The Sometimes Friend

Published: January 29, 2009 | Last Updated: January 29, 2009 By | 15 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

I’m in my late 30’s and for as long as I can remember (since early childhood), I have always been the "sometimes friend". Usually there are two friends who are inseparable. They are on each other’s speed dial, they shop together, lunch together, and their families spend time together. And only sometimes…will they decide to include me. I have never had a "best friend" or someone that I would feel comfortable just calling up for a lunch date or to catch a movie. This leaves me feeling incredibly lonely.

For some reason, I have trouble making a personal connection with people. I am currently a stay at home mom and moderately outgoing. I am very active in a mom’s group (two years now) that I really like. We have playdates for the kids and regular mom’s night outs, etc.  I think most would say that I’m happy, optimistic, and fun natured, but I can’t seem to make that personal connection or cross that boundary into friendship.

There are two women from the mom’s group that I do spend some time with. Our families spend Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve together and we do a gift exchange. To me, it’s very personal whom I share my family with for the holidays. But, I somehow end up feeling hurt and lonely because I have been relegated to being the "sometimes friend". They talk on the phone, shop, lunch, hang out together and have family events…. and don’t invite me.

Should I end these relationships? Or continue with them even though they aren’t fulfilling for me? I feel like my choice is being the "sometimes" friend or having no friends. Also, I worry what my 3-year-old daughter is learning from my lack female bonding. She is in preschool and chooses to play with the boys. I’m worried that by continuing with these type  "friendless" friendships that I’m hurting her ability to learn to bond with other females as well. My worst nightmare is for her to grow up and live her life without a real female friend as I have.



Dear Tara,

It sounds like your friendships don’t offer the intimacy that you are craving. My guess is that while you are a sociable person and collect acquaintances (and even close friends), you are somewhat guarded and hold back from sharing your true self with your girlfriends. Thus, these relationships never evolve into “best friendships.” We’re all different and being somewhat reserved and private is an aspect of your personality that has been there since childhood.

Maintain these imperfect “sometimes friendships” because you derive pleasure from them; without them, you would be far lonelier than you are now. But you don’t need to choose between being a “sometimes friend” and nothing. Instead, try to take one of these friendships (or any other) to the next level. Make plans to get together with a friend and slowly begin sharing more of your self; my guess it that the boundaries will begin to dissipate over time.

Somewhat related: There is an interesting challenge that’s popular on Facebook these days. One of your Facebook friends sends you this note that reads as follows—Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

I took the challenge and wrote about myself online in a more intimate way than I had before. I found that people responded in kind by revealing more of themselves, and before I knew it, we were closer than before. In short, a sense of intimacy and trust between two people is what turns acquaintances into “best friends.” One caveat, it may not be practical to covet “best friend” status with someone that already has an exclusive “best friendship” but you should be able to accrete a best friend somewhere.

And don’t worry about your 3-year-old daughter yet or project your problem onto her. She isn’t old enough to assess the nature of your friendships or to set her own friendship trajectory. Becoming the best friend you can be will have the added effect of making you are more confident and happy mother. The fact that you don’t want to settle for “sometimes” is already a good sign.

Let us know how it goes.


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Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    does she want to know how many friends you have? Is she trying to gauge how easy you would be to manipulate or control based on your level of emotional need? I’ll bet she doesn’t have 50,000 friends, just followers or people who stay “friends” with her so she doesn’t turn on them. I’d gladly take two cats over that set up any day.

  2. margarets says:

    Anytime I’ve known someone who pried like that, they turned out to be bad news. Good thing you are picking up on that red flag.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I feel this way, too. I don’t agree with Irene’s response, either. I found one person who I thought was finally going to be that friend I had never had as an adult. I opened up to her about so much; I trusted her and felt I could be myself. Nothing bad happened between us, yet she seemed to grow distant and is now an acquaintance. I feel like I did when I had relationships that broke up with boys/men. I have a great husband and two kids, but really wish I could have one close female friend. I have had a lot of loss in the past couple of years and this has just made me want to have better friendships and relationships in general. I’ve never really been a “girl’s girl” and I wonder if I have poor social skills or something that is making this not possible. 🙁

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tara, I feel the same way. I’ve joined clubs, volunteered, etc. and always have tried to initiate lunch dates, and other activities with people who i hope will turn out to be friends. After awhile, everything just stops. They don’t call back, email…what’s worse, I have one acquaintance who has about 50,000 “girlfriends” and seems to judge a person by how many friends one has, and quizzes me about my friends when I do talk to her.She suspects or knows I don’t have friends, yet she seems to want to get me to admit it. Nice.
    I would just like one good friend.
    At least I have a great husband, family, and 2 cute cats:) I’ll keep trying.


