Life Stages

Friendships Change: Growing More Comfortable with Endings

It hasn't happened suddenly, but from where I stand now I am noticing how many of my friendships have changed or dissolved in the last year or two. To be more precise, it's actually the structure of those friendships that has changed because it's not that we aren't friends anymore, as much as it's about that fact that we aren't practicing our friendship in the same way anymore.  The container has changed.  What wove us together has unraveled.  The routine has shifted. Schedules have changed.  Life got full of other things. Needs have fluctuated. Our time together looks very different and feels very different.

This isn't a post about friendship break-ups as much as it is about being aware and honoring that friendships change and shift over time.  I feel that it's important to put into words because so often women feel guilty, take it personally, or panic if a friendship drifts a bit.

Friendships Change. Frequently.

But the truth is that our friendships have to change; and by definition, when you have a change, it means there is an ending to one thing and the beginning of something new.  And sometimes there is a gap between that ending and that new beginning which can feel like a friendship fatality; and sometimes the new beginning doesn't feel as satisfying right away so there's an element of loss and grief that accompanies the change.

Since my book came out a year and half ago, and was written nearly three years ago, it's amazing to me how much my friendships have changed since then.  I want to own that publicly because I think it's normal and needs to be part of our conversation.  It's important, I think, for a "friendship expert" to voice how much friendships can drift and change and fluctuate even when everyone is doing everything "right."

  • Back then I had Tuesday Night Girls Night which for two years was five of us getting together every week. A little more than a year ago, two of the women no longer felt they could commit to the weekly commitment, (and I do want to say that how they handled that was amazing-- voicing their love for us, expressing

    womens hands and hearts

    honestly their need for evening time for other priorities, and their willingness to still get together even if less frequently) so our remaining group of three went through a process of "do we want to invite new women to join us?" or do we keep soldiering on just the three of us? We opted for the latter due to wanting to keep the intimacy that we had established, but an unforeseen consequence of that choice was that our gatherings were canceled more frequently than not due to the fact that when two people were traveling on the same week we only had one person left instead of three.  The ideal was still weekly, but the reality is that the three of us get together once a month. It took a while for us to admit that and come to peace with it. Ironically, it's more difficult to schedule something irregularly than it is to plan on something regularly, and we definitely aren't as aware of what's going on in each others lives in the same way, but travel has increased in all our lives and once a month is what we can pull off right now.  Still love all four of those women, but our time together has changed, our lives feel like they've sped up, and I miss the idea of a weekly get-together, even if I can't really commit to it.

  • Back then I also hosted "chosen family" dinners on Friday night whenever I was in town.  There were about 7-8 of us who got together pretty frequently, but needs change, and that ritual slowly dissolved. (In part, due to some intentional conversations about the desires from some for more alone time with us rather than group time, and in part due to life just getting busy and us not hosting as regularly.) We still see all those people, but at different times and in different ways.
  • And interestingly, along these lines, my monthly business women's group that we've had going for three years looks like it might be transitioning, possibly, into a quarterly group.  We have that conversation in two weeks as we all talk about what we each need and want going forward into 2015.  With some people having moved away, some people's commitments changing, and some people not showing up as frequently-- the questions needs to be asked:  1) what do we each need? 2) And what is the best way to get those needs met?

During the same time, several other groups have begun and other friendships have created rituals of their own, but in this post I really just want to honor that meaningful friendships have ended in some ways.  Sometimes it's been precipitated by something obvious: someone moving, or a job that requires more travel, or a life that just gets too full.  Sometimes it's just someone asking an intentional and thoughtful question like, "Is this still working for everyone?  Meeting everyone's needs in the best way?" And sometimes the reality of the ending only becomes clear later... after things have already started dissolving a bit, the recognition dawning slowly that somewhere along the line this form for time together isn't working anymore.

I get weary of feeling like "starting over" and sometimes I wish I could just freeze time and keep us all in the same place forever... I'm tempted to grasp, cling, or beg.  Letting relationships change isn't easy. I hate people moving away.  I want to hang on to what is meaningful. But life changes and so do people... so endings or perceived endings are part of the process.

Changing the Structure; Not the Love

There isn't a one of these situations where I don't still consider these people to be friends of mine.  There was no blow-up, no harm done, no fight, no break-up... just a container that wasn't working for everyone in the same way anymore. I still love them all.

In a super thought-provoking interview with Esther Perel at Slate.com on why spouses cheat, she makes a powerful statement about marriage that I think is applicable to friendships, too.

Most people today, for the sheer length we live together, have two or three marriages in their adult life, and some of us do it with the same person. For me, this is my fourth marriage with my husband and we have completely reorganized the structure of the relationship, the flavor, the complementarity.

Isn't that profound? In marriages-- who were are together (the roles we take on, the rituals we co-create, the way we interact) looks different at various stages of our lives.  To have to figure out who we are together at different stages in our marriages (i.e. with kids, when he/she becomes the bread-winner, when a new role outside the marriage takes one person in a new direction) becomes easier if we have the expectation ahead of time that we will continually need to be recognizing that some of our marriage structures will end, and new ways of being together will need to be formed.  For most of us it happens without conscious awareness... but how much more powerful to not take it personally when it happens, to see it coming, and to decide together to figure out what works best for each person now as opposed to trying to keep things the same.

The same is true of friendship. When only 1 in 12 friendships will be with people that we will stay in touch with over the course of our lives, and most of us seeing that about half of the people we are close to today are different from those we were close with 7 years ago-- there is much that is ending.

