Used-To-Be Friends or Still Friends?

We all know those fabulous women we have loved over the years, the ones where our shared history with them puts them in that special category of proven friends. When we talk to them, we  pick up right where we left off.  They’re the kind of women we don’t have to explain ourselves to, apologize for the time lapse or call them all the time to know we’re still loved.

So certainly it pains me to pop that bubble of idealism, but sometimes it must be said: Just because you can call her and know she’ll be there for you doesn’t mean you do.

One of the most common traps that keeps us in denial about needing more friends is that we used to have good friends.  And, the greatest risk happens when we think of them still as our closest friends.

Used-To-Be-Friends Or Still Friends?

This trap throws off the best of us.  We can quickly name 5 amazing women we call friends, and often feel better with our sense of connectedness. But then we still hear that nagging voice whispering that we think we need more friends. We feel lonely.

If you’re only sending Christmas cards, seeing each other once a year, calling every couple of months and giving little sentence updates on facebook—that may be why you still feel a sense of loneliness?

Risking redundancy, it stands to be pointed out that your current loneliness is not because you haven’t had amazing friendships before. Rather, it’s because you may not be engaging in them now.

I know for me, when I moved to San Francisco, I pushed away my awareness that I needed to make new friends by telling myself how awesome my friends were.  And yet, even though they were only a phone call away.  They were still a phone call away.  A phone call I didn’t make with most of them frequently enough to keep it intimate and easy.

southern cal girls

While we get together 1-2 times a year, I'm still not as close to my friends from Southern Cal as I used to be....

And I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t have these “former” friends.  (And by former, I only mean that the intensity & consistency may have been more in the past than the present.)  My girlfriends from Southern Cal lived through some of my worst and best moments with me– I will always want to stay connected with them.  Those friends give to us in many ways by knowing who we used to be, giving us a sense of a wider net in our lives and helping us feel less alone in this world.

It’s life-changing to know you have these friends you can call if you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to know you have people you can count on in the “big things.”

However, I often talk myself out of calling these friends because while I know I can pick up where we left off… that’s part of the problem.  I have so much updating to do with them to catch them up to life right now, that I often decide I don’t have the time for a long conversation.

What Do We Most Need to Add to our Connectedness?

But what most of us crave are the kind of friends you can call to just ask her what she’s making for dinner. Or how her day went. Or what she bought over the weekend. Or whether she wants to go get drinks tomorrow night. The “small things.”

We usually feel more intimate with the people we can talk about nothing with as easy as we can talk about something with.

For the truth is, fortunately, that we make dinner more than we get cancer.

No matter how many women you used to be close to—you can still feel lonely now. And sometimes just knowing that you can call isn’t enough. To abate loneliness we actually need friends we can go live life with, not just report life to.

SF girls

Fortunately, I also have current, local friends I love!

I ended up having to start over with local women.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still meet up with my used-to-be-friends every year for a weekend together.  Or that we don’t call when the big things happen.  But it means I now have friends to call for the small stuff.  The small stuff that actually feels more important on a day-to-day basis.

So by all means, love those used-to-be women for the history they hold and the way they make you feel known, and by all means stay in touch with them!  But I invite you to own the fact that your loneliness may be your hearts way of saying “I would like some women who can journey with me more regularly.”

And perhaps 1-2 of them can step into that role. I called up one of the women in this circle for me a few years ago, told her how much I missed her and asked if we could schedule a weekly standing phone call to live life together a bit more.

But maybe that’s not enough.  Maybe you still need new friends?

But either way, don’t confuse who used to be your best friend with the fact that you might need additional ones (or rekindled ones?) in that place now.

This entry was posted in Circles of Connectedness, Difficulty & Challenges, Girls Night, Life Stages, Loneliness, Maintaining Friends, Making Friends, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Used-To-Be Friends or Still Friends?

  1. nancy says:

    Yes, I feel the same way. I had this friend who I supported over major issues. Then she just leaves me hanging, never called me back, I think she does not want to be friends with me anymore.

    It is sad to say, that you go all out supporting, friends and then when you need a bit of support no ones around.

    I have sent said goodbye to this friend and she never even tried to call me.

    I have given her money for concerts, took her places never asked for gas money.

    Yet, she abused our friendship.

    It is hard and today, with my new business she has become very jealous of it.