  5. jacuzzigirl78 says:

    I cannot agree with you more. I have been a sometimes friend for far too long. Quite rankly I find this type of friendship as non intimate/shallow and I am in the process of re-evaluating who is or is not in my life.

    The idea of being best friends with yourself is a great idea. We are all social by nature (variant degrees per person) so how am I supposed to do this without feeling lonely? What can I say, I am an intuitive talker who loves to get into intimate/deep conversations so I fear I might go through some sort of “withdrawl.”

  6. Anonymous says:

    I feel like sometimes friend in america. everyone think just because you are born somewhre you stupid.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Suzanne, those are beautiful thoughts and words. Thank you for sharing. That’s all so true.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is to Tara and Lexa,

    It sounds like we all try to make the effort for friendships and we do keep trying which is all you can do. I’ve wondered many times to myself why some women just “connect” and seem inseparable while that type of friendship has eluded me. I’ve found myself being extra aware of what I say in conversations with friends in fear that I may say something not right. It sounds silly but I think to myself what am I doing or not doing to keep a friendship from getting closer? I know I am being nice, not needy, good hostess, good listener, etc. So then, what is it, I wonder? I may never know but at least no one can accuse me of not being nice or friendly. That much I do know.
    We should not have to second guess ourselves. I am sure we are all nice women and loyal friends. I know I have shown my friendship many times to the friends I do have. It just would be nice to get it reciprocated more. Friendship is about reciprocacy. It should not be a one way deal. That is not true friendship to me.
    I definitely can relate to both of your experiences.
    Funny story: One night I get a call out of the blue from an out of town friend. She wants to get together tonight. She gave me one hour notice she was in town and wanted me to go out with her. She was leaving the next day. I had no idea she was even in town. I happened to be really sick (truth) and could not make it. But even if I was not sick I thought it inconsiderate of her to think I could just go out with her on such short notice. We are both in our 40’s so she should have known better than to do that to me. I just had to laugh.
    Well ladies, don’t give up. We all need friends as long as we are not doormats to them. I’ d rather be by myself than someones doormat.
    Keep trying. My new years resolution is to contact old friends I’ve lost touch with. Well see what happens.

  9. Lexa says:

    I understand where your coming from. I have the same problem meeting and trying to stay friends with people. I ended up going on line to a website for woman only called I couldn’t find anyone at work to hang with and so I went on line and found two woman who seemed really nice and we e-mailed and talked on the phone and then we met. It seemed like a really hopeful beginning to a friendship but then a few weeks ago I emailed both of them and wanted to know if they wanted to do something on the weekend and got no response from them and haven’t heard anything since. I am tired of putting in effort to make friends and then end up being blown off like I don’t matter. I have had that happen to me so many times. I have a couple friends that I have known for a long time but if I don’t make the effort to call or email then I might as well forget talking to them and even when I do make an effort I sometimes get blown off anyway. I hear stories of great friendships between women and wonder what it would be like to have that. I must be doing something wrong since I can’t have that kind of relationship but not sure what it is. Well good luck hope you can find a friend but don’t feel like your alone because I know what your talking about.

  10. Tara says:

    Thank You for responding! It’s nice to know I’m not alone. But I’m really sorry that happened to you. It’s tough but I’m still working on it. I’m trying to take a look at myself and see where I can make improvements to be more open to others. I recently decided to have a small playdate at my house but did not invite the other 2 women. I’m not trying to make them mad, I am just looking to make a connection with someone else. I also joined a new group that I am going to meet up with this weekend for the first time. I hope something real will come out of it. I used to think it (friendship) would happen for me eventually, but hell, I’m 37 and I don’t know if it will ever happen. But I keep trying!

