Dr. Irene S. Levine, aka The Friendship Doctor is a freelance journalist, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University Langone School of Medicine, and the author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend, a book about female friendships which was based on an online survey she conducted with over 1500 women.
She’s also generous with advice, so I made an appointment for a checkup. I told her my whole spiel: The move, the friends all over the country, the desire for a “meet me in 30 minutes” friend. Then I bombarded her with questions: Is searching for friends crazy? Can our hectic schedules handle spontaneous friendships? Do best friends forever even exist?
And the good doctor wrote:
You’ve posed a number of good questions, many of which keeping popping up in different forms from readers of my blog, The Friendship Blog. I couldn’t possibly answer all of them at one sitting; that would take a book (or two)! But I will address one issue you raised that really resonated with me: How do you make a spontaneous friend?
Having a spontaneous friend is a rare and precious gift. She’s the kind of friend whom you can ask to come over right away to help you decide what to wear tonight—or the friend who’ll be sitting with you as you wait for your repeat mammography that was only scheduled this morning. She’s the person you can call on a Saturday afternoon to go for a walk in the park because the foliage is at its peak—or the one who will run over to TJ Maxx with you within a half hour of closing just to see what’s there.
Friendships like this aren’t easy to come by because a number of things have to coalesce at once: A spontaneous friend lives nearby, feels as close to you as you do to her, shares many of the same interests, is accessible (probably because she is at a similar place in her life as you), and has a flexible schedule or one that seems to effortlessly mesh with yours. Plans aren’t needed because you’re always there for each other, even at the last minute, because your lives are so closely intertwined.
Women’s friendships have become more complicated; we have become more mobile, are more likely to be multi-tasking, and are juggling homes, careers, and family. I have close friends that are far-flung across the map whose career paths have veered from mine. I have busy friends on my block with whom I have to schedule lunch dates weeks in advance. Both are frustrating!
Any significant change in a woman’s life (such as graduations, births, marriages, moves, men, career changes) can topple a spontaneous friendship. I moved 250 miles away from my spontaneous mommy-friend, next-door neighbor, confidant Judy, who modeled much of what I know about parenting because her son was just a couple of years older than mine. My spontaneous work-friend, soulmate Linda, once shared an office with me and we lunched together whenever we wanted to until she moved away from me and changed jobs.
To be honest, I’m experiencing a drought like you. Finding a spontaneous friend doesn’t happen spontaneously. It’s a little bit like finding your Prince. As long as you have the energy to do so, you need to continue to put yourself out there to find your other half (or perhaps more than one) although you shouldn’t make it a full-time preoccupation. You need to pursue your own life and interests, make time for your friendships, and if you’re very lucky—you’ll eventually find someone else whose circumstances, personality and desires are close enough to yours that you click, just like Thelma and Louise or Lucy and Ethel.
Hope this helps answer one of your questions!
Do you think spontaneous friendships exist? Seeing how much needs to be aligned at once, I’m not so sure…