The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

We all want those really easy, meaningful, comfortable, and deep friendships with no drama, right?  And while that sounds fabulous, the truth is that most of us are silently suffering from some form of loneliness as we just keep waiting for those relationships to fall in our laps, the way little girls look for little fairies hovering over flowers.

I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

1.  You Hope That Good Friendships Will Be Discovered.  This is still numero uno on the mistake list.  In fact I titled my book Friendships Don’t Just Happen to help speak to this very damaging belief in our lives.

But we all have examples of meeting an amazing woman that we connected with, loved, 180279_10151573165137435_1652204527_nand experienced great chemistry with… only to never really see much, or ever again. Simply meeting each other and liking each other doesn’t make for a friendship.

And on the flip side, we all have an example of a friend (often someone we worked with or continued to see in some setting) that we grew to love that we didn’t necessarily have fireworks with when we first met them.

Friendship isn’t finding someone; friendship is developing consistent positive behaviors over time with someone.  And that doesn’t just happen.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

2.  You Stop Developing New Friends. You hear me say this repeatedly, but it bears the repetition: We are losing half our close friends every 7 years.

That means that life changes such as moves, career transitions, relationship changes, and different life stages each bring a shift in our friendships that frequently leave us drifting apart from some friends.

Realizing that friendship development from stranger to close friend can sometimes take a year or two, we don’t want to wait until we need close friends before we start them.  We never want to stop paying attention to progressing other relationships from our Left-Side to our Right-Side of the Circles.

Just for an example, let’s pretend that our Committed Friends are at 100% with us– as vulnerable, as close, and as involved as we want.  While we may not need to foster any other friendships to that same place right now, we certainly don’t want to leave them all at 10%, 20%, or even 40%.

Because the truth is that life happens and there are events that will leave those 100% friends less available (i.e. friend moves away, starts traveling a lot for work, has a baby/gets married and gets caught up in her life).  They might go back to 20% or 40%, and the question that begs to be asked, then, is whether you have other friends at 50% or 60% that, with more time and connection, could develop into more meaningful friendships.

We want to make sure we’re always welcoming new people into our Circles and fostering some of them into deeper Circles so that we have meaningful friendships at all levels, at any given time.

We need to see friend-making as an ongoing way of life, rather than as something we do once and then forget about.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

3.  You Think Mutuality Means Equal Initiation.  Oh so many friendships never get off the ground due to the fear in us that whispers, “I invited her last time, the ball is in her court now.” So not true.

We all have strengths to give to our friendships; and initiation and planning are just that– a strength that we all have in varying degrees.

I’m good at thinking up things to do and reaching out when I have the extra time and head space.  I never think, “Oh I had them over last time… it’s their turn.”  I think, “Oh I want to see them again, let me email them to see if they can come over!”

And they reciprocate in the friendships in plenty of other ways.  They thank me for inviting them over, they helped make a night of meaningful conversation and memories, they asked about my life, they showed interest, they shared their stories with me.  I got what I needed: time with friends.

Mutuality is important.  But mutuality is not 50/50 in each task, but it’s whether we both are contributing to the friendship, overall.

If you’re the one who wants it, then make the ask.  Don’t let your fear of rejection stop you from initiating what you desire.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

4. You Compare New Friends With Close Friends.  I used to do this all the time!  I’d go out with someone new and conclude that the time with them just wasn’t what I was looking for.  What I wanted was meaningful conversation, easy time together, lots of validation and affirmation, and just a whole bunch of obvious commonalities.  What I often got was two people trying to get to know each other, both showing up with their own insecurities (expressed often by one talking too much or both being very polite and image conscious), both wishing it felt more deep and less awkward.

What I’d conveniently forget is that all those things I wanted come with time together with someone.  My closest friends have gone through serious life with me and we’ve had so much vulnerability, history, and time together that it always feels super meaningful.

The awkwardness, or lack of intimacy, isn’t a reflection on that person, but rather on that relationship.  In other words, time spent with someone doesn’t show what they can become, only what it is now.  And right now it’s two people meeting each other so it’s actually quite appropriate and normal to not feel like best friends yet.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

5.  You Create a Story About Your Friends Actions.  And this is the most common mistake that happens when we start feeling sour about a friendship– we assign meaning to their behaviors that usually either devalues our friend (i.e. “she shouldn’t make that choice or have that priority”) or devalues our friendship (i.e. “she must not care about me or prioritize our friendship”) when usually neither of those are the intended message.

When we are feeling the love toward someone, we are generous with them, often assuming the best about them and their actions (i.e. she must be busy!).  When we’re feeling like we have unmet needs that they aren’t tending to, often we jump to conclusions that end up putting a wedge between us and them (i.e. she doesn’t value me!”).

Those stories are damaging.  They cover up the fact that there is probably a need there that needs articulating and expressing; and instead comes out in the form of judgment which never helps pull people together.

