Why Making New Friends Is Critical to Your Love Life

Meeting new friends isn't all that different from dating: You meet, and some kind of magic happens. You're drawn to each other, attracted even. Not in a creepy way. But in a very real way. You want to see her, hang out, get to know her. You want her in your life.

It's not unlike dating. In fact, if you're not meeting new friends or at least people you're interested in getting to know more, on a regular basis, then don't be surprised if your dating experience is sucking big time.

Forging new connections with people you DON'T want to or have interest in dating can make you better at connecting, which ultimately makes you better at dating. Because even when you take sex off the table, there's still that fear to push through: of being rejected, trusting someone new, being betrayed. The more confident you are at doing that, the less likely you are to be cowed by potential rejection by a dude. Plus, your world expands (and you meet more dudes).

If you're not making a few new friends every year, you're not growing or evolving, and if you're single, you're not meeting anyone new period. Your world is staying, well, exactly the same size. And that doesn't create ideal conditions for an expansive new relationship of any stripe.

In her book, Friendships Don't Just Happen, expert and author Shasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, says we continually underestimate how critical friendships are. Not only because they often get cut first when our schedules get crammed, but also because you may be putting SO much emphasis on Meeting The One that you miss out on so many other fruitful, valuable connections along the way.

The meet-new-friends approach not only makes you feel more social and more connected, the act of nurturing new friendships is so fun and fulfilling that it eases the very pangs of loneliness and boredom that you think Some Perfect Guy should fill. No one person (friend, lover or otherwise) can or should fill every need. Nourish that natural hunger for connection in different ways with different people, and you're not so desperate after all -- which makes you that much more appealing to someone you might WANT to date.

Intelligent, put-together, happy women of every background want to know how to meet more great people -- because your life is never too full to include someone fabulous.

Here are some of my fave tips for finding new friends (from Shasta's book):

Say yes. When someone invites you out, say yes. Even if that person isn't maybe your most favorite -- she may introduce you to people who really do wow you. Go to events, parties and gatherings, and tell the people you meet that you're interested in meeting new people. See how that works?

Take a class. Sign up for a language course, craft class, creative writing session, seminar. And don't just show up -- make it a point to introduce yourself to new folks there. (I started two new classes this past year: improv and pole dancing, both of which have not only been incredibly fun, but helped me find new people I can't imagine not knowing now.)

Be a regular. Whether it's your local coffee shop or a bar that hosts a literary reading series, the only way to belong is, well, to be there. Regularly.

Introduce friends. This is something I make it a point to do: Gather a few ladies who don't know each other for an intimate dinner or drinks and a night out. Nothing bonds people like a shared experience through a mutual friend.

Try a friend-making service. I'm not kidding. You've gone out on some online dates (yes?), then why turn your nose up at a service that helps cool chicks find each other? I am a big fan of what Shasta's doing on GirlFriendCircles.com. It's online dating for friends, but not what you think. You actually are matched with a few friends in your area to meet up with, and from there, you see what happens and who you click with. It's worth checking out.

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