After I had my daughter, I had a hard time maintaining my friendships. It took me almost two years to realize I had let many friendships go over the past few years. I also realized I hadn’t always been a great friend to many of my girlfriends. I often flaked out on hanging out with them, choosing my husband or daughter over them.
While I recognize it is fine to be busy and place priority on my family, I could no longer use this as an excuse for the fact that my friendships were waning. What is more, I longed for “girl-time” more and more. I love my husband so much, but there are things we just don’t do together. Like watch chick flicks, eat chocolate and drink red wine, or talk in a roundabout way for a couple of hours. No, he won’t do that. And I don’t want him to. I like him the way he is- a man who loves quirky movies or movies with plenty of action. I love that he prefers red meat and whiskey to wine and chocolate.
Somewhere along the way friendships changed. They weren’t so easy to maintain as they had been before. I no longer lived with my closest buds or hung out with them several days a week. Some of us moved out of state, some got married, and a couple of us had kids. Friendships kept getting more and more fragmented.
I guess I had this illusion that friendships should be easy and communal… that I should focus much of my time and energy into the people I saw on a regular basis. I wondered why none of my friendships felt deep and meaningful. I wanted my friendships to look something like everyone on “Friends”. I would get envious of women that had a group that was tight knit. I wondered how they had that.
It wasn’t until I did much soul searching and talking with other women that I realized a few things about friendships. My mission this year is to be a better friend to those I have, and to be continually thankful for the friendships I do have. Friendships look very different, but they all have a few things in common. The truth is God has given my many wonderful women that I call friends. They are all in different stages in life and have busy lives. Some of them live out of state. A few of them are even closer friends; we know each other’s intimate selves and are there for each other during the biggest of life events.
Friendship doesn’t have to mean hanging out every weekend. The goal of a lifelong friend is to build one another up, be there in times of celebration and mourning, and to enjoy one another’s company. Seasons come and go, and this will always look different at times. I am learning to be content with the way my friendships look now and to not lose heart- but rather, press in.
Here are three things I am going to work on this year to be a better friend to those I have in my life:
It is quality not quantity that counts with friendships.
One of the struggles I have is the desire for many good friends. The truth is, I already have a few people that are very dear to me. I struggle with contentment at times to invest in the relationships I already have. It is messy to persevere on with friends who can potentially hurt me or tell me the truth, but it is so much more rewarding to watch a friendship grow. Friendships take time, trust is built slowly, and love grows in both marriages and friendships. I desire to be more intentional with the friends I already have to take time to be there for them during the good and bad times in their lives. If my social schedule is too busy, I will miss important moments to be there for them or worse, forget to call them altogether.
Honest friends make good friends.
I have burned many friendships by not being vulnerable and honest. I have also hurt relationships by not trusting people enough to share my darkest moments with them. Much of this problem came from my past. When a friend would try to help me or correct me, I would simply bail out of the relationship or put lots of distance between us. Fear of rejection and judgement clouded my ability to allow a friend to speak truth and love into my life many times. This unwise and unhealthy pattern broke several friendships during high school, college, and my young adult years.
I used to mourn these relationships (and sometimes still do), but as I have grown I am learning to confide in my friends when I need an ear. I am trying to be less prideful and more vulnerable, and to sit and listen to wisdom and rebuke from those that love me. This is such a vital part of friendship. Learning how to carry one another’s burdens and offer warnings to one another is a precious treasure found in loving and mature friendships. I have learned the hard way, but fortunately I have been forgiven and still have the joy of being friends with many friends I let down.
I have learned to tell friends the honest truth instead of sugar coat things for them out of fear of hurting feelings. I have hurt feelings much deeper by not telling the good, hard truth. The next time a friend asks me if I like the guy she is dating (and I can’t stand him), I will be honest. Better early than at the alter, or after a divorce. One more thing- always be honest if a friend asks if an outfit is flattering. I earnestly ask my friends for advice on clothing and always hope they are being honest!
Friendship endures the celebrations of life as well as the struggles of life.
Friendship should see through the hard times in life. Friendship should be able to have ups and downs. If all a friendship is good for is going out and having fun, there is no real depth that will last. I have been the queen of shallow friendships at times in my life, and I am not friends with any of the people that I only had fun with anymore.
One of the problems I have had is I avoid conflict with other women. I hate it. More than anything. I see conflict coming and I run the other direction. Well, the problem with my response is it is a surefire way to kill a relationship. My running screams to my friends, “I don’t care, you are not worth my time, leave me alone, and I don’t trust you enough to be real with you!”.
My sister, whom I consider my closest lifelong friend, has really helped me heal in this area. We can get into it one moment, and forgive one another that same day. Yes, sometimes many tears must be shed to work through our arguments, but I continually get to know my sis more and more and always feel grateful for our “thick skinned” friendship afterward.
We should be able to watch one another make mistakes, speak love and truth into each others lives, and continually run toward one another instead of away during dark moments.
Share with me your ideas for making healthy friendships thrive!