Making And Maintaining Friendships

Earlier today I wrote about how the internet can be a tool for making new friends, if we use it wisely. And while it did wonders for me, I have to admit that sometimes one thing still holds me back: I’m a pretty terrible communicator. I ignore text messages, I can’t stand talking on the phone, and I am more likely to continue my eleventh rewatch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer than look for a buddy to hang out with on any given evening. When I was younger I chalked it up to being a wallflower, and I decided that if my social butterfly friends wanted to hang out, certainly they would know to call me…right? (Hint: it might have helped if I told them that.) It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that my friends weren’t calling because I never called them either, not because they didn’t want to hang out with me. And while I am still terrible at picking up the phone (seriously y’all talking on the phone is the worst), I’m much better now at making that first move, or reaching out to keep in touch with friends.

So this open thread is for you, social butterflies and wallflowers alike. When it comes to making new friends or maintaining friendships, what are your tried and true methods? How do you make the first move? What do you like to do with your friends? How do you keep in touch? No one system is going to make our friendships effortless, but let’s help each other make the journey a little easier.

Personally, I’m a fan of the open text invite to hang out, or silly mass email chains. And as previously mentioned, I love a good drunk brunch. APW, what are your tips? (And problems, and solutions.) It’s nearing the end of friendship month. Let’s get down to business.

Photo from Lucy’s wedding by Asterisk Photo

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  • Marta

    Happy hours. For both making friends and maintaining friends. I work early, so I never go out at night. My socialite friends always go out at night. Happy hour is a great compromise (besides, who doesn’t like cheap food/booze?)

  • KC

    If someone’s just had a major life change (baby, new boyfriend, wedding, move, job change, new school program), keep talking into the void for a while, esp. via email, and keep your expectations and the expectations communicated low (on the “just thinking of you – no worries if you’re too busy to write back right now” scale). They may be utterly swamped, *but* someday they will resurface, and not only will they likely be grateful for the occasional “remembering you and hoping things are going well” pings, but they are also more likely to reply if there’s something recent-ish to reply to. (at least, I feel sheepish replying to an email that’s over a year old…)

    (obviously, this only applies to friends you specifically want to keep.)

    • Caroline

      Frankly, talking into the void for a while is definitely my friendship maintaining technique always. Sometimes friends get swamped, and it helps to let us pick the friendship back up again when they are less swamped.

      Also, expecting to put in what feels like 70% of the effort (but probably isn’t really.)

      For making friends, I like asking people out to coffee or tea. I don’t really think friends get upgraded from hangout friends to close friends until you give them a chance and they come through for being there for you in a crisis or vice versa.

      I try to call friends on their birthdays and significant events, instead of Facebook, and otherwise minimize the use of Facebook for contacting friends. In person is best, phone is second best, last resort is email, but Facebook is not for keeping in touch, because it is so superficial that we don’t really stay in touch.

      I love cooking dinner with friends, going for hikes, and sometimes doing crafts although I’ve been less crafty lately. Also, as a student, I do homework with school friends.

      • Because I hate the phone, I’ve been trying to send people birthday cards in the mail instead of writing on Facebook walls. My group of friends will use Facebook to plan random weekend events or the odd movie, but like you I’ve been finding it much too superficial for things that are more significant.

        • KC

          I love the USPS! Cards, postcards (vintage or otherwise), books (media mail rate!), cookies, random items. Especially nice for friends who are going through a rough time (moved to a new city and don’t know people; breakup; sick; whatever) are pick-you-up items (tea; bath-goodies; books; puzzles/games; whatever would float their boat).

          • LILY

            Me, too! Particularly in the age of Facebook, when 877 people can tell someone “happy birthday!”, getting a physical card in the mail with actual handwriting on it can feel SO special.

          • This is obvious, but brilliant. I do this for friends who are having a rough time, but I feel like I should mail things way more often. It’s just so special compared to more instant communication.

          • Shortly before my wedding, a friend of mine remarked that she’d never received a care package during her entire time in college (she was near finishing). I dropped everything and made her one on the fly in a shoebox, and it made her whole month. It cost maybe $10 with postage. So worth it.

          • Emmers

            Yes! Care packages make me feel so great and cuddly inside to give or receive. Brownies are very well received & cheap to make. And everything looks snazzier when you put some fun tissue paper in there.

        • I should totally start doing that.

        • i love mail. it is the only form of communication i don’t utterly fail at. most of my interaction with my closest friend (only close friend i am still in regular contact with) is through mail. i think it helps that it is automatically geared towards long-form real information (and gifts!) and that it lends itself to responding in your own sweet time. so, it might take me a month to respond, but by letter that’s a pretty normal timeframe, whereas “hey! so, i saw you called me in may, what’s up?” is totally awkward (and then there’s the internet, where tomorrow is essentially forever).

        • Breck

          To echo Lucy, the medium flat rate boxes at USPS are only like $12.50! Send a care package today!

          • In college, my aunt used to send me care packages with fancy soaps, candy, and kitchen supplies. They always made me feel so special, and my roommates always loved sharing the candy. (I think she knew how effective bribery can be in friendships at all ages.)

          • Breck

            They really and truly make someone’s day (all mail, really, but care packages are extra special).

        • Amber

          I send cards in the mail for all friends and family’s birthdays and have been for years and I think even when I lived abroad.

          I do do it because I want to and I do feel good sending them something in the mail, but it would be nice if my friends reciprocated, ever.

          Some of my friends didn’t even give me a card for my wedding. I honest to god was fine with not getting a gift, but not even a 99-cent card from Target? Ouch.

          • KC

            Some people are really bad at cards. I am starting to get better at cards, although the card aisle still sort of makes me shudder (finding a card that is accurate and not too weird and not inaccurately effusive? Very Hard, although way easier for weddings than for, say, Mother’s Day). But I am good at:
            a) fixing things in an emergency
            b) making you tea when you’re crying
            c) driving you somewhere or back from somewhere
            d) loaning out power tools

            So… I’m really sorry some of your friends did not give you cards, and that this makes you feel unloved. But if they “show up” for you in other ways, then maybe it’s because they don’t “talk” in cards, not because they don’t care enough to give a card? (I say this as someone who flew from another country for a friend’s wedding, while we were short on money, played interference when the caterers were squabbling so they’d get the food on the tables rather than getting completely delayed fighting in the kitchen, repaired a table so it wouldn’t fall down during the reception… and didn’t give her a card, I think? This is not “she doesn’t mean enough to me to get a card”, I think.)

            Admittedly, I am getting better at recognizing that cards are important to some people and hence trying to do them in all cases to avoid situations like the one you describe. But… it took me a long while to realize that sometimes some people don’t read “helping clean their apartment so they get their damage deposit back to start their married life with the bit of extra cash” as caring in the same way they read “sending a card” as caring. Love languages, y’all. :-)

          • Breck

            @KC Why are so many cards TERRIBLE??? Seriously, I’m cringing right now thinking about how every non-kiddy birthday card contains either a saggy boob joke or is ridiculously over-sentimental.

