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Where Did She Go?

The Let Me Be Me “Tough Cookies” summer series continues!  So far we have heard about The Unaware Friend and The Demanding Friend. This week – The Disappearing Friend.  She was there, and now she is not.

We have all performed our own disappearing acts in friendships, even if it is just removing your real self or your emotional self.  Or you might have removed your attention, your response or your interest.  We can disappear in many forms and fashions, not just physically.

There are a few situations that might set the stage for a friend to disappear.

Someone “Better” Comes Along

Wow, this one can hurt.  Many of us might have experienced this as early as the elementary school playground and into adulthood.  Somehow, a good friend leaves you for someone else.  This might happen on the heals of an argument or disagreement, or it might be how a certain woman functions…simply hopping from friendship to friendship, into the next relationship that allows her to exist without challenge or depth.

Shame

While we often do our best to present ourselves as healthy, happy and stable to the world, our circumstances can get the best of us.  When there are issues of chemical dependance, mental health issues like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, or other health diagnoses, a friend can easily disappear.

One friend that is now both sober (alcohol) and clean (drugs) told me, “The fear of discovery was overwhelming.  If I showed who I really was, even to my closest friends, I was facing utter shame.  My closest friends became alcohol and my drug of choice (Adderall).  Love and acceptance – those were to harsh for me – how could anyone love me…this mess?  I had to disappear, because struggling alone was preferable – it justified my disappearance, allowed me to treat myself with shame and disrespect and allowed me to keep using.”

It doesn’t take alcohol or drugs to be ashamed – as women we can, at our core, believe we are not “enough”, that others are better.  Shame can result from poor decisions, low self-esteem, being different from others around us.

Boredom

Sort of like having the next new thing, women can “friend hop” out of boredom. Almost like the emotional high we get when first in love, discovering similarities and filling a schedule with a new best friend can be exciting…until a relationship reaches a maintenance stage.

Where’s My Protege?

Friendships based on “filling a space” rarely stand the test of time.  Some women cultivate friendships so that they can care for, be needed and nurture other women, but there are also times when women want a faithful clone.  In this type of relationship it takes two to tango, and when the protege seeks some type of differentiation, the glue for the relationship begins to break down.

It can feel so good to have a number of similarities with someone, constant affirmation of who you are and the choices you make.  All relationships, romantic and plutonic, all eventually face their own challenges, and a Protege Relationship is one that does not withstand differences, growth or change.

A friend, let’s call her Suzanne, recently told me that after removing herself as a protege/sidekick, “I knew something was off, but I had a hard time trusting my instincts!  When I wanted to do a few things on my own, or say no to something she offered, the relationships began to fall apart.  On this side of it, though, I have to consider why I landed in a friendship like that in the first place.”

Stop, Look and Learn

Photo Credit: Life Magazine                 Albert Einstein

Relationships are difficult; we hurt and get hurt.  After making a mistake, or misjudging someone’s interest in us, we have the chance to learn a bit about why we entered a friendship in the first place and how we can be healthier and wiser moving forward.  While it seems easier to point the finger, if we do not take the chance to put pain in our pipe and smoke it…we are likely to repeat mistakes and breed the hurt we so wish to avoid.

One Let Me Be Me reader noted about learning from a deeply hurtful transition out of a friendship,

I’ve learned that if I’m embarrassed or have to make excuses for my friend when I introduce her to new friends, something is wrong.  Looking back, I watched her be unkind and verbally abusive to others, but never thought it would be directed at me. I thought I was different.  I see now that if a woman is mean to other women, this behavior will eventually be directed toward me.  If she’s mean to others, why would I think she won’t eventually be mean to me?

Perfectionists Need Not Apply

Remember, you don’t have be an expert!  Jonalyn and I write on friendship weekly, and within the last few years, have both exited friendships that were unhealthy to one degree or another.

Can you think of other reasons behind relational disappearance or the importance of looking back to gain wisdom?

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SUMMER SERIES: TOUGH COOKIES

Let Me Be Me is writing a Summer Series!  June starts our Tough Cookie series off with “The Demanding Friend” (Sally) and “The Unaware Friend” (Jonalyn).  July and August will bring some more examples of the difficult types of women women we can be (oh no!) or run across.  To whet your palate…you will read about The Unforgiving Friend (aka: Grudge Holder), and The Guilting Friend…and a few more!

