Why You Need Friends Who Aren’t Like You

Why You Need Friends Who Aren’t Like You

Don’t worry: I’m not about to lecture anyone on needing a more visibly diverse friend group. Appearances are often misleading (take that banner photo for instance*), and what your friend group looks like is not what I’m interested in talking about here.

What I’m talking about is the value of having close friends who don’t have the same hobbies as you, the same career as you, the same family situation as you, and the same goals as you.

I think this is particularly important for women in my age group (the older end of the Millennial generation and the younger end of Gen X). We are really good at forming friend groups based on career status, hobbies, and motherhood status. Think I’m making that up? Check out how many social media groups are out there specifically for women who fit a certain mold in one or more of those categories.

Now I readily admit that there is value in intentional support and camaraderie. I’m part of a professional women’s study club, a trail-running group, a foster/adoptive parent support group, etc. Naturally, I have some very good friends that are part of the same groups.

But we have to be able to admit that groups which are inclusive of a specific type of person are inherently exclusive of other types of people. If we don’t temper that properly, it becomes divisive and isolating. It’s easy to forget that your group is not the only group and not everyone cares about your group’s thing as much as you do.

I’m lucky enough to have more than one BFF, but my longest-running bestie – who I’ve known since 7th grade – is the one that will be the reluctant subject of the rest of this post.**

We met before the First-Order-style rise of the Personality Test, when you didn’t have a multiple-choice quiz to tell you who you were and who you were compatible with. Without the guidance of Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram, we fell into friendship the old-fashioned way: not having anyone else to hang out with at the bus stop. And thus we got stuck with each other and all of our differences for 20 years.

BFF was nice enough to bring this topic up after I finished a big trail race earlier this month:

To a casual observer, we might seem very similar: 30-something American ladies who like pumpkin spice creamer and have husbands with normal jobs and two kids apiece.

Look a little closer, and you’ll see a whole lot more:

She studied Turkish and Egyptian dance after we graduated high school. I accumulated various nerdy science degrees.

She met the the love of her life at age 19, married him at 21, and started a family at 26. I spent a most of my 20s on her couch, drinking her coffee and agonizing about my bad relationship choices.

She has given birth to two beautiful baby boys. Both of my kids are adopted.

(And in case you’re wondering: she nursed her babies, and my kids were 100% formula-fed. This does not have to destroy friendships, people.)

She was a stay-at-home wife and mom for 14 years, and is now producing a family travel podcast. I’ve owned a brick-and-mortar business ever since I got out of school.

She loves oceans and boats and paddle boards and thinks running is stupid.

I prefer mountains and skiing and boats make me want to vomit.

We haven’t even lived in the same city since high school (with the brief exception of a number of months when we were both back in our home town at the same time).

For the last 3 years we have lived over 1,300 miles apart.

Here’s why this has been so great for me: she has seen my life from the outside. She’s been able to give a perspective I never would have had otherwise, because her challenges and victories during the 20 years we have known each other have been completely different than mine.

She has never let me get very far down the rabbit hole of thinking my things are the only things. When I’ve been too self-congratulatory or too self-pitying, she has called me out instead of being an echo chamber for me.

Despite us being so different, there’s not jealousy between us or pressure to be more like other. She is confident in who she is (and I like to think I am too).

This kind of relationship is priceless, people. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend like this in your life, hold onto them with everything you’ve got.

If you aren’t so lucky, you can be our internet bestie. We’re here for you.

P.S. I talked a lot about our differences, as was the point of this post, but there are a million things we have in common as well. Here are a few of the things we mutually enjoy: hiking, travel, punctuality, reading historical fiction, driving old cars, dispensing unsolicited advice to our younger siblings, thinking about how brilliant we are, sleep-training our children, eating Pirate’s Booty, and laughing really hard.


*You thought the kids in the banner pic were brothers, didn’t you? After all, the “look at this staged photo of my cute kids holding each other facing some scenery” thing is very in right now. But in case you want the real deal: That’s my adopted son and the son of a lady I call my “cousin” who is actually the adopted daughter of my grandfather’s wife (who is not related to me, although she graciously allows me to call her “grandma”). And the picture was 100% candid.

**Don’t worry – BFF approved this post in its entirety before it was published.

8 Replies to “Why You Need Friends Who Aren’t Like You”

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for being one of those amazing friends…who got stuck with me long-term despite moving to another continent. 😉

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