            I love cards, so I usually check out Etsy first, but the Hallmark website is actually a pretty good resource, too. They have a lot more… I don’t know how to say it, normal/standard? just “Happy birthday!” cards than stores usually carry. I think they ship free, and you can upload a photo to most of them, which is kind of fun.

            Also, the cards at Trader Joe’s are pretty good, too. And super cheap!

          • Brenda

            Re: terrible cards, because I can’t comment below – I go to the shops in museums or the stationary section of the bookstore and get a pack of cards that just have art or birds or flowers or something pretty on them, and no text inside. Tasteful and you can use them for any event or just as a note, and you always have some to hand. I am super picky about cards and unless I know someone likes silly cards or I see something I know they’ll like, this is a good way to go.

          • In terms of cards, I never never buy cards from the grocery store anymore. There’s an awesome letterpress studio in town that carries letterpress cards from studios all over the US. I also shop at independent bookstores, which carry cool cards and stuff. I just sent my friend taking the bar exam an encouragement post card with Rosie the Riveter saying “Si, se puede!” Made double awesome by the note on the back saying it was made by union labor in the US on 100% Post-consumer-waste materials.

            Also- APW staff Liz makes beautiful notecards. She’s on Etsy at Betsy Ann Paper. Her designs are really simple, don’t have weird hallmark poems, and are really gorgeous for any occasion.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            @KC Oh my gosh, yes! There are times where I am great at dropping a thought-of-you note in the mail (it’s improving now that I carry a box of museum cards with envelopes and stamps in my daily bag). And I can be great with some random presents. But my best friends birthdays? Frequently forgotten. Wedding cards, probably also not remembered.

            Also, seconding Brenda’s suggestion for blank notecards. My grandmother has given me a collection that look like they are from a grandmother. But I figure buying cards from National Parks and museums is a way for me to support places I love without spending crazy money.

            Oh! And for crafty people. Homemade paper folded in half is awesome. (Search for recycled paper tutorials or marble paper shaving cream for ideas.)

        • Sarah

          When I moved overseas my Mom send a care package with 12 wrapped goodies, one for each month. It was always exciting to open one each month. I specifically remember the December one I opened early because I was homesick. It was pyjama pants and they were glorious and comforting.

          Would be a great idea for a friend who is moving cities. Having something tangible makes a difference.

          • This is awesome.

    • Oh man, yes please.

      I’m in the midst of a shitty pregnancy and I cannot bring myself to answer emails, phone calls, texts, facebook messages. I WANT to. Some times I even compose responses in my head. But right now it is so, so hard. Even that small amount of energy is too much for me to relinquish right now.

      But every email, phone call, text, fb message–they all mean SO MUCH to me. Seriously. Friends, I hear you. And I am so grateful. Please keep talking into the void.

      • KC

        Hooray! This is what I’ve heard from friends, but one doesn’t ever quite know whether they’re just humoring you or not… ;-)

        As someone who took a long time to learn this bit (about other peoples’ romantic relationships, new jobs, babies, etc. slurping up their time/energy for a while), also please don’t feel badly about initiating contact with whoever you want, whether they’ve kept talking into the void or not, when you come up for air again, because they might not know to do this. :-)

      • never.the.same

        Kelly, if you have time and ability to read and comment on a blog, you have the time and ability to respond to a text/email/FB message.

        Even if it is a boilerplate “Friend! I’m still feeling so shitty. I appreciate your note, but right now I don’t have a lot of energy for much else. XOXO.” Seriously. No one wants to feel ignored, even when for a “good reason.”

        • Can’t answer this without getting super defensive so, yes.

          I do my best to let my friends know where I’m at, and that I’ll be in touch when I can. I don’t think I’m just flat out ignoring anyone.

        • KC

          I’d say “it’s not the same”, since often our own personal standards (and others’) won’t let us boilerplate, at least not completely. Besides, reading/responding to blogs in a puttering sort of way as one is inclined is not the same kind of energy as replying to messages from friends.

          I mean, obviously, doing what you can to reply/maintain is good. But not judging others for doing X instead of Y with their limited (and invisibly restricted/constrained) resources is really, really good.

          • Katey

            I agree that the emotional energy required to interact with friends versus strangers can be vastly different. I often feel unable to respond to emails/calls/texts from friends when I’m feeling overwhelmed…the other does not carry the same weight.

        • Claire

          Of course no one wants to feel ignored. But at the same time, no one wants to feel publicly shamed as a bad friend because they don’t meet someone else’s standards for communication, especially when already going through a difficult period. I seriously doubt any of us really has a clue about Kelly’s time and ability or what she’s going through. So maybe let her decide what she’s able to give others.

          • never.the.same

            Kelly, I want to apologize. I meant my comment in the vein of re-framing what you think is or isn’t possible. I really wasn’t judging your decisions. I can see how my comment might have seemed that way (tone is difficult online) and I am sorry. Truly.

            Claire, yes. Agreed. I didn’t mean to shame anyone. I did not write “You are a bad friend for ignoring your friends” and I did not write “You fail to meet my standards!”. Kelly, of course, gets to set her own limits and choose how to spend her energy. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise and I’m sorry.

            I really just wanted to point out that responding to a text message, even if you respond with something short and “impersonal” is important, when keeping a friendship going. Even when we are experiencing difficult circumstances. I think it’s so easy to build up this idea that friendships are hard and we aren’t good enough for our friends, or that we are struggling/failing and it all builds on itself and feels overwhelming. It doesn’t have to. Something that takes as little time and effort as a blog comment is enough. Kelly seemed worried about her friends reaching out into a void. I wanted to point out that she has more power and energy to fix it than she might think. (And I’d argue that one way we make friendships work, which is the subject of this post, is by making efforts- even small ones.)

            I’m sorry, Kelly, if I hurt your feelings.

      • KAT

        Yes! This! I can so relate to this, not due to pregnancy, but becoming chronically ill. Its been a rough 1.5 years various symptoms that quickly and radically redefined the activities of my life. I could no longer go hiking with my friends because sometimes I couldn’t walk, and happy hour was less appealing because I was on “no alcohol” meds. I turned down invites because I couldn’t participate, and was just too exhausted to figure out and plan an alternative activity. Eventually the invites stopped coming and I became horribly isolated and let down by a lot of my friends. But a few continued to reach into the void, sometimes just to say “we miss you”. That meant so, so much to me.

        I’m now re-emerging. I realize now some of my friends who gave up reaching out to me were also hurt. It went both ways and I’m now grappling with rebuilding many of the friendships that fizzled during that time. They wanted to help but didn’t know how to, and I didn’t know how to voice what I needed from them. As a society, I don’t think we deal with chronic illness well. We (friends and I) have some work to do, but we’ll be OK. I’m so glad APW is talking about this.

