I know what it’s like to be the “new girl in school” because I was that girl a lot growing up. For those who know me, or have followed me for a long time, you know my childhood was kinda crazy. For example, I used to live in New Jersey as a kid, and in the middle of the night one night, we packed everything in our minivan and drove to Idaho. There was also a time where I lived with my real dad because my mom went to prison. The point being that I moved around a lot, which made cultivating long term friendships pretty hard. In fact, I think I lacked in this area as a protection mechanism so I wouldn’t keep getting hurt if we left again. 

Now I have a lot of amazing girlfriends who I’d honestly be lost without. Sometimes I get the question from those who follow me about how I make such good girlfriends. This is such an interesting question, because it made me realize I do have such good friends now! But there was a long time where I felt like I didn’t have that. I remember when I felt alone, so I think it’s a great topic for us to open up about! I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not the perfect friend, but I want to share what I’ve learned about friendships and how important they are for our emotional health. 

Be Honest About Your Shortcomings, and Realize All Friendships Can Be Designed Differently

I know Idaho will be my home forever, which is really helpful for me when I think about taking a lot of time to nurture my friendships. Not only because I feel safe knowing I won’t be leaving again like I did a lot as a kid, but also because I know I’ve been weak in this area in the past. It’s been really helpful for me to be honest about my shortcomings as a friend, and to understand why I have those shortcomings. For example, going to therapy for abandonment issues has been really helpful with that piece. I’d also tend to make good friends, and then disappear for awhile if I felt like I couldn’t be the perfect friend, which is hard on friendships. I’ve had a lot of friends who have stuck with me through that weirdness, and for that I’m so grateful. 

My best friend, Holly, was so great about not just hating me when I’d disappear. My little brother married her stepdaughter within these past few years, even! My close friend Ashley who lives in Texas is great about going a long time without us talking, but when we talk we are there for each other and it picks right back up. So, friendships can totally be designed for each person and can last distances, so it’s important to know that there’s no magic formula, and everyone needs something different from their friendships. I do have really strong friendships now, and I’m so grateful for them. Especially since my divorce, I’d be so screwed without my friends. On the nights that my kids are with their dad, I’d be home all alone, and that can be hard on me. That is just one of the emotional reasons for why my friendships are so valuable for me. 

Be Willing to Be Real

Number one, there are a lot of women who can be really fake, and I’ve been that fake person in the past. I think sometimes we like to pretend that things are fine, and everything is perfect. However, if you want to create a really good friendship with someone, you have to be willing to share and to be vulnerable. I think that the mistake that so many women make, myself included for years, is that we try to be perfect with each other. We act like everything is fine and everything is great. Once I stopped doing that, I started creating really deep and authentic relationships. 

There are a lot of reasons why that’s hard to do. It’s hard to admit that you’re struggling. It’s hard to ask for help. It’s hard to open up. It’s hard to show hard things that you’re going through. But I do think that being real and being vulnerable and being open and authentic is like a magnet. Once you’re able to be real with people, it gives other people permission to be real back with you. It takes practice, and it’s not like you can snap your fingers and suddenly be okay to be open with everyone. This takes a lot of work because it takes a lot of work with yourself to be okay with your struggles and failures, let alone feeling okay to tell others about them. 

Honestly, there’s a lot of pressure on women to look good, have a clean house, be successful, have well-behaved kids, have everything figured out, etc. I think that’s why the movie Bad Moms was so relatable because it was basically a movie where moms were just super real and relatable. It made other moms feel okay to just say, “Hey, I don’t have my shit together. Hey, I have dirty dishes in the sink. Hey, if you ring my doorbell and you don’t text me to tell me you’re coming over, there’s a good chance they’re going to be toys all over the floor.” That’s for sure true for me, even if you don’t see it all the time. If you walk into my bathroom at any given moment, it’s going to be covered with makeup. I have a mountain of laundry to do all the time. 