But the reality that my stories reveal today is that even with the women we still call friends through various stages of life, how we are together (i.e. how much time we spend together, the frequency of our get-togethers, what we do when we're together) does shift.  It has to.

Today I just want honor the reality that not only does every friendship not last, but even the ones that do often have to re-invent themselves, many times over.  And reinvention comes with some things ending as other things begin. We will ebb and flow. We will change what we share and how we share.  Our time together will look different.

My love for them doesn't change; but the container of how we practice our friendship right now may have to look different.

I can't stop change.  I can only be responsible for how I am going to respond to it.

I, for one, want to keep myself as emotionally healthy as possible so:

  1. I am prone to take less things personally and more courageous to show up knowing what I need;
  2. I can make sure that I am fostering enough friendships in my life so that when some become less frequent or intimate, that others are available for deepening;
  3. And so I can do my very best to show up in every friendship with eyes to see whether there's a structure that needs to be reorganized. No need to hang on to something that isn't working for someone within that relationship.  I'd much prefer that we become practiced at journeying through life in different ways, at different times.

For everyone grieving a friendship changing, or clinging with hopes of keeping it from shifting.... I pray for peace for all of us, that we can feel our love even if it comes in different forms.

p.s.  Here's a prayer I wrote about learning to let go of friendships that may be meaningful to some of you... Open Hands.

How to Not Feel Judged

This last weekend was my 20th high school reunion.  I hadn't been back since our 10th.

Nothing like a High School Reunion to Flare Up the Insecurities

What started off months ago as excitement at seeing my high school friends, many with whom I had gone to school with since first grade, turned into fear as the date got closer.

I knew it was fear because I recognize that anytime I have a voice whispering a variation of  "You're too different from them... they won't accept you" that my own insecurity is starting to put up walls of protection.  And the only time I'd need protection is if some part of me thought I was in danger.

Which of course I wasn't in danger.  But trying to convince the voice of a little insecure high school girl, who kept whispering that my marriage was too different, that my religious path looked too different, or that my lifestyle was too different, was like asking a baby to stop crying. Somewhat futile despite the best soothing.

You undoubtedly know the feeling. Sometimes it's walking into a cocktail party and assuming that everyone else knows someone, except us.  Or attending a ConnectingCircle where you hope to make new friends, but guessing  ahead of time that you probably won't have anything in common with anyone.  Or talking to someone and guessing that whatever we are (single, a mom, retired, a Christian, an immigrant) isn't what the other person wishes we were, leaving the conversation feeling very much like an outsider.

Fear Divides Us

And I knew that I wasn't the only one showing up at our reunion feeling the fear.  In fact, I guessed that there would be many who wouldn't even come, where fear was undoubtedly at the root of their reason.  With statements like "Everyone else still acts like they did back in high school," "I'm just too different," "We don't have anything in common anymore," and "I didn't even like them back then, I surely won't like them now," you can see that every excuse validates the voice of fear: "I'm too different." And the unacknowledged fear beneath that statement is that we'll be judged, or rejected in some way.

I often quote Rabbi Harold Kushner who says that our greatest human fear is the fear of rejection.  He makes a case that it is the fear of being rejected, or not being "enough," that is at the root of every other fear we hold.

If that is true, and I think it is, then we know that our default lens is often to presume we're being rejected, or somehow not measuring up.

If that's just true in day-to-day life, then the stakes definitely go up at reunions. There aren't many places in life where we "go back" to the same place and group of people.  That going back is like a mirror where we can see where we used to be, and where we are now. It's impossible to not see all the other paths we could have taken, how our choices have played out; and to then compare our current life either to those who graduated with us, or against our own hopes of where we pictured ourselves someday being.  Much like a door frame where our parents measured our growth with pencil marks, this ritual of going back can leave us feeling measured, evaluated, and insecure for any part of life that isn't "perfect."

I can feel sensitive about being judged for moving away and leaving our town; and someone else can feel fearful that I'd think less of them for staying.  Someone can come and feel nervous about being too accomplished and successful; and someone else can come feeling bad about not having finished college.  The person who is always being judged for having the "perfect" life is feeling just as insecure as the person who feels the weight of a bankruptcy, weight gain, or divorce.

What fear does is divides.  Fear whispers that we're not good enough.  Fear insists that there is a separation between you and me.  Fear focuses on the .1% that may appear different, rather than the 99.9% that is the same.  Fear forgets that we're connected. Fear builds up walls that tempt us to think someone is inside, and someone is outside.

How To Not Feel Judged...

Of course to bring our walls down means we have to feel safe.  And while most us think we need them to act loving before we can feel safe, I found it much more empowering to create my own safety.

Here are the two things I did differently this time, that resulted in me not feeling judged:

1)    First, I changed my story.

When I listen to most of us articulate our fears about what others might think of us, we say: "I feel judged for x."

Even if we don't use that word, we express those sentiments. You'll know you feel judged by the fact that you start defending yourself.  Only someone who feels attacked has to defend.  In defense mode we have two options: devalue them and/or inflate us.  We tell ourselves whatever we have to to try to feel better about our lives.

The problem with feeling judged is that it leaves us as the victims, implying there is someone doing something to us.  The story of judgment always has a perpetrator that we must defend ourselves against.

This time, every time I was tempted to take on the story of "feeling judged" I replaced it with "I feel insecure about x." I owned it!

That shift in language changed everything!  Now, instead of being a victim that needs to defend myself against someone doing something (that most often is only imagined!); I am simply recognizing that I feel the fear.  Now, I am in charge and I can ask myself, "Why do I feel insecure about this part of my life? Is it because I'm not happy with this myself? Or, am I not at peace with it in some way? What information can I take from this that will help me live my life more in alignment? Is there anything I can do to make myself feel better right now? How do I want to respond?"