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          I’m sorry you’ve had a rough year. I think you’re exactly right about our society not educating people on how to support friends with chronic illnesses. Your reminder to keep sending caring messages into the void is great.

    • I wonder how long is worth talking to the void for? It’s been years for me, for some people.

      • Caroline

        It depends. I think generally, it’s hard to keep talking into an absolute void for years. For me, if I’m getting little hints that yes, they appreciate the friendship, they’re so glad I’m staying in touch, and they don’t have the bandwidth (from whatever life transition/stress stuff) yet, then I’ll keep going. If it’s a complete void, I think for me, it’s maybe 6 months? But if the talking into the void gets the occasional short response “Thanks for your text telling me you are thinking of me. I’m hanging in sort of, super stressed. It means a lot you care” text back, or whatever, I’ll keep talking into the void. It depends on the friendship though.

        • Laura

          Agreed. Years would require special circumstances for me e.g. my friend in the Peace Corps who has limited internet. Or my friend who is notoriously bad at responding to calls/emails/texts, but is always responsive if I let her know I’ll be visiting her city. Otherwise, I need to have some validation that they want to keep hearing from me.

      • AVA

        I feel you. I gave up after almost 1 year of talking into the void via several communication channels – phone calls, emails, texts, facebook, old-fashioned post – everything short of actually showing up at her front door. To be honest it still really hurts my feelings to think about how she just ended communication – without warning, or any (visible) catalyst, and quite suddenly (we were close friends who spoke almost weekly before the void happened).

    • You sound like an awesome friend. <3

      • KC

        Unfortunately, as with how-often-I-clean-out-the-fridge, there’s a gap between ideal and actual. :-) But thank you!

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Talking into the void is probably my favorite technique for keeping in touch with friends. For me, it’s less to do with other people’s major life changes and more an acknowledgement that most of my friends aren’t the best at initiating contact with people out of town. (And it’s not just about me.)

      My preferred method is still the out-of-the-blue phone call (with voicemail) in the hopes that we’ll start a game of phone tag. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. But my method, if I break it down, is that when I have some extra time I’ll flip through my phone thinking “who haven’t I talked to recently?” And then I’ll press send.
      –Sidebar break–
      This is also how I keep in touch with my grandparents. Family is at the top of the mental rotation.
      Normally I’ll reach someone in the first five phone calls. And have a few calls back over the rest of the week. Recently is defined differently for each friend. And I tend not to call if I reached out last time and haven’t heard back. But if it’s been a while, I’ll call again.

  • Amy March

    I’ve spent the last year on project: more friends. And it is work! But what I’ve found works well is finding something really fun to do, and inviting people to come with a few weeks ahead of time. a) if they come, awesome and b) if they can’t make it, they’re still getting the message that I’m a fun person and I like new adventures. And I throw parties for random holidays- no one is too busy for a kick-ass Columbus day party, and having even a thread of an excuse makes me feel less awkward inviting my motley crew of acquaintances.

    • I love the idea of throwing parties for no reason. I have two goals for 2013- 1. Throw theme parties because you love them, even if your friends think they’re cheesy, and 2. Make an effort to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones! Perhaps I can combine the two… But I get nervous inviting people I don’t know very well to a party. I worry that it will be awkward or they will think I am too desperate. Tips?

      • KC

        It is only awkward if they end up being the only ones there, and even then, you can de-awkward it with laughing, sometimes.

        Seriously, it is not unusual to have semi-random people at parties (I’ve had lots of “hello, I don’t know you yet!” people show up at parties, invited by other people or, in one case, they just showed up at the wrong address in grad student housing and we invited them to stay for the party.), and if they are awkward about it, they will go away again. I mean, this is less so with co-workers or people you will otherwise see every day, but generally, random new acquaintances can be safely invited to things without serious awkwardness ramifications. If you have people you want to introduce them to (either as friends or as romantic possibilities), you can also mention “yeah, I really want you to meet person-who-will-probably-be-at-party, I think they’d think you’re awesome”, although that’s more friend matchmaking than friend collecting-for-yourself sometimes. But people don’t have to be a certain-level-of-friend before you invite them to a party, truly.

        • I’ll try to channel some of your confidence. I think a luau themed party will be on the horizon, because it’s summer and i like pineapple.

          Thanks for the push!

          • KC

            Summer + liking pineapple is an excellent reason to have a party. :-) Hope you have gobs of fun!

            (and honestly: you define your party’s “cultural norm” and other people then decide whether they want to move to your culture or not. They don’t like alcohol, and you throw alcohol-based parties? Totally their choice. Ditto on loud vs. quiet, themed or unthemed, formal or informal, don’t-care-what’s-cool or painfully hip. I’m definitely not saying “deliberately make people uncomfortable”, but with reasonable bounds, you own your space/party, and don’t worry about apologizing for who you are or who it is. :-) )

      • Amy March

        Not gonna lie, I feel a bit awkward. But no one else seems to. FUnpeople, beer, and a cake smooth things over nicely.

        • I do like cake :D

        • Jess

          I always feel a bit awkward and never think anyone else is!

      • Amber

        Just the thought of hosting a party mortifies me. WE belong to some meetup groups and while I want to organize things I want to do and invite others along, I just hate being the host and having to be the one in charge of people meeting and conversing and stuff. I straight up tell my husband, you are answered the door and greeting people, I can’t handle it. Having activities and not just relying on small talk definitely helps me.

        • I like hosting parties, but sometimes it’s more than I want to deal with. And for those times, board game nights save my life. It’s a good interactive activity, the varieties now are endless, and I don’t have to play host other than making the event and setting up a board or two.

        • KC

          I’m an introvert party-thrower, so on some occasions, I’ve explicitly assigned known outgoing-ish people to start conversations or to tackle people who are left out, before the party. (they ask “what can I bring?”; I say “well, you could bring extra ice. Also! Can you keep an eye out and bring people into conversations?”)

          This may be cheating. I’m not sure. But when you’ve got a few batches of self-conscious people who don’t want to “push” themselves onto people and who only know you, and if you’re busy doing other things, it’s awesome having someone else who enjoys and is assigned to playing matchmaker and keeping conversations going. Also: having this be an Official Assigned Job helps shy people get out there and talk to people. But I wouldn’t do that to anyone with social anxiety, just those who have previously expressed a wish to meet people combined with a “but maybe they won’t like me” etc., or those who are naturally inclined to be gregarious but might not deliberately look out for wallflowers unless they thought of it.

          • I think that’s genius. An extroverted friend of mine takes pride in finding people at parties and weddings who don’t seem to know many people and chatting them up. It’s like a form of community service, but she also gets to meet people who often turn out to be interesting. It’s never occurred to me to specifically ask her to play this role, but knowing how happy she’d be to do it makes me think my other extrovert friends might feel the same. I’m fine once I’m in a conversation, but walking into a party and trying to find someone to talk to makes me all kinds of anxious. It would be so great to have someone introduce me to people they think/know I’d enjoy talking with.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            Definitely genius. Having appropriate people assigned to the role of ice breaker sounds much better than trying to get other people to enjoy ice breaker games as much as I do.

