Stephanie Sprenger

  • The More the Merrier Versus Quality Time

    Happy New Year to our HerStories Project community! We are pleased to announce that as of this month, Nina is now with us twice a month so keep those anonymous questions coming! I think many people will be able to relate to the particularly uncomfortable social dynamic she discusses in this week’s HerTake column:

    HerTakenoavatar

     Hi Nina,

    My daughter-in-law posed this question and I could use your help with an answer.

    My son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Mia, had a dinner group of sorts with two other couples. The six of them would almost always get together at Josh and Mia’s house because they didn’t have a babysitter for their two-year-old twins and the other couples had readily available child care.

    Everyone got busy and about six months has passed since the last get together.

    Couple A said to Josh and Mia, “Hey, we miss getting together for dinner. Let’s make plans to go out to some family friendly place with the kids.” No mention of Couple B.

    So Mia’s question is this: Since dinner together had always been a thing with all three couples, should she ask Couple B to join them?

    My response was no because:

    1) This is a different scenario. Dinner out with the whole family rather than dinner at home with just couples.
    2) Couple A initiated the plan so it would be up to them to reach out to Couple B if they wanted.
    3) Trying to find a restaurant for three couples plus six kids would be tough!

    I guess the question really comes down to something I’ve struggled with, too. How do you tactfully and gracefully make plans with friends who are part of a larger group without including everyone every time?

    Sincerely,

    Mia’s Mother-in-Law

    Dear Mia’s Mother-in-Law,

     What a nice mother-in-law you are! I like that you discussed this with Mia and brought the issue for me to consider. Part of why I love this column is the timelessness of many of the questions. For example, Mia’s situation has little to do with the fact that she has twins or that the other couples have young kids, too. As you said, you deal with the same problem when making plans with friends. And believe me, I have spent more time than I care to admit fretting over leaving people out and being left out myself. I had to work hard (and continue working hard) to get over the latter to even begin addressing the former with a sense of logic and maturity.

    There’s so much going on here! Let’s break it apart.

    First, to address Mia and Josh’s specific scenario, I think your answer was good. You’re right that the dinner out is a different situation than the home group that had formed. Also, going out with six adults and six kids (toddlers) is rather pointless in my opinion. Sometimes in the interest of never hurting anyone’s feelings, many of us end up diluting our social outings to the point where we don’t have conversations beyond the surface. Sure, nobody gets left out that way, but does anyone have that great of a time?

    I’m on the fence about your point that couple A as the initiators of this outing have the responsibility to reach out to couple B. If Josh and Mia are good enough friends with couple A, then it would not be strange for one of them to suggest adding couple B. But the bigger point is that it is absolutely acceptable for the four of them to make plans without couple B.

    The reason I say I’m on the fence about Mia initiating the extra invite is that my husband and I used to be friends with a couple that could not seem to function without making sure that a certain other couple was included every time. It got really annoying and I stopped reaching out for plans. While I understand that my friend was sensitive about leaving out her other friend, I firmly believe it has to be okay for adults to strike a balance between “the more the merrier” and quality time.

    Hold on Mia’s mother-in-law! I think what I just said there is the crux of what you’re asking in your well-stated question at the end. “How do you tactfully and gracefully make plans with friends who are part of a larger group without including everyone every time?”

     MAKING THE CHOICE TO CONTROL CERTAIN FEELINGS

    The key is this: You do it by being gracious and strong when your friends get together without you. You do it by admitting that there are situations when “the more the merrier” is not true at all. Sometimes more is just more bodies, more voices, and less true conversation, and that means realizing we can’t be a part of every plan just like we can’t include everyone else all the time.

    Maybe this all sounds silly to someone who has never felt left out in her life, but I think a solid majority of us have felt that pang, even as adults, when we know that our friends are hanging out without us.