Owning it as insecurity, rather than projecting judgment on others kept me loving to them with the clarity that they aren't the problem and empowered me with the information and empathy I needed to look inside and grow myself.

2)    The second thing I did was create a mantra that I said silently through out the whole weekend:

"Focus on loving people, not trying to impress them."

So this time... I listened with empathy to that little high school girl inside of me that just wanted to be accepted.  I heard it, validated the hunger, assured that little girl that others felt the same way, and decided that my own odds of feeling accepted would increase if I came in ready to give that to others.

I decided that I'd rather leave people feeling good about themselves rather than worrying about them feeling good about me.  That means I chose to affirm them, share the very imperfect parts of my life with honesty, and listen deeply-- all things that can't be done with a heart of fear.  Walls don't lend themselves to connection and love.

And truthfully, people like people who like them so odds increase that if they feel good--as opposed to insecure-- talking to you, they'll like you! Acceptance has a way of breeding acceptance.  Which is what we all want anyway... so why not just get straight to the point?  :)

You probably don't have a high school reunion coming up... but I'll leave you with this prayer:

May you know your worth, feeling deeply how valuable you are.  May you remember that while your default mode is to feel rejected, that you can choose acceptance instead.  May you continue to grow in accepting yourself and giving that gift to all whom you meet.  We are all accepted, all good enough, all created with love....we just forget sometimes. Let's remember...

 

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.

An Interview with Urban Campfire Founder: Melody Biringer

One of the upcoming events where I'm speaking is in Seattle next month.  I'm so looking forward to Urban Campfire, not just because it's in an airplane hangar, but because we get to roast marshmallows and sit around campfires with small groups of other women!  Fun!  The idea is so creative that I wanted to interview CRAVE founder and the Urban Campfire brainchild, Melody Biringer, about women and connections.   I interview the genius behind the fun-- Melody Biringer!

Melody, you have a long history of being passionate about women's friendships, and your latest brainchild is proof of that!  Urban Campfire is such a novel idea… tell us what it is!

Melody: "Urban Campfire is an all day event intended to engage women in authentic conversations about business, relationships and life. We encourage them to ditch their heels and don theirs sneakers as Urban Campfire prepares to engage them in a high-octane, unique, and meaningful experience. This isn’t a conference, it’s a fire. We plan on igniting the spark that has flickered within you. We promise to delight and inspire with a star-studded line-up of TED Talk style speakers and a veritable who’s-who in Seattle and beyond attendee list."

You have an awesome line-up of speakers including Danielle LaPorte, the catalyst for our desires and vision, Jen Louden, the self-care queen, and Sue Bryce, a woman we all hope will one day be our photographer for a session! But what I love, even more, than the inspirational line-up is your idea of women coming together in small groups, around campfires to share their own stories.  What do you hope is felt by the women who are sitting around these campfires sharing themselves with other women?

Have you been to an event with this lay-out yet? Super fun to not only be listening to speakers, but then sharing and connecting with a small group!

Melody: "There is something about the conversations we have around a campfire... we are more vulnerable and open to sharing. I want everyone to experience this kind of authentic openness through Urban Campfire. By sharing stories and making meaningful connections, I hope women are able to rekindle their flame! This isn’t the type of conference where you sit back and half listen while multi-tasking. It’s the kind of event where your critical thinking skills are engaged and your heart is opened."

You are undoubtedly a connector of women.  What is a driving memory for you that propels you to bring women together for connecting?

Melody: "I didn't seek out girlfriends til after I turned 30.  (what is up with that?) When I finally saw the light that I needed the connection of women for all kinds of things-- magic seemed to happen.  My favorite pastime is going on walks or hosting dinner parties with like-minded women; telling and listening to each others stories throughout the entire spectrum of life.   Especially walking, there is something about the heart pumping while telling stories that helps you get more authentic and juicy."

The other thing I love about this one-day rendezvous you have planned is your interest in women of all ages connecting. Tell me about two of your friends-- one who is older and one who is younger-- and what you enjoy about those women.

Melody: "I have a friend who is 25 that sometimes I forget how young she really is.  She is in start-up mode with her business and I LOVE to talk business.  It is so refreshing to listen to her stories, her fears, and her excitement about life.  I learn so much from her and she makes me feel like I have a lot to offer her too, so the feeling is mutual.   My older-than-me-friend just gets everything, we can talk for hours about nothing and yet if feels so satisfying.  We never have an agenda or feel like we need to solve anything.  It just feels good to be doing nothing together."

And because of your vast experience in women's networks, I'd be curious to get your take on what you see happening with women's relationships today.  What is one thing that discourages you and one thing that encourages you that you are hearing, seeing, and experiencing?

Melody: "I find it discouraging when women view each other as competitors and not collaborators. I wish we could we have a more collective feeling of togetherness. I think that is changing with time and it encourages me that more collaborations are happening."

And last, in keeping with your theme that you're giving all 10 speakers that day, of which I'm honored to be one, “If you had ten minutes to tell the world what you’ve learned, what you know to be true…what would that be?”  what would be the message of your talk?

