I remember getting a best friend necklace in the third grade. I also remember feeling like a third wheel to girlfriends later on in high school and college. Finding - and keeping - real friendships can be a challenge and it doesn't get any easier as a grown-up - we now have to juggle work, housework, our kids, their friendships, their schoolwork and everything else! Here are my thoughts on how to have real girlfriends as a grown-up.
As I look back on my life, I have been super blessed with amazing friends. However, I have to admit that this road was not always an easy one for me. I find myself to be an introvert. I like time to myself. I like quiet. I was not a crazy party girl in college. Yes, you would often find me at the library on a Saturday night! I think I was afraid to get too close to people because deep down I really didn't even know who I was yet. How do you really find your "best friends" when you don't even know what you want out of life, what your goals are and what you are going to be when you grow up?
I always found myself in this position where girls already seemed to be paired up with a BFF. "Yeah, my best friend and I..." I was searching for this one "best friend" and she was nowhere to be found. I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Don't get me wrong, I had a great experience in school and college. I had friendships that have carried over to this day. However, I never had that one friend who I would call my "best friend."
Did you know that they sell friendship bracelets for grown-ups? How cute are these from Your Always Charm?
It is funny how friendships change over time. It makes sense though - I am not the same person I was when I was 16 years old. I still talk to some friends who I grew up with. We might have had some tough years where we grew apart and didn't connect much. However, we have come back together for different reasons and I value the fact that we have been friends for 30+ years. Some friends I thought I was super close with but we have grown apart over the years. Our values are different now. Maybe we raise our kids differently. Whatever. All I know is that it is OK. No hard feelings.
As an adult, I finally know that one "best friend" is overrated. I would rather have a group of women from all of my areas of life that I can trust, count on and have fun with! I would prefer to have a core group of girlfriends I can count on and be myself. When I was younger, I loved Sex and the City. I think I was trying to be Carrie and so desperately trying to find my Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. In that show, the four of these friends are super close. My experience with friendships is not like this. I have a close friend who I met at my girls school who I meet for coffee regularly. I have another close friend who I go to the gym with - we keep each other accountable and talk about health and wellness goals all the time. I have another close friend who I met at church and our husbands area also really close so we do double dates often. These amazing friends of mine don't even know each other! Sometimes I think about that and it amazes me.
Friendship heartbreak is a real thing. Friends hurting your feelings as an adult? Oh yes, this is real. This is not talked about enough. Friendships change. People change. Feelings get hurt. People move on. However, as an adult, I think that the blessings behind growing up is finally knowing who you are, what your boundaries are and being brave enough to say, "I wish you nothing but the best, but it's OK if we are not close friends."
As adults, we have the experience and guts to put up boundaries. We even have the guts to put up these boundaries with extended family. Just because you are family or you have been friends with someone for 30 years, doesn't give anyone the right to make you feel not good enough, not included or inferior. As kids, this is hard to comprehend. "Why wasn't I invited to Susy's party, mom?" We take these rejections really personally as kids. However, the more confident we are as we grow up, we realize that these rejections are actually blessings in disguise. The people in our lives that allow us to be our best selves are the ones we want in our corner. The people who see your value and make time for you are the ones you want to spend time with.
Here are my 7 tips on how to make real friends as an adult:
1. Make a real effort. Invest your time. Make the time on your calendar for friendships that mean something to you. Schedule a regular coffee date with that friend who makes you feel like you are getting real therapy - you know who you are, girl! I schedule friend time on my calendar like I schedule gym time and my doctor's appointments. If time isn't made for friendships, it is going to be overlooked. Make friend time a priority and a regular date and it becomes a part of your week or month.
2. Be yourself. The older I get the less I care what people think of me. Don't like my political opinions? Cool. Don't think I am raising my girls the "right way"? Cool. I really don't even listen to all the opinions. I have several girlfriends who I really trust and reach out to. When I get opinions from the people in my life, that are not in that "circle of trust," I smile and let it go. Don't give anyone the power to ruin your day. Be yourself. Keep your goals in mind. Do you.
3. Say goodbye to toxic relationships. Man, this is the toughest part, I think. I tend to let people walk all over me. I internalize things that people say so much that it can make me physically sick. My feelings get hurt really easy. As I look at all of the friendships I have had through the years, I have had to let go of some friends. We have grown apart. Our values are different now. Some friends have said some things that I can't forget. I have forgave but it is hard to go back. Extended family members have hurt me emotionally and I have had to set boundaries, miss family events and let go of the ideal that I "have" to be super close with them. I have learned to speak up and protect myself emotionally.
4. Respect differences. The older I get, the more I love hanging out with friends who are totally different than me! I think I learn so much more from them. I have also learned that it is OK not to see eye to eye regarding politics, religion, parenting, food choices, etc. I respect their opinions even though I may see it completely different. The best way to learn new things is to surround yourself with people who keep you thinking.
5. Don't gossip. Your kids are listening. Oh, this is another tough one, right? I am guilty as well. However, if you and one friend are gossiping about another friend, I am sure someone is doing the same about you. It is hard because there is a fine line between gossiping and talking about a friend that you may be worried about. Just think before you speak. This is a lesson we all can learn to do more. As my girls get older, I try really hard not to talk about other people in front of them. I don't want them to think that kind of behavior is kind. Remember, your kiddos are always listening and watching.
6. Do kind acts without wanting anything in return. Help your friend who is struggling with her 5 kids. Make soup and surprise that friend who is suffering with the flu. Make these cookies for that college friend who just had a baby and is struggling with nursing. Call your friend and see how her mother is doing after surgery. My friends who actually call me - wow, I love it! With texting being the new norm, getting a true call from a friend and hearing her voice is amazing!
7. Let your spouse do the same. Let your partner spend time with his friends as well. Brian and I do a lot together, we love to take trips, but we also let each other have space. He does a weekend away with friends every year and I don't bother him at all about it. Trust is key. He trusts me and I trust him.
Now, go call one of your closest girlfriends. I met you will make her day.
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