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Archive for the ‘types of friendships’ Category

“Tears are words from the heart that can’t be spoken.”

I’ve spent extended time with two close girl friends from my childhood recently. We were in the preschool Sunday School class together.  E and J know me from when I was loud and bossy.  They made fun of me, I made fun of them, we made up.

After church, we spent Sunday afternoons together making movies and inventing new worlds. We graduated from high school at the same time, we got married and now have kids near the same age.

This last week I shared with both of them details about a terrible time in my past, when something happened to me that I cannot recover. I know it means growth in me that I can breach the subject out loud, with someone other than my therapist. I know it means I trust them and that they’re good friends.

In some ways it’s easier to write cryptically on blogs for thousands than to share privately with one friend.  Do you know the feeling of sharing something terrible and being heard?

The day I found the courage to share what I know with close, trusted friends was the day I found healing soaking further into my heart.

Both E and J responded as good, long-time friends now how, intuitively, naturally, with full-hearts.

They listened with their eyes growing wide, they asked few questions, they tried to understand and then, they wept.

I do still, sometimes, cry over this, but I’ve invested enough tears and thought, prayer and therapy to not feel teary-eyed as I watched them reach for some tissues.

I sat beside them watching them cry and knowing they were entering my pain and discovering that I felt like my heart was healing with their tears. It reminded me of Rapunzel’s tears in Tangled.

Tears from friends–I believe they have God-given magical power.

“Faithful friends are a shelter. Whoever has found one has found a treasure.  Faithful friends are beyond price.

No amount can match their worth.  Faithful friends are the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find them”

(Ecc 6:14-17 paraphrased by Elaine Storkey).

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So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding FriendThe Unaware FriendThe Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend, The Guilting Friend.  We’ll close with the Confusing Friend.

With the Olympics these last few weeks I’ve noticed how meaningful each country’s anthem, played in their language, feels to the gold medalist. They suddenly hear their language, unique and special to their identity.

In friendship, we all speak a language unique to us. And our family of origin or our spouse know it better than anyone else. The key to good friendships is finding someone who wants to learn our language. And I’m not just talking about love language, I’m talking about the specific words we use that mean something nuanced to me or you.

When my husband and I find our son with a tummy ache, our first response is, “I’m sorry.”  This is our family’s way of saying “I’m sad you are in pain. I wish I could make it better.”

But that’s just our family. When our babysitter hangs out with our son, she was intrigued that a two year old is so quick to say, “I’m sorry.” She’s surprised that he tells her, “I’m sorry,” when she scratches her arm on the hike.

She and most of the world use “I’m sorry,” to communicate personal responsibility in the pain.  But in our family it means something different.

This doesn’t mean that the way we use, “I’m sorry” is the right way.  It is simply our shorthand to empathize.

We all have ways to communicate unique to us, our language. But to others this dialect can feel confusing.

The longer you walk with a close friend the more chances you’ll have to face their confusing side.

We communicate one thing, but our friend hears something else.  The only way out of confusing-ness is to learn how to communicate, not necessarily better, but more appropriately. Friendship is nothing if not learning another language.

Each friendship gives us new ways to communicate. In the end we’ll both know another language.

Friendship is one way immersion. Each friendship is a two-way language course, with new confusing ways of communication crossing and hopefully forcing each of us to stop and evaluate how to communicate better. We’ll both leave changed, not just one of us.

If your friend requires you to do all the language learning and has not learned your ways of communicating, guess what?

You’re being treated as a foreigner in your friend’s country with no emotional culture or language to share.  Instead you need to be acting as two sojourners traveling to each other’s countries.

Sometimes it’s easier to spot these foreigner friends in other situations than in our friendships.  You see the mother who requires her child to fit into her life from food to bedtime to travel. She makes no accommodation for her child’s sleep schedule or eating needs. The child’s language is being erased by the mother’s. Or you see the mother who terminates all her work, interests and outside-the-home hobbies for her child. She forgets what used to make her feel alive, she stops having friendships outside of her children’s friend’s parents. She loses her own language for her child’s.

