how to make lasting girlfriends

straight up advice

Some of this is going to sound strange. The rest of it will sound confessional. Most of it will not come out chronologically. Bear with me. Here’s the answer before the question (which appears below)…

The other night I was invited, quite gloriously and also quite last minute, to attend an intimate concert (with cocktail party) to see my Ray Lamontagne. Yes, my Ray Charles Lamontagne. And with a plus one. Two hours away from Austin. That’s right, road trip. But who would I bring? Would I take a risk and phone women with whom I wanted to be closer? Or do you ask your closest friend? Do you just reach out and call someone with whom you’ve never even hung out one on one? All of the above. Let me explain.

I literally had to consult (read: make) a list because I FORGOT WHO MY FRIENDS ARE here in Austin. But how is that possible? I’ve been living here for four years, as much time as I’d spent in college. How is it possible? Because I have no social routine anymore. Now, it’s a social rut. I have friends here, friends about whom I genuinely get giddy, friends with whom I want to sleep over and stay up all night, but I simply don’t get to see them enough. We have these magical all-day talks, porch drunk nights, then no plans for another month, if that. Because I have no routine. Enter my first piece of advice: turn rut into routine by scheduling a regularly occurring, weekly get-together with at least three friends. That’s right: A Pair & A Spare. Just don’t call it girls’ night. Women who use the phrase “Girls’ Night” sound like they frost their hair, wear clear bra straps, and favor the anklet. Just, no.

Work in a regularly scheduled Wednesday Hump Coffee; a weekly Sunday at the bookstore cafe where you whip through piles of magazines and books together; the essential Happy Hour(s). Don’t let these regulars become semi-regulars or you’ll end up feeling irregular.

Some days you’re unexpectedly free. You know what? I don’t feel like working! Work that with someone. You need your top-10 hit list of friends for when you want to blow off steam. Or vent. Enter piece of advice number dos. Keep your favorite local gal pals on your phone’s speed dial or favorites list. Then call them. Not Facebook messages, not Twitter. Not email. Call. Know why? What we all really want is a friend we can have in our daily on off. Not a scheduled time to catch up. We want a friend we can call when we simply want to shoot her a photo while we’re in the dressing room for a thumbs up or down. We want a friend who’s in our life for the details, the small things, our funny thoughts, to watch TV with us over the phone (if it can’t be in person). The only way you get there is by actually calling people. Even if you’re in the car (hands-free, of course), to just shoot the shit. Because our best friendships are lived in the smaller details.

We could all benefit from broadening our horizons and meeting new women. So why not do what men do? Pick ’em up in a club. A book club. A SLUTS club (Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress, aka a Paula Deen Potluck Club). Here’s what I got out of my last club experience: a memory of a kitchen that wanted more women.  I want my home to be so different from the one where I grew up… yet what am I doing about it? Ask yourself that same question. Why aren’t more women coming over to your house?

When my father married Carol, their rabbi spoke at the wedding about the makings of a good marriage. I won’t say that she said A Good Marriage Is An Open Marriage, but she circled the vicinity. When we’re open and at our most vulnerable is when the blessings have a chance to walk through the door. So keep your door open to strangers. Yes, there’s risk and possible danger, but the rewards outweigh the dread. You know the story about the stranger in rags, with nothing to eat, knocking on door after door, being turned away, in the rain. Then the kind couple who didn’t have much, but offered what they could to the stranger… and we know, we know, that stranger turned out to be Jesus or someone (you can tell I’m big into religion), and rewarded the couple with something they couldn’t otherwise have, children or something. My point is, you have to take a leap. Face rejection. Do what I do. Every year I’ve been here in Austin for Thanksgiving, I’ve opened our home to strangers, to anyone who doesn’t have family nearby. You make friends by being open and fearless… and by sharing what’s wrong with you…

Be yourself, sure, but don’t overdo it by doing a life dump on a new friend. This isn’t corrective ass surgery; use common sense. Test the waters. Confess to being obsessed with Christmas (as I am), then confess that you’re the type who always plans big but fails to execute. Then wait for her to share her shortcomings. Give and take at the same level and intensity, so you don’t come off as a complete freak show, and before you know it, she’ll be asking you to help her pick out the perfect gluteal implants for her upcoming ass-plasty. Confession breeds intimacy.