It’s important to note, also, that being vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean crying in front of someone. It just means being real, like being willing to talk about the things you’re struggling with or the things that you’re excited about. It’s just being real, and you have to be yourself. I don’t blame the people who tend to be fake or unwilling to be open. It may be the pressure to be perfect, it may be about trust, it may be that they don’t feel like anyone cares about their issues and that being vulnerable is a burden to others. I mean, I’ve totally been the same way for a lot of those reasons. I don’t blame them. It feels good to feel like you have your stuff together. But I think once you pull back the curtain, people feel seen. It’s nice to know you’re not alone, and that others are struggling too. And then all of a sudden you feel like you can be friends with the person you relate to. It’s this back and forth, give and take relationship. 

You’re also allowed to choose who you spend time with. You don’t have to hang out with everyone you’re friendly with. I have a few really close friends who I see pretty frequently. They are the ones that I would call if everything was falling apart and I felt like a total failure and a total screw up. I could call them and cry and they would be there for me in a heartbeat. But I think we have this idea that you have to have like groups of like 20 or 30 friends. For me, that would be exhausting. I’d rather have a handful of really, really good friends than a big group of friends that I’m trying to keep up with.

You May Get Hurt in the Process

Sure, there are times when it’s fine to just say, “I’m good,” when someone asks how you are. But sometimes you have to be willing to talk about the real stuff if you want to create an open and deep friendship with someone. It’s kinda like dating. Sometimes you’re going to get hurt. Sometimes you find out that the person you’re trying to be open with isn’t your kind of person, or you aren’t their kind of person. It sucks when that happens, but it’s how you find your tribe. Sometimes disagreements, opposing opinions, different political views, etc. will drive two people apart. That sucks, but if it happens, it’s okay. Either they aren’t that great of a friend, or they aren’t a good fit for what you need. If that person opens up about something that is a red flag for you, you don’t have to be their friend, either. But opening up is how you find that out. 

However, being vulnerable does have its downsides. It does open you up to judgement and gossip. There are times I’ve gotten a tiny bit vulnerable, and I watch the other person’s reaction, and I can tell it’s not good. They either go around and gossip about you, or they might breach your trust and tell their people what you’ve shared, or they may just be silently judging you. Sometimes you have to test it out. You’re going to get burned. It’s happened to me and it sucks. But I also recognize that when other people are acting shitty, it’s more about them and their insecurities than it is about me. I don’t make it about them, I just realize they aren’t my kind of friend, and I work to move on. 

Making Time for Your Friends 

Number two is more logistical, but it’s just as important. You have to make time for your girlfriends. The thing is that you can be real with somebody, you can be vulnerable, you can have this great connection, but lose that connection because you don’t make time. I think that women can be so much more guilty of this than men. You see guys all the time go on hunting trips, getting beers after work, or having poker nights, and they don’t feel guilty. Women on the other hand, we don’t do that as often. We don’t make time for ourselves. We might feel bad about ourselves, we might feel lonely, or we might feel like we want better friendships, but then we don’t actually put in the work to make the time because we feel guilty.

When me and my girlfriends want to get together to celebrate something, or just to hang out, it sometimes takes weeks to find the time. We are all moms, some of us single moms, some of us work, and we are all grownups, so we are super busy! However, we are still actively making a plan, even if it’s going to be next month that we see each other. We don’t get girls nights all the time, but we are always trying to make time. 

Another thing we do is we use the app Marco Polo to stay in touch basically every day. I love that app and that’s how I communicate with a lot of my friends that I can’t keep in touch with all the time. Sometimes it feels like having an hour long phone call is too much, and I don’t have the time. But what you can do is you can video message each other when you have time. Rikki, Mandy, and I Marco Polo basically every morning. I might share my outfit, or just ask what they are doing today, and then I can watch their videos when I’m in the car, or washing my face, or at my kids’ activities. That is one way that you can stay in touch with friends without actually spending time in person. 

It’s Okay Not to Give Time to Everyone

The other thing you have to remember is that it also means saying no to the friends you don’t like, or the friends you aren’t super close to. I have some friends that I’m friends with because we hang in the same circles, but it drains me when I’m around them. It’s important to make time for friends, but it’s also okay to say no to those people. That’s a part of being real too, it’s saying yes to those who are important to you, and no to the people who drain you. It’s okay to have friends who are somewhere in the middle. You like them, but they aren’t close, and that’s okay. I have great arm’s-length friendships and that’s cool too. I could probably call one of those girls and ask them to go to dinner, but that’s on me to make that happen if I want to create a more substantial friendship with them. Rarely do you just snap your fingers and make a friend, you have to put some work into it. 