Both mothers are losing something precious.

The same with friendships. We each have friends who have required that we learn their language. The question that is key is how have your friends learned yours? How have you asked them to change their communication for your needs?

If your friend asks you to text her back immediately to show you care, how have you (say you’re an introvert) explained that you feel close when your friend doesn’t expect to see you each week. How has your friend learned your language enough to respect and speak your language (maybe an email instead of demanding a get-together each week).

Confusing friends are normal, but one-way confusion leads, inevitably, to an imperialistic relationship.  We don’t want to be the colony that our friend takes over and remakes her image.  We all need to know that our language, even if it at first feels like confusing communication, is cared about enough for someone to learn our native tongue.

But if you find yourself learning lots of new languages with your friends, but not seeing your friend’s learning your language… it’s time to find a better friends.

Good friends want to know how to speak with you, in your language. And they will make the effort to keep trying, even if their pronunciation is off and their grammar silly.

They will try because they think you are worth it.

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I was shopping at an antique gallery in Los Angeles when the owner, who I’d know from years previous, came up.

She complimented my hair and called the women surrounding her (clients? employees?) and said, “Look at her hair, it is sooooo cute, isn’t it?!”

Photo Credit: Nina Leen, 1947

I don’t like being called cute, and I don’t like being a spectacle.

She started talking about her new paintings, and what she could do for me and I barely could contain my annoyance.

This is one of the types of women I just don’t like. I don’t want to be around people who aren’t genuine good listeners. And I just wanted her to leave me alone.

I escaped and started browsing for things on my list, feeling vaguely disappointed in myself.

I needed my husband’s artistic ideas before purchasing a few items so I called him and settled down into a corner where the hopefully  no one would find me.

I opened my book and read,

“Marriage partners (or friends) either call order and beauty out of chaos or intensify chaos.” (Intimate Allies by Dan Allendar, which I have not read, but which was quoted in: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women by Dan Brennan, a book I’ve suggested all my friends buy).

Friends notice their friend’s beauty. They call out order; they see goodness.

What beauty was I missing in the antique dealer?

Why couldn’t I see any good in her?

Why didn’t I even want to try?

I was calling out chaos in her.

My husband and son arrived in a matter of minutes.  We started looking around and the owner spotted my son, “Is that your son?” she wanted to know.

“Yes!” I couldn’t help smiling because of how she was smiling. “He is so beautiful.”

I paused.

She was willing to see beauty.

I tried again with her, smiling into her eyes and willing myself to notice order and goodness.

It doesn’t come naturally, but it’s beautiful when we try.

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We are in the middle of a series on tough cookies, those friends who snap and crumble and hurt. So far we’ve talked about the Demanding Friend, the Unaware Friend, the Disappearing Friend. This week, get ready to hear about the Unforgiving Friend.

If you’ve ever been close friends with an unforgiving person you will know. Unforgiveness cannot hide.

Unforgiveness is like a bee sting, it hurts much longer than the initial zinger. It swells and festers and, like a bee sting, hurts the unforgiving one the worst.

Unforgiveness, ironically, turns the hurt person into the initiator of more hurt.

Imagine that Cindy forgot to invite her type A friend, Rilla, to her wedding. Rilla is understandably distraught, hurt, angry. When Cindy apologizes, Rilla refuses to forgive.

Years go by, Rilla carries her offense into their twenties and thirties.

She was the stung, but she’s become the bee, stinging with her unforgiveness. Which woman do you relate to? Cindy or Rilla?

Chances are we’re both.

Imagine if Rilla and Cindy both shared what it was like to be unforgiven and to be unforgiving…

Dear Rilla,

I know I’ve messed up. I can’t believe I failed to invite you to my wedding… but do you know the phrase a bee in your bonnet?

