Navigating Through Midlife Friendships
Have you ever met someone and immediately connected?
This happened to me one Friday afternoon when I arrived at Starbucks to meet Abby at the suggestion of a mutual friend. A log-time therapist and recently certified life transition coach myself, I was looking forward to talking to Abby, a therapist thinking about embarking on training to become a life coach herself. From there, a rapid fire conversation ensued about our experiences, passions, struggles and visions for our futures. The discussion was halted by the buzz of my IPhone; I looked down to find 3 text messages from my daughter asking where I was. Abby and I had been talking for three hours, and had barely scratched the surface.
We laughed when we realized how much time had passed, and I regretfully said, “Abby, I have to run home to give my car to my daughter who is home from college on winter break.” She broke into a grin and said, “So funny! I’m going to the airport to pick up my youngest son coming home from college in Atlanta. We’ll be sharing my car”. During our speed walk back to our cars we discovered that our children were both freshmen at the same college. We had been so involved in talking about our own passions and dreams that we never got around to talking about our families.
I also met Pam through a mutual friend. We too had an instant connection. During our discussion Pam (a teen and parenting coach) mentioned that she was looking to connect with other women who were passionate about growing their coaching businesses. Lisa found me at a Better After 50 conference where I was marketing a new coaching program. I coached her as she began her health coaching business. Over time our coach/client relationship evolved into one characterized by mutual respect and championing of one another and eventually evolved into a true friendship. I could count on these women to be the first ones to comment on, support and share all my professional wins. Eventually, I introduced these three women to one another and we have created a Mastermind Group. We meet regularly to help one another reach our fullest potential. I look forward to our monthly meetings with great excitement and always come away feeling challenged, supported, appreciated and ready to take on my next challenging project.
I have asked myself, what is it about this group of women that feeds me so much? I have many wonderful friends: women with whom I have endured births, sickness, deaths and all the milestones in between. Women who would care for my children, cook meals and put their lives on hold in the face of crisis. Women I would move heaven and earth to help when they need me. So, what was it about Abby, Pam and Lisa that spurred the need for me to add these women to my life?
I then figured out the answer:
I formed relationships with most of my dearest friends while raising my family. Although many of us had careers, our deep connections were around the hopes, fears and joys of raising our families. Now that our children have grown, the quest to pursue our dreams has led us in different directions. Some of us have reentered the workforce or changed careers, others have found causes that excite us, some of us have become widowed or divorced, others have become involved in the childcare of grandchildren and some are trying to figure it all out.
What do you NOW need from your friendships?
- If you are divorced and your best friends are married, you might need some single women to go out with on the weekends or women you can call at midnight when your ex has sent you an upsetting email.
- If you are looking for women to do things with during the day now that the kids are gone and most of your friends are working, who can you call?
- If you have embarked on a new business that you love thinking, strategizing and talking about, who do you know who also wants to talk and listen?
- If you are trying to reenter the work force and are scared and insecure, who is going to push you, support you and give you feedback on updating your resume if most of your friends are happy staying outside the workforce or are too afraid themselves to take the leap?
Many of the women who I work with feel that something is missing in their friendships. Often they can’t put their finger on what is lacking. They still love their friends as much as ever and worry these feelings are a sign of disloyalty. They wonder if it is possible to love your long time friends and still have the need to add some new and different friendships? I say “YES!”
So, how do you go about finding these new friends?
- First, identify what you need. Ask yourself what is missing from your current friendships?
- Then identify where you might find women who would fulfill your needs.
Some suggestions are: midlife career reentry programs, classes in your areas of interest (i.e.: painting, tennis, computer or Grandma and me classes), book, bridge or card groups, philanthropic groups, or Empty Nest and Moving Beyond Divorce programs
- Let people know what you are looking for.
Create a supermarket/elevator/cocktail speech (See One Minute of Me)
- Push yourself to notice and reach out to new women you encounter in your everyday life. Check out tips from “The New Girl in Town”. Your new friends might be right in front of you.
Once you have figured out what you need in your new friendships and where you might find these women you will be on you way to creating a broadened friendship circle that meets all of your needs.
For those of you who would like to make more connections with other midlife women, I invite you to join my Midlife Reinvention Facebook Group. You will gain access to training and resources from me and connect to almost 300 like-minded midlife women who inspire and support one another as they navigate and create their most fulfilling next acts.