Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Mystery of Friendship

DISCLAIMER:  This isn't necessarily a soapbox post, though it might seem like it to some. I write it because I don't want to forget what I have recently learned about myself. I have really struggled with this in the past and because of these things I've recently realized, I have promised myself to really try to never be bothered by this again.  So if you are one of the women through my life in the last 8 1/2 years that have talked to me about this topic, please don't feel like I'm preaching to you. It's something I've discussed with so many of my friends and I was determined to try to figure out why so many of us feel this way.


Nathan and I were talking about this Saturday night. In the 8 1/2 years Nathan and I have been married I have had more than a couple friends express to me how they feel like they have very few friends and even fewer close friends. They lament that when it comes to girls' nights out or families getting together, they feel left out. I'll admit, I've felt this way and I'm guilty of complaining about it. A lot. Especially when Nathan and I first got married and when we first moved to Ohio.

I think I've figured out why this is.

When we were in grade school we saw our friends every day. Whether we had many, or few, we saw them in our classes, at lunch, after school, and on weekends. We didn't have many opportunities to feel alone and friendless (although I'm sure teenage angst helped to us feel those things anyway at some point) because if we needed a dress for the school dance, we had at least one friend who would go shopping with us. If we wanted to go see a movie, we had a friend to go with us. If we wanted to eat at Denny's after the high school football game, we had a group of friends to go with us.

In college it isn't much different. I lived in an apartment complex full of girls around my age. I had 5 roommates each year of college before getting married and they were awesome. I never had to go anywhere alone if I didn't want to. I knew my roommates were my friends and we did everything together.

But most women, when graduated from high school or college, no longer have the daily interactions with the friends they've spent every day with for years. Those who enter the work place, unfortunately, don't always make friends with those they work with, but try to make time for friends from college, talk on the phone, email, catch up, etc.

Then comes marriage. Of course now I don't live in an apartment of 6 girls, in a complex filled with 60 other girls. Us married women, we live with one person. A man. A man who doesn't understand the need for cute earrings, or have any desire for a manicure, or want to make a YouTube video pretending to be a chef while you are hiding behind him, pretending your arms are his and creating a mess (or do other equally silly things college girls do with their roommates). Don't get me wrong, we have a wonderful relationship with our husbands, but it isn't in any way similar to the girl friend relationships we had in high school and college where we knew we had friends because we were always with them.

Sometimes when there is a large group of women, and in my experience this is at Church where we have a women's group called Relief Society, cliques form unintentionally. It isn't like the cliche high school where the cheerleaders run the school and only talk to you to make fun of you.  At our age and situation what happens is a few of the women find they have something in common: kids around the same age, or no kids at all, same hobbies, or they studied the same things in college, or have callings at Church that throw them together one one time or another . . . and then they form friendships.

Others who feel outside those friendships sometimes look on them and think to themselves how they wish they had a close friend like that. Someone to switch babysitting with, exercise with, have chick flick nights with, or someone who would be comfortable dropping by unannounced and just hangout on a Wednesday afternoon. They want a larger circle of friends like they had earlier in life.

I remember thinking in our Church group in Logan, Utah how much I wanted to be friends with a specific girl. There were about three girls I really wanted to be friends with, but there was one in particular. I thought she was funny, nice, and there was just something about her (probably that she is from the south and so I felt a little geographical kinship with her). I had no idea how to go about it. "Hi, I've known you for three years now and in your mind we are probably considered friends, but I'd like to notch it up a level by having you tell me to my face that you consider me a friend and then maybe we could go to Sonic and have lunch while our hubbies are at school."? Instead I invited her and her husband over for dinner, I went to activities and tried to be friendly with everyone (it was really hard for me since it is sometimes painful for me to open my mouth and actually talk to people), I tried to participate in the Sunday School class that she and her husband taught. While I gradually realized we were better friends than we had been before I took the initiative (or at least I felt better about our friendship), we didn't just hang out randomly or do girl movie nights, or anything like that. The interactions that were so prevalent with my high school and college roommates still weren't present.

