- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 13, 2004

When Kameha Bell, 30, moved to Silver Spring from Tucson, Ariz., a little over a year ago, she had only one friend in the Washington area. Shortly thereafter, the friend moved away.

“I was really lonely,” Mrs. Bell says. “I became really grumpy and irritated with my husband’s unpredictable schedule.”

Mrs. Bell’s husband, Randy, is a neurosurgery resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center.

So, Mrs. Bell, who does research in biology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, set out to make new friends, which was, she says, easier said than done.

“It’s been frustrating. I would like to do more with our church, but with my husband’s unpredictable schedule, it hasn’t been possible,” she says.

Relocating — unless it’s for school, which is a great place to make friends — can be a challenge when it comes to making new connections, says Tamara Traeder, co-author of “Girlfriends Talk About Men.”

“I would tell people that the best way to meet people is to pursue an interest,” Ms. Traeder says.

She recommends volunteering, joining a church, synagogue or other spiritual path, or taking classes.

Before relocating, prepare for the move by asking old friends to help you find new ones in the new area, Ms. Traeder says. Looking up your alumni association in the new area can also be good idea, she says.

But it’s important to have realistic expectations, Ms. Traeder says. Deep friendships take time, and people tend to make their closest friends during the formative stages of their lives, she says.

“It can be when you have your first child or when you’re in college,” Ms. Traeder says. “It’s a time when you’re the most vulnerable and most open.”

There is also room, however, for what many refer to as acquaintances.

Jan Yager, author of several books on the nature of friendships, refers to them as “situational” friends. They can be, for example, parents who meet and socialize because their children go to the same school. When the situation changes — the children go to different schools — it can be the end of the friendship.

“It’s OK that it’s a casual friendship. Everyone doesn’t have to become a best friend,” Ms. Yager says. “Just having someone to talk to is important. It’s a shared experience.”

Mrs. Bell says she’s reached out to wives and girlfriends of other neurosurgery residents and now that group of women socialize frequently.

“We have similar concerns, like relationship and family issues. We talk about that, and sometimes we’re just silly, which is really refreshing,” she says.

Mrs. Bell says her husband grumbled a little in the beginning over the time commitment of her new friendships — she’s also a runner and has made “running buddies” — but then realized these friendships were good for everyone involved.

“[My husband] isn’t home very much, so when he is, he wants me to be home, too,” she says. “But he also realizes that it’s much better for our relationship that I have friends.”

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