      • ART

        I’ve started having super low-key nights at my place (“well, we’re gonna grill some stuff, bring something you’d like to eat/drink if you want, but you don’t have to, come any time…” etc.) – they’re so low-pressure that if only one person/group shows up, or everyone brings food or no one does, it’s ok because I set the expectations pretty low for the “party”-ness of it. So far it has worked really well!

  • KC

    Oh! And keep your mouth open on positive stuff – if someone’s haircut/boots/opinion/etc. is awesome, or if they always make you smile, tell them so. (both for friends and potential friends)

    • Claire

      I am a serial complementer and I gained a lot of ‘dancing friends’ this way. When I used to go out dancing regularly in my early twenties, I acquired a list of regular dance floor friends where we would text each other which club we were in or to ask what other clubs were like, so that we could meet up for a dance and create a fun vibe. We did this because our city was pretty small and we were very different (and GLBTI friendly) compared to the majority bogan (Australian word for redneck) club-going population. We knew we wouldn’t call each other in a crisis or even out to lunch, but we would chat about our lives beyond the small talk phase and merged our circles of would-be weirdos to a larger group.

  • E

    I’m not even kidding when I say I’ve met like half of my current friends on Craigslist. As an introvert that’s not very group activity-oriented (I’d much rather go for a jog on my own than go to a yoga class), it’s been awesome! Like with online dating, not every person you meet is going to be a connection, but I’m really glad I opened myself up to it. It’s also given me a much more diverse collection of friends than I might normally have – women of different ages and with all sorts of interests and hobbies. I was that kid growing up who had a couple of soul mate-best friends and wasn’t really interested in expanding my social circle much beyond that, so this has definitely brought me out of my comfort zone.

    • Irene

      I recently replied to a craigslist platonic friends ad that appealed, with an amazing response. Basically the CL poster got lots of responses and then contacted the lot of us (or, well, 5-10 of us that presumably didn’t sound creepy in our responses!) on facebook, which means not only can we potentially become friends with her, the awesome-sounding poster, but also with other ladies who thought she sounded awesome. Win win!

      • KC

        That is genius! Instant potential friend pool! (and very generous/smart of her to connect you all with each other instead of just keeping you all to herself)

    • That is how the boy and I met. Someone posted on Strictly Platonic to get a group together for dinner (ended up being about 7 people), and we both showed up. I like to say we met on Craigslist, but not the sketchy way. We didn’t keep in touch with anyone else, though.

  • I started actually making good on the “we should do [insert lunch/brunch/Internet Cat Video Festival here].” At first, I was frustrated that I felt like I was always making plans and worried that people were too busy for me, but it turns out they had the same hesitations and worries as I did. Everyone is flattered to be invited to something, especially if that something is 1 on 1 or a small group of friends.

    And yes, the Internet Cat Video Festival is real. And happens in Minneapolis/Saint Paul on August 28. And I am totally going.

    • anon

      that is the most awesome thing I heard all day.

    • KC

      On the same front, if a group of people all agree “yeah, we should do that!” then YOU start making plans-ish with them *then*. “Yeah, we should do that” agreed amongst a group of people means “someone will organize this” which usually ends up meaning “no actual person will end up taking responsibility and getting the ball rolling”.

      • KC

        (and a PS: I like Doodle for scheduling things like dinners or whatever; no one has to have an account, and you can pick the date/time that works with the most people without sifting through a ton of back-and-forth emails. Easy-peasy.)

    • There is totally one of those in Portland Oregon too!

      • Minneapolis and Portland are like twin cities, separated at birth. I love it.

    • Happier Heather

      I was considering going to the Internet Cat Video Festival just because I love cats and really, who doesn’t love a good cat video?

  • I have gotten the nickname “Cruise Director Julie” among my friends, as I have become the queen of “hey, let’s go do this thing!” As such, I am a fan of the group invite. People know that I will invite them to things often and that I never take it personally if they can’t come (and that the next invite will be on its way soon).

    I am much more awkward when it comes to directly asking one person to do a specific thing with me, but I know sometimes that is what you have to do. I try to mix it up with my group invites, and not always ask the same person to do things.

    I also make efforts to respond to other people’s invitations when I get them. At the very least, I like to give a “I’m not sure what my schedule will be, but I will let you know.” My social circles do a lot of invitation via FB events, an I never want to be the person that doesn’t respond at all.

    I am right there with Lucy on hating to make phone calls. Argh!

    When it comes to things beyond hanging out, I try to maintain my friendships by offering advice and support when people need it, by listening and laughing, by building in-jokes, by agreeing, by disagreeing in an interesting and respectful way

    However, I am so painfully awkward in building relationships with new people if they aren’t already friends with someone I know. I think 90% of my friendships have always been built on friend-of-friend relationships. I can think of maybe one person that I hang out with regularly that was a complete stranger when I met her.

    For the rest, shared interests have been helpful. I built a strong group of friends by way of an internet message board in the early aughts, and many of us have met in person since then. Even after the message board evaporated, many of us are still in touch via FB, and two will be invited to my wedding. Non-internet relationships have taken longer. I have been attending a feminist SF/F convention in Madison for six years, and I am finally starting to get to know some of the attendees outside of the con. Six. Years. I often start to talk to people and immediately start thinking that I should escape/let them escape because ohmygodofcoursetheydon’twanttotalktomewhyamibotheringthemtheyhatemeishouldhide. Working on that, though.

    • Oh sweet lord, that was the longest comment ever. TL;DR, right?

      • KC

        It was all either interesting or useful, so no TL;DR here. :-)

        • Thanks. I was mostly keeding, but…self-conscious at my verbosity.

  • amc

    I may have missed this discussion on another post, but I think it’s easier to have .comrades or internet-based friends because of the partial anonymity. For me, it’s difficult to make real, strong friends in the real world due to my own insecurities. I always wonder at a party if they like me or if I am annoying them. Will my follow-up call and effort to make plans feel like a nuiscance (like Kate said above)? Do they really want to meet up or are they just being nice? My crazy brain takes over and my defense mechanism shuts it down!

    Anyone else feel that way?

    • I’ve met a couple of online friends IRL and we get along GREAT! I love them. I wish we lived closer! I think it definitely makes it easier to open up initially and make deep bonds.

    • As noted above, I very much feel that way often. I have to struggle against the 4th grader inside of me that is waiting for the rest of the kids to judge her a nerd and laugh at her. I know it isn’t true, but the feeling still pops up.

    • Nora

      Perhaps I’m totally weird, but it’s the opposite for me. I feel SO self conscious online. I’ve been reading every single APW post for two years and this is maybe my third comment ever. I think it’s because I fear that everything I say will live forever and come back to haunt me someday. I generally just lurk around enjoying the conversation but not saying anything.

