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As a married woman and mother whose grown children still live at home, I don’t feel I can stake a claim on the word ‘lonely’. Life is too hectic to reflect deeply on what it actually is I feel, but I know it isn’t that.
Confession: I crave deep and genuine friendships with other women. I suppose I want to replicate the kind of besties that I easily found in high school or my university years, upon starting a new job, and becoming a mother. Back then, with more available time and energy, fewer commitments, a different attitude to vulnerability and spontaneity, connecting with other women was relatively effortless. What has changed?
I’m now ‘middle-aged’. It’s a different story. Among women who’ve managed to retain those deep and enduring friendships, new personalities alter the comfortable dynamic and there is rarely time to invest in building upon what would otherwise be a solid foundation.
I think I’m a pretty good friend. I care about the people in my orbit. I’m generous with my time and my skills and my money. So why can’t I attract a suitable ‘mate’? What I would give to be invited out somewhere! Wouldn’t even have to be out-out if you’re willing to have me in your home. Hey, and you’d also be welcome at mine! Even a basic check-in over Messenger from someone I care about would be enough to keep me buoyed. I’m not asking for much. I’m honestly not that needy. And before you say it, I *have* asked. Yes, I *have* initiated. But the trail always seems to quickly go cold and I feel like *that* friend – the one you maybe wish wouldn’t linger so long, or call you so often. And *that* is a lonely place, even if I don’t own the word. I wonder, if I had a sister, would I feel this so acutely?
In my wanderings through the interwebs I discovered the work of Kat Vellos who coined the term ‘platonic longing’ and when I heard her say it I knew what it was in my bones. She’s the author of two books on adult friendship and because I haven’t read them I’ll share the link to her website so you can easily find out more. Instead, I heard her speak on a popular podcast (link is also on the website) and she’s articulate and funny and warm and yeah, I wanna be her best friend.
So how does my bestie Kat suggest we build adult friendships with intention? It’s not something we learn in school, or in church, if that was ever your thing, or even in scouts (actually, I was never a scout or girl guide, so maybe they do learn it there, please correct me). I did go to church as a child, and while being a Good Christian is probably similar to being a Good Friend, how to navigate from A, to B, to C on the friendship map isn’t expressly taught anywhere that I’m aware of. Friendship just *is*, right? Take a breath Jodie.
Unless we have had great role models, this stuff doesn’t come naturally and it isn’t easy to talk about. In the absence of the +/-200 hours it takes for friendships to evolve organically, it *is* possible to fast-track deep and enduring friendships by enriching the environment in which that friendship grows. Vulnerability, intimacy, intense shared experiences – it’s scary stuff when you’re half way through your life and feeling emotionally comfortable.
When my husband and I had newly met, we discovered my flatmate’s Book Of Questions on the shelf and proceeded to interview each other from the 100 profound and troubling questions in the book. ‘If your mother and your lover were drowning and you could only save one, which would you choose?’ It was deeply uncomfortable stuff. But it was powerful, and now, more than thirty years later, I still remember that night. For the record: I couldn’t choose.
Almost 25 years ago, social psychology researcher Arthur Aron devised a list of 35 questions designed to facilitate closeness between two people. If you’re curious to try them out, just click on this highlighted sentence.