Friendship Shasta Girlfriend CirclesIn honor of International Women’s Friendship Month, we’re sharing girlfriend advice from inspiring women like Girlfriend Circles founder, author of ‘Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends‘, Shasta Nelson:

Thanks Shasta for this guest blog with insight on building more meaningful friendships – and we can always learn something about being a better friend, right?

When it comes to marriage, we know that there is a lot of ground between being interested in someone and getting married to them.  We have terms like “going on a date” which we know is different than “dating.”  We implicitly acknowledge that it takes time before we can both simply assume that we’re hanging out this weekend without asking each other.

With female friendship we lack non-romantic language to articulate those stages. Our expectations also seem to be a bit skewed of how fast we should progress. We appear to be at great risk of thinking we need to feel like BFFs within the first couple of conversations, forgetting that there are stages. We neglect the evidence in our memory banks that show us, repeatedly, that most of our friends developed over consistent time together (i.e., work, school, weekly gatherings).

In romance we know that, on average, it takes one to two years from meeting to marriage, but there are always some couples who elope after knowing each other for two weeks and others who date for ten years before getting married. In friendship, it’s more or less the same.  There will always be exceptions due to personality, life timing, willingness, etc.  But more or less–we’d be wise to set our expectations for the journey, even if it means it may take a year before I get to where I want to be with someone.

Five Stages of Friendship

Here are the five stages I’ve identified to help you set your expectations:

  • Curiosity. This is where every friendship begins.  There has to be something that attracts you, gives you a sense of willingness and increases your desire to have more. It doesn’t have to be conscious or obvious to us, but at this stage we have to have reason to lean in, even a little, if the stranger we’re meeting is going to have a chance of becoming a friend.
  • Exploratory. Every potential friendship requires time together.  For some of us, that time happens automatically (at a play group, a choir rehearsal, yoga class or work), but for many of us, we’ll have to initiate it and pursue it.  For it doesn’t matter how much attraction you may feel in that first stage– if you don’t show up for time together– a friendship will never develop. Our temptation is to judge quickly to determine if we have enough in common.  You are served well to go this stage with an assumption that you do have a shared experience with this other human and put into the time to find it. Use this stage to learn, to ask, to love—to expand more, rather than to have some arbitrary checklist in your head where you disqualify people.  It’s exploratory—not judgment!
  • Familiarity. This is the stage we often want as stage one.  We frequently want to experience this comfort level with someone upon first meeting them, forgetting that it takes time to build.  In my experience, I find that it takes most women six to eight times with someone before they reach this stage. Of course that depends on what you’re doing during that time and how you’re sharing, but at some point you reach this familiarity.  A trust that you can assume she wants to talk with you when you call. An ease where you’re okay just hanging out spontaneously together without it taking two weeks to schedule. A sense that you are beginning to be able to predict how they will respond to different life events.
  • Vulnerability. This stage is tricky since there is a ditch on either side: rushing to it too quickly or avoiding it all together.  Some women rush to this stage early on because they feel closer once they have shared their pain.  But healthy friendships need the commitment to grow in conjunction with the intimacy. We should not be emotionally vomiting on someone in order to feel buy diazepam online cheap closer.  It should not be our expectation that friends who are in the first couple of stages need to prove they can be there for us in extreme ways. On the other hand, at some point of consistent time together, if you’re not willing to share beyond your PR image, laugh at yourself and express insecurities–the friendship will stall or disintegrate. This is where we earn the right to “cry on each other’s shoulder.” This is where we are bonding in deeper ways, increasing our commitment to each other.
  • Frientimacy. This last stage is for those who are your BFFs.  And notice that I made that plural. Best doesn’t speak to quantity as much as quality. It’s like when a magazine says “Best moments of last year” and lists ten. There is enough research out there to suggest we need between three to seven people in this category. Don’t limit yourself.  On the other hand, not everyone you interact with needs to move into this last stage.

This Friendship Intimacy stage is my category for the people I trust implicitly. We trust each other’s boundaries, have proven to show up as emotionally healthy people for each other, and are willing to go out of our way for their benefit.  We love them.  This stage takes time.  Lots of it. For most of us, while you may see the potential and some of the benefits of it 6-12 months into the relationship, it may take even longer than that to really build the required trust and intimacy.

While few of our relationships will ever have clear lines between these stages, does it help to visually see that friendship is indeed a progression?  Is it valuable to differentiate between seeing the potential of a BFF and putting in the time and vulnerability required to foster it?  In general, does this align with your experience? And, if this were true, how could you see it helping you as you start new friendships?

Shasta Nelson (@girlfrndcircles) is a relationship strategist, life coach, author of ‘Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends‘, and founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a womens friendship matching site in 35 cities across the U.S. She blogs weekly at Shasta’s Friendship Blog and for the Huffington Post.

What are your thoughts on the stages of friendship? Share! We want to hear from you!

And, by the way, we LOVE guest blogs here at Girlfriendology. Have a great girlfriend story to tell? Want to celebrate your fabulous female friends? SHARE! (And, we also have Girlfriend Gurus – check that out to be featured on Girlfriendology!)

Note: It’s September – International Women’s Friendship Month and we’re celebrating all month long! From this interview and guest blog by Miss America, to a month of women’s wisdom and 30 guest blogs, to our Newsletter Sign-up Contest and Facebook fun, and more! Don’t miss out on any of it! SIGN UP for our Newsletter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook to stay up to date with all the fun friendship festivities and more!

By the way, we LOVE guest blogs here at Girlfriendology. Have a great girlfriend story to tell? Want to celebrate your fabulous female friends? SHARE! (And, we also have Girlfriend Gurus – check that out to be featured on Girlfriendology!) SIGN UP for our weekly newsletter and get our FREE eBook ‘30 Days / 30 Ways to Be a Better Friend– check it out! Don’t forget to make your girlfriends feel special with perfect birthday gifts for women!

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Our September Friendship Month Guest Blogs so far …