    I’m going to speak for myself now because controlling my feelings is the exact tactic I employed a few years ago when I realized that I could not on one hand crave quality time with my friends yet expect others to include me no matter the situation. I know that when I have a few families over for dinner, it does not signify any lack of loyalty and genuine friendship with my other friends. When my husband and I go out with a few other couples, it does not mean we like our other friends any less. I have to grant the same benefit of the doubt to my friends when they make plans without me.

    The reason this is emotional “work” is because I make the choice in these situations not to feel hurt if I am not included. Maybe I will feel that twinge of surprise and momentary self-consciousness when I realize a gathering has happened or is about to happen without me. But in the next breath I remember how when I’m in the planning mode, I am not intentionally leaving anybody out. I am actively making plans with friend A or friend B. Those plans have nothing to do with friend C, and if friend C found a way to make every social outing about her, well, I wouldn’t want to be friends with her anymore. Nobody wants to deal with friend C’s constant hurt feelings. Do not be friend C!

    THE MORE THE MERRIER vs QUALITY TIME

    It requires a maturity to recognize that some situations call for leaning towards “the more the merrier” and some call for quality time. Long term friendships depend on this maturity on both sides of the equation (as the inviters and the invitees) and the ability to not feel hurt all the time. There is certainly a time for including everyone. There are no rules here, just common sense.

    As for how to make plans with some friends and not others with tact and grace, I have two words: NO SECRETS. I think it’s taken some years, but my friends and I are now good about doing things without including everyone. There was never a formal conversation about it, but I’ve seen the dynamics evolve over the years and it’s been refreshing for all of us (I assume). I’d say the best change I’ve noticed is that nobody is secretive. It’s not like you need to tell everyone what you’re doing all the time, but it feels crappy when a friend says with purposeful vagueness, “We’re going out with some friends,” and makes you feel like you’re too fragile to hear that it’s with people you both know. I’d say be matter-of-fact if the question of what’s happening this weekend comes up and continue to respond gracefully during the times you are on the receiving end of that news.

    I do hope that helps rather than making things more complicated. Nobody ever accused me of under thinking these matters.

    Readers, what has your experience been?

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1Nina will be answering another question later this month! She is also discussing questions from the column on live radio! If you’d like to hear her response to your question, fill out the anonymous question form here.

     

     

    Our recent call for submissions has just closed; if you submitted an essay for Mothering Through the Darkness, our upcoming anthology on postpartum depression, expect to hear from us around March. We will keep you updated, and thanks for supporting this project!

    Bloggers! Looking to take your writing to the next level this year? Work on some of your New Year goals with our online course, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, now available as a PDF! All six weeks of lessons are included, featuring some fantastic guest instructors. Bloggers who purchase the PDF will have access to a Facebook community for discussion and pairing up with other writers. Find out more about the benefits of finding a writing community here. What are you waiting for? Now is the time to focus on making your blog everything you want it to be. To help you achieve your goals for the new year, we’ve dropped the price to $20 for the month of January! Buy the PDF and find out more details here.

  • HerTake: Changing the Intensity of a Friendship

    Nina will back on the Jordana Green on WCCO CBS radio tomorrow night (Wednesday, Dec 10th) at 10PM Central talking about some of the questions she answered this week as well as how to deal with difficult relationships over the holidays. Twin Cities listeners can tune in live on channel 830, but Nina will post the podcast later this week for the rest of us. Soon the live streaming on WCCO will be working again and we can all tune in live.

    Jordana takes calls and texts and Nina would love to hear from you LIVE. Call 651-989-9226 or text 81807.

     In January Nina will be back on HerStories twice a month to answer questions so keep those anonymous questions coming.

     HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    A few months ago I had an argument that did not end well with my dearest friend’s husband. My husband and I are very close to this couple. We socialize with them frequently, have holidays together and casual dinners on Sunday nights and even vacation with them.

    My friend’s husband is a very smart, very narcissistic, successful professional who can be funny and entertaining or, when his mood changes, nasty and insulting. He recently lost his job, his mood worsened and his nastiness increased. He made many negative, insulting, demeaning comments to me–to the point where I had had enough. (He does not think that my profession is as worthy as his.)

