Frayed Friendships and Fostering New Ones

Dear Robin:

I’m in my mid 40’s and over the past couple years I have had many friendships with close female friends deteriorate, or just end altogether. Some by my choice, some from their doing, and some from just flat out blowouts. Although I am a bit saddened by this, I really don’t regret it, as many of them were very negative people and/or the friendships were just unhealthy. I am wondering if you have any suggestions on how to make new, close friendships. I have many many casual friends, but nobody really close. Thank you. I love your blog.

-Deirdre

Dear Deirdre (that sounds weird if you say it out loud):

Once again, a faithful reader gives me the opportunity to pretend I care about their problem while simultaneously talking about ME!  

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Thank you for that!  You and I are the same vintage and I too have gone through many relationship changes with my friends, both male and female.  Like you, these friendships have died for various reasons, including attrition, changing life goals and frankly, some bitches be crazy.

Just so you know I am not a totally unaware-of-self type gal, I have played the Cray Cray Bitch role in the past as well…I’m not perfect (lovely gams notwithstanding).  There was a period in my life shortly after The Canary in a Coal Mine and I separated during which I was engaged in a relationship that many of my friends did not approve of, and they let me know it by distancing themselves from me.  

One gal in particular straight up dumped me when I didn’t show up for a cocktail party because I was with The Dude.  She uninvited me to her Easter dinner and you can imagine how devastating that was for me, since I am such a devout Christian.

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It took me a LONG time to realize that these women who ditched me during my “Difficult Period” did so because they didn’t want to see me self-destruct.  Originally that angered and saddened me (they were supposed to always be there for me!), but having lost a very good friend recently who is making every effort to totally derail her life, I get it now.

One of them moved away, and the other one has reconnected with me now that I am back on my medication and in a solid marriage with the Rock of Gibraltar. 

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Attrition may also be a reason you are losing friends, and I think that’s totally normal.  Women put a ton of pressure on each other when it comes to friendships and much of it is unhealthy.  People grow up and away from each other sometimes, and it’s as normal for two friends to drift apart as it is for romantic relationships to die.

It sounds like you have been smart enough to engage in the AskDesCamp Friendship Flush for those relationships which you recognize are unhealthy.  Toxic friendships are time consuming and anxiety-driven, and yet many of us hold onto them through the years, expecting different behavior from someone when they continue to show you who they are over and over again.

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Case in point: I used to be friends with several couples who spent ALL their time together – we are talking every single weekend and every single party with the exact same group of people.  I used to joke with my Baby Daddy that going to a party with these folks was like reliving the movie “Groundhog Day:” nothing ever changed.

And then, one of us got pregnant.  And shit got real, real fast.  Suddenly, everyone was getting knocked up and engaging in the Comparison Game: who had the best house, best baby, best job, best car, best tits (I won, clearly).

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I’ll never forget watching the two most competitive ladies get in an argument over diaper size.  One was insisting that her baby girl was in a certain size, and the other, who had a son older by about two months, was challenging her because her boy was not in that size yet.

I’m not joking.  I wish I were.  They seriously got into it.  I was not yet With Sprout, and I called my pharmacy to re-up my birth control that very night.  It seemed clear to me that pregnancy and childbirth made women into nasty, petty callous bitches with the capacity to argue over things as mundane as a crap catcher.  I wanted none of it.

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Once Patrick figured out how to replace my birth control with placebos (not true) and got me knocked up in a hot tub in Reno (true), I became the same psychotic petty idiot that the others had.  I finally took a flamethrower to the entire group over two things:

1. My baby shower, the details of which I can’t recall but I do remember it was surrounded by controversy and very sad feelings; and

2. One of them tried to steal a house from me.  Long story, but Baby Daddy and I were negotiating with our neighbor to buy her broken down Tudor and fix it up to sell for a profit.  This was back in the day when real estate was a good investment.  She came to us one day with a letter from my “friends,” with whom we had shared our plans.  The letter was proposing to buy her house.

As it turns out, her son murdered her in the kitchen a few weeks later, so nobody bought the house and we moved to another neighborhood.  Again, true story.

Wow – I have gotten really off-topic.  I suppose my point is to make sure you know that what you are going through is very normal, so don’t feel bad about it.  Either that, or you and I are very fucked up people.  

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Readers, please reply in the comments section and let us know if this has happened to you too.