    How sad

    I feel very lonely and sad today and Sunday is my birthday.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Happy Birthday Nancy! I am so sorry for the ache that comes with losing a friend. The sad truth is that most of our friendships will come to an end, but that never makes it less painful. I’m sorry for the yucky ending this had for you. I hope that the friendships you step into this year will mean that on your birthday next year you feel as though you have fostered some new meaningful friendships. It takes time– don’t give up!

    • Sarah says:


      I have gone through similar journeys with friends. Unfortunately the world consists of lots of “takers” and not as many “givers”. Part of it is our “me first, me me me” culture that US society and capitalism so cultivates. Not to get too political but it is my big picture view. Also, I too, get extra emotional days before my birthday, every year. All I can say is do what makes you happy on your birthday. I just had mine and it started with a totally fresh, locally made and produced breakfast of one poached light blue shelled from a local farm egg, unsweetened jam produced by a local grandmother, and local bakery breat toast. It was sublime. Don’t compromise or take anyone else’s wants or wishes into your decision of what to do on your birthday. It’s your day – and happy birthday!!

  2. Donna says:

    I haven’t had any close friends in about 9 years. It *is* lonely. I moved from one city to another… Not far, but far enough that I learned who was really my friend and who wasn’t… So now I just feel hurt and a little betrayed which makes it even harder to let the wall down for new ones.

  3. marina says:

    please define friendship…

    do real friends exist? or we just walk and with the path we walk along someone to a point?

    please define what friendship means to you personally

    be realistic about it, don’t do too much, dont expect? i have no clue

    i also feel lonely!

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Marina– I have five different categories for friendship. Our goal should be to have friends in each category– with different expectations and purposes to each of them. I’d post it here but I’m refining them right now and updating it. I’ll post a whole blog soon about how we can better clarify our definitions for different types of friends. Thanks for the question!

  4. sandrine says:

    I think the problem is the ideal friendship for most of us would be one that would start at birth and end with one friend’s death 🙂 We are all idealists that think that we will never have found “real” friendship until we find THE one (exactly like in a couple relationship) that will fulfill all our needs–but alas, this person does not exist. I feel pretty lonely too since I moved 4 years ago, but I know why. I am very introverted and I have a real hard time making chitchat and talking about “superficial” things, plus there is the fact that I live in a spanish speaking area and my spanish is not good enough to have a sustained conversation. BUT having the ability to chitchat is, my opinion, a GREAT quality to have when you have to make new acquaintances. So I am working on it and also working on lowering my expectancies. I don’t expect to make “friends” now, just to get to know people and walk with them for little while. I know it may be a LONG time before I meet again someone with whom I could have long and deep conversations–in the meantime, I am training myself to be more open to have “friends” for just one day or one hour……

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Sandrine– what a great post! You show beautiful clarity and maturity. I think you’re absolutely right, too. When we expect one person to be the one– we interview everyone based on that role when in actuality we are happier with a circle of friends, all being different from each other. When we’re lonely we’re at risk of either being willing to choose everyone or find that no one is good enough– you’re wise to simply get to know people and see where it goes. Keep us posted on your journey and thanks for writing in!

  5. Robin H. says:

    Shasta, I wonder when you get together in a group with your SoCal friends: when you ask what is new with their lives does one friend say, “We already went over this before you got here,” or something to that effect? That happened to me and made me feel unloved, not worthy, that they felt going over some aspect of their lives yet again for a friend far way was a waste of their time. I stayed for maybe one hour and then left. (I had driven to Sacto. for a quarterly get-together and arrived some 30 minutes late to the cookie-dough/gossip party. I got my cookie-dough fix and then split).

    • ShastaGFC says:

      oh that does hurt doesn’t it? And that does happen occasionally in a group! I think there is a grace that can come from both sides. She could have said with a bit more kindness “I would love to tell you all about that but since I just told everyone else, maybe I can catch you up a bit later so I don’t monopolize the group time.” And certainly there is grace on your side to realize that it wasn’t about you personally as much as the fact that you were late and they can’t take the time to go back and repeat everything. The cool thing about a group is that we can tell the story once and everyone is caught up… but then we always need to figure out creative ways to share with anyone who missed anything. I’m so sorry your feelings were hurt. You were awesome to drive all the way up there and I hope that you don’t give up on the potential!

