It’s not easy to make new friends, I know! We’re sold the idea that friends are for life, often made really early, and “kept”, but sometimes this just isn’t the case. Finding and making new friends as an adult can be really tough, and a bit of a daunting prospect.
The tricky subject of female friendships - how to make them, and especially how to keep them - is something I get asked about a lot. It’s the second most popular enquiry I get as a ladies’ lifestyle writer here at The Darling Academy. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you over the years, but to understand my approach, and the tips I have for you a little better, you must first understand “me”!
Why do I find it so hard to make friends?
As a child, we started moving around a lot after I left Primary School. Those fledgling years at school was pretty settled, and I had firm friends until I reached the age of 11. Helen, Lana, Natasha, Samantha, I’m still in touch with them, but only via the odd message now.
When we all moved up to a secondary school in London, most of my female friends joined alongside me, but it wasn’t long before I started to get picked on by a girl that came from another school. In classic “girl fashion”, this created a bit of a divide and some of my friends (but not those mentioned) chose to side with the bully lest they become a target themselves. It was horrendous. This girl really had it in for me and my confidence was knocked beyond belief. In truth, it has never really recovered from this experience, and has left emotional scars. It has mostly shaped me for the better, but I’ll admit, I still find it somewhat hard to trust women, even today!
Why was I picked on? Well in hindsight, and from memories of the taunts and jibes, it was because I had “big lips”, got straight “A’s” (such a swot), had a nice family, and was likely “too kind, and too sensitive” (I never stood up for myself). To eleven year old girls, all these things are weaknesses. As the thirty-seven year old women as we now are, the ‘big lips’ they laughed about are likely being paid for by my tormentor and her contemporaries, and my sensitivity has brought about a wonderful sense of purpose for me. Ironic! I digress…
Within a year, my family then made the move up to Gloucestershire, and after series of new schools and lots “trying to fit in”, I did eventually come out of it with some lovely friends from my teenage years, but no one I am particularly close with now. I chose not to go to university, and settled down very early, at the age of 21, so I guess we drifted apart. We still keep in touch via social media and would say hello in the street, but no invitations are extended to me for weddings etc, and that’s ok! I have fond memories of our younger years, and wish them well - but are they “friends” I can count on? Not really…
Making female friends in work environments was also a non-starter. If I’m being completely honest, women in the workplace can be
(a name I don’t wish to use on my blog), and the competition among them is brutal.
If you’ve read Ladies Like Us, you’ll also know that I experienced a secondary bullying episode not long after I had Arlo, this came from a fellow “Mum friend”. Strangely, I’m grateful for it because it shaped my path and led me to starting The Darling Academy. Why it happened is something I have further thoughts on, but it’s another post, for another day.
I also have an ENFJ personality, am a fiercely loyal Scorpio, have abandonment/loneliness issues, and prefer quality over quantity - so it makes it all so much harder! If I strike up friendships, I want them to be worthwhile, I want them to mean something, and I will give you my all in return. There is a reason I have an affinity with swans, if I love and care about you - I’m in it for life!
Perhaps it sounds intense, and that could be off-putting for some - but as housewives, and mothers, I really think we need a village of few, but committed, friends surrounding us if we are to have healthy and wholesome lives. Not tons of fair-weather friends.
Meaningful friendships are about weathering the storms of life together, not just for fair-weather days. Alena Kate Pettitt
For so very long I wondered why most women didn’t want to be friends with me - and I eventually realised that it’s because I’ve been looking in the wrong places all along!
How to make female friends as an adult
If you have recognised anything of yourself in what I have told you so far, please know that you are not alone! I get messages from women all over the world wanting to discuss this very topic, and I am afraid to say my darling, but if you are a housewife too, it’s all the harder!
Something else I have come to realise over the past couple of years, is that some friendships really are seasonal, and just like boyfriends and lovers, they may suit for the time being, but you can grow apart. It’s normal, and healthy for you to split up with friends, just like you would an unsuitable boyfriend.
It hurts just the same, and there is a grieving process. In fact… it’s perfectly normal to feel heartbroken over the end of a friendship!
At the start of my adventures in advocating this lifestyle, I was dropped like a thermonuclear hot potato by a couple of women who I considered to be close friends (at the time), but now in hindsight when I look back on the relationship, something wasn’t right. I put in more of the emotional effort, while they always found a way to put me down and “keep me in my place”. They didn’t really care for my feelings, it wast just convenient to be friends with a pushover who was trying her hardest to forge something meaningful. Sounds like a bad ex doesn’t it?
Much like dating with intention, you should be searching for your friends in the same way!
Here are the practical steps I took in order to heal my disappointment with previous friendships, and find meaningful ones that I now treasure.
Realise that not everyone wants to be your friend.
If you’re anything like me at all, you are probably a little idealistic and want the whole world to get along. You probably can’t even fathom why anyone would want to be mean-spirited, and you give a little more than you should.
