Friendship Wanted

I’m feeling kind of frustrated with friend stuff.

The first half of the year I was on a mission to meet new friends and cultivate meaningful relationships. I joined a site that is basically match.com for meeting girlfriends and went on many a “blind date.” I went on a one-day friendship retreat whose only requirement was committing to five weekly get-togethers with the other women in the group. I reached out to friends that I’ve fallen out of touch with and made repeated efforts to see them. I made sure I was going out at least once a week, without my kids. I worked really, really hard to building worthwhile relationships. I put myself out there again, and again, and again.

Now, ten months later, I don’t feel like I have much to show for it. Half of the women who committed to the weekly meetings from the retreat never showed, not to ONE of them. I was the only woman who came to all six dinners. I did end up hitting it off with one of the women and I thought we were becoming friends, but she fell off the face the earth at the end of the summer and now I can’t get her to return my calls or texts. The friends I reconnected with still never reach out on their own. I’ve come to understand that I’m not as close with some of my long-time friends, that live far away but that I still try to stay in touch with, despite our storied pasts. Even with much focused and enthusiastic effort on the friend finding front, I don’t feel I have anything, really, to show for it.

It’s hard not to think there is something wrong with me, that either I’m not much fun to be around (too loud, too foul-mouthed, too distracted and/or oblivious in the moment, too inclined to over-share… oh and there’s that weird sound I make when I talk) or that my expectations of what people are willing and able to give (being the one to reach out or initiate once in a while) are too high. Probably it’s a little bit of both.

Or maybe it’s just that people don’t have enough time to make new friends. Everyone already seems to have enough, they can’t make the time and the space in their lives for yet another person. No one seems to need new friends like I do.

It’s hard to keep reaching out when no one else does. I stopped for awhile, because it was just becoming too much and I didn’t feel like I was getting back from my efforts what I was putting in. Recently I started trying again, and of the six people I reached out to, all six can’t really participate in a friendship right now

They are all very valid excuses. People are newly pregnant, sick and tired (at 40 after two months of trying, but I digress…), or their kid has swim team every night, or their son has soccer on weekend mornings now, or they got a new dog and need to bond, or they are dealing with big life transitions, or they are volunteering at a local non-profit until this even in a few months. These are all totally valid and understandable reasons to bow out of a “hey, want to get together anytime in the next two months” inquiry. I don’t take it personally, but their totally valid and understandable reasons for not being able to hang out don’t help me to find someone to hang out with.

I’m just tired. Tired of trying, and failing, to make meaningful friendships. If it weren’t for a few blogging friends that I text or email with, it would feel like I have no one to “talk to” about the important stuff in my life. Without them, I’d be completely and totally alone.

But they live far away and I can’t actually sit down and speak with them. Heck, I haven’t even heard one of their voices and she hasn’t heard mine. We don’t even know what we actually sound like (which is probably why she’s still friends with me–see above mention of talking too loud and making a weird sound while I do it).

Not that you have to know what someone sounds like to be close to them, but it is a different kind of friendship, the ones that exist solely in the ether. Sometimes I just really need to sit down across from someone and talk without touching my fingers to keys. (I’m sure it would surprise no one to learn that this bitch CAN TALK.)

I wrote a post like this once and it cost me the only truly meaningful friendship I’d had in a long time. I haven’t written anything like it in a while because I never want that to happen again. It can feel like I don’t have much else to loose, but I know that’s not true. I hope the people that are there for me, despite the great physical distance between us, know how important they are to me, and that I don’t take them for granted. I consider taking a few days off from work and meeting up with them all the time, but I know I don’t have the time or money (mostly it’s the money) to do that. And so I look to the people who live closer by, and find they don’t have the time for me either.

I just wish the people who do care, and do put in the time to cultivate friendships with me, didn’t live so damn far away.

{I know this comes off as a giant pity party, but I swear it’s not meant to be. I do feel down about this stuff, but honestly I don’t want to feel bad for myself, I just don’t now how to make this situation better. I tried REALLY hard to make new friends and it just isn’t happening and I don’t know what to do differently. If I could afford a therapist, this would be the number two topic of discussion after my marriage. I just wish someone could tell me how to find and keep friends.}

28 Comments

  1. I think about you every day and wish we lived in the same city. I’m like you in that I’m that one who shows up every time to group stuff, and get frustrated when people flake out. I hope someday (sooner than later) we can meet up again and talk, talk, talk.