    One Saturday night when the four of us were out, he lashed out at me again. (Note that I speak my mind as opposed to my friend and my husband who are more willing to let his insulting comments roll off their backs). After he made a very hurtful remark to me, I responded in kind. I Immediately apologized. He did not and continued his invective towards me.

    A few days later he called me with a lame apology (“to the extent I may have offended you, I am sorry…”) I would like to preserve my friendship with his wife but stop socializing with them as a foursome. My friend has put up with her husband’s abusive ways (towards her, too) for so long that I’m afraid she no longer sees how he behaves and why he has so few friends.

    How do I stay close to my friend given how I feel about her husband?

    Signed,

    Scared to Permanently Damage My Friendship

     

    Dear Scared to Permanently Damage My Friendship,

    I’ve named the couple Dan and Susan so that we’re not throwing around tons of pronouns. I feel for your situation because you’ve invested so much in your individual friendship and the couple friendship. Good couple friends are hard to make and changing the intensity of a friendship without ending it is even harder. I think you can preserve your friendship with Susan, but it will take some finessing.

    My first and most important piece of advice is that you have to resist any temptation whatsoever to let Susan know your true feelings about Dan. This is a lie by omission, but you will permanently damage your friendship with her if you share even one subtle criticism about Dan such as the way he treats her or anyone else.

    I’m suggesting all three of the tactics below be employed simultaneously. I told you this would take some work!

    1. Accelerate your one-on-one friendship with Susan so that no matter how much distance you create in the foursome situation, you will be spending time with Susan. This means that if you spoke once a week, try calling an extra time. If you met for lunch once a month, get together more often. Go for walks, start a new book club, movie group, or cooking group with her. Sign up for a class together. I’m just giving you some ideas for new ways to spend time with her that will not involve Dan. I like the “acceleration tactic” because it’s a positive maneuver rather than what I’m suggesting out of necessity next.

    2. Fade back, but do not fade out of the couple friendship. I often use the terms “fade back” and “fade out” because I think people make all-or-nothing and therefore permanent decisions out of anger and hurt. In most cases it would be better in the long run to decrease the intensity of a friendship rather than abruptly cut someone off. You also need to employ the fade back in this case if you want to stay friends with Susan. She will notice if you never spend time as couples and given what I still consider the most important thing to remember here (not telling her your true opinion of her husband), you will probably have to make plans with them sometimes. You’re going to have to “be busy” more often than not. “Ugh, I’m so sorry our calendar has been so ridiculous. But let’s have lunch next week just the two of us. Weekends have been crazy.” You get the idea. You’re not cutting them off as a couple; you’re slowly changing the intensity of the foursome dynamics. I wonder (and hope) if less time around Dan will make him less bothersome to you on the occasions you are together.

    3. Bring in support. On those evenings when you’re going out with Susan and Dan, why not invite a third couple? The dynamic of six individuals is vastly different from that of four. Maybe this isn’t “proper,” but seat all the women on one end of the table and the men on the other. You’ll hardly see Dan or even hear his voice.

    I’m sorry you’re in this situation by the way. It’s so uncomfortable when you don’t like a close friend’s spouse. I wish you the best of luck in changing the foursome while preserving your friendship with Susan.

    Readers, any other ideas to share?

     

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend who is very sporadic, really only reaching out to me when she is bored or needs something. I don’t mind being a now and then friend, but she often appeals for support or action on social media. Whenever I respond to her pleas for help, she never acknowledges my efforts. It wouldn’t be a problem except that she then rants about how no one ever supports her. I don’t know how to be the friend that feeds her needs. Am I being too sensitive?