  11. Anonymous says:

    First I want to say I am glad I found this website. It is helping me to see I am not the only one who has this dilemma. I too have become a “sometimes friend.” Most of my long time friends live far away so we keep in touch through email. However, it seems I am almost always the one to initiate the emails and then they will respond. I have waited to see how long it takes for these long distance friends to email me first and I must say it takes them a very long time–like more than a month– even longer. It seems though I try to be friendly with women I meet and get to know, at some point the friendship fizzles. I am tired of being the initiator of lunch dates, emails or phone calls. I can not understand why these women do not reciprocate.
    One couple my husband and I made friends with almost two years ago, (I worked with the wife) would come over our house, sometimes invited, sometimes not. We always had them over for dinner and a movie or to chat. Their children would come and play with my youngest child since they had a boy the same age as my youngest child. Yet,we would never get invited over their house. They live one block away from us too. So I decided to not call for awhile and see ‘what happens”. Well, I have not heard from them in almost 8 months! Our child goes to the same school and they see each other from time to time there. Their child asks my child why WE do not call anymore. I think to myself, well why don’t THEY call? I do not know. But I do know I am tired of one way friendships. I see other women who are best friends and very close. I have never really had that. Thankfully I do have one childhood friend that does make the effort to call once in awhile but we never see each other due to distance.
    Just tired of being a sometimes friend too.

  12. Irene says:

    But thanks, Kathy!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Great advice Suzanne. Thanks for the reminder. I know this rationally, but still sometimes wonder why I’m not someone’s ‘best friend’. I realize I search for relationships based on healthy compatibility, not neediness. There’s a fine line between being a supportive friend and being a doormat. I learned a long time ago not to be a doormat.

    A long time ago, a friend told me ‘You don’t pick your friends, they pick you.’ I believe this to mean a friendship must go two-ways.

    Reciprocity, to me, is a good gage of a friendship. I’ve noticed I’m usually the one to organize a girls’ night with a friend or a group of friends.

    I’ve observed some ‘best friends’ seem to connect in a co-dependant sort of way. One has a personal problem the other offers support, again and again and again. Each is fulfilling each others need, I guess. I’ve had such friendships and consider them imbalanced.

    I acknowledge I am opinionated and desire healthy debate. Compatibility for me includes the desire to debate and still be friends. Perhaps this is where I’ve gone wrong and need to consider ‘like-mindedness’ is compatibility. I’d rather have some diversity and mutual respect.

    I also am working on not giving advise, soliceted, or not. Folks want to be heard, so, I try to listen. I often worry I say the wrong thing.

    So, I will stay true to myself and if a ‘best friend’ comes along, that will be great. If not, that’s okay too. I’ll settle for the ‘good’ friends I have that know we can count on each in times of hurt or celebration. Fortunately, I can call my husband (and myself) my best friend.

  14. Irene says:

    This is for Tara.

    Tara, it is most important for you to be able to value yourself enough to make yourself your own best friend. If you enjoy being with yourself and enjoy the activities that you engage in and develop a really good relationship with yourself, then you are well placed to begin to develop more intimate relationships that serve rather than hurt you, so that you won’t be choosing friends that are unhealthy for you.

    When you are your own best friend, you can then think about what type of people you wish to inhabit your world. You can decide to have people in your life that respect you and value you and who offer reciprocity. When we are less needy, then we can make good choices that serve us. If people are not acting respectfully or caringly of us, then we need to be able to stand to be alone sometimes and let those people go because they do not serve us well. People are only human and in their humanness and frailty they come with limitations; sometimes they are limited in their capacity to give us what we need. It is not their fault because they are in the place they are in because of their level of development. When you really respect yourself, then you will not allow people into your life who are not good for you.

    As humans, we long for connection with others and we need that connection to stay healthy. We also need to become friends with aloneness, because when all is said and done, we are alone. All we can really have with others is moments of connection and sharing of experience and thoughts and feelings.

    Hope this helps.


  15. Kathy Sena says:

    Irene, I’m so impressed with your wise, kind advice, both here and in other posts. I have recommended your book to many people because I think you really “get” female friendships and you understand all the ups, down and potential problems. You are doing a wonderful job and have made a difference in many people’s lives, I’m sure.

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