Your ideals are beautiful my darling, but they are probably getting you burned, or burned out. Quantity over quality is not the best approach for making friends, so as much as it’s helpful to get to know many people, some might not make it through the filter, or last the distance.
Remember too, that you can always be surprised! Let people be themselves, and do what they will. If they stick around it’s lovely - if not, give them grace and let them move on. You cannot make people like you, you cannot fix them, and you cannot change them. If it is meant to be, it is meant to be.
Get to know yourself first.
One of the best ways to attract people is to simply be yourself! My beautiful friends entered my life in a period of transformation for me! As soon as I started listening to my gut, living from my values, and not being ashamed of them - they appeared!
Remember the mention of the toxic friendships above? That happened because I was too scared to let them know what I truly felt about things, I always dampened my opinions in order to fit in with theirs - and it eventually shows! You need to be your authentic self because you will shine and your personality will attract the right sort of people. People who like you for you, not who you are pretending to be, or because you are trying to fit in with their lifestyles or ideals.
Join social groups of shared interests.
This is one of the easiest ways to find likeminded people. Perhaps there is a local gardening or craft club, dance classes, a sewing circle, church social, or the local Women’s Institute will come up trumps! I find these better than Aerobics or Yoga Pilates classes as these are places people go for time alone or are there unwillingly and on a mission - like for losing weight etc. Something that is a fun hobby where everyone is relaxed is ideal. It can be nerve-wracking turning up as the “new girl”, but everyone was the new girl at some point. With this in mind, do realise that…
You might have to give up the idea of having friends the same age as you.
In fact, I highly recommend you try and make friends with women of all ages. When we’re 15 or 25 we think the idea of being friends with women our parents’ age is the worst thing in the world, but as we get older that “age gap” rapidly closes in on us, and some of my closest friends are old enough to be my mother. We don’t necessarily treat each other like mother and daughter, but they do impart wisdom on me that no one my age ever could.
Just smile and make small talk.
A smile and a friendly comment go a long way, and you need to get over your fear of talking to strangers. Just ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen”? This is exactly how I met my friend Debs. She was ahead of me in the queue at Waitrose one day, and I made a remark about a bunch of yellow roses she was buying (one of my favourites), and she told me they were her mother’s favourite too. Then conversation got started about the glassware she was returning, and she said she was a Sculptor and had recently had a launch party. I have a keen interest in art so we continued chatting for a while, she gave me her business card, and I made sure to…
If you say you’ll be in touch to arrange meeting for a coffee then do it! I know life can be busy, but get those dates in the diary. If it doesn’t work out first time, then keep pursuing. It actually took Debs and I a few month to finally meet up again, but only because we made a commitment to keep trying, even when our diaries clashed. We kept making that commitment too after each coffee date. You’ll find that like dating, sometimes it just doesn’t work out - but nine times out of ten it probably doesn’t work out because someone didn’t put in the effort. Effort is precisely what healthy friendships need!
Housewives should flock together.
After the shedding of most of my adult friendships in recent years, it has really come to light that it’s far nicer to surround yourselves with likeminded people. Most of them didn’t want to stick around after all the “media stuff”, and I don’t blame them really, our values didn’t align, but it became glaringly obvious when I started speaking about it publicly. I should have seen the warning signs really, I’d often find myself questioned by my career-orientated friends about “when I was going to return to work”. Others who enjoyed fast and trendy lifestyles would invite me to events that were of no interest to me, or that made me incredibly uncomfortable (like that time I was invited to a male strip-show). I didn’t go, in case you were wondering.
Now, I don’t blame you for thinking it might end up being a bit of an echo-chamber by surrounding yourselves with women who have a similar lifestyle and outlook. After all, life is rich, and learning new things is a joy too - but from experience, it’s so much more validating being around people who just “get you”. Conversation flows, advice makes sense, you never question their loyalty and moreover they are there for you when you need them.
I have reached out to friends whose priorities were wildly different to mind, and while the choices they make are equally valuable and right for them - it lacked what I needed as part of our friendship.
Search for your friends like you would a life partner. You know the values you’d want him/her to have, so approach your new friendships in much the same way! My guess is, you’d like them to be much like you, so think of where you could find yourself and go looking! Lastly…
Pray for them, and set your intentions.
As a Christian, I believe that the Lord knows the desires of our hearts. When I felt lonely, and out at sea and needing a friend I prayed for friends! He listened, and oh my I have been blessed beyond measure. If you’re not the spiritual sort, just keep good friends in your minds eye, and put it on a vision board. If you expect good things to arrive, they will!
How I met and made brand new friends as a grown adult.
Sian is a homemaker and Mum of two from Kent. I spotted her feed on Instagram a few years ago because we both collect Berylware. We got chatting on that basis, but it soon became clear that our shared passion for vintage and traditional, old-fashioned homemaking was something that could unite us. She made an epic four hour long drive to visit me for afternoon tea after chatting for a few months, and the rest, they say, is history. She drove for many miles to meet me that first time, and I suppose it could have been a wasted effort if we hadn’t got along, but she is now one of my closest friends. We both took a chance on friendship, and it worked out beautifully.