    Thanks,

    Tired of Being Used

     

    Dear Tired of Being Used,

    Before we dive into the issue at hand, I want to comment on a peripheral point that could also help other people. You said, “I don’t mind being a now and then friend.” I find that attitude so refreshing. There are certain people in my life with whom I would probably have a more intense friendship if we each had more time or we ran into each other regularly. The reality is that there is only so much energy any of us can dedicate to friendships that are harder to develop because of where we are in our lives (issues of proximity, busy job, little kids, sick parents, and so on). I’m so grateful for the “now and then friends” in my life who I meet for lunch twice a year or even the long distance conversations that happen a few times a year. There’s something comforting about knowing there are wonderful and interesting people out in the world who wish you well and vice versa even if those friends are not the ones you call in an emergency.

    My point is that it sounds like you have reasonable expectations about the kind of friendship that permits someone to come in and out of your life. Nevertheless, even a casual “now and then friend” needs to abide by certain social norms to stay at that level of friendship, and it sounds like you need to create some new boundaries with this particular woman. I tend to err on the side of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but the situation you described would annoy me to the point of needing to take some subtle action.

    One word came to mind when you described your friend and that is entitlement. She feels entitled to support, in this case in the form of you and others sharing her work on, I’m assuming, Facebook and Twitter. I’m guessing she shares others’ work often and is annoyed at the lack of tit-for-tat reciprocation. If she came to you for authentic advice asking why she’s having a hard time gathering a supportive “tribe” online, then I would feel less irritated on your behalf. Though truthfully that would be a hard question to answer for her so let’s just deal with the situation at hand and hope she never asks you.

    I’m not sure confronting your friend about her behavior is worthwhile. I’m imagining a scenario where next time she complains that nobody supports her you gently say, “Hey, not sure if you saw that I shared your article on Facebook.” I’m guessing she would respond with, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I saw that! Thank you so much! I didn’t mean ‘nobody supports me,’ but hardly anybody shares my stuff.” And then the complaining would start again.

    A conversation like this doesn’t really get you anywhere unless you’re willing to outright say, “I only hear from you when you need something.” My hesitation is that at this level of friendship it’s not wise to get into a conversation where the only logical outcome would be for her to contact you not just when she needs something, which would mean contacting you more often, thereby changing her status from a “now and then” friend to a someone who is a more constant figure in your life. It sounds like that’s not something you would want. If I’m wrong, then you should tell her exactly how you feel.

    If I’m right that you don’t want her reaching out to you more often, I would stop sharing her stuff every time she asks. If you “feed the monster” so to say, she will keep coming back for more. It’s okay to say, “I’ll try!” next time she asks. If she has the nerve to follow up and ask why you didn’t share her work, say you forgot. I know this is a white lie, but the occasional white lie is a fair strategy to use out of kindness and out of the desire to create some new boundaries.

    I hope that helps! I’m curious to hear readers’ opinions, too.

    Good luck! Nina

     

    You can submit an anonymous question for Nina here! Bloggers: we are now offering our most recent online writing course, “Write Your Way to a Better Blog” as a PDF! Buy it this week for only $29! Details here.

     

     

  • The Power of Finding a Writing Community

    We just wrapped up our second online writing course—Write Your Way to a Better Blog—and we learned so much while teaching it. We were first and foremost impressed and inspired by the talent of the 20-some women writers who took the course; their diversity, unique voices, honesty, and courage blew us away. Each of them brought something very authentic and different to the course.

    The most notable impression we took away from this class was the support and camaraderie that exists among bloggers. Sure, you hear about blog envy (I mean, who hasn’t had that? That viral post last week that you totally should have written yourself!), competition, and an overcrowded market. Sometimes it feels like we’re stepping on fellow bloggers’ laptops to come up with the most provocative title, most poignant reflection, or funniest personal anecdote. It can be overwhelming.

    But when we started this six-week class, we were pleasantly surprised to see how instantly the bloggers taking the course began to interact, to support one another, to offer ideas and feedback, and even to share each other’s accomplishments. Our intention was to provide a class chock-full of helpful advice, tips, and exercises, and of course we hope that happened! But another component of the course that was equally meaningful was the community of writers that emerged from within it.

