I was reading through a dating self-help book earlier this year, and one of the things they asked me to do was envision my dream life. The thing that surprised me when I did this was that a romantic relationship wasn’t the first thing that popped into my mind. It was having a better work-life balance, but more importantly, better friendships.
Don’t get me wrong. I had friends. But my “friendship pyramid” was a bit out of balance- they all seemed to be congregated around the bottom level, with very few at the top. So I felt like I had a busy social life, and was always dashing off to go to one event or another, yet not really getting a lot of support from my social circle.
This year I’ve done a lot of reevaluation. I’ve let go of people with whom I was making 99% of the effort, learned to identify and eliminate toxic people from my life, become more picky with who I’ll invite to things and what I’ll say yes to, and started pursuing new, fulfilling friendships.
Here are some of the things I have learned in the process.
Love will always come first
This is the one I always struggled with, as I would always put a close friend on par with a boyfriend, so I always got hurt when my friends would pair off and get more distant. But a girl will always put a man before her friends- that’s just a fact of life, and one of the reasons I changed my opinion on dating friends’ exes. As people get older, they settle down and start families and have less time for their friends- and if one settles down before the other sometimes your lifestyles become so different that you no longer have anything to talk about. So while friends are great and all that, your end game should be to find your person and build a stable future.
But friendship is still important
Having said that though, I think the best way to approach finding a partner is to have a life you’re already happy with, then find someone who adds to it rather than depending on one person to fix all your problems. You don’t need to have a million friends or be in with the in-crowd, but it’s important to have a good set of friends that you enjoy spending time with and will support you when you need it.
Losing friends is normal
I used to think that relationships come and go, but friendship lasts forever. But that’s not true- friendship can also be transient. You don’t have to be friends with someone just because you went to school or university together/ have known them a long time. Not saying you should ditch people on a whim, but you shouldn’t put up with someone who treats you poorly. And sometimes, no-one has necessarily done anything wrong but people just drift apart. I’ve let go of a lot of friends this year- not because we had some huge falling out- but because we had just got to the point where it wasn’t really worth it. I wished them well but I decided to streamline my social circle and free up time for cool new people.
You can have friends with different opinions
I used to have this thing where I’d only really make the effort with girls who’d slept with 1-2 people who they were in a relationship with. Before you ask, I didn’t quiz everyone I met on their “number”, I just had a knack for telling who they were. I fantasized about having these conservative traditionalist girl friends- and I suppose deep down I thought anyone else would judge me. I’d also swipe left to anyone on Bumble BFF with a different political stance to mine. But then I ended up making friends with girls with a more varied sexual past, or with different political views- and it was fine. As long as they’re not militant about it and respect those with different opinions it can work. And in all honesty- a group of friends who were exact carbon copies of me would probably get a little tiresome after a while- a discussion is often more interesting than an echo chamber.
Just because you get on with someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friends
It’s great when you click with someone. When you find someone who just “gets it” and you think you’re going to be friends for life. But that click isn’t enough to sustain a friendship. Some people are selfish and waist-deep in emotional baggage. Some people are just downright nasty. Some people aren’t always bad people, but just have different priorities and don’t have enough time for you. That initial “I feel like I’ve known you forever!” feeling is great, but true friendship is when you’ve lasted the test of time, you may wind each other up sometimes, but when you need it they’ll go out of their way to be there.
Friendship is hard
Friendship is hard. Especially when you’re past the age where you can just fall in with the people in your tutor group or university halls. But you don’t have to stick with the 4 friends you made in sixth form college because your life is busier now. There are many wonderful people out there who can add value to your life. That’s why blogger Gemma Scopes, who won the award for Best Health & Social Care blog at this year’s UK Blog Awards with her blog How To Make Friends, has founded the Make Friends Club.
The Make Friends Club is an online community of ladies who are looking to increase their self-worth, eliminate toxic people from their life, and form their perfect social circle. Members of the club will receive access to the community Facebook group where they can receive support and advice from likeminded people, support and coaching from Gemma herself, and a weekly group catch-up call to discuss your progress. I have very kindly been granted access to the club this year, so I will be able to give you all the details in a recap over Christmas. But if you’re interested in getting involved this season there are still spaces left on the programme, so make sure to check it out.
You can find out more about the Make Friends Club on the How To Make Friends blog, including details about costs and dates. This year’s course will be launching this Thursday 20th September, so make sure to sign up without delay if this is up your street!