THE DEMANDING FRIEND

Hiding in Plain Sight

Getting straight to the point, a demanding friend is one that requires you to behave a certain way to keep them “okay” and keep the relationship in tact.  In such a relationship there is a lack of freedom and safety to be who you are. Demanding friends find sanctuary in relationships that do not challenge who they are; they prefer relationships that do not threaten their inner-secrets, their bad behavior, their immense sadness, their insecurities, their self-aborption.  These relationships usually have a feigned sense of closeness and usually last until one person is not able or willing to meet the demands of the other.

Built On…

A demanding relationship is built on similarity and unspoken agreements about relationship roles.  Most people feel comfortable with similarity, and we can find similarity everywhere.

  • skills and interests
  • spiritual beliefs
  • religious practices
  • personal history
  • eating styles and practices
  • emotional health
  • eating styles, preferences, practices
  • hobbies (e.g. reading, cooking, writing)
  • marital status
  • political views
  • sexual practices and beliefs
  • work and career

Unspoken Agreements: People set up unspoken agreements all the time…its the ones that restrict freedom that get us into relational and emotional trouble.  You call me, I don’t call you.  You seek me out.  You let me care for you.  We don’t talk about the real me, we don’t talk about the real you.  You must not change.  I am never wrong.  I dominate discussions.  You need to agree with me.  I am strong, you are weak (or vice versa).

Supply And Demand

In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between individuality and connection.  If one is more than the other, one person is likely to have lost some individuality.  When one side of a friendship is more demanding, there is less freedom to move with your own thoughts and feelings, similarities and differences, share and speak freely, or say, “No.”.

Photo Credit: Sally H. Falwell

An interesting thought on this account is that freedom is always there for the taking…if I give into the emotional demands a friend makes on me, it is not only that she takes my freedom, it is that I let her have it.  (Yikes…chew on that a bit!).  This is where the “supply and demand” play on words fits in – two women’s unhealthy ways fitting together like puzzle  pieces – one supplies what the other demands.  In healthier relationships there is no need to fit like puzzle pieces, both women can maintain their individuality without being threatened by their differences, there is room for more than one opinion, both champion the other…more like holding hands, rather than fitting like pieces.

Who Me?!

Me, demanding?  No.  Absolutely not.

But truthfully, we all do it.  We all use other people to keep us emotionally stable.  Many of us can correct or apologize for ways we demand others to care for us, but demands can also get out of hand.  For instance, if I am high on the demanding side and prefer not to hear things about me that hurt or bother other people, I will likely respond with coolness, sharp words, interrupting, explaining myself, punishing responses (e.g. I am no longer available for our weekly tennis game and coffee), instead of listening and absorbing, discussing and learning.

So in essence, if you poke around my sensitive areas, if you upset me, if you hang out with someone else, if you don’t invite me –  I respond in ways that demand that you return to normal behavior that soothes me.  I demand that you keep me happy in this relationship.  Your hurt and your experience,your wants and needs,  your input and your insight are much less important, since my asserting control over areas I feel insecure becomes my main task.

To regain control, I might talk about you behind your back, swear off the friendship, get a new “bestie”, not return your calls, pout passive-aggressively, say ugly things to you that hurt your feelings or pick a fight with you…  I might be subtle in my actions, or I might be loud.  Anything to help us return to our “normal” way of being.  Then, we will probably not talk about what happened, so that honesty and reality can be kept at bay.

What Does A Demanding Friend Look Like

  • focused on getting their way
  • uses words or tone of voice to change your mind
  • reacts with anger or coldly to bring me closer or push me away
  • the relationship runs hot and cold, on and off again
  • minimizes my role in the relationship, my thoughts, feelings, my decisions
  • strong preferences, strong reactions
  • codependency
  • reacts if you are not “there for them” or available…they emotionally faint without support (i.e. so they require relationships to hoist them to stronger positions)
  • the friendship centers around her needs, her schedule, her house, her skills, her interests…or – during times of stress, the friendship entered this territory and is less balanced and inclusive of both individuals.
  • Can exist in any type of female relationship – family relationships (e.g. mother/daughter, sisters), church or religiously-linked friendships (e.g. spiritual mentor), long-time friends.