    We learned that having a writing partner (all the participants in class were paired up with another writer) is an invaluable tool, as is finding a writing community. In the blogging world, we hear so much about “finding our tribe,” and many of us are lucky to do just that without too much trouble. I personally would have stopped blogging long ago were it not for the support, understanding, and virtual cheerleading of my own blogging tribe.

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    Me with two of our HerStories contributors at the BlogHer 2014 Voices of the Year Reception.

    Among the many benefits of finding a writing community are:

    1. Meeting writers who get what it’s like to be part of the online writing world: it can be overwhelming and discouraging. There’s nothing like a conversation with another writer who “gets it.”
    2. Someone to provide honest and helpful feedback on your work. It’s amazing how another pair of writer’s eyes on a piece can help you; a fresh perspective can do wonders for a blog post or potential essay that has been stagnating.
    3. Finding encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes we all need to hear that our writing matters, that our words have the power to touch, entertain, and explore, and it’s so helpful to have a community of writers to give you that much-needed lift.
    4. Learning new styles of writing, topics to explore, and opportunities for publication. Being part of a writing community can open doors that you may not have known even existed. It’s like girls’ night and a networking session all rolled into one.

    We are happy to announce that now that our online course has ended, we are offering Write Your Way to a Better Blog as a PDF! Although it won’t have the online course interaction component or instructor feedback, we think we’ve found a way for bloggers to get that writing community experience we think is so valuable.

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    We encourage bloggers who have bought the PDF to join a brand new Write Your Way to a Better Blog Facebook group we’ll be forming for discussion, interaction, and support. The group will be community-led, and we think you’ll make new connections and learn so much from each other. We encourage you to team up and find a writing partner (or maybe you already have one who will join the class with you!) within the Facebook group. Complete your exercises and assignments together; keep each other accountable; provide honest and helpful feedback on each other’s work.

    You can learn all about the course and the PDF, and buy a copy for $29 (the price will go up to $35 next week, so hurry!) right here. We hope you’ll learn a lot and find a fantastic writing community of your own. In the words of one of our students,

    I’ve taken quite a few blogging classes and a few writing ones too but what I was really craving was something that combined the two. I blog to write and my goal when sit to post on my blog is to improve my craft. The Write Your Way to a Better Blog course was exactly what I needed. The instructors are fabulous and the lessons and exercises so incredibly helpful. In the first week or two of class, everything felt so much clearer. And, so essential, everyone is so supportive. It was a truly fabulous experience and I know I’m a better writer now than I was 6 weeks ago!

    Purchase the PDF of Write Your Way to a Better Blog right here! And stay tuned next week as we announce our next online writing course, which will begin at the end of January!

  • How to Publish a Book With Toddlers

    When Jessica and I began the submission process for My Other Exeach of us had a two-year-old at home. By the time we’d published the book, our kids had turned three, an age I maintain is even more challenging. Any veteran parents out there know the woes of raising toddlers and can attest to the impact they have on one’s productivity. Frankly, it’s shocking that we got any work done at all during the hours our children were conscious. Somehow, we pulled it off, and looking back on the whole experience, there are a few, um, memorable aspects that stand out.