Melody: "I would talk about knowing yourself and to try not to be in too many downward spirals throughout life.  I would much rather be on an upward spiral because magic happens when you are positive and just try to make things happen.  It is about the forward movement that makes me happy and when I am stuck I go into down mode. Remembering when I am down to pick back up and do something, put yourself out there, again, is the joy of life.  The outcome is not as important as the game you get to play while trying to get there.  Plus it is way more fun to hang with like-minded friends along the way that can cheer you on as you also are their biggest cheerleaders.  And don't forget to take time out to make a s'more every once in a while and remember what your marshmallow really is. #whatsyourmarshmallow"

Melody-- I just want to applaud you for your vision.  I think it's beautiful! And I want to make sure everyone has all the info so they can decide to join us.  This is a great excuse to fly to Seattle to visit a friend and attend this unique event.  :)

What: Urban Campfire When: Tuesday August 13 2013. 1pm to 9pm Where: Hangar 30 in Warren G. Magnuson Park, Seattle WA Highlights: Fireside chats, food trucks, dance party, s'mores. Cost: One ticket = $95 / Two or more tickets = $75 each Website: http://thecravecompany.com/urbancampfire/

And one final detail for all the readers of my blog... buy your Urban Campfire ticket here and save $35!  That way it's only $60 instead of $95!  Hope to see you there!!!  Come introduce yourself to me so we can be sure to meet!  xoxo

Friendship Break-Up 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift

Friendship break-ups can be so hard. And painful. And sad. And, oh, ever so complicated! In the last post we looked at the two main types of friendship break-ups, with most of the focus being on The Drift--a more slow and unassuming process of two people drifting apart.

A Rift is often a more easily defined reason (than simply chalking it up to not having as much in common) for why we want out of the relationship. It almost always involves us feeling disappointed or hurt by the other-- as though they messed up, aren't healthy, or owe us an apology.

A Drift Can Turn Into a Rift

In a drift it might be because life either changed for them or for you (i.e. you retired, she went through a divorce, you moved away, she changed religions, you got pregnant) and while you may feel some resentment, there is a piece of you that understands the shift was nothing personal. We know they didn't leave the job because of us or get married to spite us. And we usually start off thinking we're still going to stay in touch... a Drift most often happens slowly... over time.

Both Drifts and Rifts have their valid reasons and times... but sometimes if we don't see the Rift coming, or don't understand how easily it can sneak into our relationship uninvited, it can turn into a Rift with hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

What brings the wounding in these situations is often expectations that didn't get met in the midst of the change. You felt sad that she was getting married when you liked being two single gals together, but you also didn't fault her.  However, when we interpret her calling less as loving us less or not making time for us anymore, we may start to feel she is to blame.  We miss her and don't know who to call to go out with so we resent how her life change is affecting our friendship. As our needs escalate, our insecurities get provoked, and our sadness feels more complicated; it becomes all too easy to feel like they're navigating it all wrong.

And they probably are.  As are we.

When you have two people in transition, trying to figure out a new way of being together-- it's almost guaranteed that it can't become something new without disappointing one of us along the way.  It won't just immediately arrive at some new pattern that we both like.

Preventing Drifts from Becoming Rifts

To prevent a Drift from turning into Rift-- there are three things I have found helpful:

  1. Tell her you value her. The very best thing we can do in those moments is to tell the other person that they are important to us. That their friendship matters to us to go through the awkwardness with them. To verbally commit that we intend to get through this change as friends, if possible.  I've said, "I just want you to know I love you and want our friendship to survive this change.  It may be hard at times, but you're worth it to me to figure it out."
  2. Acknowledge that it will change us. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves and others that there will be a change in our relationship.  We cannot have a baby and show up as though we haven't.  We cannot go through a divorce and still show up as a couple at parties.  We cannot leave our jobs and think that not seeing each every day won't impact how close we feel.  To try to pretend otherwise only seems to hurt feelings.  Instead, say something like, "I know it's going to take us some time to figure out our new normal... but I'm committed to that process." Saying out loud that we know things will change (what we talk about, how often we talk, how we spend our time together, etc.) helps normalize it for everyone.  It also acknowledges that we aren't likely to slip into a perfect pattern automatically.
  3. Be as generous as possible. Both of you are still trying to figure out your own lives, let alone know exactly how to incorporate the other in meaningful ways. How fabulous to say, "Let's just both try to be as generous with each other as possible while we figure this out.  Let's try to always assume the best of each other, even if we don't always do it perfectly. We know we don't want to hurt each other."

Almost every time we hear that someone we love still loves us and wants to make it work-- we're more likely to feel generous, gracious, and hopeful about the other.  Those two statements can come from either person-- the one who is experiencing the life change or the one who is feeling left behind.  Both of us have the opportunity to help give this gift of clarity to the relationship.

It Takes Two to Show Up Differently

It's rarely only the responsibility of one person to be open to the change--even if you think it's her fault. It takes two people willing to let go of how it was and willing to practice what can become. But one can always be the first and help invite the other into this new space.

  • If I leave the job we both used to hate together-- it may take practice to learn how to share with her my new business in a way that doesn't leave her feeling stuck there or pressured by me to leave; and it may take some getting used to when she stops sharing all the company gossip since I no longer work there and I am no longer invited out to company happy-hours.
  • If she starts dating a new guy while I'm still single-- it may take practice for me to get used to him getting all the attention I used to get and it may take some intention on her part to still make time for just us girls.
  • If I have another baby after her kids are all in school-- I will have to acknowledge she may not want a baby around every time we get together and she may have to practice showing the excitement for my life that I deserve even if she feels like she's past that point.

And I've found it so much easier to give that grace to each other if I have already built up a strong circle of other friends.  It means I make less demands of her.  It means I don't need her life to stay the same in order for me to love her.  It means I take responsibility for my own joy and health, rather than hold her to blame for my loneliness.  It means I have support from others when she's consumed.  It means I can love her for who she is, even if we don't have this big thing in common any more.

