I am full of excitement and anticipation for today’s blog post. I just know you will come away with some encouragement and inspiration after reading my dear friend’s thoughts on friendship.
Sheila and I became friends when our oldest two were just babies, and our friendship was forged when our husbands were busy pursuing their respective master’s degree program. Once a month, we would trade off coming over to each other’s homes on Monday nights to share a meal together and be there for each other during an otherwise very dark period in both our lives. Ohhhh. It gives me shivers just thinking about it. Higher education for husbands with wives with little babies to care for at home is straight from the pit of hell. But I digress. This is a happy post! This is a post about friendship. This is a post where you get to meet a person who is not only incredibly special to me, but who has also taught me the most about friendship. I’m honored to know her and be called her friend. And after reading this, you’ll know why. Enjoy.
Talk to me about your history with friendship. Has it always come easy to you to form friendships? Are you the type of person who would rather have a large number of friends to do a variety of things with, or a small number that gets close?
So….history of friends. It has always been easy for me to get along with most people so some friendships have naturally come out of that. I feel that the older we get the harder it is to make friends, but when we do it is a deeper connection not based so much on situation. As far as number of friends I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle. I have lived in the same general area all of my life so I have friends from childhood, high school, college, work, church, etc. I have several small groups of friends or friends that I hang out with one on one. So I guess I have several friends but prefer to do things in smaller groups so I can really talk to everyone and spend quality time with each person.
What do you look for in a friend? What are the important values that you must share?
The main thing I gravitate towards in friendship is a personal connection. I would describe it as a mutual caring about one another that extends beyond just when we are together. As far as values go, I don’t really care as long as there is a mutual respect for one another. While I have several friends that are quite similar to me, I also enjoy the friendships where their lives look a lot different than mine.
What are some things that people can do to you to “be a good friend?”
So this probably varies a lot from person to person. I think me from a few years back would say someone who is there for me. While that is still true I have to have reasonable expectations for my friends. Most of my close friends are mommas and can’t run over to let me cry on their shoulder. There is already enough crying going on in their own houses. So I feel like in this stage of life a friend that asks thoughtful questions is meaningful. I heard a while back that questions are like presents- it’s the thought behind them that counts. I feel like a simple text goes a long way. We are all busy so if someone is taking the time to check in with me it shows a lot. I love getting snail mail. Any good friend needs to be a good listener. Encouraging words also go a long way. Any friend that makes it a priority to get together is so special as well. So I guess in short a friend that is willing to put in a bit of effort for the relationship.
What are your friendship deal breakers?
I don’t really have any deal breakers. I feel like people need second chances and forgiveness in relationships. I will say though that if a person exudes negativity, has strong opinions that they bring up incessantly, or someone with decreased self awareness (as in they don’t take in consideration the thoughts and feelings of others) then I’m most likely not going to invest in those relationships.
What are a few things you do that help you build a relationship?
I try to follow up with people after conversations just to see where there are at with what’s going on in life. I try to be open and available to them. I’m a big texter. Thank you to the person that invented texting because now this introvert doesn’t have to talk on the phone as much. (insert praise hands emoji) I really enjoy time with friends so building that into my schedule really refreshes me and allows for me to spend time investing in friends.
What are a few habits or qualities that, in your opinion, destroy relationships? How do you respond to those habits/qualities?
I feel that people often turn felt needs into expectations for a relationship. In other words we have these desires to be loved, appreciated, taken care of, or even wanted. Those are real and true needs, but to heap all of that on to well anyone isn’t fair whether that’s your spouse or best friend. I can’t expect a few people to bear all of that for me, that’s setting them up for failure and myself for hurt and disappointment. The closer the proximity of the relationship, the easier it is to do those things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have expectations for those close to us, but they need to be reasonable and fair. The more we can free up the people in our lives to simply be themselves the more I see them for what they are: a true blessing to me that greatly enhances the quality of my life. I also resonated with your blog post on friendship where we tell ourselves stories or “fill in the gaps”. We worry and obsess over details that we don’t know about. We can think ourselves into and out of things that aren’t really true.
So my response to putting unfair expectations on people for me personally has been focusing on being thankful. Thankful that I have the people in my life that I do. Thankful that I have a creator who wants to bear those heavy burdens for me so myself and others don’t have to own that. If I am on the end of receiving some big expectations from others and find myself navigating through an emotionally difficult situation or conversation I try to make my intent clear. My intent is not to hurt those close to me. I want to love these awesome people God has given me, but because we are people it can sometimes get confusing and messy. If I am in a place where I am “stuck” emotionally in a friendship and can’t seem to move forward it is usually because I need to forgive myself and/or the other person involved. As far as the telling yourself stories…just check yourself before you wreck yourself. Sometimes the hardest conversation we need to have is with ourselves.