Nathan and I decided that it is this lack of constant interaction that sometimes causes women around my age and in my situation to feel as if they don't have friends. Despite Facebook and "friending" people, we sometimes feel alone. I think Facebook sometimes makes it worse, actually. We might live far away from those we went to school with and so we keep up with them on Facebook and then we remember how we used to have friends that would do stuff with us. But now, we stay at home with our kids and have to talk about Elmo and dinosaurs instead of current events and life. Or, we go to work outside the home, maybe with people we don't particularly care for, and are too tired to initiate a girls' night out or go to the one we know is happening. Or maybe we are just tired of watching Twilight :) So we stay home and feel friendless. Then on Sunday we look at all the women at Church and see those sitting together talking about how fun it was doing craft night, movie night, dinner, play group, sports night, etc. and we wonder, why didn't I know about that? Why wasn't I invited? How long has that group been going on?  I went to that once and no one talked to me. Or when I initiated that group no one came.

We think all kinds of self pitying things and have our feelings hurt when no offense was meant. The truth probably is, we missed the email, we probably really needed to go to bed earlier that night, or those women probably got a small group together because one of them really needed a girls' night out to release stress from work or home or both. No one was intentionally left out, it's just that it was probably a sudden thing and so a few girls who have the most in common with the girl who needed the night out were the ones immediately thought of when phone calls were made or emails sent. Sometimes this does lead to cliques, but they are unintentional. They form because those women are comfortable with each other. If one was to offer the suggestion of broadening their "circle" the others would more than likely agree, but they don't think of their friendship as exclusive so the idea to include more doesn't pop up.

Those of us with kids are so dang busy and tired that it's hard to go out and see people anyway. I would love to go to lunch with a friend or two, but between getting the kids to two different schools, picking up the kids from two different schools, carpool, getting the daily house chores done, etc, I don't always eat lunch, let alone eat it with a friend.

So from now on I promise myself to not be offended when I don't make friends right away (this will be hard in 1 1/2 years when we move), or when I look at three girls talking about how fun some activity was that I wasn't invited to. I won't be upset when I think back to how I used to have friends, because I know that I do still. Some of us are further apart geographically, some of us are close, but busy. Still, I know that if I needed something important, they would help.

I will be better about initiating friendships and keeping them going by inviting others over for dinner, movies, games, etc. I will no longer sit around hoping for invitations from others, but will be the one to offer them. If those invitations are not accepted, or fewer people come than hoped, I will not be offended, but realize that those who didn't come probably had really good reasons. I will remember that there have been activities I've been invited to and have had to turn down even though I wanted to go.

I'm sure Nathan will be happy to have the whining over with.


Janelle said...

This should generate some interesting conversation. I understand the logic behind the thought process, and how you arrived at this determination, but I respectfully disagree.

Kim said...

Well put. I agree with you, and I really appreciate the outlook you've taken. It makes me want to be more positive when I feel this way too.(Which I do a lot.) Also, as I was reading I thought that it would be great if Seattle were your next destination (I know you don't have any control though). Then we could be craft night/Chick flick buddies! ;)

Katie Blacker said...

cool post. I love that our ward has a mailing list. It helps to ensure no one is left out (well except those not on the email list). I think a positive attitude is important. It will not only help someone feel better about themselves but I believe it will automatically lead to more friendships.

Shawny said...

Love that you have brought this up because it's something I've actually been thinking about lately. I agree with much of what you have said. I would also bet that the majority of women probably feel this way, we just don't know their internal feelings. I would even go as far to say that even the ones that appear to be social all the time, still feel this way from time to time. I think it's a woman thing. My husband doesn't get the concept of having friends and going out or having people over. He's happy with just me and the kids. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be like guy in that respect.

So with that being said, we all just need to take the initiative and plan things and hang out!

Shawny said...

Janelle--I'd like to hear your point of view.

Better yet, let's just plan a night out and talk it out in person!

Shawny said...

Oh, and if ever I start feeling this way, the cure for me is to forget myself and start doing things for other people. It really helps!

I told you I've been thinking about this topic.

janeen said...

You need to move to Utah! I completly agree with you. I had never realy even thought about it like you did. Now I can explain it to Rod and maybe he won't get so annoyed at hearing me whine.

Janelle said...

>deep breath<

Some random, disorganized thoughts on the matter:

Being invited to activities/parties/etc. doesn’t mean that you feel included. They’re two separate things. A lot of people get all the emails and all the invites and don’t come. Maybe they have things to do already, maybe they’re not interested, or maybe they don’t come because they already – and separately from that specific instance – don’t feel included.

Attending activities/parties/etc. doesn’t mean you feel included. It’s an eerie and all-too-familiar feeling to sit in a room full of people and still feel lonely. Like Shawny said, sometimes even the seemingly most involved and social among us feel alone, and no one knows it.