Every relationship change requires two people willing to hold the relationship with some kind of an open hand-- a willingness to let it become something new. It cannot stay the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old

It has been a record 22 days since I've blogged!  I guess you can't complain you're ever getting too many e-mails from me!  :)  My excuse for my negligence is two-fold: First, I sent off the complete draft of my book manuscript "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" to my publishers in the beginning of May so all my daily writing time was focused on getting that done instead of blogging! And my second reason is that the day after I e-mailed those 80,000 words, my husband & I flew out to Tampa, FL for 12 days to babysit my 7-year old niece and 4-year old nephew while my sister and her hubby enjoy their first long get-away without kids. So as a substitute mom I've pretty much limited my work to the bare bones while I'm here playing!   

Three Friendship Inspirations We Can Learn From Kids

But now the kids are happily playing in a homemade fort we built in the backyard so I thought I'd share my musings about three moments of beautiful friendship I've witnessed from my first-grade niece, Naomi. The first example comes from her meeting a stranger at the beach over the weekend, then I share two moments with her best friend (known in this post as T.) who lives down the street.

  1. I love how kids don't need a ton of warm up to play with others: We weren't at the beach for even an hour before Naomi and another little girl introduced themselves to each other in the water. They were inseparable the rest of the day as they practiced standing on boogey-boards, jumped on inflatable toys, and collected shells. I just shook my head in awe.  Never in a million years would I be making friends on the beach.  Not because all the other women didn't look friendly, but we simply don't walk up to people sun-bathing, introduce ourselves, plop down on their towels, and spend the afternoon together. But that's not to say we can't learn from her. I love that kids value the moment, playing with whomever is there, caring more about having fun now than trying to figure out whether they have a future together or not. We all value connection and there are a lot of activities in life that would be enhanced with new friends even if we don't know it will only last an hour or a day.
  2. I love how kids easily express adoration:  We arrived a few days early so we could attend Naomi's 7th birthday party.  Her BFF made her a card where she wrote: "You and I have been best friends since I moved. I wish I knew you since I was a baby. You are the bestest friend anyone can have! I wish in my next life we can be together." Wow! That they don't yet filter their adoration is such a sweet gift of childhood.  They aren't consumed with worrying about whether they'll look desperate, whether the other feels the same way, or whether it's 'too soon' to say it yet. They just proclaim the friendship into eternity.  Some of us adults can do that with friends we've known forever, but I've noticed we become much more guarded as adults, taking much longer to tell each other "I really like you!"
  3. I love how kids steal extra moments together: Naomi quickly informed me upon my arrival, "You know Aunt Shasta that T. and I play together every day, right?" Her face looked a little worried that when her parents were to leave that maybe I wouldn't know the routine.  I smiled and said, "yes" thinking this is exactly why friendship felt so much easier as kids-- we had every day together! Now I'm lucky if I see new friends once a month! Then a super precious moment came when T.'s older sister came to tell T. that she had to come home one day when they were playing over here. Next thing I know T. is running away from her sister, refusing to go home, not wanting to leave her BFF.  Her older sister began chasing her, begging her to obey.  T. then runs to Naomi for help; they stand there clinging to each other, refusing to end their time together without a fight. I'm sure if I were the mother who had to put up with that often then I may not find it as charming, but as the visiting aunt who knows the value of friendship I loved it! In our adult lives we schedule each other in, fitting our friends between this-and-that appointment, rarely giving each other an entire afternoon and then begging for more time together! It inspired me. To watch kids get together with no plan for what they will do ahead of time, play for as long as they can, and still wish for more time together-- that is as good as it gets!

I do believe that there was an ease in childhood friend-making that we can't always repeat as adults.  In fact, my book is all about how to meet people and develop them into meaningful friendships because I find that we often, as adults, just keep waiting and hoping that friendships will one day feel as easy as it did back when we were kids.  We may not now have the repetition of school or an open schedule to play every afternoon as we did back then, but we need friendships all the same. 

Naomi inspired me, reminding me that it doesn't always have to be complicated.  When it comes down to it, if we just 1) played with the people we met, 2) told them we liked them, and 3) tried to spend as much time together as possible-- that really is the bulk of friend-making. Even as adults.  

What do you miss about childhood friendships? In what ways are friendships the same or different as kids from adults? What observations have you had about friendship when you watch kids play?

Lonely Mommy: How Motherhood Took a Toll on my Friendships

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  Today I’m honored to host Daneen Akers, a good friend of mine honestly sharing how hard it was to make and transition her friendships after becoming a new mom.

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Once a week my 2.5 year-old daughter Lily and I go walking in the woods of San Francisco’s Presidio with several other moms and toddlers. Lately, as she’s been learning the concept of friends, Lily likes to make the friendship boundaries clear.

“I’m so excited to go see my friends,” she says. And then she’ll add possessively, “They’re not your friends, Mommy. They’re my friends.”

Sometimes she’ll toss me the consolation prize of, “You can be friends with the mommies.”

That’s big of her, but I’m afraid I haven’t found adult friendship, especially after becoming a mom, nearly this easy to define or nurture. If only a shared identity was all it took.

Friendships and Motherhood: A Tough Transition

When I became a mom over two years ago, I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to transition my existing friendships to the next chapter, and I really had no idea how hard it was going to be to develop real friendships with other moms.