I’ve got more! Because I’ve given it more thought and time to fester, so alas, more girlfriend tips here »

So to start: I’m pretty kick-ass, and I know it. I have a job which I use to pay for my travels and for my MFA. I graduated in May 2010 with a degree in creative writing, I run for fun, and I’m a travel junkie. I’m a pretty well-balanced individual, except sometimes I still fear my husband wants to leave me (wtf?). He’s about to make a switch into a more demanding job, and while I’ve contained my psychotic emotions quite well, I still don’t know why I have them. I fear he might start going out for drinks with his new colleagues or he might start eating at the office. I don’t know where this damn fear comes from…mostly because I do trust him, which gets me to my other point: I have officially become that girl who has no real girlfriends. I need some advice as to how to start making friends again, because it’s been a while since I’ve had the need. I think what trips me up about my hubby’s new job is that he might make friends and even if not, he might be busier, and I want to respect that business by creating my own life. I think something essential to that is making girlfriends, which I haven’t had to make in a really long time. So even though most of my life is great, I find myself not having any stable girls to really turn to when I need a drink, a shopping partner, or someone to hang out with when the hubby is burning the midnight oil. Advise me on how to make lasting girlfriends again.

go ahead, ask

If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.



  1. I get the whole notion of not maintaining friendships because you become too busy building a relationship. And as an adult woman, it gets a lot harder to make friends. Do you live in the city where you grew up or went to school? I would suggest, in that case, starting with Facebook – I reconnected with old friends who had also lost touch due to the demands of married life and kids, etc. Other options are to join classes, like yoga or a book club, where you at least know that the other women share an interest with you from the outset.

    And finally, remember that a friend should not just be someone to grab a drink with or to keep you company when your man is not around. As the old saying goes, to have a friend you have to BE a friend, and that may mean spending time with this person or these people INSTEAD of time with your man, on occasion…no one wants to feel that they are being called upon just because they are your second choice.

  2. I would suggest reaching out to people from your MFA program. Chances are good that they have friends outside of the program that you do not already know — thus spreading your social circle.

    Also, if you are into running, try joining a committee that organizes competitive races. This would introduce you to a group of people that have similar interests. Even if you do not make long lasting girlfriends, you will at least have an outlet besides your husband.

    Finally, as a woman in her mid 20’s and in a graduate program, your letter sounded a tad bit conceited. Confidence is a fantastic trait, but being “kick ass and you know it” is going too far. Particularly in this economic climate, starting a conversation with “I have plenty of money to travel and enjoy myself” is not exactly what people want to hear. You will be better served to be a good listener, conscious of details about people, and talking about shared interests.

  3. This post could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve recently been wondering, how the hell do I make friends again? After leaving my very demanding) job of over 3 years, I moved across the country to do something new.

    It has been a great move for me and I love my new city. But, I’ve also come to the realization, that I need to meet new people now, and I have no idea how. It seems like all those hours holed up in my old office did nothing for my social skills. Mix that with being relatively low-key (ie – not the life of the party) and its not a pretty picture. Let’s hear what people have to say.

  4. I’ve made friends by joining some volunteer groups and Meetup has lots of groups and activities and I have felt welcome at every one. Agree with the comment about not being too full of yourself.

  5. i used to struggle with that since i have a twin sister and never made other friendships a priority. i have learned over time that you NEED girlfriends in your life. period. people to talk to. people other than your hubby to talk to. people to grab lunch with. to gossip with. i only truly confide in my twin, my mother, my bff from highschool, a couple of work friends, and a few cousins but i keep my network of women strong these days because sometimes you just want to get sushi and have a gab fest. and every woman needs that.

    it’s hard truly keeping in touch with people (outside using social media) but i try to invite friends over to dinner once a week. it’s always a different crowd but a lot of bonding can happen in the course of a night. some friends are extra needy if they just broke up or are going through a hard time. just be there for them and they won’t forget it. some girls i used to have a good time with i’ve lost touch with in my current life. i’ve since called them up because i knew they were still in the area and we’ve reconnected and now meet up every so often.

    i probably am not answering the question directly about making friends but i wanted to point out i’ve been there where i was in a new place and had to start over. just be genuine, have time to give people, and don’t be judgmental of your friends. keep people around you have a good time with. take the initiative to set up a girl date. friendships, like any relationship, take effort and nurturing. but do so joyfully and you will always have good company around you.

  6. Wow – great timing. I’m very much in the same boat. I’ve found that it’s so hard to make friends as you get older, especially if you aren’t married and have no kids (and don’t plan to). My BF has a road warrior type job and I find that I have a lot of time to myself, which, generally isn’t a problem (I’m an only child and I do appreciate a bit of quality alone time). However, there are those instances when it would be nice to have someone (or a few someones) to just call and hook up with for drinks, shopping, chatting, whatnot. I’ve joined a couple of groups in the hope that getting myself out and about will help me to better my social skills and hopefully meet some new friends.

