Friendships

I don’t know why I’m obsessing over this, but I am.  I’ve spent far too much time on Facebook lately and when I do, I see the old friends from college and high school posting photos of recent gatherings, chance encounters, and regular parties.  They’re still friends.  Some live far away and some live near each other, but still they’ve maintained their relationships.  I have to admit, it makes me just a little sad seeing that, feeling like there were things I did in the past that prevented me from forming a bond with people that would last some twenty years later.  I’ve always been slow to make friends.  I’m not shy or anything; I’ll easily strike up a conversation with anyone at a party.  The harder part is finding people I can laugh with, get advice from and call up in good or bad situations.  I haven’t had that since my first time through grad school.  Once I got married, it seems, everyone assumed that Mr. Geeky filled that role.  And he did/does, but he can’t do it all.

The sad thing is, I think it’s me.  There are ways I’ve structured my life, values that I hold that make it difficult for me to keep friends.  For example, we’re not church goers.  Being non-religious not only cuts one off from the instant community to be found from going to church services and events, but it often means that people feel distant from you, feel like there’s something off about you because you’re not religious.  And, I admit, that I sometimes have issues with people who are religious.  Not most people, but some.  Some people I’ve met are just “in your face” about their religion.  Obviously, that’s not a relationship I’m going to pursue and vice versa.  Not working outside the home makes things difficult, too.  I formed lots of friendships at work and because of where we worked, we shared many of the same interests and values.  That leaves making friends rather randomly.  I have met plenty of people through my kids, and I find almost all of them pleasant people that I’d be willing to get to know and spend more time with.  But many of them have solid friendships already.  There’s no room for another.  And how the hell does one go about this.  Ugh.  I feel like an idiot just writing that, but whatever.  In high school, college, even grad school, it was easy enough to call someone up and say, hey let’s grab a drink.  At work, that was easy, too.  Now, it just feels awkward.  At least for the solo outings.  Inviting another couple out for dinner or having people over for a party is no problem.

So, to sum it up.  I have issues.  I have few opportunities to make friends.  And I might be a little picky myself.  Sigh.

17 Replies to “Friendships”

  1. I have a similar situation — although mine is a bit different because I moved away from the area for 10+ years, then came back to the other side of a pretty big metro area.

    So, we’re kind of local to many of my HS friends – but, not close enough to easily have dinner, help in a pinch etc..

    We did have a fun dinner when someone visited for Christmas — maybe you could do something similar when you’re back in their area?

    As for meeting new friends — you have me rather stumped. I wish I were better at it and I wish I were better at developing at-work friendships.

  2. Laura: your post struck a chord with me, too. You’re certainly not alone I feeling this way, and I think it’s important to know that.

    I have a tight family network, which satisfies some of this need. But, I too admire people who maintain friendship networks, real connections over long periods of time. I know a number of people who do, and in my observational state, I think that they work at those connections. They don’t think of it as work, because they enjoy it. But, they think about the connections, and try to maintain them on a daily basis (from inviting people to dinner, to planning outings, to checking up on people). They’re also not “picky” about their friendships — they like a broad group of people and enjoy their company.

    And, they take the risk on making the invitations. This is one of my hardest limits — I so hate being rejected, that I don’t ask, even for something as simple as inviting a friend/acquaintance to dinner. I am very shy, so perhaps that’s advice you could follow that I can’t easily — invite someone who you think you might like out to lunch or a family to dinner, and do that once every two weeks. See if friendships develop? It could be a project.

  3. It’s hard to make friends as an adult. There is so much emphasis on people helping children negotiate that kind of thing, but not so much on helping adults negotiate it. Working outside the home does seem like it would be helpful for making new friends, but I have to tell you that what has worked for me is getting involved in organized sports for adults. Seriously – some of the people who are my closest friends here are from my hockey and soccer teams. Did I intend for that to happen when I joined them? Hardly. I just wanted to play. But there is something about sitting in a locker room putting on a TON of gear (i.e. it takes a while to get dressed/undressed) that fosters chit-chat, which fosters drinks or dinner, which fosters a friendship.