Uh-Oh, My Friend Is Demanding…What Do I Do?

Relationships that grow who we are are relationships that let us be, and encourage us to pilot our own lives (which can be quite scary at times).  Friendships that do not have these qualities are worth looking at and deciding your next steps, your level of involvement and commitment.  If you are on the other end of the demanding friendship, over-offering yourself, constantly giving in, losing your individuality to keep the peace…consider that this friendship gives you something to do, offers you a feeling of being needed, a special significance (i.e. supply and demand).  But the counterpart to that is a murky self, a lose sense of value in a relationship.

There is always the option of confronting a friend, which is scary, difficult and revealing.  Most people want to confront someone as much as they want to drink sour milk, but there are strong, loving ways to confront.  If the relationship is heavily unhealthy or borders on codependency, a “break-up” might be in order.   Any change in a relationship brings risk, and with risk there can be loss; you may have to grieve the loss of a friend.

Ready For Something New

If I am moving out of a demanding friendship, I can remember that new friends await me.  Not all women are demanding, not all women require that you be other than you are.  A genuine friendship is quite valuable and requires effort, openness and patience, and sometimes as an adult the task seems much more daunting than it did on the first day of second grade.  I might also need time to heal, and getting support is always an option.  Confronting myself can be as challenging as confronting someone else, but the rewards are indescribable and my relationships reap the benefits of how I take care of myself.

One of the most beautiful, prized things on this earth is who you are. A gem, a masterpiece.  Another person does not need to fill you up, it is not necessary that you, the masterpiece that you are, be hidden under someone else.

Resources

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life

Please Don’t Say You Need Me

The New Codependency

Forgiveness and Reconciling: Bridges To Wholeness and Hope


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Well, What Did You Expect?

I remember I sat with my to-be-husband in a pre-marital counseling session – a sort of deer in the headlights look on my face, but an excitement in moving forward toward marriage.  Now, 14 years later, I still remember one part of the “10 Commandments of Fair Fighting” that our counselor gave us.

Expectations need to be clearly defined and mutually agreed upon.  

This was the type of direction that we did not really digest until our lives began to weave together…and what one person thinks and expects is not always known to the other person.  Where we would go, what was important in our schedule, how we would talk about any given topic.

What Is An Expectation?

As thinking humans, it is natural to have expectations…they help us organize our thinking, our days, our lives.  In a relationship though, it takes some practice to move away from mind reading and into strong and gracious communication.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, a belief that someone should do or achieve something.

This month, we are writing about why some friendships fail.  Our blog on female friendship addresses a variety of topics that example what can happen between two women in a friendship, anything from the delight of really knowing someone to the pain a broken friendship causes to the female heart.

Unmet expectations are often a reason that a friendship breaks down.  Small disappointments based on miscommunication, lack of honesty, inconsistency, personal change can all lead to fractures in a relationship.  Overall, most of us have some basic expectations when we enter into a relationship with another person – emotional safety, loyalty, availability, consistency.

Some expectations are normal ways we exist in society that most people adhere to…I trust that you know not to:

  • lie to me
  • steal from me
  • betray me

Expectations: Getting What I Want

One of the simplest ways to find out what your expectations of another person is watch what happens when you do not get what you want.  Wanting is not a bad thing, until we place our well-being in the hands of another person…creating a situation where if they do not fulfill our expectation for their behavior, we get upset.

Common responses when with an unmet expectation:

  • the emotion anger
  • “But I thought…”
  • “I can’t believe you…”
  • “You knew I…”
  • “You should have known…”

There are also ways that we have expectations set for others that they may not have agreed to:

  • punctuality
  • level of sharing in a relationship
  • similarity
  • confidentiality
  • ease of friendship
  • value the same things
  • always agree

Surprised By The Unknown

Trust and safety are both big factors in the development of a true friendship.  Every one of us has experienced pain at the hands of another, and often protect ourselves with isolation, vows or emotional distance in order that no one can hurt us again.

The result of holding ourselves back from one another is that we feed that little monster called Fear, and we leave a lot of space for miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as people working with a lack of knowledge.  If my friend does not know certain things about me, and yet I have an expectation for her to behave as if she does, I am setting the friendship up for failure.