That is exactly how I feel being your friend.  You have simmered and waited and then, zap. You sting.

You haven’t forgiven me and I realize now you probably never will.  It makes me wonder about what sort of privileged pedestal you think you live on.

You are not above the rest of us. Your record isn’t spotless, either.

We both need forgiveness from each other.

I know, you’ve said you’ve forgiven me. But the way you shared it was like a ringed hand to a groveling peasant.

I don’t want to genuflect in your presence, I want to sit at your table.

I hurt you awhile ago, but forgiveness isn’t something you poured out, it’s something you’re hoarding.  How can I be free around Scrouge? How can I laugh with a bee in my bonnet?

Wondering when I’ll be hit again,

Cindy

<>

Dear Cindy,

You hurt me. You didn’t act like a friend should. I was supposed to be at your wedding, enjoying that important day. But you’ve proven you didn’t want me at that special event.

And I don’t think you get it. You haven’t really felt the thing you did wrong.

I can’t move on until you get that. I can’t move forward until you show me you really understand how awful you’ve been.  You can show me with a couple of things

1- tell me you’re sorry whenever I bring it up.

2- accept that I don’t trust you when you say you want to hang out with me unless you prove it.

3- remember to remember me.

Until these are met, I can’t believe you really want to be my friend.

Feeling like you don’t get what you’ve done,

Rilla

<>

Unforgiving people are often unaware. But those who befriend them are not.

Most unforgiving people cannot share how deeply hurt and how deeply bitter they are…toward you. But when they do, WaHATCH out. Their list of demands will snowball into a serf/lord relationship.

That some mistakes damage trust, that some mistakes irrevocably alter friendship is undeniable.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means we refuse to punish, to stand as judge and look down upon our offender.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be chummy again, but forgiveness does not socially shun, it doesn’t turn cold when you begin a conversation.

We can learn to cultivate the distance between us and unforgiveness, because it’s a vice that’s tempting to all of us.

Have you noticed how easy it is to nurse unforgiveness, to feed unforgiveness morsels of self-righteousness, to raise it up into a monster, until the unforgiveness is all you have left when you remember that one friend?

Yesterday I locked my keys and my phone in my car. When I walked, humbled, into the coffee shop and asked to use their phone the barrister exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve totally been there.”

She was full of grace.

Later that day our babysitter got stuck in Silverthorne, her car broken down. Since I had endured a full weekend of nursing my family through a horrible bout of fever, I really needed some time off.

Our babysitter had to cancel and I wanted to be bitter.

But my tired and unwell husband piped up, “It’s like locking your keys in your car. These things just happen.”

Jesus said it well, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

It seems our ability to forgive is directly related to our depth of awareness that we have been forgiven.

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This is the second post in our Tough Cookies series where we address friends who make friendship hard. Last time Sally wrote about The Demanding Friend. This time . . .

It’s 10:15.  You’ve been waiting at the park for 15 minutes past. You text your friend who was supposed to meet you.  She texts back, “I thought 11. Getting ready now.”

It’s happened before.  You thought you were clear.  You’re left waiting thinking of all you could be getting done at home.

Photo credit: meditationbeats.com

You wonder if your friend is just unaware of time.

You also wonder if you’re unaware of how unclear you are.

******

You’re on the beach and your friend starts doing yoga in full swing. After reps of Downward Dog and Warrior, you start wondering how to point out the strange glances she’s drawing. You’re wondering if she cares as much as you do.

Is she just blissfully unaware?

******

You’re traveling abroad and find yourself at a ruin in Italy where all bathroom stalls are out of toilet paper. Your Type A friend always carries a roll. When you try to break her away from the group to privately ask for her stash of tp, she cheerfully pulls it out and hands you five squares. When you ask for the whole roll, she pushes you over the top by loudly demanding, “Just tell me how much you need?”

What do we do with unaware friends?

When do we share that their unawareness is bothering us?