    I am curious to see what everyone’s take on this is – I’m so glad that this question came up here, as I had considered asking one along the very same lines.

  7. This is a good one. I wonder the same thing. After grade school and high school, when no one forces you to socialize with people, you forget how. I know I have. And I’m not a fan of Facebook.

    Can’t wait to read the answer portion.

  8. 1) When someone invites you to do something at work, whether it is drinks, or a pedicure, go. Don’t even think about dinner, exercise, etc. Let your hubby know if you feel you need to.
    2) You mentioned you have an MFA in creative writing. How about joining a writing group? I don’t know much about creative writing, but don’t writers have those?
    3) If you are at all spiritual, any one of those groups – church/synagogue/etc.
    4) Exercise classes – if you stick to going to the same one, or if you join one where you have to sign up. (oh, and running clubs – marathon training clubs)
    5) Ballroom dancing classes.
    6) Someone mentioned bowling leagues in a previous post on meeting guys, but it could also go for meeting girls.
    Or really, call up an old friend from college, high school. People want to catch up, and they haven’t been trying to get in touch with you either, so it’s even. Most people are happy to hear from you!

  9. I’m loving this question. Unfortunately, I can’t really add to the discussion because this is a weak area for me. I do have a couple of girlfriends that I speak with regularly, but the relationships are so unfulfilling to me that I have no desire to spend time with them. Being the only constant in these relationships, my guess is that I’m the problem. I crave solitude, but I also desire a handful of women that I can connect with over food, fun and travel. No balance here.

  10. I also think it’s SO important to have a life outside of your “significant other”. Other than hanging out with other women, I’ve also joined a book group and a co-ed volleyball league at my local gym, sans husband!

    I also have a friend who met her boyfriend when she joined the Sierra Club. She liked hiking and wanted to do it with other people, finding love was a bonus!

  11. When I moved to my current town, I knew no one. I joined my local Junior League which was fantastic and making an effort to meet my neighbors and colleagues. At some point I started inviting people over for cocktails – nothing fancy but really started making an effort to meet a nice group of people. Eventually I made a great friend and now we’re starting a business.

    I am a little worried about your insecurities about your husband and how your confidence is at opposite ends of the spectrum when dealing with him. You may want to spend some time addressing it. I really believe in only one self help book – Real Love with Greg Baer. It’s super revealing about yourself and your relationships.

    Best of luck with making friends! It is so rewarding to meet new people – the best friends I’ve made have been post 30!

  12. Hi Guys,

    I’m so glad Stephanie posted this….I sent her this months ago…and since then, I’ve come such a long way in my life. :) Thank you all for your advice.

    I’ve learned how to make friends again…It’s by reaching out to other people. It’s by leaving your comfort zone. It’s by helping out those you want to be around. It’s by realizing that spending time away from your significant other will actually make your relationship better.

    The friends I have…if they were man, I’d be crushing on them. They motivate and inspire me to be better. They are independent, strong-willed women and I just want to eat their entire beings up when I’m around them.

    And to be perfectly honest, I’ve stumbled upon a truth which I think I was feeling way back when I wrote what I did…I might just have to query Stephanie again for advice. :)

  13. I seem to be in the same boat as well. I have lost contact with a lot of my close friends. There are a few that do remain, but with kids involved it makes it very difficult to keep in touch. I do fortunately have a good friend who visits from out of state about twice a year. But where is the constant interaction with other ladies? I feel almost as if I need to jump back into a friendship pool to keep my insanity! Good luck and thanks to everyone else for there ideas.

  14. these are all great suggestions, and I’d like to add that in addition to joining these things, stick with it. I’m in my 3rd year in g-school and only now have my warm school relationships begun to develop into real friendships. my partner has been going to a meet up group for about a year and now he is starting to make friends. i mean, you may hit it off with folks right off the bat, but you may not. if so, don’t be discouraged.

  15. Great tips so far… I find myself having a hard time making strong female friendships lately, because I tell myself I find it harder to relate to other females, but maybe I’m just not making enough effort.

  16. Stephanie – Did you ever finish the top 10 list? I’m curious to see what else you would suggest.

  17. Hmph. Whenever I’m feeling like all of my girlfriends are leaving me in the dust (whether career, husbands, kids, whatever) I tell myself quite pitifully that girlfriends are overrated anyway. And then I eat a half a cake and a pitcher of water. And I feel better for three hours.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.