Friendships beyond the bond of work

There are a few very special people I’ve met through work with whom I’ve maintained contact over the years. Some I met multiple jobs ago, and others I met at my last place of employment before I retired. Although it’s not unusual to have a variety of work friends while being employed under the same roof, continuing the relationships after the commonality of work is over can be difficult. Often you discover that work was the glue. Once the glue is gone, it is easy for the bonds to separate and disappear.

The workplace friends who are still in my life are there because work was the catalyst, not the glue.

One of these friends and I had been trying to arrange a get together for a while. She still works so doesn’t have the same flexibility as I do. Finally, we were able to arrange a time and date that worked for us both. It wasn’t until we met that day that she mentioned that it was her birthday.

This is a woman with lots of friends. She also has family close by. But, she chose to spend part of her birthday with me. How nice is that?

Overlooking Balboa Park, from the top of the California Tower
Overlooking Balboa Park, from the top of the California Tower

We chose to meet in one of our city’s most beautiful parks, on what turned out to be a gorgeous fall day. A perfect place and perfect weather in which to stroll, chat, laugh, observe, confide, and just be.

We rendezvoused at about 9 a.m. and we didn’t say good-bye until around 2 p.m. We spent the day enjoying each other’s company as we wondered around the park, visited a few museums, and had a lovely lunch on an outdoor patio. Our conversation easily flowed from one subject to another and we both mentioned how nice it was to spend the day without a schedule or an agenda. Other than encouraging her to retire at the first opportunity, very little of our conversation was about work.  It was a perfect day with a dear friend.

Happy birthday, my friend!
Happy birthday, my friend!

I am lucky that I still live in the community where I grew up and spent a majority of my working life because, like many people, I find it harder to make new friends as I get older. Children naturally gravitate to each other, school often brings kindred spirits together, and most working environments encourage engagement among colleagues. Now that I am retired, it can be difficult to build a new connection beyond superficial interactions. My blogger friend, Liesbet, recently wrote about the difficulties of making friends while living a less anchored lifestyle. If I were to move and start all over, I’m not sure how well I would do.

Fortunately, at least for now, I don’t need to worry.  I just need to get more of my friends to retire so we can get together during the middle of the week.

And not talk about work.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

30 thoughts on “Friendships beyond the bond of work”

  1. Sounds like a perfect way to spend a day. We should all inspire to have this kind of day more often!

    1. Wondering around with no real agenda can drive some people crazy. Fortunately, a few of my friends love it as much as I do. Not all the time, but every once in a while it’s the perfect anecdote to the normal busyness of our lives.

  2. That is so true. Some work friends I don’t even like to get together with because all they do is complain about work. One good friend moved two hours away and took over custody of 2 teenage granddaughters. That certainly put a damper on flexibility. I have a very small group of friends I still get together with monthly. Not everyone can make it but whoever can, does and that’s been working for a couple of years. I can’t say that I met any “real” friends since I retired. It is more difficult. Enjoy your friendship!

    1. I like the idea of a monthly get together. It’s easy to let the time slip away between meetings so putting it on everyone’s calendar helps keep it going. It’s difficult to meet new people who have the potential to become real friends so I really value the ones I have.

  3. Even with friends who are also retired, I don’t always find it easy to coordinate dates with them. If we aren’t scheduling a week or two in advance, it rarely happens. That’s kind of sad. We all need spur-of-the-moment stuff in our lives.

    It is special to be able to maintain a friendship beyond work. I’ve never made friends easily, so the ones I have are very special to me. I can’t imagine trying to start over somewhere else.

    1. I’m the same way, Joanne. The introvert in me finds it hard to put myself out there so new friendships are difficult. If I had to start over I’d probably be a hermit. Friends that I feel completely comfortable with – those who, not matter how long you’ve been parted, you just pick up where you left off – are precious.

      1. ha! I don’t think you’d make a good hermit. I suspect you’re like me …. I actually like social contact – it’s just that I prefer it in small doses so I can recuperate from it before the next one 🙂

  4. Sounds like you had a lovely day with your friend. You should check out I’ve signed up with a bunch of groups. I haven’t made it to any outings yet, as I’ve been sick. But it seems like a great way to make new friends.

    1. I’ve checked out Meet-up to find a photography group and, maybe, a cooking club. So far I haven’t done anything, but I imagine one of these days I will. It seems like an excellent way to meet others with similar interests. I think Meet-up is especially good for those who have moved to a new location. Fortunately, I’m still in my hometown so I have a lot of connections, but who couldn’t use more friends?

  5. Have to admit to small certain amount of envy looking at that lovely picture of Balboa park and contrasting that with the current bleak, grey days here in England! Lovely to read about that day with your friend, and so true about how much more difficult it is to make new,true friends as we get older. Even more reason to treasure the ones we do have.

    1. It really was a lovely day. You may feel less envious knowing that the skies have been cloudy and rainy here too for the past few days. But, with our current drought, we treasure rainy days almost more than sun shiny ones.

  6. One of the things I really enjoy about being a traveller and having a more nomadic lifestyle is that I easily meet people, (mostly by going to yoga, but anywhere really), and many have become good friends over the years. Because we all have similar lifestyles and move around a fair amount, we have reunited in different places abd countries. A family of glibal friends.

    When we recently spent 1.5 years in Chicago where we have long time friends, I was surprised overall how little we saw each other ~ everyone is always so busy with life. One friend told me she needed a month’s notice she was so scheduled. Ha!