    publishbook

    1. Phone conversations are less than professional. To anyone who doesn’t know, Jessica and I live dozens of states away from each other and have never actually met in person. Which means that daily emails and weekly phone calls are absolutely essential for us to stay organized and on top of things. Often, one of us would cover the mouthpiece to urge our offspring to go ahead and watch one more Daniel Tiger or to remind them that no, it wasn’t Daddy on the other end of the line. Or Grandma. Yes, have another bowl of Goldfish. But there was one epic phone call when both our children were at home and awake. Mine was upstairs in her bedroom, supposed to be napping, and she was hollering, singing, and banging the wall, all the while strumming a plastic guitar with her foot through the slats of her crib. I’m dead serious. As the two of us attempted to engage in a coherent conversation, both of our children could be heard screeching, whining, and bellowing demands in the background. It sounded as though we were conducting business in a lunatic asylum. Which, we kind of were.
    2. Mommy’s “office” gets very little respect. When we were in the thick of the book mailing process, the floor of my toy storage area living room office was littered with boxes, envelopes, books, and those annoying little adhesive label pieces from the back of the mailers. My toddler insisted on wrapping every single last one of those strips around someone’s wrist as though it were the 21-and-over bracelet slapped on hipsters at the entrance to a seedy nightclub. This was the delightful era in which she, if left unsupervised, would poke holes in any and all pieces of paper with a pencil. Thus, she literally poked holes in much of my work, including the address labels I had printed to ship books. Paper was wasted. But that wasn’t the worst of it…
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      Boxes, mailers, address labels, those fun “wristbands” strewn about… and of course naked baby dolls and discarded dogs.
    3. Bodily functions and fluids played a prominent role I know. We’re grossed out, too. One of our children, whose identity shall be protected, actually pooped on his/her mother’s book notes. That may have been the same day in which he/she dumped a toddler potty full of urine into the heating vent—it’s hard to say. The day that I stopped by the hip indie bookstore to meet the owner, schedule a book event, and drop off a copy of My Other Ex, I had to bring my daughter with me. Being the stellar parent that I am, I of course bribed her with a lollipop for good behavior. And she was downright charming while we were there. Except for when, in the middle of our conversation about my book event, she loudly announced that she needed to poop. Poop happens– what are you going to do? Not bring your toddler on professional meetings, for one, but such is the life of a work-at-home mom with limited childcare. Of course, the biggest doozy of them all occurred at the actual book party. Everything was going beautifully … until my three-year-old vomited all over my husband. At my book release party. It’s true. Fortunately, after hearing her weakly proclaim, “I don’t feel well,” he hurried outside where she promptly threw up on him, avoiding contaminating the bookstore itself and preventing me from scoring any future book gigs with them. They managed to catch my brief reading and thank-you to my family and friends (Incidentally, I thanked my daughter for not throwing up on me), but pretty much missed the party.
    4. Snacks, Netflix, grandparents, and preschool are absolute necessities. Oh, and husbands help, too. Those hours when our children are being cared for by other family members or were at preschool were golden. During those magical windows, I often had to force myself to step away from my laptop to use the bathroom, as I was bound and determined to make every second count. Due to the nature of publishing, there were times when our kids were home and there was still work to be done. Enter aforementioned parenting crutches. Sure, we don’t recommend planting your child in front of the television with a handful of juice boxes and Uncrustables for hours on end(although it does sound tempting), but there’s no way we would have been able to have a phone call, return an email, or get all that editing done were it not for the miracle of the uninterrupted Netflix children’s series. Yes—even Caillou. Sometimes we choose the lesser of two evils: constant interruptions and shirt-tugging or the muted soundtrack of a whiny bald kid? Desperate times.

    Although the presence of two- and three-year-olds is less than desirable when attempting to read submissions, edit essays, and publish a book, we’re here to tell you: It can be done. Our first book about women’s friendship came out exactly a year ago, when our kids were two, and we can’t wait to see what the next publication experience will bring with a couple of three-and-a-half year olds and a new baby for Jessica!

    Join our community and sign up to receive our newsletter! Receive email updates by subscribing in the sidebar. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too.

    **Remember! Our deadline for submitting to Mothering Through the Darkness, our upcoming anthology about postpartum depression and struggles, has been extended to January 1st. Submit an essay here.

  • Friends in New Places: 5 Tips for Making Friends in a New City

    Making friends in a new city as an adult is never easy. But as we get older, it gets even tougher.

    We may meet new people — at the gym, at kids’ playdates, at work — but it becomes increasingly difficult to turn those acquaintances into friends. Our schedules are packed and less flexible, and our priorities change.

    This month Nina Badzin, our friendship advice columnist, tackles the question of a reader who also faces the challenge of finding friends in an unfamiliar town.

