True confession: I have never been that good at girl friendships. From my elementary days when I was painfully shy to my middle and high school days where girl friendships left me wounded and confused, I’ve always felt like girl friendships were more complicated and sometimes just not worth the pain. When I went to college, I was wrestling with deep feelings of shame and fears that the girls I met would think I was too much or annoying in some way.
But oh my goodness was I blown away by the women I met! The girls on my floor (and some of the surrounding floors) pursued me, loved me, and rallied around my broken, scared self in so many ways. They taught me how to love and be loved, how to be silly and enjoy each other’s company while still sharing the deepest, hardest parts of our stories and our days. I loved those girls so much, and cried with my head against the car window as I drove away from Davidson and into a new life with my soon-to-be fiancé/husband.
When I got to Kansas City and jumped into wedding planning, working full-time, and going to grad school, I struggled to find new friendships. In the past year, I’ve seen friendships grow and deepen and it has been so sweet to start to share life with some beautiful women who love the Lord and love me well. Looking back, I see lots of choices I made, both big and small, that contributed to my struggles with girl friendships. So in the spirit of honesty and learning from other people’s mistakes…here are some of the mistakes I made in my first few years post college when it comes to female friendships!
Six Reasons I Struggled To Find Friends After College
1) I expected new friends to immediately fill the same roles my old friends did.
Like I said above, my friends in college were wonderful. But those relationships took many hours, lunch dates, study sessions, and late night cry-fests to form. When I started meeting women post-college, I expected that same level of connection to already be there or to form quickly, and when it didn’t, I was quick to dismiss these poor women as somehow not “worthy” of my time.
Friendships post-college require a lot more effort because schedules and careers and families make things a lot more complicated, and relationships might take longer to build and deepen than they did during the haze of freshman orientation and dorm life. I’m learning to let friendships grow naturally, giving them the time and space to deepen and mature, rather than expecting to have a new best friend after an hour in Starbucks. These kind of expectations weigh down a relationship and make it hard for intimacy to grow naturally. Whether it will be a relationship that lasts for a year or a season or one that grows as we get married, have kids, and grow older, it’s worth giving friendships time to unfold so you can find out.
2) I chose my marriage and work over pursuing new friendships.
Okay, disclaimer: it is SUPER important to pursue and love your spouse above other relationships, and I never want to undermine that fact. But in our first year of marriage and my second year in Kansas City, I was so focused on my marriage and spending time with Jordan that it was sometimes suffocating to both of us. I expected Jordan to fill all the relational needs he AND my friends once filled, and it often left him feeling overwhelmed. And as much as I love him, sharing things with him wasn’t always as helpful as eating ice cream from the carton and crying about everything with my girlfriends. Pursuing other girl friendships might have given me a relational outlet to grow and share without putting all of my needs on my husband’s shoulders.
In the same vein, I’ve talked to many friends who do the same thing with work or school. This season is THE most important time in their career (according to them), and friendships and community will just have to come later. But friends, where does that leave us when this pivotal season in our lives finds us confused, lonely, and lost? Maybe deep friendships and community are the things that actually enable us to love our spouses and work passionately in our careers, simply because they remind us who we are in the broader context of the world we live in. But if we want those deep friendships, we have to be willing to sacrifice our time or our to-do list to grow the relationships that matter.
3) I only looked for friends in my exact same life stage.
Since Jordan and I were about to get married, I desperately wanted some friends in that same life stage who I could share all the ups and downs of wedding planning and marriage with. If I met friends who were single or older with kids, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t pursue those friendships as much because they weren’t in my same “life stage” (seriously, y’all, SO dumb). My small group this year is a beautiful mix of married couples and single guys/gals, and I have learned so much from them. My single friends teach me amazing things about trust and adventure and contentment, and my friends with kids teach me so much about well, pretty much the same things. It turns out we’re all on the same journey and can learn a lot from each other no matter what. Who knew?
4) I was too scared to pick up the phone and text someone to hang out.
All right, can we be real for a second? Picking up the phone to ask a girlfriend to hang out can be just as scary (if not more?) as asking someone on a date. There were several times in my first few years here where I had an open night and would have loved to hang out but was too scared to text someone. I didn’t want to be seen as annoying or too needy, so my shame and fear prevented me from reaching out.
I wonder how my friendships would look different if I had just told myself to suck it up and make that phone call or send that text. I have a feeling some of those early friendships would have grown a lot quicker, especially because I’ve since laughed with some of those friends about them feeling the exact same thing and not texting me! We’re all scared and a little awkward, so why don’t we just embrace it and be the one willing to send the first text?
5) I waited to share struggles with friends until I felt polished and ready.
The first few years of marriage were hard, and there were moments where I felt like my heart was going to burst from the confusion and plain old “hardness” of it all. But in those moments, I was so scared to call a friend and just break down like I would have in college. I was scared they’d think I was too much or too emotional or too crazy, so I waited to share about those hard moments until I had processed them and could present them gift wrapped with a pretty little bow on our coffee date three weeks later.
My friendships started growing deeper when I called friends in the midst of the hard moments instead of after them. Like when I texted my friend Kylie after a really hard conversation with Jordan and asked her to meet me for coffee ASAP. We met after school the next day, and her listening and encouragement made all the difference. Or when I texted my friend Aly as I cried on my closet floor after a particularly hard marriage counseling session, and her sweet words of encouragement reminded me I’m not alone. When I was brave enough to reach out to those friends in the middle of my pain instead of after I’d moved through it, those friendships deepened and grew immensely. The vulnerability was scary, but so, SO worth it.
6) I didn’t invite people into my day-to-day life activities or to just hang out.
I am ALL about coffee dates. As an introvert, my ideal social scenario involves me, one other person, and a relatively quiet environment with caffeinated beverages. I’ve gotten to know so many beautiful, real women through coffee dates, but it’s hard to sustain a relationship on just that. I’m learning that sometimes friendship grows the best when I invite people to go with me places, whether it’s shopping for that new outfit I need, to pick up some random things for my house at the thrift store, or just to get random ice cream and a movie because we’re bored. Intentional, deep coffee dates might be this introvert’s favorite way to hang, but as my husband would say, sometimes you’ve just to have a little fun for relationships to grow!
Growing friendships can be scary and hard, and it makes me sad to think of all the times I let shame and fear prevent me from reaching out to other women and sharing my heart and my struggles with them. If you’re in the season post-college where work and life feel overwhelming, I hope you’ll take the time to pursue friendships and community, even when it’s scary and vulnerable. Because when life gets hard, especially in the years when we are making huge decisions about our careers, our families, and our hearts, we need people to surround us, pour into us, and call us out of ourselves into something bigger than the craziness.
So send the text, make the tearful phone call, or pop by somebody’s house just to say hi. Do whatever it takes to grow your friendships and choose relationships over to-do lists. I promise it’s worth it!