    1. That’s a really interesting point. People who are in a similar situation – and especially who are separated from their comfort zones – will gravitate to each other and find connections. I think the difficult position to be in (at least in my case) would be to be the “new kid” in an environment where everyone else already has their tribes established. Breaking into one of those groups requires a lot of effort and willingness to be vulnerable.

  7. Nice post, Janice. Ironically you wrote it at precisely the exact time I have started to reevaluate some of my former work relationships. I think you’re absolutely right in that something of the bond you once shared begins to disappear after you no longer work together. I may have been trying too hard to keep some of it together. How nice that you had such a fine day, though! Great pics too.

    1. When I left work 2 1/2 years ago, I thought that I’d continue more of my work friendships. Although I tried with several (lunches, etc), I soon found that, beyond work gossip, we didn’t have a lot in common. Real friends are harder to find and important to maintain.

  8. I early retired in April of this year, and have kept up with quite a few were friends. There is a big adjustment as your conversations need to go from work topics to other things that you have in common. With some people this is very easy, others not so much.

    1. Exactly! With some, the basis for the friendship goes way beyond work (shared interests, same sense of humor, some life stage, etc.), while with others you come to find out that, without work to talk about, good conversation is hard.

  9. “The workplace friends who are still in my life are there because work was the catalyst, not the glue.”

    Excellent distinction! And applies to many of the scenarios you mentioned such as friendships made during different times of our children’s school years.

    Not sure age is always the reason for increased difficulty in ‘making new friends/acquaintances’. Sometimes it literally is the place you’re living in that contributes to that – a closed myopic community; culture of cliques; narrow interests of certain communities which then limit normal ways to meet others of like interest (ie-art, music, classes, exercise groups, volunteer ops, etc). Not that one can’t crack open the door a teeny bit in such cases, but it’s just an extra layer regardless of age, I think.

    Congrats on re-connecting with a collegue-friend & on such a nice day to boot!

    1. I agree that it’s probably not age that makes it harder. It’s just that many of us, as we grow older (not old), have fewer opportunities to really get to know someone. It just takes more of an effort. And, certainly where one lives can make a huge difference. Bottom line, it’s up to the individual to put ones self out there, we can’t wait for others to make the first overture.

  10. Seems like friendship is a theme in blog-land recently! I love the idea of a museum to visit & walk around with a friend. I will have to try that! I have a weekly walk (when we are both in town and the weather cooperates) with one friend and have done walks with a couple of others, versus lunch or breakfast. It’s a great way to get exercise as well as catch up with people. And most people actually appreciate the idea… everyone needs more movement in their life it seems.

    I also have 2 groups I meet monthly with – one is a lunch group of women I used to work with – half retired and half still working. It’s a blend of work and non-work topics; many of the still-working like it so they can see what retirement looks like – in all its variations. Whoever can get to the lunch shows up – it can range from 4- 12 women!

    We (hubby and I) recently had a “first date” with a couple we met. He’s a foodie like me; she’s an introvert; empty nesters but still working. I initiated it after I had met her at Zumba a few times and she mentioned her husband was a foodie (like me). It went really well and I hope to do another in the new year. We’ll see how it goes making a new set of friends.

    I actually think I’m doing OK right now on my intentional friendship plan. It helped to just ease off the need to have it “now”; and appreciate the casual friends I have a bit more as well.

    1. It sounds like you really have several nice friend groups! Finding another couple that each partner likes is golden. Too often, you like one, but not-so-much the other. 🙂

      I, like you, really like active get-togethers. Lunches are nice, but they can be expensive and calorie-laden. Plus, once lunch is over, it kind of puts a hard stop on the meet-up. The fact that my friend also liked to just wonder was so freeing.

  11. What a wonderful day, Janis. Friendships like the one your describe are precious and one of the most amazing things about them is that you just “hit it off” again, after not seeing each other for a while. That connection remains throughout and turns the meeting into more memorable moments, aching to be repeated in the near future. 🙂 Thanks for the shout-out. It is a subject that resonates with many of us, social creatures.

    1. We will definitely not let so much time lapse between our get togethers. I did my best to convince her to retire, but she’s just not there yet. 🙂 I agree that this subject seems to resonate. So many people who leave behind (for whatever reason) the social network at their work struggle to find those same feelings of belonging they had before. I’m lucky that I have long-time friends and work friends since I live in the same community.

  12. I just retired a week ago & am still in lala land! I can’t believe I’ve done it!! Thinking I’ll have lots to do daily & will check in with a few friends to stay social. I live in SD & we spend lots of time at Balboa Park…wonderful place.

  13. Hah, hah, I’m with you, I need to get more of my friends to retire so we can get together during the week. Love Balboa park … my daughter worked at the zoo for a while when she was in vet school.

    1. Balboa Park is a true gem. I would have love to have worked at the zoo! Your daughter was so lucky (and I’m sure they were lucky to have her). By the way, the San Diego Zoo is celebrating its centennial this year.

  14. I have had a similar experience with work friends. Very few of these friendships continued after I retired. I found myself doing most of the work (I think people assume a retiree has all the time in the world) in staying in touch, with little reward. But the few that did survive are precious to me. I get together with one former colleague once a month for breakfast and we RARELY discuss work. But there’s this richness in having a shared experience (20 years working together in this case) that gives us a deep understanding of each other.

    1. I also find that I am the one that needs to reach out if I want to get together with a work friend. I don’t mind doing that since I’m not working, but I really dislike the back and forth often needed to find a date/time that works (and some cancelled plans if work gets in the way). This particular meet-up took a text on my part, a “YES!” on my friend’s part, and one suggested date, time and place. It was meant to be.

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