      In real life I have an easier time jumping in- if I say something awkward or silly, I can laugh it off and most of the time within 10 minutes everyone will have forgotten about it. There’s no permanent record of my awkwardness archived for all to see. Also it seems like when you’re face-to-face people are much more restrained in their negativity- on the internet I feel like if I say something I open myself up to the kind of anonymous but personally hurtful attacks that are so common (everywhere except for APW, of course).

      Meeting friends in real life is still hard, though. And I miss that great sense of community that others seem to get out of their favorite internet hangouts… so I guess it’s just the flip side of the coin.

    • AshleyMeredith

      .comrades = amazing, perfect, oh-so-useful term. I don’t know if you invented it or I’m just behind the times, but I’m totally stealing.

    • Jess

      I definitely feel that way! I guess I do a kind of litmus test for this. I met and liked several of one of my best friends friends while we were busy doing stuff for her wedding. She used to live here, but has moved, some of her friends still are around here that I didn’t know because I lived somewhere else then. I got their numbers and then attempted to make a plan. If they stuck to the plan or rescheduled a cancel I went with it. If they canceled I just crossed them off the list. I want people who have time and energy for me. I have enough insecurity in the dating arena, I don’t need it in the friend arena too!

  • I’ve been reading “MWF Seeks BFF” – about a woman in her 20’s in a new city trying to make friends post-college and pre-babies, and it’s really interesting to read what she goes through – what we all go through – in this weird stage in our lives. I live in a suburban wasteland where neighbors actively try not to know each other and it’s only been within the last year that I’ve started to figure out how to make friends when you’re effectively on an island. has been amazing for meeting other young women. I joined a book club. I left a nice note on our neighbor’s door inviting them over for drinks. It’s a work in slow progress.

  • I don’t have a hard time keeping in touch with my college friends, but I barely keep in touch with my high school friends now (I’m 25). My three closets friends from that time all live far away. One of them travels a lot, but no longer contacts me when he’s in town, or even lets me know when he’s around. The other lives fairly far away and is very non-responsive online. I have his phone number (I think?), but I hate phone calls so I don’t reach out to him beyond occasional Facebook messages. I know he’s online. He never RSVP’ed to my engagement party. He told me he’d be up the week prior and that we should hang, I said we totally should and gave him my number, but he never called.

    The other friend got married last October. We’d seen each other maybe once since graduating high school. The wedding was great, I felt like we reconnected, but there’s been practically no contact since then. She’s pretty busy with a book getting published in the Fall and her wedding photography business. I’ve suggested hang-outs in the past and I know she’s in town sometimes visiting her parents, but I don’t want to impose. She never suggests anything.

    Sorry, I guess I’m just griping. I feel like I must be a bad friend. I could make more of an effort to reach out, but I feel like I already reach out plenty and they don’t reach out at all. I miss them. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic.

    • KC

      People and friendships do morph. I’d suggest keeping on reaching out – but also tackling the friends who didn’t make it to the top three. It’s possible your top three are just too busy to do stuff/keep in good contact right now, so keep pinging them occasionally, but expand the pool? Just because friend-who-is-10th-on-your-list was 10th in college doesn’t mean that would be a “bad” friendship now. (I mean, unless friend-#10 was a lousy person and you were only “friends” due to propinquity. Skip over those people; go for the nice ones.) I’ve had a lot of friends move from barely-knew-they-were-there to years-later-ridiculous-friend-y and all-the-time-contact-friends to every-year-or-so-friends, so the system isn’t totally static and it isn’t “wrong” if things shuffle around.

    • I know this feeling well. I’ve done my fair share of giving 120% to friends who make no attempt to reciprocate. It can be exhausting even in the best of times. In the end, I let several friendships lapse into nothing because I just am not willing to give my entire self to a person and get nothing in return. There are better things to do with that energy.

      For you specifically, I’d say this: give them one more opportunity to step up. Reach out a few more times and be candid about the fact that you miss them, and you want to spend time with them, etc. If they continue to leave you hanging, then they might just become old friends and not current friends. And that sucks. But at the same time, it’s worth it to use that energy to find/pull people into your life who will pull their weight in a friendship.

    • this is maybe not directly related, but your comment sparked this thought:

      something i am only beginning to get comfortable with is the idea that it is completely okay for friendships to wane. i think it’s easy to feel like you did something wrong (which, sometimes, but usually it’s more complicated than that), or that maybe they don’t like you anymore (which, again, sometimes, but that’s *really* uncommon from what i can gather).

      the thing that has been so important to me is to recognize that the fact that we haven’t spoken in, say, 10 years doesn’t change how close we were 15 years ago – and it doesn’t tarnish it either. the other thing it doesn’t change is the fact that i love these folks, and that that’s worthwhile all itself.

      i think i used to be stressed about lost friendships because it felt like either proof that we didn’t really care for each other (lies) or that maybe it was somehow a waste of that love not to do everything in your power to keep up the relationship? as i t turns out, it’s not a waste, because it’s not like you’re going to *run out* of love – and sometimes you can’t fight with truth or circumstances (or changes).

  • I have a different way of staying in touch with different friends. For example, my college roommate and I regularly exchange novel-length emails. We started doing that on our very first school break as a way to stay in touch, and since the precedent was set, that’s our main mode of communication now that we’ve both moved. Most of my other college friends I keep up with via occasional fb msgs and texts. In college, we just saw each other on the weekends, no problem, so we didn’t have a system developed. I try to remember to send more texts, just to let them know I’m thinking of them. My hometown best friend and I keep up generally with short emails and Skype sessions every month or two.

    By far, my favorite way to keep in touch with friends is snail mail. The extra effort (to remember their birthday in advance, find a card, etc) and the hilarious cards/msgs just feel like a more special reminder. And though I have no particular aversion to talking on the phone, I really need to get better at just making the call. Usually I don’t want to interrupt people’s evenings with unexpected phone calls or whathaveyou, but we all know thats nonsense and everyone loves to hear from friends and isn’t offended by needing to reschedule.

    Locally, I like to DO things with friends. I love coffee, but sometimes it’s weird to just sit there with someone unless you have something specific to chat about. These days, I’m generally a tag-along with the Soc Dept grad students. What I love best is just sitting on a friend’s porch talking and drinking (until it turns to shop talk, then I’m ready to go). My apt is so tiny, it’s hard to comfortably have people over, but I really want friends who will check out community events with me as well as come over to sit on the floor, have a beer, paint our nails, and try on everything in the closet for the hell of it.

    (Again, though I like to know how people prefer to communicate. Can we start introducing ourselves, “Hi! I’m Sarah and I love to text. Also, call me whenever! Just don’t leave a voicemail. I’m also open to email and g-chat! But be warned, I’m chatty when I’m typing.”)

