Some women seem to always have big groups of girlfriends. I’ve never been like that. I’ve always cultivated a few tight friendships and have kept my group small.
I’m not sure why—I was painfully shy as a kid and really struggled to open up enough to let people in, and I’m probably still like that.
Some of my friends are people I’ve known since grammar school— went 1st through 8th grade with roughly the same 40 kids, so we were a tight if not slightly dysfunctional group. We randomly pop in and out of each others lives, mostly via Facebook, but everyone still looks out for each other. One of my closest friends is from high school. We were seated alphabetically by last name in 2nd period P.E. our freshman year, and we’ve been tight ever since. We’re the type of girlfriends who may drop off for a few months as life gets busy and then pick up again like no time has passed.
Over the years I’ve met plenty of women through work, but I can count on 3 fingers the number of solid friendships that have evolved from that. I’ve become friends with wives of my husband’s friends and through hobbies like dog shows and yoga. I would consider some of them good friends. But real close friends— the women you lean on during huge life events or just a craptastic day—are hard to find.
I’m almost 43 years old and most of the women I know are busy with their careers, their kids, their husbands and hobbies or volunteering. It’s harder to forge deep friendships at this stage—not for lack of trying, though. Life just gets in the way.
Because my pool of friends is so small, I tend to hang onto friendships long after I should abandon them. Sometimes different friendship styles can be difficult to navigate and there are bumps in the relationship. And during the ebb and flow of life, making time is hard. I get that. But if I’m the only one reaching out to make plans, if I’m the only one checking in to see how the other person is doing and that’s not being reciprocated, I need to start evaluating that. I have to wonder if my friendship is being valued as much as I value the friendship.
I’m at a point in my life where I’ve had time to look around and take stock of my friendships and I realized I haven’t really kept up with some of them the way that I should. That’s my fault. I take full responsibility. I get busy with one thing and let others fall by the wayside. I also realize I’ve also kept some friendships casual that really have potential, mostly out of my own insecurity and shyness. I don’t reach out enough and that makes me appear uninterested. People stop reaching out if you don’t reach back once in a while.
I don’t like to let go of friendships no matter how much they’ve been neglected or how screwed up they are, but I wonder if I’m allowing my insecurities to cloud my judgement. I also don’t think I’m good at reading the signals when other women are really trying to forge a friendship with me, so I don’t pursue those and I stick with what’s comfortable, not necessarily what’s good for me.
This is all begging the question: Are friendships with women hard? Or do I just suck at this?