I’d just moved 800 miles away from my family when I found out I was expecting a child. My husband’s job required that he work unpredictable hours and travel for extended periods of time. Like many expecting moms, I was lonely. To make things worse, I’m an ambivert — there are times when I crave and enjoy social interaction, but there are often times when I want to be left alone, only emerging to make sure that my son has food and someone to dump his potty.
In a perfect world, moms like me could type in their interests into an app and be connected to a compatible mommy buddy. Just think about it, a Tinder for mom friends — swipes and all. Imagine how much benefit we could get from that. So many of us have tried to use Facebook as a friend finder, but let’s be real, those relationships hardly ever turn into anything aside from broken playdate promises.
Bottom line: It’s really hard to find friends as a new mom.
And for people like me who battle anxiety and depression, making friends can be exceptionally hard. Thankfully, I’ve learned a little bit about some of the best ways to establish and cultivate new friendships. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:
I’ve noticed that things go better for me when I let others know exactly what to expect from me when I feel an interest in the relationship. I also understand that some people think that might be revealing too much too soon. But as I said before, there are periods of time when my friends won’t hear from me for weeks, if not months, at a time. There’s nothing wrong with taking the space you need as long as you are transparent about it within your relationships. No one deserves to be strung along and discarded suddenly.
If you are the type of person who needs space from time to time, let your friends know that. Any good friend will understand.
It’s never good to pretend to be someone you’re not. This is especially important when trying to establish new friendships. When I first moved to the place I live now, I was in dire need of friends. So I started meeting up with mothers who shared some of my secondary interests — things that I thought were cool, but did not have a deep understanding of or desire to learn, like knitting and sewing.
At the time, I was excited to have moms to interact with and feel like I had a circle of friends. Fast forward years later and I don’t interact with any of those women. We had very different political beliefs, including ideas about religion, oppression, and gender equality. At the time, though, I saw those minor interests as a gateway to a long-term relationship. They weren’t.
There’s nothing wrong with trying new things, but it’s also okay if you don’t get along with everyone. It’s perfectly fine to miss out on a few friendship meet-ups if it saves you the few weeks or years of heartbreak.
Don’t take it personally.
There will be plenty of people who you think you hit it off with, but they feel completely different about the relationship. It’s normal to get a friend request, but they never respond to your messages again. It just means that you two were not compatible. I know it’s difficult, but don’t take it personally. You deserve to have friends who have mutual investment in the relationship. Don’t try to force any type of relationship that comes off as one-sided. You’ll feel better in the long run.
I cannot overstate the importance of not giving up on the journey for finding compatible friends. I know, you’re tired of meeting duds and going on friendship dates with nothing to show for it. But I promise someone is out there for you. You can believe someone is out there based off of some kind of divine inspiration of the universe looking out for you. Or you can look at it through the lens of social science like I do.
As much as we like to believe we are extremely diverse as humans, we’re not. There is less than 0.1% difference in each of us regardless of race, religion, or gender orientation. That said, I can statistically guarantee you that there is someone out there who shares your feelings and will be compatible with your friendship style. All you have to do is find them.
Moving forced me to do a lot of thinking about the work involved in establishing friendships. I was surprised to discover that old cliche “I was looking for something that was right in front of me” was true. The people that you met earlier on in your life could be exactly what you need when you’re feeling lonely. I’ve gotten much closer to my hometown friends in the last few years. The distance may be great, but the love feels greater.