Assumptions

An assumption is something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Sweet and nice.  These are two adjectives very often used to describe women.  And we believe it, because most of us are sweet and nice…However, we cannot assume that all women are fit for healthy friendship, for honesty, for depth, for endurance.  Many are not.  More than that, we cannot assume that any person knows what we think and feel.

Also, it is easy to not voice an expectation when we fear rejection, and so much easier to make an assumption.

But we know what making assumptions does….  🙂

A Changing of Seasons

Seasonal friendships is a topic we refer to often on our blog.  Life is constantly changing, our roles as women are constantly changing as we enter into our own different eras.  A friendship can definitely fail when new circumstances change – you no longer have cancer, are no longer married, now have children, got married, got a job, have a shift in your belief systems, etc.

A great thing about seasonal friendships is that if we enter a friendship without putting pressure on it to last forever, we can hold the friendship loosely, letting it move with both women’s lives.  As our seasons change, we can remember one another fondly and wish each other well in our new circumstances.  Also, change gives us a great chance to know our friend in their new role – as a working woman, as a mother, as an unattached single woman.  The place the woman holds in your life might be different – she may no longer be a best friend, but might be more of a friend or an acquaintance.

The Past Becomes The Present

Another way expectations impact the stability of a friendship is that we decide who someone is based our previous experiences.  When we live with one foot in the past and one in the present we do not allow ourselves the chance to heal from past hurts and move forward, and we do not trust that there really are needles in the haystack – women who really do make for good, caring, loving friends.  The same way that a woman can have a bad experience with one man and think “All men are pigs!” We can think of all women as catty, bitchy, selfish, backstabbing or shallow.

Clearly Defined And Mutually Agreed Upon

Discussing expectations is a great way to build the trust and safety that a true friendship requires.  This helps keep the air clean between two people…and makes it a bit easier to talk about when something goes awry.

When something is clearly defined, this leaves less room for misunderstanding.

Example:  What does “On Time” mean to you?

  • 5 minutes early
  • right on time
  • within 10 minutes of the beginning

When something is mutually agreed upon, both people feel a sense of understanding, importance and control.  One person’s well-being is not elevated above the other’s.  The “mutually agreed upon” increases the fairness and attention I give to my friend’s thoughts, needs and interpretations – and cuts down on the chance that I demand something of a friend that she has not agreed to.

While talking through expectations can seem a bit awkward, it offers two friends the chance to discover more about who they are and what they desire out of the relationship.  None of us jump into something hoping we fail…but most of the time we want guaranteed success.  Considering the role expectations play in our relationships is one way to prevent a friendship from failing.

Have you had the chance to see what spoken or unspoken expectations do in a friendship?  We’d love to hear!

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Last year I wrote about stitching the cloth of friendship. I want to re-visit some of these threads and push them a little deeper.

For the full conversation, take a moment to re-visit The Recipe for a Good Friendship.

In the comments one reader asked about self-aware-ness, how was it valuable to friendship and what exactly made it good.

Good Self-Awareness

How is self-awareness richer than deep breathing and mat work at a gym?

Photo credit:yogaworldtours.com

Self-awareness is actually a vital ingredient in authentic friendships. Self-awareness is the fuel that powers humble people, those women we’re all drawn to because of their ability to be simply, themselves, no more, no less.

Self-awareness begins with an accurate assessment of who we are, what we can offer, what we can be and what we cannot be.

Self-awareness is precisely the reason most friendships don’t last a lifetime. The more we know about ourselves the more we come to realize our current friends simply don’t know or don’t want to know us.

Not Who I Was

Bee and I used to connect over mocking feminism, now I’m a feminist. What do I do?

In high school Lauren and I played sports together, now we don’t even live in the same town. How can we connect when we don’t have much to connect about anymore?

Ana has kids my age and lives in my town, but we don’t have more to talk about than our kids. Is our friendship worth pursuing?

If friendship requires connection points, and the more points we connect the more close we can be (for more see The Recipe for a Good Friendship), then how are you connecting with your friends?

Are these authentic connections?

Or do you long for more?

If I’ve been faking (so as not to hurt feelings) my interest in knitting club, but then I grow to realize I’d rather watch The Office and make cookies during that time, my knitting friends don’t really know me.