How are you a different friend today than you were in high school? In college? When you first got married?
I was pretty shy overall in high school, so reaching out to others was not a natural thing. I think I had most people put in some sort of social box, including myself. I also behaved in a way that I thought was the social norm. In college it was a little more like I can be friends with whoever? Cool. I got married fairly young so it took a while to find some friends when I was first married. Several of my friends had moved away for college. I was starting my career where everyone was older than I was. I was blessed to have some friends put in my life, but this is when I also learned that sometimes close friendships are for a season. I had a lot of short seasons of friendships in this time. Through this learned I can’t tie my identity to a friendship.
How has marriage changed how you approach forming friendships?
I think one thing is I don’t hangout with other guys unless my husband is there too, with the exception of family members and maybe a large group of classmates back in the day. I feel that is just wise for our relationship. I love talking to my husband about life, struggles, what’s going on right in front of us. Often though, I really want to also bounce stuff off of my girlfriends and get another woman’s perspective on life. I just have to make sure that is somewhat balanced. If I’m talking things over with my husband but am still kind of going crazy in my head, I really need a friend on the outside of my home to laugh with, cry with, and be refreshed with. If we are having a crazy week and I don’t see my husband much and I’m communicating more with my friends, then I know I need to swing the other way and just be with my husband for a minute. Being married and learning forgiveness and grace for another person and also that I need those things as well has helped me extend that to others in my life.
How has having children changed you and your approach to forming friendships?
Having children has pretty much rocked my world. I see how selfish I can be, all of my shortcomings are magnified x1000 because of these little people that I’ve been entrusted to raise. I need other women in my life that have been there and done that as an encouraging voice. I never had a ton of friends in my same age range until motherhood. Just naturally meeting other people that are in the same stage of life as me has been a great blessing. I think I am more confident also to reach out to other moms for a play date, because it’s a simple way to do life together. Motherhood can be lonely and isolating, but it can also be such a bonding experience to other women in a beautiful fortifying way.
What advice do you have for someone who is struggling to form meaningful relationships with other women?
Maybe start with acknowledging past hurts in friendships and move towards forgiving yourself and others for past mistakes. We can harbor a lot of bitterness and heaviness in our hearts that isolate and incapacitate us. I think not trying to force relationships with others that don’t return some effort may be a healthy choice at times. I also think your advice on doing things you enjoy is just solid advice. Be yourself and see what opportunities open up for you.
When you think about forming relationships with other women, what do you see as a common struggle (for women) that gets in the way of either forming for maintaining those friendships?
Fear is always going to play a part. Those questions we ask ourselves….”Did they like me?” “Do I have a place here?” “Did I offend them?” We are fearful in part because we judge others. We judge others, but then don’t want others to judge us. We also compare ourselves to others. We will always fake win or lose when we compare to others. Again all of this is telling ourselves stories. As far as maintaining relationships, we often jump ship when it gets hard or uncomfortable. If the relationship is worth fighting for, then it’s worth the work, vulnerability, and effort that you may have to put into it.
What is some advice you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you look back on past friendships?
I have said so many stupid things, which often I replay in my head and worry about. Most often when I bring that up with the other party they don’t even remember what I said. I think just trusting myself and being confident in relationships is sound advice for me. I also think there is a false idea that once you have your established friends that you can’t have more or different friends. I know I have been hesitant to make new friends because I know they already had other close friends. Looking back that is just narrow minded and self-deprecating. If you connect with someone else go for it!
What experiences, advice, or other people have helped you the most in terms of forming healthy relationships with other women?
Going through different seasons of life has just been an overall learning experience. Keeping a soft, teachable heart throughout life and in regards to navigating relationships is some of the best advice I have received. I think also realizing that experiences don’t have to be defining moments for us, they can be REfining moments. Bekah, you have been one of the most helpful people to me in learning about and growing in friendship. I am forever thankful for that and honored to call you friend. 🙂 My sister has also been a picture of friendship through literally all the different seasons of life. She is one of my greatest treasures.
Talk to me about meaningful experiences that you’ve shared with friends. Maybe describe a few. What made it meaningful? What stands out in your mind about those experiences?