    • Love this. I regularly exchange novel-length emails with my closest friend — and though they come in just about once a month or so, we get all caught up on each other’s lives without any awkwardness. She’s newly married with an almost 1-year-old and I’m in the throes of wedding planning myself (just over three months to go!), so we understand that we’re not always going to get back to each other either way. We’ve been friends since high school, and I regularly remind myself — especially when I’m being typical OMGnoonelikesme Megan — that our friendship is always, always worth the effort. The mark of our true friendship is that we pick up where we left off, I think.

      Also, I would totally love to introduce myself as you suggest: “Hi, I’m Megan! I suffer from social anxiety, making in-person hang-outs tough until I get to know you, but communicate really effectively through email. I love texting but rarely make phone calls. So email or tweet me and I’ll get right back to you, BFF-style!”

      • That would make it so easy! I’d text/email the shit out of you and feel great when you responded in kind.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        Yes to knowing preferred methods of communication! I suspect people would have fewer feelings of rejection if we actually introduced ourselves this way. I’m Sarah and will reply to your phone calls, probably. E-mails, usually. FB messages, next-to-neverly.

        (I’m starting a friendship where we are super-excited on the bus and…not very good at replying to e-mail. It made scheduling lunch hard, but it is so on.)

  • While I surf the internet I tend to send interesting links or news articles to people. It can jump start conversation or just generally be a “thinking of you” email. In the past when I printed off webcomics I enjoyed I would send them off to people snail mail as “comic care packages.” But these days I mostly just send links as my internet surfing habits have changed. :)

    • I do this too. A friend of mine follows TeeFury (site where a new tshirt goes on sale every day) and emails people to alert them when a shirt comes up that they might like.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Oh this! And it makes me so happy when someone sends me a similar message.

  • Breck

    I’m reading all these comments very closely because I’m pretty terrible at maintaining friendships. I have a few very close friends from high school and some good ones from college that I’ve held onto solely because the friendships have gotten to the point where they don’t really require any effort. We just know we’re best friends or good friends, and there’s a regular rhythm to our communication (in terms of frequency) that is pretty well understood. If someone is out of contact for awhile, I usually just bombard them with texts full of angry emoji, and they respond eventually and not think I’m a crazy stalker :).

    My problem is mostly with newer friends. I haven’t figured out how, if I get busy and don’t have time to schedule something, to pick things back up. Then I just end up feeling bad about the whole thing and sort of wander off with my tail between my legs.

    I also feel like I’m in kind of a weird spot, since I’ll be out of the country for 6 months in the near future. Do I try to make new friends now? Should I wait? Will they remember me when I get back here in April? I haven’t figured out any answers yet.

    • Not Sarah

      I’ve found that it can take a while (as in months) for friendships to blossom or not, so it doesn’t hurt to try meeting people now. Just make sure to tell them about your trip instead of dropping off the face of the planet for 6 months! And who knows, maybe you’ll keep in contact while you’re gone.

      Seriously, one of my closest friends now, the first few meetings were so, so awkward.

  • KW

    I have several friends that I know in-person now that I met through online sites that I had joined. Going from online to in-person involves someone taking the plunge and suggesting specific activities. I think it helps when you can tie it to a specific event that has a set day/time/location rather than leaving it open ended. For example, “I am going to Club Y to see my friend’s band play on Saturday night, would you like to go too?” Or key in on local festivals and other events that people might go to anyway, and then try and get a group together.

  • Annoymous

    So I’m posting annoymously because I’m embarassed to admit that I keep in touch with 1 friend from high school and NO ONE from college. I went through a long/weird/stressful falling out with a friend that ended up infecting the rest of that friend group in college.

    I actually went through a few years with having NO friends and I was fine with that.

    I now have a few close friends, but it’s so hard because I really am the ONLY one reaching out and trying to schedule get togethers. And this is especially hard for me because I’m very introverted as well as struggling with anxiety and depression. I always have a good time with my friends, though.

    I’m scared to just let these friends go into the void but I guess I should. I am tired of one sided friendships.

    Friendship month has been such a hard month for me on APW. But very much needed!

    • Shauna

      I am in touch with zero friends from college and only one from HS. Those years were tough for me also.

      I definitely became much more social (and socially confident) in my 30s, and love my amazing circle of friends, all of whom I met in grad school/through work/through my husband.

    • Sarah

      Do your friends know how you feel?

      One of my closest college friends (I thought) and I broke up after she told me that she didn’t think we had a real friendship because I rarely invited her to go out and do things. It’s not like I was going to parties and not inviting her though… it’s just that I was an introvert with too much homework. I didn’t realize that our relationship wasn’t working for her. If she’d found a less-hurtful way to clue me in to her expectations, we’d probably still be friends.

  • A lot of the friends I have made as an adult are through my husband’s workplace, for those who aren’t from my college days. For other friends, I tend to meet people via the library because I am there every other week (or more often). It’s easy when you run into someone over and over in the same non-fiction section, or when you end up having a looong discussion about the feminist works you are trying to get via ILL. I also have made friends via religious organizations as well.

  • Shauna

    One really amazing thing to do to cultivate a friendship is to allow others to help *us*. One of my closest friends is super capable and “together”, and has an extensive support system. So I was totally honored when she gave me some concrete tasks to do after she recovered from the birth of her first child. She wanted a mother’s helper and I helped find/screen candidates. It was amazing to be able to help out in a significant way, and it meant a lot that she asked.

    Sometimes we forget that while friendship is about giving, it is also about creating opportunities for others to show their love and support. That means seeking and accepting help, but also being honest about how we’re feeling and what we need.

    • KC

      Also, it seems like sometimes the best actually-getting-to-know-people talk happens while doing things, not while staring at each other. So… collaborative activities are a good thing, especially productive ones!

  • Amy

    Before the friendship topic:

    I just used the term “sometimes ducks are wily” in a business email. Loooooong time readers should appreciate that.

    Friendship: I commiserate with those who have a lack of friends from HS and College. I have one good friend from HS who I hang out with all the time, but that’s it. My college friends all live far, far away. I’m thankful to have had my husband’s group of friends take me in when we started dating, and I can’t imagine our lives without them. However, I will say that my engagement and wedding brought me and my college roommate back together after five years of nearly no communication. We were so close in college, I couldn’t see my wedding without her- imagine my surprise when she was excited for me and wanted to catch up! We now talk on Skype once a month and my husband and I are taking our “babymoon” to visit her.

    The wedding also brought out amazing friendships among my husband’s friends (we dated for a very short time before getting engaged). Their excitement for the two of us, especially among the wives of the group for me, was overwhelming. I just try to return the favor being getting excited about their babies, graduations, etc. (They’re all in the same grad program. Yes, that’s almost cheating in making adult friendships, but we’ll take it!)

    • Moe

      bouns points awarded for “wily ducks”

  • Are there currently any other Madison, WI area APWers? If so, we should figure out a meet-up activity.