  6. CJ says:

    As I look at these posts, I notice that the loneliness happens when you move away from your friends. It makes me think of the days when families remained in one city or one neighborhood for generations. It is very difficult to make meaningful relationships with people who have only known you a short time. The best friendships are ones where you have known each other through all your incarnations; and we all go through many different changes in our lives. If these people still like you even though you used to be a hippie and now you’re a grandmother, you are lucky. Keep in touch with them while you make new relationships. Over time, they will deepen and be old friends too. Unless you choose to move away to make more money and buy new toys.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Oh those are such good friends to have! I will agree that a move is one of the hardest things to recover from. (In my opinion it’s an important factor that should be weighed heavily when deciding to move.) But even all the life stages– kids, divorce, etc.– people still have to be so intentional to keep finding new normals and accept each other through the changes!

  7. gg says:

    Loneliness does not only happen when you physically move away from your friends – you can live in the same town or neighborhood for years but friends and circumstances change and you find yourself lonely and without that friend to call for the small stuff-
    I have found lately that many women are still playing that high school game of exclusion – maybe facebook has brought this on us or shown us that it still exists…

  8. Orian9200 says:

    I am so glad that I found this site and signed up for membership. I have been busy building my own business and just finished school. Now that I am finished with school and my business is going on its fifth year, I felt like I woke up one day and realized that I, too, had friends, but like you, maybe a phone call here and there and a get-to-gether here and there, but what I really want was the closeness that I once had. Life gets in the way, people get married and have kids, concentrate on careers etc., but at some point something has to give :-). I am glad that there are other women out there who are like me because I was seriously thinking that something was wrong with me!

    • ShastaGFC says:

      More women in the same situation than any of us would want to know! The stats suggest that the feeling of being disconnected from good friends is pretty normal… so you’re definitely not alone! 🙂 But research is compelling enough that we definitely need to change that trend for the sake of our happiness and health! So glad to be on the journey with you!

  9. Missy says:

    I think alot of times people do use you when the situation is convenient for them. Selfish yes it is and they do not realize that you want exactly what you put out. If I give you my shoulder to cry on at 3 am then I would hope when I need the same at 5pm you will be there or if it is not at all possible please just acknowledge me within a few hours not 3 weeks later. That’s the kind of friendship I had with someone who I really valued. I think these days alot of people want to be labeled as a true friend when they do not really know the definition of a “true friend” With so many women on this blog who are seeking friendships has anyone found friends here? I mean I know we live all around the world but distance should not hinder the possibilities of finding that true friend. Just my thoughts

  10. susan prosser says:

    Hi Shasta,
    I wrote to you some time ago about meeting women in Girlfriends Circle the day I
    was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer – and how 3 of them stepped up immediatey to offer support and help in any way I was willing to accept (a hard thing to do, by the way!)
    But there is a significant flip side to that story. I too have “far-away” friends with
    long histories. I might see them once a year at most. And, as you say, we don’t call daily – or even weekly. But, one of those women was who I called to express my terror and sadness. And she was on a plane almost immediately – more than once. She didn’t ask if I wanted that – she just told me she was on her way. And, of course, that is why I called! With my “new” friends, I presented a slightly braver front. Clearly, for me, both sets of friends are important. Because I AM both things just now – brave and terrified at the same time! Maintain both. They will offer you entirely different perspectives. I basically agree with everything you said. I too joined “Girlfriends” because I was lonely. But in a crisis, my safety and comfort were firmly rooted
    back in the “old days”! I feel incredibly lucky to have both old and new…..

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Oh I am so loving this comment Susan! Thanks for sharing your story publicly and illustrating the importance that comes from both types of friends. Huge thanks! And so proud of you for building friendships that mattered and reaching out when you did. I am praying for your recovery– do keep us posted!

  11. Daneen says:

    Great post! And so true. Even though I’m one of the really lucky women to have a regular group of women I get to share weekly with, I still find myself feeling lonely at times, especially around family friends now that I have a two-year-old. I’ve been really down realizing that we don’t have any family to spend Easter with, and the friends I’ve asked have other plans (mostly with family). I think friendship (at least for me) is closely tied with a sense of home, and the modern–esp urban–angst is all about belonging, community, and home.