Oh man I think the most meaningful is when I can be honest, raw, and vulnerable in the safe harbor of a healthy relationship. When you can lay out all the thoughts in your head and you are loved and accepted is just a great place to be. I also enjoy listening to other friends do the same in that safe haven. I love to laugh, so if someone chokes on their food while laughing or we are talking about that “one time” moment for a while you know it’s a good time. My sister says I have a silent laugh when she knows I’m literally dying from laughter. Ok now I’m just thinking of every hysterical moment with the ones I love and I can’t stop smiling.
In your opinion, what makes the difference between two people who are just acquaintances, and two people who move on to become good friends. And then, tell me your opinion about what helps those friendships last.
Ok, this is crazy because I literally just had a great friend from high school text me who lives out of state and I hardly ever get to see her. Some may call her an acquaintance because our communication is not frequent, but oh my goodness is she a dear friend. I just love her because of our history together. I guess I would consider someone who you would not share mild intimate details of your life with and acquaintance. An acquaintance is also mostly likely someone who is more friend by situation than a bond. Like maybe a work friend that you don’t see anymore. People who move on to become good friends need to have some sort of personal connection. I can’t describe it, but you know when you’ve got it. You want to be around them, you want to catch up with them, you want them in your life. (And they want you too.) Lasting friendships just take some effort, planning, and communication. It won’t even feel like work or sacrifice because it will be so in line with the desires of your hearts. And in the times it gets messy it takes forgiveness, grace, humbleness and vulnerability again on both sides.
Describe to me your favorite way to reach out to others and be a good friend.
Invite them for a night out or play date. Some of my great friends have been exercising buddies which is just really cool. Like I said earlier I’m a big texter and love snail mail. Just asking people how they are doing with a known situation they are working through speaks volumes to that person that you care about them and are thinking of them.
Describe to me your favorite way to BE reached out to by others.
I think pretty much the same as the previous question. Especially when someone wants to carve out time to just be with me in their schedule. That just makes my soul sing. I know it’s hard and takes effort, so that’s why it’s such a blessing.
Describe to me your perfect day with a friend.
Well….we could get up somewhat early (but not be tired, cause this is the perfect day) and go for a jog or do an exercise class together. Then we would snap our magic Sabrina the teenage witch fingers and be all ready to go out for coffee and a baked good. We would have great conversation about life. After that we would go shopping and look at beautiful things together and dream about goals and buy a few things to commemorate this perfect day. We would meet up with our families and/or more friends for an evening meal and laugh and drink more coffee and wine and have lots of appetizers that include bread and cheese and dips and fresh fruit and veggies. We might also do an activity together…I wouldn’t care what. Maybe a concert or just fun group outing. After those festivities my friend and I would get together to watch a good chick flick laughing and eating a few unhealthy snacks into the late hours of the night. Yep. Nailed it. Oh, wait, going to Europe would also be up there. 🙂
Why does it matter to you to have friends?
Ok, so this question is making me tear up for some reason. Life is just meant to be lived together. My friends make my life so enjoyable. I don’t think I need to tell anyone that life is hard. Friends just make it so much lighter and beautiful. They are like the spices of life that make everything taste better. My friends help me to know I’m not completely crazy or failing in life. They keep me sane and grounded. They make me think of things in new ways and help me grow. They help me know someone is for me, and I’m for them.
What would you tell the woman who desires friendship, but currently finds it easier to stay secluded or stay within the confines of her family?
I would say start small. Join one activity that you are interested in, serve somewhere. Invite a friend from work that you want to get to know better over. Know that it does take some effort and sacrifice on your part. Remember the lost art of time. Things take time to grow and progress. Empathy is also a lost art. When you see life from someone else’s point of view you may just see another friend who is desiring the same things you are.
If you had to choose a movie to best describe OUR friendship, what would that movie be, and why?
Don’t hate me….I just can’t get past “Bad Moms” for us Bekah. So minus all the swearing and partying I feel like our friendship was forged through motherhood but has become so much more. We have become friends through a common situation but have since etched our friendship in the forever category. The misfit group of “bad moms” didn’t seem to have much in common but really stuck together and were there for each other. Standing alone they were isolated, together they were a force to be reckoned with. You’re stuck with me. #sorrynotsorry Thanks for being my people. 🙂
Let’s take a trip down Sheila-Bekah memory lane, shall we? Although, unfortunately, I only have pictures from our post-Instagram days. You’ll just have to take our word for it that we’ve been having fun together for years. 😉