  • Rachelle

    It’s awkward to make friends as a couple! My now-fiance and I moved to a new city together about three years ago without knowing anyone and we’ve had a hard time making friends in general. I’m 26 and have found that most women my age are still partying it up while I’m in bed by 10 most nights. That means most of them are single and I have to ditch my partner every time I want to hang out with a girlfriend. When we do find people that are in relationships and try to all hang out together, it’s rare that he’ll click with the guy if I get along well with the girl and vice versa. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like once we have kids and have to worry aout them getting along too. HELP!

    • Amy

      Where are you located? There are a bunch of local APW groups on facebook, there may be one in your city. I kind of wind up hoping that if one half of the couple is cool the other is as well!

    • Audrey

      It’s funny – I have the opposite problem. We’ve fallen into a lot of couple friendships through friends at work, his college friends, etcetera – but I’ve slowly lost the few individual friends I’ve had (mostly through them moving out of the area). Sometimes I wish I had someone outside that friend group. I’ve always been bad at making female friends, and it seems to be getting worse as I’m past 30 and everyone is coupled off and having kids (we have none and no plans).

      • Audrey

        And of course the counter to that is I have trouble finding the time to make these friends because we’re busy with our couple friends….

    • Edelweiss

      I totally feel you on that point. We moved a lot early on in our relationship and I don’t make friends easily, but am more comfortable at it than my husband. It’s so hard to make plans that involve him staying home alone, knowing he’s much less comfortable being home alone than I am (I’ll just use it as an opportunity to watch trashy TV), especially when he has less opportunities to go out solo than I. We’d be fine meeting up with couples and then using that as our platform to develop independent friendships, but it gets much harder to keep 4 people invested in early friendship than 2.

  • Kat

    Great thread. Making friends has been a struggle for me as long as I can remember. The funny thing is that while I’ve become lots more confident in other aspects of life, putting myself out there to meet people is really hard! wedding planning has really made me realise I need to address this (the friend section on the guest list is small – but high quality!).

    Personally I’m trying to 1. say yes to invitations and stop thinking I’m just a tag along! the one doing the inviting and comingpup with the plans. 3. stop believing everyone else is as popular as their Facebook posts would have you believe!

    it’s a work in progress but at I’m trying!

  • RC

    I wonder how much of this might be gender-role-related. In dating, women feel cultural pressure to play it cool and wait for the guy to come to you (yes, that’s an outdated stereotype, but I think it still exerts influence). But that really doesn’t translate to friendship. I’ve never asked a guy out on a date, so maybe it’s only natural that I feel terrified asking a girl on a friend date! I’m realizing that if I want to make a new friend now (unlike in school where it just happened naturally), I have to really take the initiative, even though it makes me feel super vulnerable and awkward.

    • I have zero problems asking guys out (aside from current “problem” of committed relationship), but find it way more difficult to make and keep friend dates. I definitely think it’s because we lack social scripts. Many dating social scripts can be tossed, but at least they exist.

  • Martha

    My college roommate and I owe at least half of our friendship to GChat. I moved about 12 hours away after college and we communicate on a regular basis through GChat (we both have desk jobs). Both of us are naturally big talkers and I think that has helped us tremendously.

    Obviously not everyone is a big talker and phone user. Our other mutual roommate doesn’t care for the phone and is notorious for going several hours/days without answering text messages. We are still friends, but I am much closer to roommate A than I am to B because of our constant communication.

    I think it’s really hard to transition from living with a friend to just being friends. When you live with someone you don’t have to put in “effort” per say to see one another or talk about your life because they’re so intertwined. When you stop living together it’s just important to be conscious of this fact. Heck, my sister and I needed to do this when we both moved out of our parent’s house.

    Not that technology is the only key to friendship, but I think text messsaging can really help keep long distance friendships alive. It’s an easy way to keep someone a part of your “everyday” life. I text my former roommate and my sister every few days, even if we don’t talk on the phone at length more than a few times a moth.

  • Beth

    Can I just say that it is a relief to see that so many others struggle with this? For some reason it usually feels like everyone else is way better at keeping up with friendships than I am, but maybe we’re all just good at looking like we are from the outside? I am not big on talking on the phone and my close friends who live far away aren’t good responding to emails, so it makes it difficult.

    I usually go through periods of being super social and periods of being super hermetic, but when I’m in my social mode and am trying to build my friend group, I tend to say yes to every invitation and that helps a lot. Even if it’s not something I’m super into (going to baseball games, for instance), I do it anyway just to hang out with the people.

    The problem comes when I swing into hermit mode and find myself saying “maybe” or not making it to events – then the invites don’t come as frequently and I find that most of those acquaintances fall off. Bit of a bummer when I realize everyone else is continuing to hang out without me and it’s not just that we’re all too busy.

    Now that I’m all married off, I find that I need to make a much much bigger effort to see my single friends as compared to mutual couple friends we have. Maybe because my husband is better at making plans with them than I am…

  • Awe I had no idea it was friendship month!

    Anyhow, I wanted to chime in because I too have trouble keeping in touch with people. The best strategy I have set in place is probably just to shoot people a quick text or email whenever I think of them.
    Before I would get so involved in the million things I had to do and I would loose track of people for weeks thinking I would just call them later. This often resulted in missed opportunities and strained friendships. I find that if I just take a second to reach out to people when they pop in my head not only does it keep us closer but it also makes me feel like a better friend! :)

    Happy friendship month and good luck to all my fellow wallflowers/social butterflies in training!

    • MirandaVanZ

      We are of like mind I see. I also use this method of just instantly contacting instead of putting it off.

      • I really think it’s the best way to stay in touch! Plus, like I said, I feel WAY less guilty of being a bad friend when I follow this rule.
        Do you have any other “stay in touch” tips?

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      When my partner and I were long-distance, he’d spend his days talking about me people and thinking about me… so at the end of the day he’d feel like he’d gotten plenty of Sarah time. I had to teach him that thinking about me and letting me know he was thinking about me were two different things. Now I get short text messages from him — totally more effective than ESP.

      With long-distance friendships, I think facebook allows us to feel connected without ever actually connecting. It’s easy to fall into the same trap and forget to reach out. Like someone else said upthread, I like to send physical cards for occasions as another way to keep in touch. I use my google calendar to track birthdays and anniversaries.

  • Moe

    In my younger days I grew up in a church community, I was the queen of making friends and keeping them. In my 20’s I could sofa-surf across the state with these friendships.Things are much different now, even though I still attend church occasionally I’m now older, jaded, cynical and sometimes leary of the church-folk who I once considered “my people”.

    So now I’m seriously thinking about posting a Craigslist ad as a social experiment because I think it would be a hoot.

    I’m also going to the APW meet-up for the Angelenos. I’m already totally nervous about it, but I need to bust out of my shell.

    I really do enjoy reading all of the comments today, you guys are great. *fistbump*

    • I used to be that person too, minus the church. I kept in great touch with my core group of HS friends through college (and this was pre-FB!). I kept in decent touch with some college friends after graduation. Now the core groups for both has shrunk a bit, and I’m terrible at responding to emails. This was highlighted to me when I met up with a HS friend who said, in not a mean way, that he didn’t feel bad about not getting back to me immediately (on life update-type emails) because I didn’t get back to him quickly either.