When we feel ourselves start to devalue people we love, we need to see that as an invitation to step back and own everything we can about what’s going on.  Good questions: Am I mad at her because I might be jealous?  Am I judgmental because I’m insecure about my own life so somehow attacking her choices makes me feel better about mine?  Am I feeling neglected because I need more support in my life and I’m erroneously thinking it needs to come from her (remember it’s our responsibility to make sure we have built up a circle of support so no one person needs to be everything to us all the time!)?  Am I looking for her faults to justify pulling away for some other reason?  Am I keeping a list of wrong-doing without ever taking the time to share with her what I need?

We all too often start pushing someone away when it’s actually a relationship that has a lot of our invested time and resources in it.  I want to protect my investments, not walk away from them too easily!  Far more meaningful, usually, to salvage a relationship than to start over!

More blogs related to this: here and here.

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18 Responses to The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

  1. Jill Porco says:

    I have learned the hard way that investing all of oneself into one person is unhealthy. People have different emotional needs that cannot possibly be met by one person. That, all by itself, is a reason to expand one’s circle of friends.

  2. Stephanie Shelton says:

    This is awesome! I am going through that, stage right now trying to make new friends from growing apart of others. I’m in my late 20s which I hear is common at this age .

  3. Another insightful post, Sasha! I truly appreciate your perspective on “mutuality.” More often than I care to share I’ve let this very notion stop friendships from beginning – and end friendships that I expected too much from without proper assessment of inner circle status. I’m very present to “initiation” this season, and like you, value the company and experience over the planning and inviting 🙂

  4. Another insightful post, Shasta (forgive my previous spelling typo)! I truly appreciate your perspective on “mutuality.” More often than I care to share I’ve let this very notion stop friendships from beginning – and end friendships that I expected too much from without proper assessment of inner circle status. I’m very present to “initiation” this season, and like you, value the company and experience over the planning and inviting 🙂
    Reply

  5. Jessica G. says:

    I appreciate your ability to translate the complexity of female frienships into 5 mistakes only 🙂 I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for many of us. I’m sure I have probably been guilty of each mistake at some point, what I’m curious about is do these mistakes apply to friendships developed through family ties, such as cousins, sister in laws and sisters? Or when these relationships change, is it a different realm altogether?

  6. Jennifer says:

    I think I have done every single one of these! But I didn’t really realize what I was doing to sabotage myself, especially the last one. When someone I think is really becoming a good friend and then they start hanging out with someone else more, I start making up all these stories in my head about why they obviously don’t like me and don’t want to be my friend.

    Thank you for this post.

  7. Jewel says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I had a friend that I have invited to my house on several occasions throw a big party and did not invite me. When I stopped myself and looked at these questions and the circles of friendship, I realized how our friendship has moved to an outer circle and recognized the limits. It helped me to keep the friendship at this low level and not storm off which has been my usual pattern.

  8. Yari says:

    This is a great article Shasta. I can see how I’ve done some of these things myself and now that I have that awareness, I can definitely make some changes.

  9. Mari says:

    I love this blog and just recently found it. I have also been reading your book and it is very eye opening. I have always had many acquaintances and have been well liked, but never get to that close friend relationships. After meeting a mom in my neighborhood and talking with her for a few weeks, I asked her if she would like to run with me on somedays if she wanted. I figured this was the next step in finding out more about her since it was a shared interest. She said yes and we have been running partners for 8 months now. My question is that I found my trust for her came very quickly and I opened up to her fairly early on. She is quite guarded and quiet and doesn’t usually share much. I thought that after 8 months she would be more trusting of me but that hasn’t happened. She grew up in this area and has many friends from school and college. I am not from here and have been trying to meet women looking for friendship. At 42, this is not an easy task. When her birthday came, I put a lot of thought into getting her a nice birthday gift and wrote a sincere message inside thanking her for her friendship. I try to get her to go to the movies or lunch or just do something else besides run. (Which would be the only time that I would see her) My children are older and hers are still young, but there is still free time when they are in school. When my birthday came last week, she just gave my a generic birthday card not even geared towards friendship and it was a real let down to me because I’m trying so hard. I almost feel like I will never be more of a friend to her, just always a running buddy. Should I even attempt to say anything or just realize that this may never be more than that and accept it for what it is or try to move on.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Mari– what a good heart you have and what a gift you have given with your intention. Good for you for asking her to run with you! That’s the hardest step for most! 🙂 The first thing I want to say is that as long as running with her is meaningful, there’s no need to “move on” from this friendship. Not every friendship has to go all the way to 100 to be worthwhile and meaningful. It’s very important to have friends in every Circle. So if this is all it became– you have a huge gift in her friendship– it’s wonderful to have someone to run with and to know you have a nearby friend in the neighborhood. Second, this points out why it’s always important to be fostering several friendships through our Circles so we never put too much pressure on any one friendship with too high of expectations. I’d definitely be looking for other women you know that you can be developing into more meaningful friendships at the same time. And third, because this friend is someone you wish for more connection with, I’d be open to looking for ways, as you are doing, of figuring out how we can keep practicing becoming deeper friends. Remember that she probably hasn’t the book and been thinking about friendship so she’s learning as she goes, probably never intending to disappoint you, but perhaps just not as thoughtful at developing friendships. She could have been thrilled with herself for just remembering your BD and perhaps you’re the only one she bought a card for this year! So try to be compassionate and gracious as she tries to reciprocate in her own way. If there’s a way to ever say something like, “So I feel like you know more about me than I do about you, and I’d love to get to know you better…” and then ask questions, or to follow-up her comments with open-ended questions, or tell her you want to take her to this new restaurant you’ve heard about and ask her to get back to you with a date, or anything that continues to help the two of you create more connection– I’d be up for starting to “attempt to say anything” in a kind way. I applaud you for your intention and kindness toward her… if you sense that she likes you and isn’t trying to to withdraw, then just keep stepping forward. Cheers!