On the surface, motherhood is the ticket to a whole circle of new communities of belonging. Suddenly you share this profoundly life-changing, heart-expanding, and utterly exhausting experience with women all over the world. I was a mom now—I felt this unspoken kinship with every pregnant woman, new mom, and grandma that I spotted on the bus or at the park. Women just like me were making do on cat naps, feeling lucky if they took a shower, and wearing the same pair of milk-stained yoga pants for days on end. I could spot another new mom a mile away and almost always shared a knowing look as we walked past each other, not wanting to stop and risk waking the sleeping babies that connected us.

There are groups aplenty for moms—support groups, breastfeeding circles, mommy and baby yoga classes, play groups, and a host of online networks. I quickly became a joiner, trying desperately to not feel so lonely in the midst of motherhood.

Despite being utterly in love with my daughter and having a very involved husband, I felt desperately isolated as a mom. Perhaps it was because I was the only one of my close girlfriends to have a baby. Perhaps it was because I worked from home. Perhaps it was because families in our culture have little to no support —we have non-existent or anemic maternity/paternity leaves, often don’t live near family, and have had very little preparation for the grueling work of parenthood.

But even after packing my schedule with support groups and gatherings, I still felt lonely. In fact, I was even more lonely because I was surrounded by women like me and yet I felt that nobody really knew me. We talked and talked, but it was almost always about how our babies were sleeping, how breastfeeding was going (or not), what new thing our babies could do now, what baby-related challenge we needed help with. It was all baby.

Babies change quickly, so our conversations evolved, but often just around the next surface-level baby/toddler topic. I deeply wanted to feel like I knew the women I was sharing this important part of life with and, just as importantly, that they knew me.

It wasn’t at all that I only met shallow women. Quite the opposite, the moms I’ve met are amazing. But conversations are inherently fragmented when a baby has frequent needs, and this only gets worse the more mobile they get. Soon we were meeting at playgrounds and feeling lucky if we could manage two or three minutes of adult conversation before one of our children needed attention, sometimes to be pulled off each other as they inevitably squabbled over a toy or turn. Ironically, we often had more meaningful conversations over email where we could put two thoughts together, but this sometimes made the frustration of in-person meetings more tangible.  I distinctly remember when Lily was two talking to a mom I’d met in a birth prep class and realizing that I had no idea what she had done before she became a full-time mom. All of my knowledge of her revolved around her mommy role.

And moms are just running tired. Whether we work in the home, from home, or out of the home, it feels like everyone wants a piece of us all the time. If I had two moments to myself, I usually needed to be alone or to sleep just to survive (I’m not sure what it says about me as a mother that my last two Mother’s Day requests have been for a day alone!)

Three things helped my lonely-mommy situation improve dramatically.

1)  Foster a Few New Friendships: First, I cut back on most of my mom-related obligations and focused on fostering a few friendships. I had sensed reciprocity with a few women, and I made a point of making these women a priority. Women like my friend Julie, who once managed to start a terrifying real conversation at a moms’ group by asking, “So, can I ask if anyone else is disappointed by who are finding yourself as a mother?” And women like my friend Sara, who asked questions about me as a woman and not just a mom and kept making the effort to find times that we could meet without our babies (luckily a wine bar opened in her neighborhood)

2)  Commit to Time with Current Friends: And second I made a weekly commitment to meet with my non-mom girlfriends. This might seem counter-intuitive at first. I was starved for female friendship but found respite with women who didn’t share one of my most important life journeys with me.  Their lives continue to look very different than mine. But that has turned out to be a blessing for our conversations. There is absolutely no chance that we’ll end up spending an hour talking about potty training.

My time with these women sustains and centers me. These women have shared my life for three hours every Tuesday night for two years over homemade meals in each other’s homes. They have seen me gradually recover a sense of myself in the midst of my motherhood, and I have heard their hearts as we all navigate the vicissitudes of life. (A nice side benefit to this particular practice is that my husband and daughter have developed their own Tuesday night routines.)

3)  Be a Good Friend To Myself: And, finally, I have found that everything in my life improves when I take my required alone time. I’d actually started this post with two turning points in mind, but half-way through writing I went to a yoga class after not making it for one reason or another for the past six weeks.

As I lay in Shivasana, feeling myself relax at my core for the first time in weeks, I realized anew that I am my best self when I truly embrace the concept of putting my own oxygen mask on first so that I don’t pass out while trying to help others, even my own child. When I am keeping my well full, I find my own inner peace and don’t have to project my lack onto others.

I still find myself lonely at times and struggling to feel like I give enough and am fed enough in my friendships, but I am starting to feel rooted again in my community.  I am finding my joy, my center.

An Extra Pay-Off to Prioritizing Friendships

Lily doesn’t make it easy to leave her. It can be difficult to explain why I’m leaving for a night off or a yoga class (or, I hope more often, an evening with my mom friends sans our adorable progeny). Last night her usually joyful countenance turned mournful, and she wailed, “But I want you to stay with me!”

As I gently hugged her and then pried her off of me to hand to my husband, I told myself that I’m setting an example for her. Friendship matters. Making time for a relationship with myself matters. How I model friendship in my life matters as much as the lessons she learns as she walks in the woods with her toddler friends. At least, that’s the hope I’m hanging my diaper bag on.

Daneen Akers writes from San Francisco where she's a mom to a vibrant two-year-old, a documentary film producer, and an occasional blogger at http://www.lifewithlilybird.com with an emphasis on parenting and spirituality. 

 

 

 

Our Used-to-be-Closer Friends on YouTube

New YouTube Clip:

This video explains the value of both our current and our "past" BFF's. In this 3rd video of the series, Shasta Nelson, life coach and CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com dives deeper into her Confirmed Circle.

