• Making Friends

Never a Best Friend?

Published: June 21, 2010 | Last Updated: December 29, 2014 By | 12 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

I don’t know if this is a strange question or if many other women have the same issue as me. I have a lot of friends that I’m very attached to, and enjoy spending time with. I’m not outgoing, but I’m not a shy person, and find it easy to meet and befriend people. I get on well with a wide range of people and have always had plenty of friends in my life. My friends tell me I am funny, clever, good company, a good conversationalist and a good listener, caring, intuitive, generous and make people feel better about themselves. I often receive cards and letters from them thanking me for my help and friendship, so I definitely feel appreciated.

Yet at no point in my life have I ever been someone’s BEST friend. I’ve had women in my life I considered my best friend, but they never saw me that way in return. I always seem to be the second-best friend, the back-up friend, or just another friend in the group. On some level, I feel that friends keep me at a slight emotional distance, and although they are happy to share their problems with me, nobody seems to be too comfortable hearing about mine.

I had a best friend in grad school, and soon after that we got married, so although that’s lovely, he didn’t only want friendship from me. In college I had a female best friend who turned out to be bisexual and expected us to become a couple – when I said I only wanted to be her friend, she soon found a companion who was more on her sexual wavelength (another close friend of mine so I lost both of them). In high school I had a best friend and I believe I was her best friend as well – two months later her family moved 500 miles away. She soon found a best friend at her new school, but I never did.

As far as I can work out, I am a very likeable person but not a lovable one, or at least it’s hard for me to find people who will love me platonically and not move away. I’m in the second half of my life now and I’ve accepted that it’s not likely I’ll ever be someone’s best friend at this late stage. I’m grateful for the friendships I have and I know I’m lucky. But not only do I secretly feel a little jealous when I see two female friends sharing a close bond and pouring their hearts and minds out to each other, I also wonder why it is I have never had this except for 2 months at the age of 14?

You know a lot about women and about friendship – can you tell me what makes a woman “best friend material”, and what reasons could there be that I just don’t cut it as a BFF?




Dear Terri,

It sounds like you already know all the qualities of being a good friend—mutual respect, caring, loyalty, trust, and supportiveness, to start—and that you are one! Those same ingredients are key to becoming a BEST friend. However, for two people to become best friends, they need to desire the same closeness with each other and to work at it over time.

The friend who is bisexual wanted a romantic involvement with you while you didn’t. It’s understandable how that put the kibosh on building a best friendship. In the case of the short-lived best friend who moved away, distance often makes it challenging to deepen a friendship when there isn’t a long shared history. Since you’ve desired a best friend for a long time, however, it’s probably not solely a matter of you consistently making poor choices and/or of logistics getting in the way.

One thought that comes to my mind: Could you possibly be guarded with other people and reluctant to self-disclose, perhaps because you have had a hard time forming intimate friendships with women in the past? Such a tendency, which is common, could inadvertently create an emotional distance between you and a friend. If your friend feels you are holding back, it will cause her to do the same.

Conversely, trust and intimacy develop slowly when there is a give and take. Two friends begin to feel so in sync that they can comfortably share their innermost feelings and thoughts. You might try selecting one promising friendship and approaching it in a different way than you have with others (that have remained more superficial) by allowing yourself to gradually get closer over time.

Another possibility is that you are, in some way, intimidating your friends, which also creates distance. Two best friends don’t have to feel equal in every way but there needs to be a sense of balance between them: That overall, each one is giving as much as she is receiving. Perhaps, you’re portraying yourself as more successful and self-assured than you are.

Of course, these are just two possibilities, but since the problem you describe is persistent and remains troublesome to you, it may be worthwhile to talk to a counselor or mental health professional who can give you some helpful feedback specific to your situation.

In the meantime, although you don’t have a BEST FRIEND at the moment, you are fortunate to have good friendship-making skills, a group of friends who appreciate you, and many potential candidates for a best friend. Over time, one of these friendships may eventually become the special relationship you are longing for.

I hope this is helpful.


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Comments (12)

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  1. Dianna K says:

    I thought I had a really good, understanding, and there for you friend, but this morning when I mentioned a possible mistake another friend of hers may have possibly maken I brought it up and explained I would fix the problem myself, but instead of an I’m sorry maybe we can work something out together with her other friend. I instead was cussed at, called names, and cut off. I just don’t understanding because I was never blaming anything on her but giving her a polite heads on on the situation. Then more attacks from here and a basically, in not so many words, [EDITED BY MODERATOR xxxx]. I had never even argued with this so called ‘friend’ she’s in the mental side which I knew about but damn she didn’t have to blow my head off.