Katrina is a sensitive soul, a vintage homemaker and wife of a busy Farmer, who again, I met on Instagram. She operates from a constant state of kindness and tries to see the best in people. In our little “Blenheim Circle” (as Sian, Lydia, Katrina, and I like to call ourselves), I would say that we are most similar. We are both very sensitive people, often to our own detriment. We have wildly different spiritual beliefs, but our friendship transcends it all because we believe in respecting and honouring our fellow women, no matter how we differ. She is always the first to respond to my latest blog posts and praise my work - which is such a joy when you feel nervous every time you hit “publish”. She has no rival when it comes to cheerleading, and her wide open heart.
Jules is a homemaker too, and joined my Facebook group during the height of “TradWife” hysteria. I would spot her comments in group discussions and think to myself “that’s exactly what I would have said”. When I needed someone to help me with the group she was right there in the forefront of my mind because we think exactly alike. It’s like having a second me! We speak every day, is now like a sister to me, and I have since been blessed to be asked to be Godmother to her daughter. She often sees my blindspots, is the most fabulous person to help me shape my arguments (I call her “PRJules”), and is my right-hand woman. She committed herself to helping me when I needed it most, and I am in turn committed to her like family!
Lydia was sent an article (about me) by her husband, and she too, as a homemaker connected to the Facebook Group. Sometimes, when you pray for a friend, the Lord will just make it so easy for you to spot who he has put on your path. It’s like a light shines around Lydia. She is a beautiful soul, and has been such a confidante. When I have my saddest days, she speaks truth, and lifts me up in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible. She is very busy with little children, but invests in her friends as much as she can, including me, and for that I am so very blessed. Lydia is always there to speak truth, point me to the relevant Bible verse, and reminds me of how God sees me, not the world.
Special mention too, to my friend Robyn, who I met many years ago via Instagram but who has chosen to leave platform. I’m so proud of her for following her ideals. She is the one of the best ladies to speak to about the “deep and meaningful”. Always ready to remind me of my values too, when they may wobble or waver because of fear, or outside influences.
Highly educated, well travelled, adventurous, and is confident enough to know that despite this, home is where the heart is.
She continually challenges me to improve in the little things, and is such an inspirational woman.
What’s funny is that I met each and every one of these women in the past two years while fulfilling my purpose as a housewife and advocate - and online! Not very traditional, but resourceful people make use of what’s available to them. Housewives too, are some of the bravest people in 2022, I’ve come to find. It’s not easy swimming against the tide.
Homemaking is something that most people think could be incredibly lonely, and while not many housewives might be found in your local communities, the blessing in modernity is that friends are able to be found, and stay in touch so very easily now! What matters is that you must nurture your friendships, whether they live next door, or in your phone for the time being.
Please don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends if you’re lacking in that area, experiment and see what works! Social media can be a great tool for connection in times when communities are more divided than ever - a healthy mix of both is something to take advantage of. I have very mixed feelings about social media at the moment, and is something I am working on coming to a healthy conclusion over, but for striking up friendships, I’ll admit it has been brilliant! We’ve nurtured our connections in the real world, and if those platforms died tomorrow, our friendships would live on. I guess, in part because we all adopted traditional/old-fashioned ways right from the off, including;
- Writing each other letters. Snail mail feels so much more personal!
- Touching base every day. Even if it’s a morning “hello” text message and sharing our homemaking tasks for the day. Simply hearing your friends voice keeps that connection strong.
- Chatting on the phone! Messages are lovely, but real chats are even better. Especially hands-free when washing up or folding laundry! It perks up even the dullest moments of the day.
- Asking for advice - whether it be regarding relationships, child-raising, or washing delicates. Ask your friends! Sharing the little quibbles is what brings you together - not just highlight reels.
- Committing to dates and meeting up. Every time we see each other we put a date in the diary for “next time”.
- Being honest. Tell them when you’re sad, and lean on them… Let them lean on you too!
What I realised about friends and how to make them, is that it all started to click into place and happen when I finally embraced who I was, started to live my values (in turn attracting the right people), and realised I was deserving of good friendships. Also, when I readily and happily accepted the fact that not everyone needs to, or will, like me. It’s liberating when you live exactly how you wish, even it isn’t “the done thing”, your tribe will eventually find you. As we homemakers have found each other!
When I reflect on it all, I’m reminded of just how far I’ve come, and while there have been periods of deep loneliness at times, so long as you choose grace, and you pray for it, you will be blessed!
With love and friendship,
It’s my birthday this coming Saturday! Please know that my wish as I blow out my 37 candles (eeek that’s a lot), is that you find the courage to reach out to friends new and old if you need support.
Life can be lonely, but there is always a listening ear here for you. Please join us over in our Ladies only Facebook Community too. We’d love to welcome you.
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