    It’s like church without the god and with a lot of sweat and some swearing… 🙂

  4. I could have written this, too. To the letter.

    If I figure it all out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m grateful for my family, a good friends at work (that haven’t transcended the work-life divide yet), and the people with whom I have good long distance relationships. Maybe that’s enough?

  5. Megan, I’ve thought about the sports thing. There’s a women’s soccer league nearby for middle agers. 🙂 I worry a bit about the athleticism of it. I love playing soccer, but am pretty out of shape.

    bj, I figured I wasn’t the only one. And thanks for the advice. I also hate being rejected. I try not to see it as something personal–people have busy lives–but it often feels that way. I like the idea of making it a project. Perhaps inviting someone over at least once a month.

    Philsopher, this will sound sad and pathetic, but the last time I was home for Christmas, just a couple of years ago, I emailed about 7 or 8 people and asked if they’d like to do lunch or drinks or dinner. Not a one took me up on my invitation. I’m sure it was just being busy with family and other things, but it felt kind of yucky all the same.

    I’m trying not to be an Eeyore about all of this, because really, I’m pretty content, but this one thing, not having at least a couple of people I can count on to go out for a glass of wine or something has been nagging at me. One larger project I’ve thought of is having a block party, but the thought kind of freaks me out. I’d go to one, but organizing it? And I don’t like *all* my neighbors.

  6. Yup, yup, I totally relate to this. Twice as an adult I’ve lived somewhere and made friends. Where I live now is not one of those places.

    It’s difficult to find like-minded people, and everyone is overscheduled (or so it seems). I often console myself with thoughts of friends far away and a robust online life.

    Hey — I’m up for a virtual glass of wine (or a real one, with skype or phone) anytime. Just send an email 🙂

  7. I hear you on this one! The man and I moved here 7 years ago and it has been an uphill struggle making friends for all the reasons you stated. We didn’t go to grad school or any school here so those friendships are non-existent locally. And most everyone’s dance cards are full – post kids people have a hard enough time seeing existing friends let alone make new ones.

    I really believe that it’s a stage of life thing – after university there are few opportunities for those “go to coffee and chat for four hours”. You need a lot of face time to make friends.

    We have a preschooler so that opens doors with parents of her friends. And I’ve approached it methodically – joined two book clubs, on the board at the girl’s preschool, host holiday dinners, invite friends up to the cottage, etc.

    When I get discouraged, I remember something that I read once: “be a host not a guest” which means make it happen rather than waiting for it to happen.

    And of course, I’ve had to accept that I am probably more of an introvert that I used to be and have more specialised interests than mainstream ones too. Both affect how easily you make friends.

  8. If you do consider sports, shoot for a league that targets newbies, over-30s, or some other designation that means you won’t be getting clobbered by former division III college athletes trying to relive their glory days. Yes, I speak from experience here. Or try a sport that’s less about brute power/speed and more about the mental aspects: curling, fencing, horseback riding, geocaching, etc. Actually, geocaching is a blast and fun for kids too!

  9. Oh, I hear ya on this one! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which D. has more and more stood in for all of those friendships I don’t have in my post-grad-school life, and how that kind of reliance isn’t healthy for a marriage. But it’s just so hard to make friends outside of school! I do have lots of very friendly colleagues at school, but few of those relationships seem poised to make the leap to after-hours friendships. And I’m shy about pursuing them, I’ll admit.

  10. Chiming in.. Not much to add… just thought i’d give voice to the masculine side that relates as well. And with home schooling now, the opportunity to meet people through our children is diminished. I guess that’s one of the reasons we joined a local synagogue, to feel a part of a community.

  11. I relate as well, from the non-churchiness to the watching wistfully as others seem to have that strong web of friendships that span decades. Especially since my husband is one of those with the web–I’ve managed to make connections with some of his friends, and they are wonderful people, but on my own? I’d say I have two, maybe three, really good friends that I can call to go out or just to talk, who live close by. This is where I make some useful point about the contrast between those three friends and the 300 I have on Facebook :). I have a few good work friends too, but I feel a little wary of bridging the work-family life friendship divide, I guess, so I am horrible about inviting people anywhere. There are friends of mine on FB that I would love to have live closer, though.