Time with Friends is Self-Care

Mom guilt is a real thing, and it’s something I still struggle with. I try to be really strict that when I have my kids, I’m with my kids and then when they’re with their dad, that’s when I plan my other stuff. The thing to remember is that having strong friendships is actually one of the things that will help you be a better mom. You’ll feel more connected. In fact, my girlfriends and I talk about this all the time. We all say we need our girl time because we can’t talk to our husbands, boyfriends, etc. the way we talk to our girlfriends. It’s not something that’s selfish, it’s self-care. We all need other women, or just friends, who we can spend time with when we need to vent or cry or even just laugh.  

Guys need that time too! So many of my married friends have said that when their husbands go on guys trips, they come back and they are so much nicer and sweeter and even hornier! It’s because we all need that bonding time, we all need that distance. We can’t offer that testosterone induced guy time just like they can’t fulfill our estrogen induced girl time. Each of our relationships offers something different, and it’s not realistic to assume a spouse can offer it all. So, if your spouse isn’t understanding about your need to go out and spend time with girlfriends, it may be helpful to explain this to them. 

How Do You Even Find Friends?

Sometimes it’s hard to even find friends who are your kind of people. I’d say to just start hanging out with people that do the same kinds of things you do. Start going to events or things that you’re interested in. Find hiking groups, find crafting groups, go to library time, or find a class that teaches something you’re into — like a backpacking seminar or a baking class in town. If I was trying to find people like me, I’d seek out a group of people that like to go backpacking in the mountains. Or I’d find a group of entrepreneurs or women business owners. There’s probably people there that think like me that are weird like me and could understand my weird brain. 

The site www.meetup.com has some cool stuff, believe it or not. I know there’s really good running groups or mom fitness groups. If you look at the events section on Facebook, there’s all kinds of cool things you can go to on there. There’s a lot of local women’s groups if you’re looking for just actual things to get involved with. I have a ton of friends who I only know online, but they are still super fulfilling and amazing. You might have to do some legwork, but it’s worth it if you find your people. 

Be Understanding

The last thing I want to touch on is being understanding, flexible, and low maintenance as a friend. I am the lowest maintenance friend ever. I really think that helps. If somebody doesn’t get back to me, I don’t get offended by that. If they don’t text me back, I am that way too. Sometimes I just get super busy or I think I responded in my head. Just remind them if they don’t get back to you, or let them know you want to hang out when they aren’t busy and put the ball in their court. I think that helps create good friendships because it makes friendship a lot easier. 

Honestly, we are all so busy. We all have our lives, families, jobs, hobbies, other friends, etc. Let’s hang out when we can, but it’s not personal if we can’t. I’ve had friends that have been kinda snarky or weird if I couldn’t hang out with them, but I’m just really busy a lot. I’m doing the best that I can. I need friends who understand that if I don’t have the time, it’s not about them, and to give me some grace. There’s a line, of course, when it feels like a friend is always blowing you off, not making time for you, etc. So it’s important to find the middle ground and not be taken advantage of. But it’s also important to be understanding of everyone’s schedules. 

At the end of the day, friendships should take some work but shouldn’t be a burden. They should feel effortless without actually being effortless, if that makes sense. You should get something from your girlfriends in that they should make you feel stronger, happier, and supported. You should offer the same back to them. Womanhood is awesome, and we can all learn so much from our strong female relationships. Womanhood and motherhood can also feel lonely, so it’s important to talk about making friends, keeping them, and how important it is for our self-care to have strong friendships that are healthy. 

What are the things you’ve found to be helpful in making good girlfriends? 

xo Natalie

P.S. I also talk about this story on my podcast, so if you’d rather listen than read, click HERE

P.P.S. My monthly program, Our Womanhood, is a great place to find an online community full of amazing and supportive women as well! Find more information HERE!