.

In summary, the steps to facing the emotional pain from the confusion about friendships in midlife are:

  1. Write down a question you can ask yourself about this issue before you begin your work out.
  2. Think about the question while you are working out
  3. Write all your thoughts and feelings in a journal
  4. Prepare your question for your next workout

About the author:
Bob Livingstone, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for almost twenty years. He works with adults, teenagers and children who have experienced traumas such as family violence, neglect and divorce. He works with men around anger issues and adults in recovery from child abuse. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager's Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy and the upcoming The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise (Pegasus Books, Aug. 2007). For more information visit www.boblivingstone.com.

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