Photo credit:unappreciatedknitter.blogspot.com

By skipping knitting club I’m being more Jonalyn, than by going and making everyone happy. Of course, skipping out on groups that expect you bring up another barrel of issues.

What about hurting their feelings?

Faithfulness

And isn’t friendship about working hard when then going gets tough?

Sally and I are big proponents of sticking it out when friendship is hard. We recently got a chance to practice this with each other.

We all want to be faithful friends, but faithful to what?

Faithful to each other

and

faithful to who we really are.

With a masters degree in ethics, and a firm knowledge of Scripture, I think doing the right things is very important. But as my therapist once said, “Most of life isn’t black and white, right or wrong. We know a few moral commands (think 10 Commandments), but most of life we make decisions with complete freedom from God.”

God says, “You get to choose and remain faithful not to what others expect out of you, but to what I put in you.”

Self-Aware of God’s Ingredients

What did God put in you? What if you were free to find out?

If you want to go or not go to knitting (or any other) club?

To forego the playmate when I really don’t connect with her.

To leave the church because I am more fake than known.

To stop attending that group because I simply bores or exhausts me.

We do too many things because we think they’re “moral issues” when God has said, “You are free.”

So what could you do that would make you more the person God created?

What do you need to stop doing?

What friendships do you know won’t last a lifetime? and for good reason?

Sally writes well on how making changes with our friends involves both kindness and compassion, not simply dropping off the face of the earth. For more about transitioning check out her P.S. What I Haven’t Said.

Regardless, being self-aware in order to become more of who you are will require more work, but it will make you more free.

And this world needs you, the faithful you, the one God made.

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Most of us have a handful of friendship stories.  We can attest to how other women bring us fun, laughter, love, support, anger, confusion and pain.  To know and be know over time amid experiences like these is a sweet gift.  It takes a lot of courage to let a friend into who you are and the nuances of how you work, continually showing your real self as you learn, age and grow…and to offer the same to a friend.

With all that can happen between two people, it is good to have an idea of a few things that can help a friendship stand the test of time.

Be Realistic.  

Not all friendships last a life time and not all women have it in them to maintain a long-term friendship.  There are different types of friends, and different seasons of our lives that certain people fit well into.  Within any friendship, it is good to remember that:

  • People change.
  • People disappoint and surprise.
  • Sometimes words do not match actions.
  • Many of us put on a happy face and keep the “real me” hidden.
  • Many women have secrets and long to be known, loved and free.
  • My relationship with you is not all about me.
  • As we get older, we have more things we are committed to.

Personality.

We are all different.  We all do friendships differently – the time we devote, the level at which we are willing to share, the expectation for the life of a friendship.  Jonalyn and I had a great time completing the Myers-Briggs and hearing new things about one another, and laughing at things we already knew.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, we recently had situation that challenged us to do exactly what we present in this blog – love and enjoy our differences, listen to learn, keep an open mind, stand up for ourselves, seek resolution and move forward with clear hearts.

 Similarities.

Personality is dynamic and allows us to be unique, beautiful and interesting all within one person, but it sure does help to relate to another person through values, interests or life-experiences.

Honesty and Growth.

These two things are a great basis for a friendship, but also great aspirations.  They are always present, always needed to help maintain a long-term friendship.  Honesty and growth are good buddies in themselves…one begets the other.

It is true that growth brings change, which is scary for most people.  Being honest can be scary, too.  We are territorial beings that love predictability and patterns, even in people.  It is also true that some women do not want relationships to grow, and some say they do but when push comes to shove, cannot offer the honesty with themselves and honesty with another that it takes to maintain a dynamic relationship.

Seasons.

As we grow, we change.  Are you the same person you were in elementary school?  How have you changed since you had your first best friend?  What things have happened that changed your outlook on life or your perspective on women?

Just as we are waiting for winter to turn into spring, there are times in friendships that welcome new friends and usher out ones that no longer fit well with where we are in life.  This happens with major events in life, groups we belong to, heath diagnoses, values we embrace, loss we incur, places where we live, projects we put our time into, and age.

“We’ll keep in touch!!” is often the promise.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

S#*t Happens.

Relationships are like pressure cookers.  Before too long, friends are required to deal with one another’s issues.  We ALL have issues.  (As soon as you think you don’t, think again.)

