A few weeks ago, Boundless republished an article I wrote about female friendship in 2008 titled “Girls Need Girls.” All these years later, the article seemed to strike a nerve with women on social media.
In the piece, I described the five types of female friends every woman should have: the intercessor, the celebrator, the encourager, the teacher, and the questioner. While many female commentors talked about the wonderful women in their lives, others lamented that they didn’t have even one of the five types of friend.
My life was very different in 2008 than it is today. That was my last full calendar year of singleness (I started dating my husband in March of 2009 and we got married that September). I didn’t have a smartphone or Instagram. I did most of my friendships in person — over a latte at the coffee shop, walking on a local trail, or sitting on a friend’s couch. In fact, when I reread the article, I was shocked that I met a friend for breakfast every week!
A lonely season
I am currently in a season that feels lonelier than previous ones. As we discussed that reality, a counselor challenged me to consider the quality of my in-person friendships. I have many connections — people I text with or interact with on social media. “But do you have one or more female friends with whom you connect weekly, in person, to talk about what’s going on in your life?” My answer was, “No, not every week.”
Thankfully, I have some good candidates, but I have not put in the work to meet with them regularly. The counselor suggested I make a point to meet with one or two women in person each week, to press into deeper and more authentic friendships.
In our world, we see several factors working against the formation of healthy relationships. Digital saturation and distraction are two of them. TV is another.
Have you ever heard someone say they plan to go home from work, put on pajamas, and binge-watch their favorite show until bedtime? As an introvert, that sounds heavenly to me. However, in “What Do Your TV Habits Say About You?,” Wes Halula talks about the downside:
“As humans we crave relationships and also we’re terrified of relationships. Binge watching a show gives us the artificial sense of having relationships with those people, which is way easier and less demanding than actually having relationships. You get to just see the pretty parts and the dramatic parts. You don’t have to do the dishes with those people or pay the bills with them.”
These factors, along with how busy we have all become, have made loneliness an epidemic according to the U.S. Surgeon General. As I read multiple comments from women stating that they do not have even one friend (let alone five), this reality was confirmed. Even I needed a prompt to evaluate the health of my in-person friendships. Here are three ideas to revitalize your friend game:
Make the effort. Real relationships, like the ones I referenced in my article, require work. They demand getting into the messiness of someone else’s life and being transparent enough to let them get into yours. Until my counselor questioned my in-person interactions, I didn’t realize how I’d allowed that area of my life to fall into disrepair. If I want strong friendships, I must put in the work to cultivate those relationships and fit them into my life.
Make a plan. In our fast-paced digital world, half the battle is prioritizing in-person time with others. Identify activities and timeframes where you can schedule time with friends. I enjoy meeting a friend for lunch or scheduling a walk (which also checks the box for another healthy habit). Put these “dates” on your calendar and follow through. Just like sticking to an exercise routine or healthy eating plan, prioritizing friend-time will improve your quality of life and give your mental health a boost.
Make a friend. Toward the end of last year, I made an observation about an acquaintance with whom I often interact on social media. In the new year, I need more of her in my life, I thought. In our online interactions, I always felt uplifted and understood by this woman, and I realized it was time to take our friendship to real time. You are never too old to make a new friend … or be a friend to someone else.
Friends for the journey
As I read the comments from women saying they didn’t have even one friend, my heart broke. I have sometimes felt that way. Other times, I have had friends, but they don’t deliver the deep heart connection I crave. In those seasons, I have pressed in to being an encourager, intercessor and celebrator for someone else. As I’ve made the investment, God has always been faithful to give me the connection I need.
My counselor’s question and the reprint of my article were timely. I’m now motivated to make some simple shifts to make in-person friendships a priority. My life may look different than it did 15 years ago, but my need for connection and companionship with other women remains unchanged.
Copyright 2024 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.