Many of the unaware things we do (crunching ice, interrupting, popping our gum, monologuing, etc.), while annoying don’t necessarily mean the friendship is over.  We just need to evaluate how important the annoying things are… to us and to our friendship.

Every friend will do something that shows they’re not as aware of the things we care about. We do it, too.

This doesn’t mean we have a doomed friendship. But if we’re honest, we will admit to ourselves and God that their unawareness bothers us.  Pretending we’re not bugged only means our denial will spill out in “unintentional” hinting, which then becomes our unawareness bugging others.

We always need to admit it to ourselves.

Sometimes we need to share it with our friends.

So when do we bring it up?

Try using these questions to process:

  1. How much and how badly does their unawareness bother me? Is it keeping me from loving them well?
  2. Could your friend say of you, “She really lets me be me, even though I know we disagree or she doesn’t like it when I ….”? In other words, are you a safe person?
  3. Is your friend safe? When you want to bring up something that bothers you, how do they respond? Are they glad you noticed and shared? Are they insulted? Do they receive your observation with interest or curiosity or are they threatened and hurt? This will indicate how honest they really want you to be with them.
  4. It helps to think of the four seasons friends as the best to begin those honest conversations that start with, “When you do x, I end up feeling embarrassed or annoyed…”

Let’s say you’ve figure out your friend is

So how to your bring it up?

First, draw back into your memory of when YOU were that unaware friend, the one who didn’t know you didn’t know. Remember how blissful it felt to be unaware, for a moment.  Remember how ashamed you could feel when someone alerted you to your ignorance without bathing it in understanding?

This is our first lesson: If you’re going to let an unaware friend know, enlighten them kindly.

Think of how you like to learn you have spinach in your teeth. I don’t want to learn this from my bathroom mirror after hours on the town with my girlfriend. I want to be told, discreetly, ASAP.

For instance:

Direct approach: “Hey, you’ve got spinach in your front teeth. This one (tap your own tooth in a mirror so your friend isn’t digging around in her mouth for five minutes).”

Indirect approach: “I think you have something in your teeth, you want my mirror?”

Friendship works because our friends see the exceptional qualities in our souls that no one else can offer them. These are often the flipsides of the things that bother us.  So anytime you’re about to wallow in your friend’s unawareness think of the reason she’s like that.  My always-late friend, for instance, is never annoyed when I’m late. My yoga loving friend is someone I could never embarrass I’m public.  Your tp rationing friend is…. someone who….

Photo credit: redbookmag.com

well, that might be worth bringing up.

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In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice.  Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic.  Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.

Are these all my friends? In what way?

Photo credit: .kenokel.com

What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?

How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.

I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.

As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.

But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.

Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.

Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend.  What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.

Dating the Wrong Guys?

The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory.  How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.

But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.

Photo credit: davidwygant.com

It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy.  In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.”  It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.

Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship

Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.

Each person will feel:

  1. a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
  2. more able to act and does act.
  3. a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
  4. a greater sense of worth.
  5. more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.

Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long.  No friendship ought to keep you from growth.

Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.

Top Three

I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.

Photo credit: Sex and the City

You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went.  Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.

I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends.  Sally is one of them.

I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.

I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.

Even if others ask.

My Four Season Friends have priority.

Guilt?

Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”

If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.

By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.

In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.

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What do you think of when you think of seasonal friendships?

  • A wintery cold ending to a friendship that was once warm and welcoming?
  • The chance to make a new friend?
  • A faithful friend that loved you through a difficult time?
  • The loss of someone special as a friendship dies or breaks-up?
  • The loneliness of a more shallow friendship that never seems to gather depth?

Our blog on female friendships often references seasonal friendships.  We also reference things like healthy friendships, self-awareness in friendships, honesty in friendships, confrontation (yikes!) and ending friendships.  All of these things are important when considering your friendship experiences with other women.