Often a move, a job change, or a life shift will put women into our Confirmed Circle-- meaning we can pick up where we left off with them, that we know they'd do anything for us, and that we still consider them our friends, but we are no longer in a consistent friendship with them, seeing them regularly and sharing life along the way.  It is different to have friends we update every several months from the friends who actually know our day-to-day lives.  We need both.

It also give two ways to make sure you create a current, meaningful and consistent group of friends for wherever you are now.

An overview of Shasta's 5 Circles of Connectedness is a video titled: "What Types of Friends Do You Need?" The 2nd video in the series is titled: "Who Are Your BFF's?"

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Huge thanks to everyone who has subscribed to my YouTube channel to help me get started this month! There's a random drawing for a Flying Wish Paper gift every Thursday in September so subscribe today for 2 more chances to win this month!

 

What I Wish I Knew Then About Friendship... by Cherie Burbach

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  I'm honored to host this posting by Cherie Burbach, one of the most prolific writers online about friendship (bio at the end!). Thanks Cherie for all you're doing to encourage healthy female friendships! ------------------------------

What I wish I knew then about friendship that I know now...is that friendships aren't always meant to last forever, and that's okay. When I was younger, it pained me to lose a friend to the point where I would beat myself up it when it happened.

Now, don't get me wrong, we definitely want to maintain our friendships whenever we can.

Cherie Burbach

But the reality is that sometimes friendships end. People make different life choices, they move, they grow apart, develop new interests, and through it all they change. When a friendship ends during this point, you may experience feelings of guilt or be stuck in a place wondering "why" over and over again. This perception that friendships should last forever comes from a few different places. Ever heard of the term "BFF"? Best friends forever might be a cute saying but it isn't the reality. Or how about people that talk about their long-term friendships? You don't often hear, "I've had three great friends that were in my life for five years" but you will hear someone talk about their "life-long friends" pretty often. If you don't have a life-long friend or two, hearing that may make you feel inept at friendship. But don't buy into that.

Some of my friends have lasted decades, while others have been brief. Most of the time, friends are not going to stay in your life forever, and even if they do, your relationship will probably change over the years. Having one true-blue best friend is great, and if it happens to you be thankful. For most of us, however, there are times when a really great friend only stays in our lives for a short time. After they go, what usually happens? You beat yourself up and wonder what you could have done differently.

But you see, that's the point of friendship: It teaches you about yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, learn from the experience. Being with your friend taught you a few things about yourself. Are there areas to improve on? Work on that. Were there areas you really rocked? Do more of that.

Each friendship you have will mold you into a slightly different, more confident, person, but don't go over the past and wonder what you could have done differently. You might have done everything you could have done at that point in time. Talking about "what could have been" is pointless and a waste of energy. You never know, even if you had done that one thing differently it doesn't mean that it would have prevented your friendship from ending. Sometimes the end of a relationship really is them and not you! If you feel like you would have done something differently with an old friend, use that knowledge to help improve your current friendships.

The point is, a friend can come briefly through your life and that's okay. Embrace each friendship, because there is no one-size fits all when it comes to our pals.

Cherie Burbach is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has written ten books and ebooks. She writes about dating, relationships, health, sports, and lifestyle. You can follow her on Twitter at brrbach.

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Note: I posted a new video blog on YouTube this morning: "Who Are Your BFF's?" that talks briefly about how many confidantes you may want, the importance they play in your life, and how you can develop these meaningful friendships.

Subscribe on my YouTube Channel (ShasGFC) as I'm picking a random winner every Thursday! Congrats to Tamisha Ford-- this week's winner!

 

 

Stages of a Friendship

I'm trying to find vocabulary that increases our awareness of the stages of becoming friends. Romance Stages and Friendship Stages

When it comes to marriage, we know that there is a lot of ground between being interested in someone and getting married to them.  We have terms like "going on a date" which we know is different than "dating."  We implicitly acknowledge that it takes time before we can both simply assume that we're hanging out this weekend without asking each other.

With female friendship we lack non-romantic language to articulate those stages.

Our expectations also seem to be a bit skewed of how fast we should progress. We appear to be at great risk of thinking we need to feel like BFF's within the first couple of conversations, forgetting that there are stages. We neglect the evidence in our memory banks that show us repeatedly that most of our friends developed over consistent time together (i.e. work, school, weekly gatherings).

In romance we know that, on average, it takes 1-2 years from meeting to marriage, but there are always some couples who elope after knowing each other for 2 weeks and others who date for ten years before getting married. In friendship, it's more-or-less the same.  There will always be exceptions due to personality, life timing, willingness, etc.  But more-or-less-- we'd be wise to set our expectations for the journey, even if it means it may take a year before I get to where I want to be with someone.

5 Stages of Friendship.  In Rough Draft Form....  :)

So here are five stages that I've identified so far.  I'd love your input on whether you think this helps capture the process?  What stage am I missing? What has been your experience, over the long-haul with your friendship development?

