Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Friendships with women...


Just putting my fingers to the keys to write a post about relationships with women friends had my heart already feeling raw and vulnerable before I was even clear on what I really want to write.  All of that emotion had me confused, until I realized that there's no pain like the pain of betrayal by a trusted friend, and there's no comfort like having a friend who really knows you, understands you, gets you.  I've had my share of both experiences.  I feel the emotions of both when I write on this topic.

My friendships with other women have been complicated by two factors.  First, with my INFJ personality, I come across as an extrovert.  I'm comfortable and outgoing in social situations.   Others would describe me as a warm and friendly people person.  But, truth be told, I need time alone to recharge, think and create.  Sometimes this causes me to not recognize my deep need for relationships. In fact, I often don't realize my lack until I'm in a situation where heart to heart connection is happening and my soul drinks it up like rain in the desert.  

Last week, five ladies and I spent five days away at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  I didn't realize that this was going to be the perfect balance of what I needed.  In our rented apartment next to the prayer center, we'd amble out of bed, still on Oregon time,  and sit around the kitchen table sipping coffee and talking way too long.  Eventually we'd make our way over to the prayer room.  There we'd spread out and find a spot to spend much needed one on one time with God in prayer and worship, the Word and journaling.  Mid-afternoon we'd meet up again to grab a bite to eat, explore the area, talk and laugh.  Evenings were spent back in the prayer room for a few hours, then we'd meander back to the apartment where we stayed up way too late talking.  It was the perfect trip for an INFJ, time to connect with others interspersed with large amounts of time alone with God.  I needed both.  I am continually aware of my need for the time alone, but what I didn't realize until I was soaking it up like a sponge, was how much I needed time really connecting with other women.  

The second factor that complicates my friendships with other women is the fact that I'm a pastor's wife.  Relationships with the women in my church can be difficult, complicated and confusing.  I've had trusted friends leave the church, and walk away from our friendship because of my position.  My knee jerk reaction has been a tendency to only let the women in my church get so close.  When your life revolves around ministry,  it's hard to have the time to develop close friends outside of the church.  The results of those two things can be a walled up heart and a lingering loneliness.  I've had to purposefully do two things; I've had to ask God to keep my heart tender, open and loving, yet protected in regards to the women in our church, and I've had to make time for friendships outside of the church.  Through blogging/writing I've met some dear, in real life, heart friends and another sweet friend was made through a connection in our church and through our mutual love for teaching God's Word.  

When it comes to friendships with other women, I think there are two main factors that can be relationally detrimental and destructive.  The first is expecting any one friend to meet all of your relational needs.  For example, I have a friend that I can trust and confide in about anything and everything.  Yet, we really don't have many common interests that we do together. I have another friend who likes to go thrifting and antiquing with me. I have a couple of clothes shopping buddies. I have other friends that can be counted on to make me belly laugh.  No one friend is or can be all of these things, and expecting that of a person is suffocating to a healthy friendship.  The second is related to the first, it's unfair and unrealistic to expect to be anyone's only friend.  Women can be catty and jealous relationally.  Maturity realizes that there's only one me and there's only one you, and though my friend may have five other friends, there's only one me in her life.  Relationships shouldn't be a competition.  Being true to being who you are makes you irreplaceable.  Trying to be like others in order to be liked and accepted makes you just another face in the crowd.

I can't wrap up a post about friendship without talking about the people in my own family.  I don't know what I'd do without the friendship of my sisters and my daughters.  My oldest sister is my rock and voice of wisdom.  She is ten years older than me, and was/is a bit like a second mama.  The sister right above me in my family birth order gets me like no other person.  We have an almost, "I can read your thoughts and complete your sentences" type connection, and we definitely share some quirky personality traits.  When we're together we always have at least one episode of laughing 'til we cry.  In the same way, my relationships with each of my daughters differ from one to the other.  My oldest  daughter is a deep well that rarely openly talks about her feelings.   Then she'll write me a card or a note from her heart that totally undoes me.  My second born was my strong willed little one.  I'm bonded to her like two veterans of a war would be.  Yes, I'm likening her toddler years to a war.  Because my bond with her was forged on my knees, it is strong and fierce.  My youngest is the most like me, so we get each other.  We both have tender hearts, quirky personalities, and weird senses of humor.  My relationships with my sisters and daughters nourish me in deep places, in the way that only those who share your history and have seen you at your best, worst and all the in between ordinary days can.

Relationships with other women can be complicated, but are so deeply satisfying when you are willing to take the time and the risk involved to nurture them.  My recent time away with some women friends made me realize how much I need to do this, how much I need to improve in this area.  

I'd love to hear some feedback about friendships among women from you in the comments!


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24 comments:

  1. I find friendships difficult as an adult. (They weren't so easy as a teen either!) Sometimes it seems like women are part of some club and I am pressing my nose against the glass looking in. That sounds far more dramatic than it is, but it's real. Maybe instead of having my nose against the glass I should keep walking and pray God puts women in my path to walk along with me.

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    1. Becky, I totally agree. Relationships with women can be difficult and boy, have I ever been on the outside looking in before. Really, most women have, I believe. I do think God cares about this desire in your life, and so I definitely would ask Him, then keep your eyes and heart open.