     

    Dear Nina,

    I have several close girlfriends, but not many who live geographically close to me. I had a difficult year last year welcoming a new baby while my husband traveled extensively for work, with little to no family support. I generally come across as a very “on top of things” person, so people often don’t think I need any help. But last year showed me I do need help! As our family plans to move in a few months I want to try to cultivate friendships where it’s not unusual to get together with friends for dinner, or to help one another out. Any tips on how to start from scratch in a new place with that particular goal in mind?

    Thanks,

    Making Friends in a New City

     

    Dear Making Friends in a New City,

    I love your question and your specific goal! In fact, my answer is on the longer side so it will be the only question we tackle here today.

    No matter the number of friends we talk to on the phone, or via texts, emails, Facebook comments, Tweets, and so on, many of us are wired to see friends face-to-face. Let’s be honest, considering that even a phone conversation can seem rare these days, time together can be that much harder to schedule. As you implied with your question, however, it’s those face-to-face interactions that lead to the kind of friendship where you can rely on others in times of need and joy. Despite what Katherine Rosman reported in the New York Times last week about people who manage to find time for Twitter and Instagram, but can’t be bothered to return a phone call, there are still people who remember that nothing can replace the real connection of hearing a friend’s voice and seeing her face (not on your iPhone screen or in the form of an avatar).

    Fourteen years ago I moved to Minneapolis without any friends. It took me a long time to feel settled, but I eventually made this city my home. I’ve also watched others move here through the years and marveled at how gracefully some transitioned despite the reputation among non-native Minnesotans that it’s impossible to make new friends when “Minnesota Nice” means “Minnesota Ice.” (I’ve also seen less graceful situations, but I’m going to keep it positive.) I’ll share my tips and some ideas from the women who arrived in town more recently.

    I cannot talk about making friends in a new city without mentioning Rachel Bertsche’s memoir MWF Seeking BFF in which she chronicles her systematic effort of going on weekly “friend dates” for her entire first year in Chicago. Like you, Rachel had several close friends in other cities, but she missed having that support system nearby. While going on 52 outings with new friends over the course of a year only makes sense for a book deal, I think anyone can glean lessons from Rachel’s active approach of making friends in a new city, which was: Do not wait for friendships to happen.

    While some people feel annoyed by the word “dating” in reference to making new friends, it is an apt description. Actively looking for quality friends is just like dating, yet in some ways much easier because you can have several friends who fulfill different needs in your life rather than seeking a “perfect” match. I think the biggest key to making new friends in a new city is to accept the fact that she who is interested in new friends is the one who must make the effort. Fight that fact, and you will still be asking this question in five years. Harsh but true.

    1. Making Friends in a New City: If You Feed Them, They Will Come

    Clara* moved to Minneapolis two years ago and she’s already one of my closest friends. She’s managed to achieve what you’re looking for in terms of asking for help and providing help to others. She’s always carpooling with other families to birthday parties, organizing play dates at her house, or sending her kids to someone else’s house. Clara’s willingness to ask for help has influenced those of us in her midst to feel we can ask, too.

    I asked Clara how she settled in so quickly. “Do a lot of hosting,” she said. She hosted dinners and brunches for families from her kids’ classes and her social life grew from there. She didn’t wait for invitations, nor did she feel entitled to tit-for-tat reciprocation. If someone who’d been to her house for a meal reached out to meet for coffee or a walk, Clara considered that invitation a great result from her hosting efforts. She didn’t eliminate women as “friend potential” if they didn’t have her family over right away.

    2. Accept Invitations

    Julie is another newer friend of mine. She moved to Minneapolis a bit after Clara, and she did so without kids. Furthermore, her job gave her no immediate connections to potential friends because she works from home. We met after getting assigned to the same table at a benefit for an organization we both care about, and at some point after that we got together for lunch. (Lunch was Julie’s idea despite the fact that I’m seven years older and a mom of four.) I later invited Julie and her husband for dinner, and some time after that she had the six of us over, too. (Brave!)

