This post was originally published on July 13, 2018.
If you had told me five years ago that I’d be starting over when it comes to friendship, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I was leading a moms’ group, active in my church, and had a circle of close friends that I hung out with on a regular basis. We were all stay-at-home moms, and at least four of them lived nearby.
We frequently traded babysitting to run errands or to go to appointments. We met up at parks, each other’s houses, and Chick-Fil-A for lunches and playdates. We laughed together and supported each other through parenting. These were my girls.
But circumstances change.
Our kids moved into elementary school, and a couple of my good friends went back to work. Another couple of them moved away. I had another baby, and all of a sudden, I was starting the parenting journey over again while my friends were moving into a new season of life.
After I had my little girl, I stepped down from leading the moms’ group, and my family started attending a new church. Even though I still considered those girls my close friends, our lives didn’t overlap as much as before. Our paths didn’t cross unless we could find time in the middle of our families’ busy schedules to get together.
When it came to friendship, I was back at the starting line. And it felt hard. And vulnerable. And exhausting to think about starting over again.
Maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new city. Or you’ve just had a baby and don’t know any other young moms. Or, like I did, you’ve entered a new life stage or you’ve started attending a new church.
Whatever transition you’re in, I want to offer you encouragement as you start building friendships again. In this post, I want to share with you 3 basic things that you can do to make friends.
1. Be intentional.
Do you ever look back with nostalgia at your childhood friendships and wonder why it’s so much harder to make friends as an adult?
When you were a kid, friendships were kinda just built into life. You spent hours together every day at school, you hung out in your neighborhood, you played soccer or softball together, you went to each other’s houses for play dates and sleepovers. Your lives overlapped in many ways.
As an adult, your life is a lot more compartmentalized than it was back then. Friendships don’t just happen — you have to be intentional about developing them. That means putting on a friendship-building glasses.
Have you ever noticed how when something is on your mind or you’re about to make a big purchase, you start noticing it everywhere? Like, maybe you’re thinking about buying a new car, and all of the sudden you start noticing all of the features of the cars you pass? They were there all along, but you’re just now really seeing them.
Friendship is the same way. You interact with people every day, and yet, unless you’re intentionally thinking about it, you don’t see those interactions as potential moments for building friendship. But if you “put on” your friendship-building glasses, you start seeing all of the opportunities around you like the friendly woman you talked to at the library. Or the neighbor you pass on your walks around the block. Or the mom you talk to at your daughter’s gymnastics practice.
Once you notice those opportunities, challenge yourself to make the most of them. Ask if she’d like to go grab lunch after practice is over. Or invite her to your house for lunch and a playdate. Friendships don’t just happen — you have to be intentional about creating them.
2. Spread a wide net.
Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and Frientimacy, introduces this concept on her blog.
When it comes to making friends, you can either drop your fishing line into the ocean and just hope that the right person comes along OR you can use a net and connect with a wide variety of people, giving yourself a greater chance at developing the friendships you need.
“A net approach invites us to recognize that we will need to meet many, many different women…before we will know which ones have the potential to become the friendships we’re hoping to develop. Like a funnel, we can invite in many and trust that the narrowing down process will happen as we move forward.”
I’ve been doing this with women at my church, moms of my kids’ friends, and moms I meet at my MOPS group, spending time with a wide variety of people in different kinds of circumstances. And just in the last few months, I see those seeds really starting to grow.
Spreading a wide net means saying “yes” to a lot of different kinds of people. It means not turning down an invitation to coffee with that mom who reached out to you, even if you don’t think you naturally “click” with her. It means saying no to surfing the web tonight so you can go get to know someone that you may or may not become great friends with. It means planting seeds of friendship and seeing which ones grow with time.
3. Create consistency.
One of the best things you can do to help those seeds of friendship grow is to create some regular time to spend with your new friends. Think back on those childhood friendships. One of the biggest things that contributed to them being great is the fact that you saw your friends so often in so many contexts.
Make Time for Friends
You have to create that consistency as an adult. Sometimes this happens naturally in settings where you see someone weekly, maybe at a moms’ group, an exercise class, or a playgroup. But a lot of times, it comes back to being intentional. You have to schedule in regular time with the people that you want to get to know.
In her book, Shasta says, “We cannot get to that always-be-there-for-you-friendship that we crave without the scheduling-you-in-even-though-I-barely-know-you phase. We fantasize about having someone drop everything for us, forgetting that to get to that point we have to be willing to at least drop our TV show tonight so we can go have an awkward date with someone we barely know.”
Ask one of your new friends if she’d like to start getting together once a week for lunch at your house while the kids play. Invite a small group to get together twice a month to swap recipes or to visit over dessert. Or pick a parenting book and invite someone to get together and discuss it, one chapter a week.
A friend of mine and I used to get together once a month to talk about our monthly goals. Two of my friends bonded when one spent hours helping the other paint her house.
It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you’re spending time together consistently. Read this post about how to make time for friends!
Be an initiator.
We all hope to find friends who invite us to do thing. But there are a number of reasons why a lot of people are afraid to initiate getting together whether it’s insecurity or a lack of time.
Instead of always waiting for someone to reciprocate, why not just choose to be an initiator? Be proactive and invite a friend over even if you were the one to initiate the last two times. Life is too short to wait for others to act.
When you embrace the role of initiator, you’ll never get your feelings hurt or have to wait around for someone to invite you to do something. You’ll initiate it instead!
Related: What if They Don’t Reciprocate?
4. Be patient.
In our fast-paced society, we want things to happen quickly. But building friendships can take a long time. It doesn’t feel “productive” because it’s on its own time table, and that can feel discouraging.
When you feel frustrated with how long it’s taking, look back on the relationships you had in the season you just left. Reach out to those friends through texts, voice messaging or phone calls. Catch up on life and let them know how much they mean to you.
In fact, if you’re starting over in a new town, it’s not a bad idea to plan a regular time to “meet up” with an old friend regularly through FaceTime during your transition time.
Remind yourself that you’ve made great friendships in the past and that they started small — just like the ones you’re developing now.
Refocus on the present.
After you’ve taken time to look back, refocus on the present. Building friendships is a collection of moments, and yes, it can take a long time. But there’s a lot to enjoy along the way.
Be present for each conversation, each interaction, each bonding moment. Trust the process. Enjoy the small seeds that you plant, knowing that eventually, you’ll see them grow into something bigger, just like the friendships you’ve had in the past.
Related: 3 Things You Need to Know About Friendship and Time
How to Make Friends When You’re Starting Over?
So if you’re in some kind of transition, put these four tips into practice: be intentional, spread a wide net, create consistency, and be patient. It will take some work, but over time, you’ll find yourself developing friendships that will last.
Have you gone through a season where you had to start over in friendship? What was it like for you? Share in the comments below.
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Sometimes it’s so hard to be consistent and not get discouraged by the lack of progress in the friendship. How do you manage it, Sandi?
I agree — it can be hard. I have been there, too. I think spreading your net wide in terms of spending time with a lot of different people is really important so that you’re not depending on one certain friendship to progress. All you can do is try, but if things don’t seem to be progressing, I’d look for some other people to spend time with, too.