When I hear women say that they don’t have women friends, they don’t like women, and they simply find men to be better friends it is a ‘red flag’ to that women’s self-esteem. It is a woman who looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees. After all, in a sense, this is what the purpose of friendship is; aspects of yourself kaleidoscopically reflected in your posse of friends. What? No friends at all. That says just as much, even louder.
In friendship, we hold ourselves accountable to one another in ways we just do not have when we’re merely interacting with someone on a casual basis. We’re uniquely invested in overcoming problems, making things work. This is due to the mutuality, the intimacy, and the investment of friendship.
There are many current articles which purport research that healthy female friendship makes women healthier, happier, less stressed, live longer, and even feel more beautiful. Scientists agree that stress causes chemical changes in the brain, and these changes can influence the state of our health. Therefore, the lack of a social support system, as in your circle of girlfriends, has similar health implications as being obese or being a smoker. Stress can lead to a number of physical and emotional issues, so combating it before it becomes chronic is a no-brainer.
As an adult, it’s not easy to make and keep friends. We don’t have the time we had as a child or teen to just be and ‘hang out’ with our friends. We tend to have responsibilities which fill our every waking moment. We’re busy taking care of our families, our mates, our jobs, our homes and gardens, our pets and plans for the future. It is very easy to see where female friendships, and actively making time for those friends, might easily disappear from our schedules, and eventually from our lives.
If you have no friends or are just starting out, you might want to consider a therapist or a life coach to assist you as these tasks will feel daunting. But if you’ve just gotten busy, relocated, and have good friend-making skills, these tips will guide you in adult female friend making skills.
Like attracts like.
If you want to find other people who are looking for friends, you have to be open to meeting them. Practice striking up conversations with people you know but are not close with. Talk about things you have in common, like your kids, and then move the conversation to a more personal place and talk about yourself. Ask questions to discover what you have in common and see if there’s a mutual need/interest in forming a friendship. You don’t want to be a reporter and only ask questions. Take the risk to reveal things about yourself; after all, real intimacy is a give and take.
You’re most likely to find friends in social settings that are interesting to you. While you may enjoy working the booth at your kid’s soccer game, it’s not the same as going to an event where people are discussing issues you love. Try library, church, coffeehouse, gym bulletin board as well as www.meetup.com to find local ideas, and if you don’t find one you like, consider creating your own. You might be surprised to find out how many people are interested in the same book you’re reading or your favorite hobby.
You get out of life what you put into it, and friendships are no different. Once you find people you are interested in, try reaching out a few times. People can be shy, distracted and may mistake your overture as simple kindness. Also, you never know when someone’s having a bad day. By reaching out a second or third time, you may find they’re more interested in connecting and that they appreciate your efforts to get to know them.
Consider alternative resources like Facebook and Twitter. I know this may sound a little counterintuitive because we’re talking about face-to-face friendships, but social sites are excellent places to practice. I’ve met several people on Twitter with whom I’d be tied at the hip if we lived in the same city.
Revive friendships that may have been placed on the back burner. Scroll through your e-mail, Facebook or even your high school yearbook to find people you’ve lost touch with. With the invention of social media, most of us have found our long-lost sixth-grade buddies by now. Once you connect, take the extra step to invite them out for coffee/lunch. You can also host a play date and invite their kids to come along. Often kids can act as the easy topic of conversation to help you connect and explore rekindling your friendship.
Once you have sparked a meaningful connection with a woman like yourself it is time to develop the foundation of the relationship based on mutual respect and caring. Let me suggest a few ideas:
1. Define it -in a ‘non-intense’ way, tell your friend, ‘you hope this develops to a long lasting friendship’ so she doesn’t think you are just super nice but still acts casual
2. Make time for her – there is a way to let her know she is a priority in your life, but also have your space
3. Be the friend you want to have – show up, on time, don’t take advantage, respect limits
4. Settle disagreements- agree to disagree, apologize, make amends, put yourself in her shoes, let the small stuff go
5. Let the Friendship Go- if there is abuse, gossip, you feel trapped, has unacceptable behaviors, but be honest and clear that it is ending.
In my life, friendships with women have been and are immensely valuable they ‘ground me’ to my life experiences in a profound way. My female friends have seen me through thick and thin. I measure my earthly wealth by my female friends and I encourage you to do the same.
Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. is a psychotherapist in general private practice in the Lehigh Valley, PA specializing in grief, chronic pain, trauma, and adult special needs. You can learn more about her work at tinkerpsychotherapy.com or contact her directly at 610-216-4319.
Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., RM, Psychotherapist
3005 Brodhead Road #260
Bethlehem, PA 18020