We all come from different backgrounds, and we all have different experiences. Some people had lots of friends growing up, or in college. Some people didn’t, and still don’t. And people who didn't have friends in high school or college don't feel like they don't have friends now because of a contrast in volume.

Like Shawny, the issue of friendship has been on my mind a lot lately. The fact that Kellie felt the need to put so much thought into creating this post and sharing it (which I think is great, by the way!) tells me that it clearly is a problem, and for more people that I may have realized before. Perhaps I’m being oversensitive to this issue, but what I’m reading in this post is, “if you feel like you don’t have friends, it’s really your own fault, because it’s just all in your head.” Maybe that’s the conclusion that Kellie has reached based on her own experience, but I certainly don’t think it’s a generalizable conclusion.

Kellie, you said that you resolve to be the one to extend invitations, to be the hostess, to have people over for dinner. That’s great! But eventually it starts to feel empty when it isn’t reciprocated.

>deep breath<

Janelle said...

This comment is solely for the purpose of checking the box that asks if I want to be notified of follow-up comments by email.

Terri said...

Kellie, well said! I want you to know you are a wonderful person with so many great qualities!! I have found since being married and having older kids, a lot of time is spent just with our individual families. I find it important to attend activities and host activities. It is hard sometimes to visit with everyone at a gathering so I prefer having small outings with just a few friends. I am at fault for hanging out more with girls that have similar interests as me. It is something I am trying to work on. Kellie, janelle, shawny, or anyone that would like to hang out, I'm always up for an adventure.

Cicely said...


I think your post was awesome. And the reason I think it was awesome is because it is you- your experiences, your life.

Everyone had different experiences and friendships growing up and I enjoyed hearing about yours.

I, personally, know that (as much as I want to be) I can't be best friends with every girl I meet. So, I try to be friendly to everyone and try to encourage a special relationship with anyone I can. I do what I do. and I have been enjoying it.

I think the trick is to try to have a positive attitude whenever possible. Just like you are doing.

ps. This sounds like it should be related to this post, but it actually isn't: do you have a free Sunday to do dinner and a game again in Feb?

pps. Also, not related, have I told you that I love it when i say something that I don't think anyone will get and i look over at you and you have a little smirk on your face like you get it. I like that.


Sarah said...

Kellie, apparently I don't call/write enough. I am sorry I have been shirking my duty as "long time friend from childhood" I am sorry! I know how it feels to be in that group of people looking over and saying "gosh, I wish I were in "the group"". I spent the first year and a half in california thinking I made a mistake living there because I new nobody outside of blood relations who were also 1 1/2 hrs from me away. I had Benji while I lived there and not even my Relief Society President called to see how it was going and the Stake Missionaries came by every blue moon to ask if we were still active and which one of us was the "member" ..... I also try branching out and joining a play group from the community and when I mentioned that I was LDS some months into the play group they asked me to leave. ......Deep Sigh..... What did I learn? Persevere! When someone new was at church or in my neighborhood I made it my job to make sure I was the first one to sit next to them or ask them over for dinner....I also learned that I don't want a group of friends who don't like me or pretend to be someone I'm not for the sake of companionship. I left California with a small but wonderful circle of friends. I didn't have to change who I was to get them or feel like a third wheel either. But yes, I had to do my part, I had to speak up.

Kellie said...

Sarah, don't worry your pretty head about that! You are an awesome friend. You have called me far more than I've called you or anyone else. I've never been good at calling people. I would never ever doubt your friendship.

Colin & Lori said...

Kellie, I was so touched by your friendship and offer of taking Mia to and from school for me this last week. You just reached out, insisted practically and you didn't let me refuse. I do appreciate that. I have realized that I really am not good at letting others help me. Thank you! You said many things in this post that I agree with and have felt myself. You are just better at putting your thoughts and feelings into words!

Nikki said...

I read some of the comments and was quite enlightened by some differing opinions. So far, what I read sounds right on to me.

I've thought about posting about this before as well.

I recently talked to a friend who moved a couple months ago. She's the person that EVERYONE loves and gets invited to everything. She talked about how she feels alone and has being praying for just one friend. She talked about the cliques in her Relief Society and other lonely members.

I thought to myself, I've never prayed for a friend. I never even considered it. That certainly could've helped me when I had one child and felt the way you described in your post.

But I also really like how you decided to start initiating the friendships. The gate swings both ways, right? I've often heard, "You have to be a friend to have a friend."

Hmm... I have lots more thoughts by they pretty much just echo your sentiments. You worded it well girl. You have a new follower now.