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  2. In my community, I have a handful of close friends: two close to my age, and a few 10-15 years older. The latter group are empty-nesters..so wise..always up for a road trip with my babies and me. Additionally, I am still close to my college roommates. They don't live near me, but I talk on the phone with one constantly, and she's my no-matter-what person. She's the only person in the whole world who makes me feel safe. I can't imagine life without her.

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    1. Brandee, what a treasure to still be in close relationship with your college roommates. I'm sad to admit that I didn't stay in touch with my high school or college friends. I love that your friendships cross generational lines, which is true for me as well.

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  3. Thank you for this honest post. I can definitely relate to needing alone time to recharge. I don't have that many close women friends... just 2 or 3, but they live in different cities. It sounds like you are blessed to have many good friends. Like Becky said, I pray that God will put more women friends in my path. We were designed to be relational! And that is a struggle for me sometimes, as I've been hurt in the past and I tend to be a homebody. haha :)

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  4. Thank you for this honest post. I can definitely relate to needing alone time to recharge. I don't have that many close women friends... just 2 or 3, but they live in different cities. It sounds like you are blessed to have many good friends. Like Becky said, I pray that God will put more women friends in my path. We were designed to be relational! And that is a struggle for me sometimes, as I've been hurt in the past and I tend to be a homebody. haha :)

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    1. Two or three close friends is a treasure! I have many friends, but close, heart to heart friends, are few.

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  5. What I really love about God & friendships is how He knows exactly who we need & when we need them. There have been relationships where I have instantly felt connected to someone. Then when we start sharing, I see the God connection. I absolutely love that He has the power & ability to bring 2 like minded people together. I am finding as I grow in my walk with Him that He is bringing more & more Christ minded people into my life. I like how you put in your sharing that we can't expect one person to meet all the needs we need in just one friend. I think that is a sign of growth & understanding which can make you stop searching for the "perfect" friend.

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    1. Krista, I agree! I think I put too much pressure on my friends in my younger years by focusing on one friend and expecting them to be my everything.

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  6. This one hit close to home and I commend you for braving a subject I haven't been able to. I tend to be a person who spends myself on friendships and truly values them in my life, but I've had a lot of friends who didn't feel the same and so my heart has been broken. Friendships are living and breathing and if not well fed, they wither and fade. There is a real balance in maintaining friendships especially in this day in age when so many of them don't even happen in real time. Like everything, it's a matter of trusting God to build the friendships and then also surrender the ones that don't stand the test of time. It's good to know that I'm not the one one that struggles in this area, Elizabeth. Thanks for your insight and encouragement.

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    1. That's so hard to invest in a relationship and not have it reciprocated. I've been there, and in fact, am currently in a friendship that's become like that. It's challenging to not just give up.

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  7. This is a topic I have often thought about and also write about it a few years back when I was going to a change in friendships with women. Like you I need a lot of alone time that I also often spend in nature. There are not that many women friends in my life - two or three, but these ones are good as gold. I have tons of acquantainces, but a friend is something else - deeper. Someone you really trust. I feel blessed to have friends like that even though there are not many. Time spent with them is never wasted time. And you're right - with each I meet on different levels, and that is a really good thing. I wouldn't want to miss one of them.

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    1. Carola, I guess there all different levels of heart intimacy in friendships. Yet, maybe I need a lighthearted friend to go shopping and to laugh with as much as I need my I can bare my heart and soul to friend. Each one is a blessing, just in different ways.

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  8. I opened this email on my phone, saw the first line, and immediately sat down to read it. I'm also an INFJ. And from what I understand, only about 1 percent of the population is. So see--we have another thing in common. :)

    You wrote this with such honesty, I just had to say--as another writer and as your bloggy friend--I'm sitting here clapping for you in my heart.

    I understand. I needed to read this.

    You nailed it.

    Thank you.

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    1. Julie, we really NEED to meet in real life!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your heart in this post. There's a lot to say about friendships with women. First, I'm SO thankful that you are a dear friend! I have times of longing for very close friendships in my church and community, but I find that my dearest, most kindred friendships are from friends who live a ways from me. Getting together or communicating by phone or text or email is such a precious thing. I 'get' what you've shared. Thank you for 'getting' me!
    ~Adrienne~

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    1. Love you, my friend. Hoping to have a day with you soon.

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  10. Thank you for sharing with us at Good Morning Mondays Elizabeth, I always appreciate it when you stop by. I have a great relationship with our eldest married daughter. We are fairly similar and can talk and talk every day if it happens. My youngest daughter is only 9 so that relationship is different and developing. I have a couple of good friends but they don't ever really share their deep heart issues with me or others. I share the most with my husband, he is my bestest friend. Thanks again and blessings

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    1. Terri, what a blessing to be so close to your daughter and husband!

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  11. I have blessed with lots of friends. lots.
    However, it has taken me many years to develop a handful of girlfriends who know all my secrets, can be there for me and love me anyway.

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    1. Lisa, some friends are safe for deep heart sharing, some are more light hearted friends, but each one has a place in the tapestry of our lives.

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  12. Elizabeth, I don't think there's anything I could add because you've summed this up so well. I know I love you and consider you my friend because we are so similar in our make up--personality-wise--and our love of God and other people. I treasure our friendship and am grateful our paths have crossed online and in real life.

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    1. You are a blessing to me, too, my friend!

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  13. Such wise words here, Elizabeth. I'm so grateful for the encouragement to come and read your post on friendship. Blessings today.

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