    1. I get really frustrated by people flaking out. That is SUPER common in California, it’s like people don’t think they are beholden to their RSVP at all. It drives me crazy. People cancel on me last minute all the time. It takes so much planning to make myself available, it’s such a bummer when I’m looking forward to that time with another adult and it’s just pulled out from under me because someone is just feeling really tired.

      1. This happens all the time in the city I live in too. And it has been super hard to make friends here as well. I’ve always felt it’s a combination of cultural factors and just a generic big-city dynamic on top of that as well… plus stage of life (who has time, with little kids?) But yeah. It gets pretty lonely.

  2. Several disconnected thoughts:
    1. I like loud people. Actually, I think the #1 thing I look for in friends is not having to worry about how I seem to them. So maybe loud people make me more comfortable that way? (Even though I’m pretty quiet)
    2. Some people honestly don’t seem to need a lot of friends. They’re happy with their kids and their spouse. I was talking to my therapist about this once, and she told me she mostly hangs out with her brothers. And if they’re busy, it’s not because they’re doing something super exciting, it’s because they’re putting together IKEA furniture or visiting grandma in the nursing home. Very interesting.
    3. I feel like for me, I just have to wait until I click with someone. Most people I don’t really click with, and no amount of trying will change that. When I meet someone I click with, it just happens. Then I hang onto them.
    4. I think that’s it.

    1. I’m glad someone likes loud people. If no one did I’d be fucked. 😉

      I think you’re right that some people just don’t need a lot of friends. And I should clarify that I don’t have a lot of FOMO about other people not being able to get together–it’s not like I worry they are having a great time without me, I don’t really care what they are doing, it’s just that *I* want to hang out and want to find someone who wants to too.

      I think I have a hard time clicking with people too, but in trying hard not to write someone off just because I don’t feel that instantaneous spark. I think now that I’m older that spark might not be that obvious, so I try to give it a few tries to catch.

  3. I have the most difficultly making friends with people who are most similar to me in terms of life circumstances. Men I can be friends with. Younger and older women I can also be friends with. But middle-aged moms I have a hard time developing sustained connections with. Luckily, I do have a few good long-term friends with women who are similar to me and I mostly spend my energy cultivating those friendships rather than trying to make new ones. That said, I always keep my eye out for women who I click with where I think a good friendship is possible. I don’t seek them out, but I trying to be welcoming if they stumble across my path.

    1. That is interesting that you have an easier time developing relationships with men or women in different age brackets. In high school almost all my friends were guys. I really struggled to make friends with girls. In college I had more girl friends but still more guy friends. Maybe that is why I’m struggling now?

      I would much rather have one or two good friend than a bunch of acquaintance like friends. I’m just trying to cast my net wide right now and hopes of finding that one person that I really hit it off with.

  4. I think that sometimes “forcing” friendships doesn’t work out….and it sounds as if the women from the retreat (save one) didn’t feel a connection so they didn’t think that getting together after the fact was worth their time (or something in their life came up- who knows).

    I find that prior to having kids I was reaching out to friends more often (especially ones that lived far away). Now I get home and am exhausted so it’s harder to keep up. Even with my best friend as she is in a different place than me (unmarried but living with her boyfriend, no kids), it’s harder to get the time to talk.

    You might just need to accept that in your friendships, you may always be the one that needs to do the work to talk/meet up with someone because maybe you need the contact and interaction more than the other person does.

    1. The thing that bothers me about those women not coming, was that was THE WHOLE POINT of that retreat, to try to give it a fighting chance with the other women. It’s why we all paid the money, and spent the time, to go. It was really frustrating to me when they all flaked out. I wouldn’t have gone if I knew they would do that. I mean, if people who are looking for friendships can’t be bothered to make good on their promises, how can I expect people who aren’t to?

      You’re right though, that I probably have to accept I’ll be the one who teaches out. It just sucks to feel like the other half of a friendship doesn’t really care if they see you.

  5. I’m in California, too, and I have experienced some very flaky behavior that wouldn’t be accepted elsewhere! I can barely keep in touch with my 3 local friends. Two of these I see once/twice a year. One I do see more often but only because she’s willing to hang out with my kids, too. I have tried making friends with woman with same-age kids but so far, none have “stuck” for long. It’s not easy to make or keep friends in adulthood.