  12. marina says:

    “each category– with different expectations and purposes to each of them. ”

    i don’t really get it, about the each category!
    our time is limited, besides being mommy , a woman wears many hats, some work, mommyland, home, responsibilities there should be someone neutral, of course, not perfect but somewhat a combination of those things otherwise no time to waste in busy mommy land.

  13. marina says:

    i also feel that “old friends” or other friends they are in the past for a reason, they don’t give forth the warmness that once was, they are occupied and busy with their stuff….friends should be there in good & bad not just follow up once in blue moon on the phone. why put together old broken glass?
    i like the idea of new friends, at least potentially you can become long life friends and share many good times/thoughts.

  14. Anlee says:

    Hi there!
    I am feeling lonely at the moment and feel that the friends I thought were my very good friends who I can always count on..,, are not really there for me anymore! It is so upsetting to feel so disappointed…:( I love the idea of finding new friends who you can become great long life frineds with:) I would be there for my friends in good times and, in not so good times…and I feel that I am there for support more than they are for me!

  15. Lisa says:

    I appreciate all the previous posts. Clearly no two women’s experiences are the same, but after reading all the comments above, I came away with the feeling that loneliness just might be the universal human condition! When my husband died 5 years ago (I was a youngster of 50; he was 55!) many friends pulled away. It was hurtful at the time but now, when I look back on it, I think they just didn’t know what to do with me. Perhaps we reminded them of their own mortality and the reality that they too will be separated from their life partner one day.

    In any event, many dear friends stuck by me and continue to remain close now that I’ve moved from northern to southern California. I cultivate my old friendships as much as I can while reaching out to make new ones; this is difficult due, in part, to that feeling that new friendships require putting so much time and energy out without the “promise” of a return on that investment. But it’s all a gamble and I’m usually glad I’ve made the effort.

    That said, I’ve been trying to remember something I read/heard about regarding relationships (sorry I can’t cite the original source!) that has helped me since my move: Relationships are for a REASON, a SEASON or a LIFETIME. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to feel more grace towards former friends, current friends and the new folks I meet. If they’re in my life for years or just a short time, I want to be open to that. Not that that has completely chased away loneliness, but it has made me more mindful of friendships…past, present and future.

    And thanks, Shasta, for keeping the conversation going. BTW: when will a circle open up in the Santa Barbara area? I’m ready and surely there are other women here who are too!

  16. Sunny says:

    I’m grateful to have found this blog. I’m sorry others have gone through painful friendship situations, but am relieved, selifishfly, to learn that my problems in this area aren’t unique to ME. I’ve had two very old friendships fall apart this year. In both cases the women were very eager to talk and e-mail and spend time with me during times of shared problems. Then, when each of them found solutions, they decided to “move on” and they literally left me in the dust. Then, came back after a while and wanted to still think of us as friends and be in touch, but on their terms. Their terms seemed to be exactly what Shasta described in this blog entry; they wanted to be in touch via “updates” about their lives, but not be involved in the day-to-day details. And weren’t REALLY interested in my updates–unless my updates talked about superficial, one-line updates. In other words, when several people I’d grown close to in my work life died, I couldn’t call on these two old friends for any support. All I got was a one-line “sorry” and then more updates on all their lives. The spin we’ve put on it has been that we want different things out of friendship; we’ve wished each other well and gone our separate ways. But one thing I learned from the whole experience was that I tended to spill too much, too many details about day-to-day travails. I did so with humor, so I assumed it was okay. But it was too much, and it oftentimes overwhelmed and made them not know what to say. I always thought I simply had to have someone or two in my life to spill all the drama details to … but I have discovered I do not really need it. I’ve gotten accustomed to having no one to tell all the details to. And I have survived. I still need a friend I can go to with things, but I will no longer need to overdo it with all the details of every emotion I feel. So … there’s a silver lining to all of this. I’ll be an easier friend to tolerate next time around.

    • Pamela says:

      Im discovering this blog and comments one year later, but this is the first time I ever read stories about lost friendships similar to mine. I truly felt so completely alone and lost in my situation, esp when “being left in the dust” seem to happen perpetually. I tend to be more sensitive and caring than the average person, and have found dissolving female friendships sometimes more difficult to bear than boyfriend breakups. SUNNY: Im able to relate to your story wholeheartedly, and find some solace. Thanks.

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