  10. Jan says:

    can you write something for the friendships after 50? It’s not the same as it was when I was in my 30’s and 40’s

  11. Angela says:

    Thank you for this post Shasta! It was real helpful & an eye opener, not realizing the mistake we make in our friendships.It’s funny when we were kids it was easy to make friends, asking a person or more “will you be my friend” as to adults it’s difficult or maybe we are making it hard than to let it unfold naturally without putting any pressure/expectation & see where the friendship takes, trusting in the Divine! I just shared this on fb for everyone to check out & read

  12. Rachel B says:

    Shasta, I loved this article, and this is one I’d love to see a corresponding photo with, so I can pin it more easily. 😉

  13. Julie says:

    I feel like I’m in the same situation in all areas. Problem is I don’t know if I’m at fault in feeling the way I do. Some examples are: I have had a friend for 6 years now but I’m always the one that has to reach out to her to say Hi or ask her if she wants to hang out. She says that she loves me and wants to hang out when we hang out. I just wish she wanted to hang out more and would message me sometimes.

    Another friend I just met. We talked for like a month or two and she invited me and my boyfriend we had a good time but she tried to kiss me and I’m straight and I told her from the get go.

    Another friend I have know for 2-3 months we really hit it off talking at first and couldn’t wait to meet eachother and finally did meet for a couple minutes and everything went great as far as I could tell. But like night and day she seemed to become more distant and dancing around questions that I asked her.

    So frustrating! Feel like I just want to give up on all 3 friendships and wondering if I’m just not good enough for this

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Julie– First, you ARE good enough! Relationships take practice– like building up a muscle– so we keep at it!
      Second, your friend of 6 years: I say– if you enjoy her, she says yes and hangs out with you and you both enjoy each other– don’t let that one go! Not all of us are initiators– the pain comes because you’re associating that behavior with some meaning to you– such as “If she liked me she would…” which isn’t true. You just keep initiating! The 2nd friend– she invited your boyfriend too– so it seems she knows you’re straight. I can’t speak to her actions but I’d be willing to give her another chance, I think? The third one– give it another chance! Maybe she was having an off-day. If she’s weird again, ask her… “Is everything okay?” and see what she says. I’m always a fan of giving it another chance, when possible. Don’t make assumptions about others that could leave you lonely. Hugs and courage to you!

  14. Pingback: How I Can Be a Better Friend: Follow-Through - Active Family Magazine

  15. Vee says:

    I have just asked very politely and tactfully about a neighbour friend whether she felt she was over medicating for pain. After a while the medication effect doesn’t help and some are inclines to take more. She was borrowing from me and used to return them pronto. No know returns at all. I of course am bit going to continue with this as it is too out of control. I take very little, she takes a lot along with other things. There would be a reason her GP stopped prescribing. She keeps saying he can’t. All GP’s are able to prescribe what they think is necessary. She keeps saying she can only get it from her Professor, which I know by experiences is not true. This is what has alarmed me. Instead of Dr shopping I am scared she has used my good nature as her supply chain. I raised the issue and now she won’t talk to me nor wants anything to do with me and this is after 3 years of being friendly. I know I did wrong by giving her backup, but it was always repaid within a couple of days, now there is no way she can repay me as it is about 12 prescriptions. As I say I use very little and she must be using a lot of the wrong thing. It is obvious she is in a great deal of pain, so why would her medico’s cease that particular pain killer? – that is why I think there is a lot of addition and psychological propping up as well. Now I am a horrible person, and I was only trying to get the right help for her. I will never do it again that’s for sure. You would think a 57 years old woman with a family, husband and pets one son with disability living at home would come clean. She was very vicious. I have asked my Dr not to prescribe the drug she was borrowing from me again as I wanted to cut back and am now going without in case her urge to be a supplier of painkiller friend returns.
    Do you think it was right that I was treated so horribly when I only wanted to help?