What you really wanted to know was how to make new friends.  That’s a really good question, because making a new friend is not as easy as you would think it should be.  Just the act of proposing a get-together can be as intimidating as asking someone out on a date, not to mention first you need to find your new candidates.  

Here’s my advice in the tried and true AskDesCamp Advice By Numbers format:

1. First things first: you should know from yesterday’s blog that I am interviewing for the Friend #3 position recently vacated over the Great Sweater Incident of 2013.  I like you, Deirdre, and since we live in the same town and know some people in common, I think we could be tight.  Please message me privately to set up a date.

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2. How to meet new people: I suggest joining some groups that interest you.  For example, if you like to hike, there are many hiking groups that get together for weekend events.  That could be a fun way to meet ne

w people, and if you really dislike someone you can surreptitiously push her off a cliff.  

3. I know you are on Facebook, so here’s an idea that I’ve been working on: post something on your wall proposing a get-together somewhere and see how many people are up for it.  Tell everyone to bring a friend and there will be plenty of new victims from which you can choose.

My idea is to engineer a clothing trade/sell party for women – perhaps you’d like to do that with me?  I’m thinking of doing it right after Christmas so we can all get rid of gifts that aren’t our style and whatever may be hanging in our closet that no longer thrills us.  Readers, what do you think of this idea?  Would you come to such a party, if liquor were served?  Again, respond in the comments, please!

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4. You may consider reaching out to some of those women with whom you were friends in the past.  It’s possible that whatever caused you to drift (or explode) apart may no longer be a factor, and you could both take a shot at getting that friendship back on track.  I’ve tried this approach recently with mixed results: one gal pretty much ignored me (but that breakup years ago was ugly and really stupid) and the other has responded very enthusiastically.  

I’ve got her locked in my closet right now.

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5. If you have met women recently who you think might be fun to hang out with, don’t be shy about calling them up and suggesting a lady play date.  No, male readers, that’s not what I mean.

One of my favorite and least intimidating lady play date options is going shopping with someone.  You have lots of things to distract you and take the conversational pressure down a notch.  If you are having a blast, you can wrap it up with a cocktail afterward.  Do not have the cocktail first, or you will be prone to make irrational boot decisions.  Or is that just me?

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It’s “this,” right?  Obviously.

DO NOT, under any circumstances, invite another woman to see a movie with you.  That’s just weird.

6. You mentioned you have many casual friendships but would like closer friendships.  That’s a simple matter of making time for your casual buddies and digging deeper so you can determine whether or not they are compatible enough with you to form a deeper relationship.  

This is just like dating: if you like someone and want to get to know them better, keep going out with them.  If they consent, of course.

I hope I have helped you, Deirdre.  I think this is a tough problem that a lot of women face, especially at this age.  Call someone up today and make plans for this weekend.  Have a blast! 

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-Robin

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Melinda DesCamp

    As someone who recently had to tear the bandaid off a friendship that was completely out of balance, I can really feel for this gal. But I’ve been making a concerted effort to engage in establishing new healthy friendships with HEALTHY people and it is paying off. It was an exercise in humility reaching out to an old friend who I let drift away but people are amazingly forgiving. And funny how, once I got rid of the toxic people, the true friends shine.

  2. Chicken Little

    “Some bitches be crazy”… hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  3. thelmaup

    Making new connections is healthy and part of the process in everyday life. If you are fortunate enough to make a deeper connect with someone,then let it shine sista.
    That said, there is nothing more precious than a longstanding friendship, which over time, has rippened to a deep rich vintage. They are truly special, and should be treated as such. I too have experienced the ebb and flow of female friendships, and am happy with the gained knowledged that its the quality of my friendships, not the quantity, that has become a hearthstone in my life. I cherish my existing friendships, and look foward to making new connections.

  4. wantstoremainunknown

    Oh how I wish I lived in Portland again! I would take part in many of your suggestions Robin and definitely “this”! On the subject, I have a hard time maintaining “real” friendships and I’m going through a time in my life now where I’m reaching out to old friends, one in particular, that I really want to connect with. I know we will be forever friends but I’m saddened I have let time pass and we have lost our closeness or let years pass without speaking. These are things I regret in my older, wiser years!

  5. Pingback: No-Show, No-Call Friendship - Robin Descamp

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