When you enter into a relationship with another human being, you are ripe for personal growth.  In easier times in a friendship, relating to another person can seem easy-peesy.  Then something happens.  A misunderstanding, a betrayal, another person…something that shows who we really are.

Some relationships can withstand what it takes to work through these situations, including the aforementioned honesty and growth.  In situations like this, we sometimes experience very disheartening surprises, like a friend who is less committed the relationship than you thought, one who is unwilling to be open or be in need.  (Jonalyn told a great friendship story like this in last month’s post).  This is often when we go through a break-up or a friendship dies.

Deep or Shallow.

Friendships need a bit of both.  Friendships that are always in the deep part can be burdensome at time and lack the color that laughter brings.  There is only so much time we can devote to deep thoughts and feelings before we feel the need for rest, a break, some space.

Shallow is fun and less threatening.  But it can get boring.  In a continuously shallower friendship, there is often an itching to go deeper, know more, see more.

You can’t surf on the sand, you can’t sunbathe well out in the deeper rolling waves.  Both have a purpose.

What other elements have you found important to a long term friendship?  We’d love to have your input!

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I started watercolor classes this summer.  Dale and little Finn have some special time and I head to the local college to learn how fantastic and finnicky painting with water and color can be.

My instructor gives us lots of freedom to keep trying, to be unafraid of “messing up” the paper, to try out new ideas and to find that anything (almost) can be scrubbed out and started afresh. Of course, only cold pressed, thick (and expensive) paper makes this possible which makes me more nervous about “wasting” the paper.

Trying Too Hard

The most infuriating discovery came recently, when I realized some paintings only get worse by trying to fix them.  Watercolor artist’s genius comes form knowing when to stop.  One student actually announces in class, “Stop, stop, stop. You’re done,” and puts her paint brush down.

I could learn from her, too.  I’ve overworked some of my potentially lovely paintings. I dropped color, became impatient with the slow drying, dropped in more color, blotted out, tried a darker hue, then scrubbed it all out. The paper holds up, but the crisp spontaneighty of line and color fade into tortured attempts to make the tree look RIGHT.  The clarity and spontaneous strength of watercolor can easily die from tortured attempts to make it look perfect.

Watercolor cannot be forced, it’s too fluid and playful.

Ugly, Learning Experiences

But I have a hard time putting my brush down.  My instructor came over a few classes ago and said, “Are you painting it to death?”

I looked up, “You think I should stop?” She nodded and said,

“That painting is a learning experience.” Not sure I like appreciate learning experiences.  They feel wasteful, unframeable, shadowed moments of my life.

I’ve had a few share of friendships that were learning experiences.  They began so hopefully, seemed to express lots of mutuality.  But something went wrong, a misunderstanding, a grudge nursed, a move, a change in interests, a jealous moment.

And rather than allow the difference to naturally separate us, I moved in with renewed determination.

I will. fix. this.

I dropped fresh color and attempts apologies, even for things I didn’t think I had done wrong.

I scrubbed out part of who I was to show my renewed energy to be a good friend.

These friendships didn’t make it.  Effort wasn’t enough.

Sometimes even forgiveness isn’t enough to reconcile a friendship.  Even God doesn’t ask us to reconcile every relationship, though he does ask us to forgive.  Jesus himself wasn’t ever reconciled to Judas, to the Sanhedrin, to the executioners , though he forgave them.

Sally has taught me a lot about trusting your gut in friendships.  So has my husband. There are times when a friendship is done, it cannot be worked over one more time. To do so can even ruin the clear, spontaneous memories you still have.

How do you know a friendship is over?

A few earmarks I’ve picked up from those learning experiences. If you can answer yes to two or more below, perhaps it’s time to put your brushes down, to sigh and to pull out a fresh piece of paper.