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I didn’t have any of my friends describe me as even their best *male* friend until I was in my late thirties. I’m 41 now. It wasn’t until I turned 40 that anyone described me simply as his “best” friend.

    When the moment and the person are right, the time will come as long as you are open to it.

  3. Fiona McMurdo says:

    I am right in the thick of a situation similar to this. Alot of my life has been spent being suspicious and mistrusting because of my background, but for the past 7 years I have developed a close friendship. But she has another friend whom she obviously likes alot more than she likes me. It hurts, because she is my best friend.
    Hard to believe I am 50 next week. never too late to learn, I suppose.
    Many thanks.

  4. SG says:

    Hi Terri,

    I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone. I have found that, in my mid thirties, a BFF is impossible to find.

    I used to have this type of friendship in university but I felt smothered by her. I ended the friendship and then went though a series of “best friends”, each lasting about two years and then dissolving away.

    Like you, I have friends who really like me, but they all have their own best friends.

    These days, everyone has their husbands, boyfriends, and/or kids to focus on. When I call them to make plans to do something, we do, but I am the one always doing the calling and planning.

    A few months ago, I started dating someone great and now I just work on my relationship with him.

    Honestly, I have just about given up on finding a BFF. I figure, just like finding the right guy, I will eventually find the right friend.

    So for now, just do what I do. Watch Cougar Town, envy the cute BFF relationship and stick your wish on your vision board 🙂

    Toronto, Canada

  5. Terri says:

    Thanks so much for those comments Martha – they were really helpful. I guess maybe I was being a bit unrealistic about things; sort of the friendship equivalent of reading romance novels.

    • Randi says:

      Hi Terri!
      You and I could be twins or sisters! You explained my present friend situation to a “T” ; ) I hope you find comfort in knowing you are definately not alone! I consider my friend & next door neighbor my Best Friend, but she has just started calling another friend, who she’s known about 8 yrs, her Best Friend now, publically, even though that friend isn’t a very good friend to her & what I would call a Lazy friend. What am I to do, but continue to be a faithful friend to her. I agree about watching Cougar Town!! I love that show!! It’s on tonight!(Tues.’s). Tune in if you get a chance & we’ll watch it “together” lol!! Cheers!!! ; )

  6. Irene says:

    Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comments!



  7. Martha says:

    A friend and co-worker once told me that which ever friend was in front of her at that moment was her best friend. I really like that idea, because I’ve never had that “best friend feeling” with anyone as an adult either. I too have a close relationship with my husband, and maybe that does take the energy away from being close with another woman. Also, I think books and the media set us up with unrealistic expectations of the perfect friend. They highlight friendships that are perhaps unusual or even impossible in real life. As I think this through, maybe we are really longing for something only found inside ourselves, and we need to explore and find the best friend inside us.

    Thanks for the thought provoking letter.

  8. Irene says:

    It’s always challenging to provide advice to people with friendship problems because I only know one side of the story—-and probably only a teeny bit of that side of it. I am able to identify issues that readers need to consider. I’m so glad that my response was helpful to you!

    Warm wishes,




  9. Irene says:

    Thanks so much for making me smile! I’m so glad you enjoy my blog. I wish I always knew the right thing to say—that would make it easier for me 🙂 I try my best!




  10. Original Poster says:

    Irene, thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful response. I think you may be right that I hold myself back emotionally, and I don’t know if I am emotionally equipped for huge emotional dramas with friends. I’m not at all intimidating (very small and non-threatening!), but my husband’s theory is that HE might scare potential best friends off! As he’s already my best friend and we are still very closely bonded and emotionally involved after many years of marriage, he thinks that there just isn’t an emotional “space” for another best friend to fill. Not sure if that’s true or not, as surely it would be a different sort of love and bonding???

    You are probably correct that I already have a potential best friend amongst my social circle, and it wouldn’t even surprise me if I’d received offers of interest from friends and just not picked up on it. I can be quite oblivious to things like that; I mean I’m sure my friend from college was sending out all kinds of signals that she was interested in being more than friends, and I just cluelessly didn’t see them.

    So maybe I just need to be a bit more adept with reading people emotionally (not where my intuitive skills lie, alas!)

    Thank you again – this really clarified a couple of things for me.

  11. Shannon says:

    I love your blog Irene.I love reading what you have to say. You always know exactly the right thing to say!!! I bet you are someone who would make an excellent best friend!! Infact I bet you are best friends with alot of women!!!

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