      I also used to be really comfortable just calling people randomly when I was walking home from work, but now I’m not in the US, and international calls and timezones are killer for spontaneous chats.

      Haven’t quite figured out the meetup scene since moving. It’s vaguely on my todo list, but not top life priority right now, if I’m honest.

    • AshleyMeredith

      Wait, there’s an APW meetup for Los Angeles? When? Where??

  • MirandaVanZ

    Something that I try to do to maintain friendships is whenever I think about that person I will text them and ask about what they are up to and then after talking for awhile figure out a time to hang out. I am usually really bad for just staying at home in the evenings and weekends consistently for weeks on end so it forces me to socialize and maintain my friendships.

  • My husband and I moved to a new city 5 months ago and I find it hard to make new friends while being married, especially single friends. I am 27 and many girls around this age are still trying to find the right person to be with, which sometimes means lots of boy drama. It is awkward when everyone is complaining about love life and I do not have much to say, not because married life is always perfect but because for me many things that happen between me and my husband are just private. So yeah, it is hard to connect with single girls in the boys topic.

    Luckily I am studying, so I’ve met many people at uni and I keep in touch with new friends through sms, and phone calls, and since we are in a really touristy city I try to focus on finding fun things to do or new places to visit and inviting people. It was not easy to break the ice and had some awkward first weeks here, I still get some comments like “oh, you would not know about this because you are married”. If anyone has advise on how to make new single friends, I would love to read about it.

  • Lucy, if you were in Brooklyn I would TOTALLY volunteer to sit silently on the couch for the 12th Buffy rewatch (well, silently except for OMWF).

  • My sister had such a great idea for keeping our friend group close when two of us moved away and we all started getting married and having kids. We do a weekly Facebook message that started as our top three highlights of the week. Eventually, we added one sad face of the week because while it was good for us to have to focus on the positives of our lives, we also needed to be able to share our struggles. I look forward to the messages every week and know I would have pretty well lost touch with two of the girls by now if not for them. Those who live in the same city still do monthly brunch, rotating houses each month. Not everyone can make it every month, but it keeps them connected and Saturday morning tends to be a time they’re mostly free.

    One friend and I started a long-distance book club that keeps us in touch. We pick a book and then whenever we’re both finished, we set a time to discuss it via FaceTime. Then we catch up on our lives too.

    The hard part is making new friends. I’m really working on it now that my husband is deployed and I’m on the opposite side of the world from everyone I knew. It’s hard to let go of the old insecurities from middle school and assume that people may like me if I give them the chance. And if I invite them to do something and they say no or don’t answer, it’s not the end of the world. And reminding myself that it really does always take time for acquaintances to become real friends. I talked to another woman who had been stationed in Japan before we moved here and she said she’d made friends here to hang out with but “not anybody I’d cry with, if that makes sense.” And it really did. While I’d love to find that level of friendship here, I’d really settle for women to hang out with right now.

    • I love the weekly Facebook message idea! Such a creative way to keep in touch with people!
      Also, I just wanted to say I am sorry your husband is deployed. I know that has to be hard for you but I’m glad you figured out how to keep in touch with what sounds like a fantastic support system! Best wishes!

      • Thank you. We’re officially 1/3 of the way through today and it’s gone pretty quickly so far. And it’s definitely powerful incentive to make my own friends here.

  • Karen M.

    I moved an hour away from the city and most of my friends sort of just drifted away. We only hung out when I initiated it, which means I mostly end up driving to the city every time. To be honest, I’ve actually been really bummed out about this. I’m assuming the reason I haven’t heard from them is because of all the wedding planning? I really don’t want to lose my friends but I feel like things have definitely changed ever since I settle down and moved.

    • KC

      I’m really sorry to hear that. :-( No fun.

      On the plus side, it’s almost certainly not you, just the “propinquity” thing, where those who are geographically close have an easier time making plans, etc., and if they’re kind of on the busy/full side, they’re not going to make it beyond the low effort level to getting around to something more challenging (like, y’know, drive more than five minutes somewhere – seriously, why do people let these things get in the way? But they often do.).

      If you want to keep these people, you can potentially set up a monthly or a bi-monthly recurring event/party/lunch where they can carpool together and see you and see each other (which makes it “easier” for them – also, the more they make the Trek Up The Himalayas, the more they may realize that this is actually a doable thing, not a crazy thing), but it’s probably going to continue to be a mostly-you-initiated thing (which is okay! I have many friendships where initiation is mostly one-sided either way; either they call me enough that I don’t feel the need to initiate, or I call them enough that they don’t feel the need to initiate.) so don’t go for that if it’s going to make you resentful/bitter. Bitterness can sometimes be averted if you think about what has happened in the past when friends have moved out of “easy” range – do you chase them down or wish them well and mostly only respond when they respond? (usually: some of each.) Sometimes not, though.

      Anyway, it’s almost always harder to move away from a group of friends than to be one of those who are still part of the group. I hope things get easier for you soon.

  • Kater

    Two of my closest friends down in Boston started a monthly standing date on the first Friday of every month called…”First Fridays”! I live in VT now so unfortch can’t really partake – though I did make it to June’s First Friday when I was back in Mass. I think having a standing friend date is an amazing idea (and look forward to putting it into practice when I get my act together & make more friends up here!)

  • AnneTherese

    Damn, I thought I was the only person with trouble hanging onto friendships ;) It’s really good to see that other people are dealing with similar situations.

    I moved abroad right after college, which has been a major strain on my friendships — my friends are scattered across the US and I’ve had to start from scratch here. I met my boyfriend over here within a few months of arriving and he has a really close-knit circle of friends who have known each other for six or seven years now. It took me a long time to even begin to find my place among his friends (language barrier, mild social anxiety on my end, etc) and I really felt like the odd duck for -not- having anything comparable in my life. Since then, we’ve moved cities, I started grad school and became way more fluent in the local language. There is an amazing and very active Catholic student community in my new city, which is where I’ve made a lot of connections. Between that and my classmates from my program, I have lots of acquaintances who I would like to get to know better, but I am so intimidated about cold-calling people and inviting them to do things with me! Very scary prospect. I’m so glad that things have improved this far, now I just need to be brave and start getting out of my comfort zone!

  • Emilie

    I love talking on the phone. But most people I know don’t identify as phone talkers. I used to feel like I was imposing on them by calling, but several have told me they really appreciate it. I think reaching out in a way you are comfortable with automatically makes everybody more comfortable.

    I also find it helpful to call while I am walking somewhere or only have a 15 minute break; that way I have an out if it gets awkward. When the conversation is shorter it makes good-byes easy and generally both parties exit feeling like they could have shared or heard more, making future phone calls more welcome.