    1. The people here are so flaky. My parents are from the mid-west and they can’t believe what people here think is acceptable. My husband is just as bad. We’ll have RSVPed to a kid’s party and he think it’s totally okay to just not show up! I’m always like, we said we’d be there. They expect us to be there! So many people who said they would come to my daughter’s birthday just never showed. It was so disappointing–and I was so thankful that she didn’t seem to notice how few people were there. 🙁

      But yeah, it isn’t easy to make or keep friends in adulthood. It really doesn’t seem to be a priority for people, and I think we’re just more sure of what we want and what we don’t want, so we’re less likely to put up with behaviors that we don’t appreciate.

  6. You all seem to be at that ‘working mother of young children’ stage of life. It is a hard time for friendships because everyone is stressed, tired, needing personal time.
    When people your age move to a new location, where they know no one on arriving, it will take about 3 years to begin to have regular friends, if you work really hard at it. That is also true in making new friends from a known location.
    It means lots of inviting people over to your home or a local park with their children for ‘playdates and coffee’, where you look for common interests or activities you want to join where you will be seeing the same people. And, yes, it means putting out the invitations first and last and 99% of the time and then repeating. It is hard work. Joining a group you enjoy for what the group is working on can help. Look at it like a 5 year program, or like finding a life partner.
    Friends come out of shared experiences and regular time together. Start setting up regular ‘events’ and include all the parents in your daughter’s classroom. Your son’s group mates will go to different schools for kindergarten so that may not be as long lasting a group of parents…but your daughter’s classmates are probably around for several years. The PTA, or whatever it is called at her school, is another avenue. Or any neighborhood interest groups. You need to be thinking in terms of shared common interests for the next 5-10 years (your children) as a foundation for friends you will know in 30 years ~ assuming you remain in SF.
    This is very hard for introverts to do. Says I from long long experience. Good luck.

    1. Having just moved after 3 years, I agree on the timeline that developing friendships takes forever IRL as an adult unless you have a bootcamp experience (like grad school or a summer camp where you see each other a huge amount). So don’t give up. Are you familiar with the west coast flake-hippie stereotype? I presume that’s based in some reality, so… I guess find non-locals to befriend?

      1. You’re right. I do need to be patient and keep at it. I just wish I could meet one person who reached out even half as much as I do… it would be amazing to feel like somebody cared enough to initiate.

    2. I’ve reached out to a few women in my daughter’s school’s PTA, but most of them also have older kids (or only have older kids) and they seem to be SUPER busy in the evenings. These kids have so many things to go to! We have purposefully held off on scheduling my daughter’s evenings because we feel like after a long day of school and after care, the last thing she wants to do is follow more directions. Plus, when would we eat dinner?! I honestly don’t know how people do it. So yeah, I think you’re right that during the childrearing years it’s just really hard to make friends. I think I may have to accept that and wait a decade or so until the parenting expectations ease up a little bit.

  7. If you need any more pocket friends to text or email, I volunteer. (For some reason I’m way better at using kik than the other two, if you happen to be a kik user.) To be honest, I’d probably be one of the flaky people at the retreat (except I would never go to a retreat like that because the idea is mildly terrifying). I have good intentions to be outgoing and friendly and then I’m SO TIRED all the time that my follow-through sucks. I don’t flake out at the last minute, but I rarely make plans because of it. I’m like a super introvert who really likes people when forced to put myself out there and then I retreat for another year. This is why I am good at twitter and kik and blogs. This comment is not helpful. Have I mentioned that I am so tired? But I do wish I could solve your friend problem.

    1. Pocket friends, I like that. I like that term a lot.

      I have no idea what kik is but I’ll look into it. Maybe I can figure out how to use it and we can chat.

      I totally get that you are tired. I am too. Being with people actually recharges me though, so that helps. When I come back from a great dinner with a friend I can’t fall asleep for hours, I’m buzzing so good. 😉

  8. I feel a little like apluseffort above. I totally want to make more friends. I seek out friend-making opportunities (I signed up to go to a neighborhood KNITTING GROUP ffs next week, and I’ve never knit in my life). And then the idea of actually going out & making awkward conversation (because isn’t it always awkward initially?) is exhausting & scary. I want ready-made GOOD FRIENDS without having to go through the awkward phase which is maybe as unrealistic as a woman who wants a HUSBAND without going through the dating phase? But that dating phase, even for friends, can be tiring, especially for an introvert. I love FRIENDS, I just don’t love…strangers that I’m trying to make into friends. I’m sure this makes zero sense.
    I was also struck by the commenter who had an easier time making friends with men or people of other ages—this sort of rings true to me. And yet, at this age, it seems like we are expected to have women friends in the same life stage.

