The 200-Hour Friendship
I left the gym more frustrated than I had arrived. Instead of basking in the endorphins of a great workout, I stewed in the anger of having to use the worst bike in the class. On the surface, a bad bike really was the cause of my anger, but underneath, I knew the source went deeper.
I'd started going to spin class a couple of years ago and had several friends in the class. People who chatted with me as we warmed up before the class began, moaned with me about how hard it was after the class ended, and texted me if I didn't show up too many days in a row.
Then we moved. I found a new gym and a new spin class, but the friends took longer.
Over the course of several weeks, I noticed a new group of women who obviously knew each other had started coming together. They chatted through the weight class, and on a particularly busy day in spin, they saved bikes for their friends who arrived late to class. That's being a good friend, right? Unless you're not in that friend group and you show up ten minutes early to class to get one of the "good" bikes but instead end up in the back of the class on an old bike because the others are saved.
I might still be frustrated.
In truth, the bike might have triggered my frustration but the bigger problem was the lack of friends. Spin class was just one example of where I didn't belong.
When we moved, I thought I'd find my same friends in new bodies with new names, and I'd fall into that mom group pretty easily. Turns out, that's not the case. Nobody grabbed my arm and said, "Hey we have this great group and a seat at the table just for you."
I discovered instead that good friendships take time. A lot of time. An episode of the podcast Don't Mom Alone estimated that it takes 200 hours to build strong friendships. I looked it up. The research says after 40-60 hours spent with a person, you'll likely consider them a casual friend. It takes nearly 100 hours of time together to feel like you're actual friends and 200+ hours to make it to the BFF category.
How in the world are we supposed to find 200 hours to build new friendships? Last fall I spent most of my free time in the concession stand at the football field hawking burgers and chips for the band boosters. Add to that making sure kids get their homework done, cooking dinners, and doing the neverending laundry and I rarely have an hour free every week. At that rate, we're talking 200 weeks (that's 3.85 years) to build a strong friendship.
I guess that's why we so often find our friends in the places where we spend the most time. For me, that's work, kids' activities, and church. Working remotely with few opportunities to have lunch with co-workers or chat at the water cooler reduces the hours available to build relationships.
I took for granted the friendships I left behind when we moved. Over more than a decade, we'd invested well more than the requisite 200 hours to form a friendship. We'd walked through hard times and celebrated successes together.
And to be honest, I grew up believing adulthood meant always having my "tribe" of friends. In high school and college, I spent Thursday nights watching Monica, Rachel, Pheobe and the rest of the gang live life together on Friends. Before that, Zack, Kelly, and the Saved by the Bell crew showed me what friendship was supposed to look like. What I've realized is that television sold us bad expectations. Friendships don't happen without intentional time.
So that's what I've set out to do. Maintaining steady, tried, and true relationships is so much easier than building new ones, but here I am. I've sought out women whose personalities I've found complement mine and who I tend to see on a more regular basis. And I've made real efforts to create opportunities for us to spend time together. After nearly two years, I'm seeing the results.
A new friend invited me to join her book club. Another group of new friends is working on a ladies night out schedule. And I started a Bible study in my home for women in my neighborhood. Everyone was invited.
Maybe you're in the same place. The hard truth I hated to hear three years ago is that it takes time, intentionality, and work. Keep in mind that it's okay if there's not a seat at every table for you. You don't need that many seats anyway. Plus it doesn't have to be a big table. But whether you join someone else's already set table or create your own, it takes effort.
I still don't have friends at the gym. In fact, due to my new work schedule, I quit the gym this month. I'm planning an at-home workout schedule so I can spend my time away from home investing in the relationships that matter.