    I asked Julie for her number one tip. “Making friends has to be a priority,” she said. Even if she didn’t feel like going out to a particular event, Julie forced herself to go simply for the opportunity to meet someone new or to deepen a connection with an acquaintance. Clara added on the same subject, “If someone wants to set you up with a new friend, always say yes. Worst case and it’s a bad match, it makes for a good story.”

    1. Keep Your Net Wide

    While it’s tempting to look for people who remind you of your long-distance friends, I would keep yourself open to anyone no matter their age and stage in life. (Julie inviting me to lunch is a great example.) That means that if you get an invitation to a family’s house, but they’re much more or less religious than you, have signs in their driveway for candidates you abhor, or don’t seem like “your type,” give them a chance anyway. Instead of worrying “why” you would possibly hit it off with a potential new friend, ask yourself “why not.”

     4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    I recently learned of a friend-making app called Smile Mom from my friend Ellie, who moved to a new city six months ago. Ellie saw another woman post on the app that she was also new to town and had nobody to invite to her two-year-old’s party. This woman was hoping that others would show up to the party she’d planned for her son at the park. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone for all the individuals involved! Even though Ellie’s kids are several years older, Ellie, also brave in this scenario, showed up with a small birthday gift and hit if off with a few of the other woman who also showed up because of the app. I love that in this case technology brought people together instead of allowing everyone to stay behind a screen.

    For MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel took an improv class, started a cooking club, a book club, tried different exercise options, and even asked a waitress who seemed like good friend potential for her phone number. The key here is that she didn’t rely on just one method to make friends. I’d also consider volunteering and even offering to lead committees. It’s a great way to learn more about your new community.

    5. Accept the Reality of The Friend Plate and Chemistry

    There’s no getting around the fact that some people’s friend plates are already too full. I’ve met women new to town as great as Clara and Julie, but I only have so much room in my life for new, close friends at any given time. And of course the issue of chemistry comes to play, too. I think the best policy is to not take things too personally if a relationship does not get beyond the surface. Just keep going and a few friendships will deepen to the level you’re looking for.

    *Names were changed.

     

    Readers: What advice would you add? Do you know people who excel at making friends in a new city? Have you seen situations where certain tactics haven’t worked at all? Please share!

     

    Also, remember that our contact form is anonymous. While we have several questions waiting for answers, we are open to more. And your question might even get discussed on the radio!

  • We Have a Big Announcement!

    We have exciting news, and we are thrilled to finally share it with our HerStories community today! Last week, we signed a contract with She Writes Press to publish our next anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness! We could not be happier about this. Have you heard of She Writes Press? In the publishing world, many people refer to them as a “hybrid publisher.” In their own words, this is how the She Writes team describes their business:

    She Writes Press is unique in the world of publishing because we’re neither traditional publishing, nor are we self-publishing. We have begun to bill ourselves as a “third way” and we proudly occupy the gray zone, a much-needed alternative in a rapidly changing publishing landscape.”

    She Writes is an independent publishing company that gives writers more control than a traditional publisher; they provide high-quality services as well as a positive community experience.

    Jessica and I have had a great experience with self-publishing our first two books; we particularly found our groove with My Other Ex. But we are very much looking forward to publishing with She Writes—from working with their cover designer, to their editing team, to being part of a community that helps promote women writers and their work.

    For more information on She Writes Press, their services, and how to submit your manuscript to them for consideration, visit their website. Right now, our book is slated for publication in fall 2015! We are so excited; we’ve been steadily receiving submissions, and we look forward to receiving more in the coming weeks. If you’re thinking about submitting an essay but you’ve been on the fence, we hope you’ll take the plunge.

    On that note, we are happy to share that we will be extending our deadline for our call for submissions and writing contest for Mothering Through the Darkness. The deadline for submissions is now January 1st, 2015. For more information on the anthology, the guidelines, the contest, and how to submit, read this post. And you can submit your essay directly by following this link.

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