  1. Curiosity. This is where every friendship begins.  There has to be something that attracts you, gives you a sense of willingness and increases your desire to have more. It doesn't have to be conscious or obvious to us, but at this stage we have to have reason to lean in, even a little, if the stranger we're meeting is going to have a chance of becoming a friend.
  2. Exploratory. Every potential friendship requires time together.  For some of us, that time happens automatically (at a play group, a choir rehearsal, yoga class or work), but for many of us, we'll have to initiate it and pursue it.  For it doesn't matter how much attraction you may feel in that first stage-- if you don't show up for time together-- a friendship it will never become.
  3. Familiarity. This is the stage we often want as stage one.  :)  We frequently want to experience this comfort level with someone upon first meeting them, forgetting that it takes time to build.  In my experience, I find that it takes most women 6-8 times with someone before they reach this stage.  Of course that depends on what you're doing during that time and how you're sharing, but at some point you reach this familiarity.  A trust that you can assume she wants to talk with you when you call.  An ease where you're okay just hanging out spontaneously together without it taking two weeks to schedule.  A sense that you are beginning to be able to predict how they will respond to different life events.
  4. Vulnerability. This stage is tricky since there is a ditch on either side: rushing to it too quickly or avoiding it all together.  Some women rush to this stage early on because they feel closer once they have shared their pain.  But healthy friendships need the commitment to grow in conjunction with the intimacy. We should not be emotionally vomiting on someone in order to feel closer.  It should not be our expectation that friends who are in the first couple of stages need to prove themselves and be there for us in extreme ways.
  5. On the other hand, at some point of consistent time together, if you're not willing to share beyond your PR image, laugh at yourself and express insecurities-- the friendship will stall or disintegrate.  This is where we earn the right to "cry on each others shoulder."   This is where we are bonding in deeper ways, increasing our commitment to each other.

  6. Frientimacy. This last stage is for those who are your BFFs.  And notice that I made that plural.  :)  Best doesn't speak to quantity as much as quality. It's like when a magazine says "Best moments of last year" and lists ten.  There is enough research out there to suggest we need between 3-7 people in this category. Don't limit yourself.  On the other hand, not everyone you interact with needs to move into this last stage.
  7. This Friendship Intimacy stage is my category for the people I trust implicitly.  We trust each others boundaries, have proven to show up as emotionally healthy people for each other and are willing to go out of our way for their benefit.  We love them.  This stage takes time.  Lots of it. For most of us, while you may see the potential and some of the benefits of it 6-12 months into the relationship, it may take even longer than that to really build the required trust and intimacy.

While few of our relationships will ever have clear lines between these stages, does it help to visually see that friendship is indeed a progression?  Is it valuable to differentiate between seeing the potential of a BFF and putting in the time and vulnerability required to foster it?  In general, does this align with your experience? And, if this were true, how could you see it helping you as you start new friendships?

 

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

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

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.

Friendship Challenges that Come With Age

Someday when I'm ninety I look forward to making a comparison of what it was like making new friends in each decade, in different life stages. Until I have personal experience that only comes with more birthdays, I can only guess and lean on women who share what it's like from their vantage point.  Here's what I've heard so far, and I look forward to your comments to teach me more!

Friend-Making In Our Twenties, Thirties & Forties

In some ways, being in my twenties felt most challenging.  The New York Times reported,

One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch.

Those kinds of statistics take friend-making to a whole new level!  Add to all those transitions our own search for figuring out who we are after a decade of trying to be like everyone else.  We're getting our feet on the ground, but a lot still feels uncertain!

The thirties seem to bring polarizing life choices to friendships-- the decision to have kids (when, how many, how to raise, whether to stay-at-home or not) marriages and divorces, increased awareness around wanting to live life around our personal values even if the outcome is less than popular, the financial disparity that was less existent when we were all in our first jobs, etc.  Somehow we all felt like we had more in common in our twenties and now we're not so sure what commonality holds us together.

The forties seem to be where most women report the most exhaustion.  Maybe they just admit it more?  Or maybe they actually do feel it more now as their too-full schedules with kids and career seem to leave them feeling a great sense of disconnection to what they once valued.   The ever-present tired feeling can make it hard to want to schedule the time a new friendship demands.  And it seems they don't always feel especially close to the women they actually call their friends (mostly work connections and their children's social calendar network) so just adding more people into life certainly wouldn't be appealing.

Friend-Making Over Fifty...

But it's when we're in our fifties that it seems we report the most loneliness.

Kids, careers and spouses were effective ways to meet new friends in the younger days, but as our kids move out, divorces occur and we cut back on working at the office, those popular areas of commonality become less helpful in forging introductions.  Plus, the life experiences of baby-boomers now decidedly include having their own fair-share of death, divorce, loss and disappointment, which increasingly heightens the desire to have real friends, not just a social network.

Another challenge to friendships for those facing retirement, which often includes a new move closer to grand kids, to a warmer place or to a dream house, could mean leaving behind a network of local friends and starting the process all over at a time where you want to be reaping the benefits of time already put in.

Even without a move, in retirement, the disparity between financial freedom, health & fitness levels, relationship status, hobbies and life choices might become more obvious within a circle of friends.  While one friend might view retirement as the time to go travel and live life up, another might feel it’s time to live cautiously and stay close to home.  Differences can feel heightened at an age where how one spends their time really matters to them.

Friend-Making All Along the Way Matters

It makes sense that as generations age, our awareness of the importance of caring for our physical and emotional health seems to intensify. Research has long shown the benefits of friendship to preventative & restorative health, increased happiness and lower stress levels, but as findings are connected to longevity, all of us should definitely take note.

In fact, Dr. Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist and prolific author says, "Aside from genetics, the two most important factors in longevity are exercise and a network of friends." And certainly as our exercise abilities change as we age, the friendship piece could play a stronger and more significant role in the quality of our life.

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Questions: Ladies, are you willing to tell us what decade you're in and how that impacts your friend-making journey?  Tell me what challenges it brings.  Tell me also what makes it more meaningful or easy at this life stage. I lean on your experience to help me better articulate the needs that are unique to your contemporaries.