Photo Credit Sally H. Falwell

You Never Know

When it comes to friendship, we may not know what shape a friendship will take. Some women hope for the best, give the benefit of the doubt; some eye women with suspicion and tip-toe carefully into anything that smells of openness, love and appreciation.

Seasons are a mark of change, an idea we can apply to friendships.  Consider your wedding party – would it look any different today?  Think about the friends you hugged and signed year books with at the end of high school.  Or think of the woman that you miss, who you thought you would never be without.

We have a tendency to think that our lives can hold a million close friends, we swear we will keep in touch, we vow to never trust again, we just know that “she” won’t do “that” to me…the thing she has a reputation for in friendships (e.g. One woman told me about the pain and confusion she experienced at losing a friend for no rhyme or reason, but her friend, known to “disappear” suddenly on people, pulled her “Disappearing Friend Act” …and has moved onto another “favorite”).

Do Friendships Have Expirations Dates?

Seeing friendships through a seasonal lens might soften the negative connotation we normally carry with a relationship ending.  We all change – we change marital status, career focus, living location, philosophical and theological beliefs, interests.  We get hurt, we lose perspective, we tire of someone (yes, this happens), we mature, we discover things we didn’t know, we get stabbed in the back.

Endings are as normal as beginnings.  Winter is as normal as spring, summer is as beautiful as fall.  How it happens might be painful, but it also might be natural and easy.

Women, Friendships & Seasons

Women’s friendships can often fall into these types of categories.

  • An “all four seasons” friend is a life-long friend, one who is part of your world not matter the stage of your life.
  • hot and cold friend is a friendship that has its “on” times and its “off” times. When things are good, when things are bad, when things are easy, when someone is in need.
  • A season friend might be one that fits at a certain time in your life.

Life Long

To me, these are friends that fall in the “whole” category – friendships that exist through any season.  These friendships are not bound by location, and they endure differences of age, interests, health, marital, working or financial status.  While similarities might be a strong part of a friendship like this, the actual person is likely the glue.  There is a level of love and commitment that is more focused on who the two women are and less about their ability to relate through similarities.

Time and Place

Friendships based on time and place are very common.  This might be a friendship that begins with similar experience, such as having children in the same classroom at school or a diagnosis of breast cancer.  We easily connect with and share our lives in areas of similarity and what life requires from us at that time.

A friendship of time and place might change as the child grows and his teachers and interests change, or as a health diagnosis betters or worsens.  While the change can be a bit challenging and sometimes feels like a loss – someone you knew and spent time with is now someone you only know from a distance – remember the place in your life they vacate leaves room for another fun soul to enter!

Hot and Cold

These friendships require a lot of openness.  I definitely have had friendships that had a burst of life and then faded out as it got harder to connect or get together…only to be revitalized at a later date.  I have found that women are okay with this type of friendship, but tire of it after awhile.  These can provide challenging situations because a friendship can be emotionally expensive, and the two choose to enjoy the style of their connection, stay silent about it, or one person eventually speaks up and asks for more.

Don’t Forget To Forgive and Grieve

The same way that leaves fall off of trees and warm air turns crisp, our lives include change that causes us to grieve the loss of a friend.  The loss might be from a fallout or a simply a life change that takes friends to different places physically, spiritually, emotionally…any number of things can happen that impact our relationships and leave us with broken dreams (e.g We were going to grow old together!) and dashed hopes (e.g. I trusted her!  I thought I found someone who really got me.”).

If the friendship ends on a bad note with a pile of hurt feelings, grief and forgiveness become all the more important.  It can be extremely hard to welcome grief and forgiveness into our lives because these experiences require willingly walking into painful feelings and memories, but the results ready us for healthy relationships, good emotional boundaries, and freedom from the heaviness of emotions like anger, bitterness and resentment.

What’s Your Story?

Jonalyn and I enjoy our readers adding comments about their friendship experiences.  Seasonal friendships is a topic that is relevant to us all…we would love to hear what you have to say about how you have experienced a winter, spring, summer or fall friendship.

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