  • Am I doing most of the friendship footwork?  Am I the primary initiator for getting together, offering help, suggesting activities, offering gifts, connecting?
  • Has the air between us felt awkward and forced for two or more months?
  • Do I have trouble remembering what I like to do with this friend?
  • Would it be safe to say we’ve both changed and thereby moved apart?
  • Do I dread seeing them?
  • If I imagine releasing them to spend more time with other friends do I feel primarily peace, relief or freedom?
Learning experiences are not blotches on our record, nor are they failures.  They indicate we are still changing and that we’re learning to find friends who can help us in our changes, who can gift us with freedom to keep trying afresh and to fully be ourselves without punitive responses.
There’s this one painting where the herbs are all a blotchy, jumbled green/brown mass. Sound like any friendships on your plate right now? The sky is boring, the trees are too angular and the bushes looks like chili sauce.  Okay, maybe that’s stretching the analogy too far. 🙂
But this learning experience primed me for some of my most beautiful work I’ve seen, as soon as I had the courage to pull out a fresh white sheet.

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Freedom in Friendships

This week we celebrated our amazing national freedom. Freedom falls in so many categories of our lives, including friendships.  There is a balancing act that happens in a relationship that allows for freedom, since two people are not always in the same emotional place.

How do we know when to be content with a relationship the way it is?  Our lives can look different in so many ways, ways that might prevent a relationship from growing or changing.

  • work
  • marital status
  • personal interests
  • personality style
  • emotional readiness for more
Ready For More?
One way we can differ is our readiness for more in a relationship.   Can you remember the first time you tried something scary – – like jumping off the high dive?  The water below is crispy blue and inviting, but there is a lot of space between the end of the board and the soft ripples below.  To some, a petition for more closeness in a relationship is as scary as standing on the edge of the diving board not sure if you are ready or able.
We can make some good comparisons with things that need time to grow or change, such as ripe piece of fruit, a batch of raw cookie dough, a good story or a personal skill.  Do I offer our friendships the same freedom to develop?  In my differences with others, are there places for a friend who may not be ready for a deeper friendship?  Am I willing to admit I may not be ready or feel safe enough with a certain person? Or maybe there is a trustworthy friend I could jump into the deep end with, sharing more of my true thoughts, feelings, desires and dreams?
One challenge in a friendship is knowing when to allow a relationship to coast in its current state, leave it so that no more harm is done, or press for more in a quest for depth.  Some people have a great capacity for depth in a relationship, some do not.  Some could stand to change a stale friendships that has been the same for too long.  Some have good friendship and life experience, some do not.  Some are aware of what they are like as a person, some are not.  All of these differences are not bad, they just determine how close two people can really be.
There are some realistic ways to evaluate if a friendship could stand the demands that more openness and honesty brings.
  • History – How has the friend handled challenges in the past?  Is there a sense of trust and readiness, or a sense of hesitation and fear?
  • Interactions – What do your more emotional interactions with this person tell you about the friendship?  Is there an undercurrent of superiority from one person, a constant sense of competition that makes one of you wary of moving forward?  A sense of “You be you and I’ll be me and won’t that be great?”
  • Your Gut – What do you feel as you exist in this friendship?  A desire for more, a constant mutual interest?  Regular encouragements for you to do different, be different, do more, be more?
Beware…
Some women look a certain way – inviting, gentle, accepting, ready, safe.  After some luster loses its shine, experience may show me this person is anything but, and they may not even know it (not many people know and then openly admit that they might be a tad close-minded, a bit of a know-it-all, have a smidgen of tendency to be brusk or bossy, or frequently dangle forgiveness like a carrot).  To keep with the “not ready” examples, this is like a dish you pull out of the oven that looks deliciously ready from the outside, but cold and uncooked on the inside.
No
In previous posts, we briefly discussed ending a friendship and also being ready for rejection or disappointment.  When asking for more from someone, you might be met with “no”.  Stomaching this might include accepting someone where they are, even if we are hurt by the answer.  This also might include resting in the confidence that comes from acting on your own thoughts and decisions, trusting your gut, even if we disappoint someone else by saying “No.”

Krysta MacGray's Chocolate Chunk Cookie of http://www.krystaslifeinfood.com

To me, the long and short of it is that it depends on the person.  Some friends have the capacity for more, some do not.  Some want it, some have no interest.  Forcing growth does no one much good, like biting into a piece of fruit that needs more time on the tree.  Hard, bitter and quite unpleasant.

However, there is really nothing like a just-out-of-the-oven cookie baked just right (i.e. no more threat for salmonella poisoning!).  The same could be said about a friendship aptly grown!

A Friendship Aptly Grown

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