    1. “I love FRIENDS, I just don’t love…strangers that I’m trying to make into friends.” — Haha! You and me both!

      You know, I think my blogging experience has exacerbated this for me, because when I can have such deep, meaningful exchanges with people who know so much about it, I find the pleasantries of just meeting someone super tedious. I want to jump right into the meat and potatoes of life (did I mention I’m an over-sharer?!) and that is just not allowed for a LONG time when you’re making friends. So while I don’t mind chatting with strangers (it’s not my favorite thing, but I don’t dread it), I also don’t love the shallow nature of the exchange. It’s just boring for me.

      I think you’re absolutely right that at this stage in our lives we’re expected to be friends with people of the same age and gender. I can’t imagine befriending a man at this point… I feel like it would be a scandal. I’m okay remaining friends with my many male friends from high school and college, but just meeting a guy and going to dinner with him?! How weird is that?!

  9. (I’ve got about a year of commenting to catch up on so forgive me for just jumping in..)
    Everything you said…I absolutely identify with. My only close friends are actually other infertility bloggers that I am lucky enough to have close by. I’ve met women through church, through play dates (Isaac makes a friend at the park and I get brave enough to exchange numbers), but I’m ALWAYS the one texting the next invite. It is hard.
    And flaky people I won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Ugh.

    1. Don’t come out to California then, you won’t have anyone to touch, ten foot pole or no.

      I wish you didn’t live so far away. 😉

  10. I’m having a hard time with this too. I didn’t really make friends when I was home with my son. His first birthday party was just family and some of my prebaby friends. I really wanted to do something (i.e. pizza and knocking on maybe two doors) on Halloween with another family but didn’t have anyone to do it with. Over the summer I was in a music class with a woman who I knew peripherally before. We hung out a few times and I felt a real connection to her and she told our mutual friend that she really enjoyed our time together. But I was always the one to reach out. And now we haven’t seen each other in awhile. I was thinking of inviting her whole family over for brunch or something but I’m afraid she’ll always be busy or that she will never reciprocate so I don’t know if I will. I guess I should. In a year we are starting preschool and I hope I can make some friends. The preschools we are looking at are all connected to synagogues so there should be a community there but my whole life I’ve felt that everyone else is part of the crowd and I’m on the periphery. I’ve always had close friends but I still never feel a part of the group. It will be so disappointing if I feel this way again with regard to the preschool/synagogue community.

    1. We really loved the preschool community connected to my daughter’s class. That group of parents just seemed to really get along, and while I never became close with any of them, I definitely looked forward to chatting with them at birthday parties or other play dates at the park. It took a while for that community to develop though–it didn’t really happen until about half way through the second (of three) years.

      I wonder if we’ll find that community in the parents of my son’s class. It’s a much smaller group, so the chances are slimmer, but I’m hoping we meet families we like.

      I hope you find some families that you feel you can become close to. That makes these years with young kids so much more manageable.

  11. Friends are so hard to make now. I’m seeing a shift in my friends and we’re all busy and overwhelmed. But, I don’t think it affects me as much, other than to recognize that I have to work hard on maintaining the friendships I have and that can be difficult for me. Being introverted makes it hard to balance.

  12. So I have been blessed with a couple great friends that have been amazing the last few years, but suddenly I’m struggling again because one is pregnant with her 3rd and exhausted and MIA, and one has a 4 month old and has turned into one of “those parents” who really doesn’t want to be social (or let her husband be social, which is a huge issue since he and my hubby are friends), so suddenly I find myself with a glaring lack of people to call when 2/2 are MIA for different reasons. Friendships are just so damn hard to maintain and nurture, especially when there are young kids involved.

  13. Owen is turning 8 in March, and I JUST feel like we are finally getting to be friends with some of the moms I’ve known since he was in the infant room; we’re starting to spend more time together – both with the kids and without. I mean, seriously, it’s been 7 years.

    I’m chalking it up to life being nuts enough, trying to raise young kids and work full time and not really having any semblance of enough personal time that the idea of “dating” new friends is really hard.

    Also, I wish we lived closer, but I’m happy to be your pocket friend, too. 🙂

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