• Other Friendship Advice

Circles of Friends

Some women have the good fortune of having a circles of friends with a shared history

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I stumbled across your blog, and I think it’s so helpful and needed in a society that seems to place greater value on romantic relationships than friendships.

I’m in my late 20’s, and the older I get, the harder I’ve found it to keep deep, meaningful female friendships. We’re growing in different directions, moving to different states, pairing off romantically, etc. I have three very close female friendships that I treasure but they aren’t connected; they are friends from different sectors of my life. So I feel like I’m lacking a “friend group.” I also feel as though I don’t have enough deep friendships, in general.

It bothers me that most people my age seem to have a “group.” I’ve been in friend groups before in my life, but I find that in friend groups, I can’t connect as deeply to each friend. So I prefer one on one time. I know this sounds like a sort of hard question to answer, but what’s the average number of close female friendships that women my age have? Or any thoughts you have on how friendships change as you get older.

Thanks very much,
Jane

ANSWER

Dear Jane:

What a great letter! You raised so many thought-provoking questions. A few ideas:

Some women have the good fortune of having groups of friends who have a shared history—based on where they were, where they lived, or what they did together.

There have been a spate of books lately—Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope, The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, and more recently, The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow—that make women feel like they’re missing out on something big if they don’t belong to a friendship circle. In fact, when I interviewed Mr. Zaslow, he said that he had two types of readers: those who had a circle similar to The Girls from Ames and those that wish they did!

When I read that literary trilogy on sisterhoods, I have to admit I was envious because, like you, I’m in the latter category. I have close friends but my friends aren’t friends with each other. They come from different ages and stages of my life that don’t intersect.

While it isn’t impossible to forge a sisterhood later in life, it’s generally easier to do it as a teenager or young adult because you’re likely to have more time and to be thrown together in similar circumstances—whether it’s a team, sorority, or neighborhood. As we marry or divorce, move, or graduate and our lives diverge, it becomes tougher to sustain circles of friends.

Keep in mind: Even in a circle of friends, there are usually twosomes (dyads or pairs) who seem to have more in common, either temperamentally or situationally. Thus, each woman doesn’t have precisely the same relationship with each member in the circle. Zaslow figured out that there was a possibility of 99 different pairs in the 11 Girls from Ames.

People generally have far more acquaintances than they do close friends so it isn’t surprising that deep and meaningful friendships are the most coveted and difficult to achieve. Just like a romance, most women say that at their start, there is a certain essential chemistry that provides the foundation for best friendships. Then, as two women feel increasingly comfortable together, they are able to become more intimate and reveal their true selves to one another.

While there is wide variability, based on the data from my friendship survey, most women have between two and five very close or best friends (there’s a section in my forthcoming book that looks at the numbers). What’s more important than quantity, however, is quality and whether or not you feel like you have enough of the right type of friends for you. If you feel like something’s missing, perhaps it is.

I will be returning to this topic again in another blog post but would love to hear from others about the topic of friendship circles and sisterhoods (when you’re on the inside) and cliques (when you are on the outside).

Best,
Irene

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Category: OTHER ADVICE

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  1. Feeling left out by my group - The Friendship Blog : The Friendship Blog | March 24, 2015
  1. Samantha(sammi) says:

    I am a housewife over 35& am looking for other gals to be hopefully lifelong friends with. I am in a really small town&I have no family of my own except for my husband&my son. I need to make new friends, because as the other comments say,I only have 2 and they arent friends. The question I have is what is the best way to find real friendship on the web for someone like me? Thanks for listening.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am 37 and divorced. I will say I don’t really have a circle of girlfriends like high school or college because we have all gone different directions. I am an introvert, so I prefer having close friends. All of my friends live in different locations, a lot I recently reconnected with through FB are married and starting families. Don’t really have much to talk about. Its true, once the kids come, the friendship changes. May not hear from them for years. As I get older, I find it more difficult to find good friends. None of my friends are friends with each other. All from different stages of my life. I always had guy friends, still have some contact, but they are still single. The married guy friends I rarely talk to. I think its harder to maintain friendships with married friends with children than single friends without kids. For a while, I was hurt, but just the way it goes. And my tolerance level is lower, so I don’t put up with drama any more. Don’t have the time or energy. I thought it was just me, but after reading this blog, seems to be a common theme, beyond the high school and college years.

  3. Jane says:

    Thanks very much! This is very helpful.

    I think what you wrote about the stronger pair bonds that form
    in a circle of friends is particularly interesting and true.

    I’m excited to read your book.

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