  12. Reading your post was like looking in a mirror. I don’t normally post comments, but this prompted me to break my mould, it’s so scarily accurate. One difference is that I am a church person, but even in a church family I feel an outcast, and find it difficult to make friends, so the grass isn’t always greener there. Some would say I’m in the wrong church, but its the one I grew up in, so I’d like to think I was accepted. I see my old classmates on facebook and all the relationships they have and sometimes I wish I had that. There are some friends online though that I haven’t added as friends cause I feel it’s just so superficial (they also haven’t added me). I have 2 really close friends from wayyy back and that’s it. We don’t see each other as often as we live in different continents, (makes having coffee hard) but when we do it’s as if we just saw each other yesterday. I’m a shy person… awkward with new people and never know what to say, so I struggle with making friends and my work and homelife don’t lend itself to meeting new people either. You’re not alone.

  13. I was just thinking that I wanted to commit myself to a montly potluck meal again (the again being the commitment, not the follow-through). In the aftermath of the guns question, I was realizing that my local social network all connects through one person, and I want to commit myself to expanding the circle.

    I’ve typed and deleted four paragraphs now, all of which are variations on: when I let myself think about this stuff, I feel lonely, too. (And I wonder whether the social isolation of being at home contributes. It’s not even friends, sometimes, that I miss. It’s the casual acquaintances who know me just well enough to ask how I’m doing in generic terms, and make idle chit-chat, and see me on a daily basis. I haven’t really had that since graduate school.)

  14. Jody, yes, I miss that casual acquaintance chit-chat, too. I experience that a little at PTO meetings, but I don’t know people that well there and frankly, don’t like the organization so am not willing to put in the effort. The people are fine, but I never see them outside of this situation. Bad, I know. I also wonder if weather has something to do with it. Now that it’s warming up, I’m out more and have seen more people around.

    Eleanor, thanks for commenting. I think having two close friends is pretty good. They say it’s hard to have more than 5 or so, anyway. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, but I hope you find some way out of this situation.

    Jackie, you are doing better than me, friend wise. My good friends live pretty far away. I would really like to find some friends who live a few blocks or streets away rather than in the next city over. Or worse, the next state over. 🙂

    Sandra, I like your “be a host, not a guest” mantra. I think I fall into the guest role too often.

  15. If I lived in Philly, I would SO be your friend. If you wanted to be my friend. Maybe you wouldn’t. Never mind.

    Seriously, like others who have commented here, this is my life exactly friend-wise. I have three or four very dear friends from grade school and college who I keep in touch with but who live far away.

    Locally, beyond the people I work with, I basically have no friends. I meet people occasionally who I think I’d like to hang out with but I convince myself they wouldn’t want to hang out with me.

    My other problem, I think, is that adult friendships kind of overwhelm me sometimes. I mean, my kids, my family, my work take up an inordinate amount of time. I get worried that I won’t have enough to give to friendships and that will lead to uncomfortable encounters and expectations. I have had a handful of adult friendships which did completely overwhelm me, and I’m not really willing to go there again.

  16. Martha, you *are* my friend. 🙂 You just live freaking far away! I could see regular martini time happening easily. I hear ya about being overwhelmed. I’ve got a lot of things on my plate and it seems like I don’t have time for friends. I keep thinking, though, that there’s gotta be someone out there who’s free during the day to go for a walk, have lunch out, etc. on a regular basis. Most of the moms I know that I relate to best work full time, and of course, that used to be me. And yeah, I don’t need a friend who’s too needy. Luckily, I’m not drawn to those type of people. 🙂

  17. I so could have written this. When I started looking for a new job, this was one of the issues that I most worried about. After all, we were in our last location for about 7 or 8 years before I started to have friends there. Now, I am starting all over again and I hate it for all the reasons you said. I do feel fortunate, though, to have a few very good friends who are far away – at least they form a net for me if something happens. I just wish they were a lot closer.

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