Women. Need. Friends.
You know it, right?
And, yet, women are lonelier than ever in our history?
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated.
In an article titled, “The Loneliness Epidemic,” HRSA cites that living alone, being unmarried (single, divorced, widowed), no participation in social group, fewer friends and strained relationships increase risk for loneliness.
Are you experiencing this?
Life is multi-faceted; it may be difficult to put friendships at the forefront. As women, we’re juggling multiple balls in the air every day: immediate family, extended family, jobs, kids, finances, care of home and space, spiritual journeys, fitness and health, finances. And the list continues.
In my decades of adult womanhood, I’ve seen many women put friendships on the back burner.
After years of this, we look up, and we see no friends.
Ten years ago, one of my very best friends told me, “You’re not a very good friend.”
She was right.
I was centered on myself. I focused on my kids, my work and taking care of the house that surrounded all of us. I didn’t reach out to friends and I didn’t accept many of the invitations that came my way.
While in the midst of all of this, I had another treasured friend I completely ignored. No malicious intent whatsoever. Just my own busy schedule. I was so oblivious to her need for friendship that her husband came to me one day and asked, “Would you please call my wife? She could really use a friend.” I felt terrible. I called her immediately.
Back to my bold and honest friend. She was right, and I decided that my busy schedule couldn’t remain my excuse for neglecting friendships.
That also didn’t mean that weaving it into the busy schedule would be easy.
It would, however, be important.
I’ve talked to many women who let friends go by the wayside. High school friends faded away. College friends faded away.
Do you have work to do in the friend category? If so, what can you do?
Ideas: Have a Friend, Be a Friend
1. Make some decisions about friends.
In fairness to you and your busy schedule, where does this fit into your priorities? And how deeply is your yearning to have one or more treasured friends?
For some women, friends aren’t a priority. They are sufficiently fulfilled with their career, their family and their many acquaintances.
For others, it’s important to have one or two treasured friends. I find this to be true of the women who have a quiet, more reserved nature.
And for still others, perhaps those women who have an outgoing and gregarious nature, they find more fulfillment in having a friend group or to be among larger numbers of women?
What about you? What is your interest in and need for friends? How do you want them to exist in your life?
Below, we’ll talk about the second and third scenarios.
2. Start with one treasured friend.
If this idea resonates with you, having one close friend may be all you need.
A sense of belonging, someone to chat with during the day, someone to encourage you and care about you.
When I was in high school, I had two treasured friends. The three of us, we were the same…wired in such a way that we were perfectly content. We didn’t feel a need to be part of a bigger group. When I was in college, same thing. My college roommate was my treasured friend for four years. Again, we didn’t have a need to be part of a bigger group.
What do YOU want? It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. What do YOU want?
If the idea of nurturing a close relationship with one woman is appealing to you, that’s good for you to know. And if you find yourself sitting without even that one friend in your life, two things might be helpful to know: 1. You are not alone. Many women don’t have any one close friend. 2. The likelihood of you finding a woman who would like to be part of a treasured friendship is high.
You could even be so bold as to say to someone you’ve enjoyed—at work, at church, in your neighborhood—”I’m interested in finding a woman who is interested in fostering a strong friendship. I want to have a treasured friend. Does that idea interest you?”
Now I get it that the intentional approach may not be your style. You could be more organic, extend invitations, hang out and let the treasured friendship unfold over time.
3. Practice being a better friend with one friend.
If you have leaned toward one friend, now the real work begins.
Practice being a better friend to your one friend.
Make a list of all of the things that are important to you in a friend.
- Someone who wants to hang out.
- Someone who will make time.
- A friend who will text me to have a good day.
- A friend who remembers my birthdays or other special days.
- Someone who reaches out if I’m facing something difficult.
- Someone who asks me questions about myself when we’re having a glass of wine.
- A friend whose house I can just walk into and help myself to the fridge.
After you’ve created your list, begin to be this exact kind of friend to your friend.
You go first.
Here is a link to a wonderful article if you’d like more ideas: Be The Friend You Want To Have
4. Form a friend group.
I’m the master at turning wishes into full-fledged initiatives.
When my kids were growing up, we all loved Friends, you know, the Sitcom. For all the years we watched Friends, I wanted to be them—to finish up my workday by walking into the coffee shop and having all of my friends there, sitting on the couch. I loved what they had, and I knew I wanted that.
About six years ago, I embarked on an initiative to form a girlfriend group.
I reached out to about five women, one by one, to describe my idea. “I’d like to form a group of women who are interested in being in a friend group. This would be an intentional kind of thing. We would hang out together a couple of times a month, be familiar with what’s going on in our lives, encourage one another, text one another, etc.”
Of the five women I talked to, four said, “Absolutely, yes, yes, yes.” One was interested but too knee deep in raising four kids.
So, we embarked on our journey, though after about five months, we kind of fizzled out. We had difficulty aligning our calendars with the reality of busy schedules and kid-related priorities.
At about the same time, I was invited into a friend group that was starting to form more intentionally. This group has about ten women in it, and it is such a joy in my life. We’ve been together for about six years, and I feel so much similarity to Friends.
This group texts every day, gathers together every week in some capacity, hangs out on weekends, sometimes includes significant others, sometimes includes kids.
One thing that makes this group so amazing, and this is really important. Not once have I heard another woman in the group say a bad word about another woman in the group. Not ever. This group is supporting, caring, patient, fun and lighthearted.
Meanwhile, as I was writing this post, I circled back to the original group of four women—the group that fizzled—and asked, “Hey, anyone interested in a reunion?” Within ten minutes, we had a date on the calendar!
Whatever it is you want and need in the “friend” category of life, I encourage you to go after it.
As with everything, I wish you the best, wrapped in happiness, confidence and purposeful living.
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