What one Chicago Jewish transplant’s learned from her ‘year of friending’
It's been about two years since I launched my BFF search. As you know, I spent 2010 furiously dating. 2011 was about keeping up those new friendships, and turning "just friends" into "good friends." Now that more time has passed, and some friendships have faded and others have stood the (short) test of time, I have a better perspective with which to look back and see what this search has really taught me.
Fifty-one women—and one fabulous gay man—later, I've learned some things. Some of my learnings suprised me, others not so much (spoiler alert! Don't interrupt other people with stories about yourself!) But to save you the work of weekly friend dates (though I'd highly recommend trying them monthly. It's so friendly!), I present to you the three things I know now:
1. Your husband and your best friend should be two different people. As soon as I found local friends with whom to go to dinner and share girl talk, fights with my husband suddenly stopped. I realized over the year that I'd been trying to get out of Matt what I needed from a BFF—time to analyze an issue-of-the-week, and then rehash it twice more. With Matt, those conversations might quickly turn into a fight—I usually uttered something along the lines of, "If you loved me you'd keep talking about this!" I wanted to talk and talk and talk, while he was exhausted, being forced to say the same thing over and over. Men and women have different relationship needs, and trying to force one person to be everything is a recipe for disaster. As one new friend told me when we discussed how our partners weren't enough: "He can't be my girlfriend, he's my boyfriend.
2. In order to make new friends, you must be comfortable being alone. I used to find activities that seemed fun and think, "I'd sign up if only had a friend to join me." Now I think, "I should sign up for that, maybe I'll meet someone." It's easy to stay on your couch when you don't have a nearby pal with whom to go out and conquer the world, but I learned the hard way that new friends don't just show up in your living room. If you're too nervous or embarrassed to go places by yourself, force yourself to do it anyway, at least once. People who share your interests might just turn out to be your new BFF.
3. People think friends should "just happen." They're wrong. I can't count the number of people who, sure that they knew "The Secret of Friendship," told me, "You can't go looking for friends. They just happen." According to their friendship bible, trying to kick-start a relationship was horrible wrong. Sometimes friendship does just happen—you meet someone in line at the grocery store, you get to talking, and 10 years later you're still meeting at Nookies every Sunday morning. And those times are great. But you can't count on that. It's like romance. When meeting the love of your life just happens, that's fantastic. But sometimes you have to go on Match.com. Or get set-up. It takes some effort. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Two years later (I did my Year of Friending in 2010) I've written my first book, MWF Seeking BFF, to document my search.
But more importantly, I have a slew of new local friends. I've got a cooking club and two book clubs. I've befriended my LEADS leader and one of my closest pals is the girl who brought me—finally!—to The Weiner's Circle after our first meeting.
As it turns out, those rumors about Chicago being a friendly place? All true.
Rachel Bertsche is a journalist living in Chicago. 'MWF Seeking BFF' is her first book. Read her blog at www.mwfseekingbff.com.