• Keeping Friends

On Circle Envy: Everyone Can’t Have a Group of Friends

Published: March 31, 2013 | Last Updated: March 1, 2024 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
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Some are lucky and some aren’t. Everyone can’t have a group. But you don’t need to suffer from circle envy.

The idea of a “circle of friends” isn’t new. Beginning in the late 1800s, Amish women formed quilting circles to share expertise and companionship. After they had finished individual patches for a quilt, they would come together (sometimes travelling over relatively long distances) during the spring and summer to lend a hand to one another in piecing them together. The quilters socialized as they sewed, catching up on gossip and developing long-lasting bonds that became part of the fabric of the Amish culture.

The desire to have an embracing circle of female friends hasn’t diminished but still remains elusive for many women. When I interviewed Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship, which chronicles the story of an exceptional friendship among 11 women that has extended over four decades, he told me two types of readers had written him: those who have a circle of friends similar to the “Girls” and those who wish they did! It’s easy to understand why many women without a tight-knit circle of friends would covet one for companionship, support and comfort they offer.

But as women graduate, marry, mother, divorce, move, or change work, often not even in any particular order, their lives often diverge and they find it difficult to maintain old friendships, let alone friendship circles. The girlfriends someone made in elementary and high school may live in other states or other nations. (One study of college students, found that the average student moved more than six times over the course of 19 years, and that the average distance between friends was 895 miles).  Your co-workers are more likely to hop from job to job than ever before, or decide to change their career paths entirely.

Don’t get me wrong. Not every woman wants or needs a circle. In my survey of more than 1500 women for my new book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, I found that certain personality factors may predispose some women to gravitate towards circles as opposed to one-on-one relationships. For example, compared to introverts, extroverts often enjoy having a larger number of friendships and may be more likely to relish the dynamics of a group. Or they may so thrive on being with people, that they like being part of circles as well as being part of twosomes.

If you are a person who feels even a tinge of circle envy, and there are many reasons why you would, there are still opportunities to forge a sisterhood later in life. One of the keys to creating a circle is creating or finding some natural affinity group that has the potential for longevity and creating rituals to bind the ties of friendship.

The Friendship Doctor’s Prescription for Circle Envy

  • Join a knitting group, sewing circle, book club or cooking club;
  • Organize a regular canasta, bridge, Bunco, Scrabble or Mah-Jong game;
  • Volunteer as part of a smaller group attached to a larger religious or civic organization;
  • Volunteer at a museum or hospital;
  • Become part of a church or faith-based community;
  • Adopt a cause, such as conservation or animal welfare, or a political action group;
  • Join a support group of women who share a common problem
With any luck, you’ll form ties with people with common interests who see each other regularly.

An earlier version of this story previously appear on Girlfriend Celebrations in 2009.

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Category: Dealing with threesomes and groups of friends

Comments (7)

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  1. Joanna says:

    I too have hosted three other friends for dinner several times. Although the three get together for dinner at one another’s home twice a week, they rarely include me. So very discouraging. I have decided to quit
    the dinner invitations that include them. I am planning some invites for other friends instead.
    I’ll see how that goes.

  2. Jan says:

    need to meet new friends ,new hobbies at that stage in life I am a young 53 yr old female very healthy and fit , like girly nighs out keeping fit

  3. helen s says:

    This article is interesting to me. I have a very close friendship with my sister and my husband and I also are best friends. Could I be one of those who doesn’t “need” a circle.?? However, I find myself saddened when I am not included in neighborhood gatherings. I guess maybe I need to put myself out there more…

  4. Miserable says:

    All I have are “circles of friends” I just want one or two real good friends. How does one go about doing that??? Someone once called me a “connector”. I’m always getting people together, but I never connect with just one person. Everyone else seems to find a friend but me. It’s making me really sad. People seem to like me (I’m sure I have a few haters) but I’m not close with anyone. Not even my family. My husband is about it and I think he’s had it with me when I cry that I have no one to talk to or hang out with (when he tells me to go out with someone). Someday my kids will be grown and not need me anymore, it’s pretty close to that right now. What am I going to do then?

  5. Denise says:

    I’ve looked for groups that would interest me in my town and there just aren’t any. What makes it difficult in addition is that I have no money to spend on outside interests because I work sporadically and have temp jobs. Finding something interesting and free isn’t here; I’m living in the wrong place.

  6. B Sherman says:

    I have joined the Soroptomists recently, and have made so many new friends! It is a worldwide service group for women, and it is so wonderful to work on charitable projects with other women. The atmosphere at our club is warm, welcoming, and inclusive. I recommend it highly!

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