I am so pleased to announce a new female friendship book hitting the shelves TODAY!! And it’s not just any book, but actually one from a friend of Girlfriendology, Shasta Nelson. She and I have teamed up on various projects over the years to help promote healthy female friendship so she’s someone I can honestly say that I’ve followed and appreciated. Her writing is soulful, honest, uplifting, and practical. Her book is one that all women who value friendships will want to read. We’re used to buying up books on parenting and romance, but Girlfriends, now it’s time to buy a book to help us foster the friendships that can matter most to our health & happiness. Here’s an excerpt:
It is hard to say, “I need friends.”
We associate loneliness or a sense of social disconnection with those people. We picture some angry, hurt, unfriendly, socially awkward, and unlovable woman sitting in a dark house, with the curtains closed, alone. Maybe with a dozen cats.
We aren’t rushing to picture ourselves as needing new friends. Instead, our egos remind us how likable we are, how friendly and fun we can be, and how much we have to offer someone. With defensive speed, we’ll begin to name a few people we’d call friends, brushing away the nagging voice that prompts us to admit it’s been a while since we’ve talked to them. Our self-image equates loneliness with unlikability, as though the two go hand in hand. They do not. The most beautiful, loved, respected, powerful, out- going, social, networked, busy, famous, important, and wealthy among us know loneliness. Sometimes more so.
Nonetheless, the admission that we need new friends can be hard to confess. We’re afraid that we might somehow be misinterpreted as meaning, “No one likes me,” or “I have no friends.” We don’t want to look like we’re lonely, much less actually be lonely. We don’t want to have needs that aren’t yet met. We don’t want to risk taking it personally—perhaps making ourselves feel worse that it’s our fault that we’re in this situation.
We’re more at ease saying that we need more money, need to lose weight, or need to find balance in our lives. We’re even perfectly willing to tell people we’re single and looking for love. (I still remember when we hid the fact that we had met our dates online! Today we comfortably accept that twenty percent of all couples meet on sites like match.com, and there’s almost more shame in someone being unwilling to try it than not.) But admitting that we might need more friends still stops most of us in our tracks. We are shy to admit when we’re on the search.
But needing new friends is normal.
I needed new friends in graduate school back in Michigan where all my seminary classes seemed to be made up of men. Two years later when I moved to Seattle to pastor my first church, I had to do the friendship hunt all over again—this time made harder due to the new title that seemed to scare off many women. A couple years later when I went through my divorce, I discovered that the event seemed to throw my friends all up in the air and it took several months to really see who landed where. That life change seemed to cause a friendship shuffle in a way I would have never been able to predict. Another move to Southern California would invite the opportunity all over again to figure out how to make new friends in my new life. And then I was standing there on Polk Street in San Francisco wondering if I had it in me to do it yet again.
And I’m not alone in this need.
There are many wake-up calls alerting us to the times we may need new friends. Moves are not among the least of them. With Americans moving on average every five years, we barely have time to enjoy the friends we just made before it seems either they or us are moving away.
My youngest sister, Katrina, talked several of her college friends into moving to Portland after they all graduated, which helped her not need to make as many new friends in a new city. I thought that strategy was brilliant until she and her husband moved to Amsterdam a couple years later and it became clear that she couldn’t convince all her friends to move every time she did.
My other sister, Kerry, moved her young family to Tampa a few years ago for her husband’s job and—even with jumping into mother’s groups, home association boards, and parent-teacher associations—has found it hard to replace the friends she left behind. She quickly found women who were friendly, but it took several years before she felt the support of a local best friend.
The friend search doesn’t get easier with age, either. My stepmom shared honestly about the depression she faced in her fifties when she uprooted her life from decades in Colorado to an entirely different culture in Michigan. She says it took about five years to form the deep friendships she enjoys now. And my Nana, in her eighties, still writes to me of loneliness in her retirement center, where she moved several years ago after becoming a widow, to be closer to her sister. Even having a family member nearby doesn’t replace all the lifetime friends she may never see again.
Beyond moves, there are countless other life changes that can just as easily trigger the desire to invite new people into our lives. Relationship break-ups and divorces are among the top wake-up calls, followed by life stages such as marriage, kids, empty nest, and retirement. Sometimes, though, it’s a shift in our schedules and priorities as we change jobs, decide to work from home, or choose to explore a new hobby or interest. Often it’s a life-changing experience, such as a health diagnosis that stuns us, an alarming event that leaves us shaken, a crisis that feels looming, or a huge loss that kicks us in our gut, that turns our focus toward “what really matters.” And sometimes it’s less about a change in our lives and more about the fact that our friends’ lives have changed—they all had kids, moved to the suburbs, aren’t married anymore, changed religions, retired, or became unavailable due to their own dramas—and we realize we need to step back into active friend-making.
Life changes, indeed, seem to be the one constant in life. No matter how good the friendships are that we co-create, it seems we often will still have that sign in our window that says, “Now hiring.”
We had best become practiced at how to meet friendly women and foster them into friends who matter.
This piece is adapted from “Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends” by Shasta Nelson, the CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com (a women’s matching friendship site in 35 U.S. cities).
Check out more from girlfriend Shasta Nelson:
- New Years Resolutions – to be a better friend
- Throw a Girlfriend Gratitude Party
- Friendship in Stages
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