March 27, 2009

Growing Pains of Friendships

My need for friendship has ebbed and flowed with each season of my life.  In high school I desperately needed a 'best friend.'  By 10th grade I had one.  We were inseparable, much to my mother's chagrin.  By 12th grade, we were torn apart by a simple misunderstanding.  Feelings had been hurt, tears were shed, and my self-esteem had been chewed up and spit out.  While it was an extremely painful time of life, it was short lived and some important life lessons were learned.
Throughout college and young adulthood I cautiously treaded on the doorstep of friendships.  In retrospect, I had a much healthier perspective of friendships because of the pain I had experienced.  I became comfortable with groups of friends and chose companions with similar values and principles.
Nothing had prepared me for the lonesomeness that accompanied my transition from working adult to stay-at-home-mommy.  It was such a juxtaposition of emotions: pure joy of fulfilling my lifelong dream of motherhood; and the sadness of not having a close friend that was experiencing the same stage of life.  Once again, it was time for me to learn some lessons about friendships.  First of all, I learned that the friendship I was seeking was right there in front of me: my mom.  Even though we weren't going through the same stage of life, we were experiencing life together.  Who else would squeal with delight over a chenille baby beret? 
The second lesson I learned was to appreciate the friendship of my husband.  While he can't fulfill that innate need for female friendship, he is my best (life-long!) friend, and light of my life.

In the past few years I have developed some wonderful, deep friendships.  For example, my walking buddy, E.  She is the kind of friend that cares deeply without being pushy.  Her laid back approach to life matches mine; we don't have to worry about unrealistic expectations. Our friendship is sprinkled with laughter; she loves my children, and I hers.  We enjoy life together.We pray for and encourage each other when life gets crazy.  We are REAL with each other.  No pretenses.   Most importantly, we guard our words.  I don't have to worry if she will speak unkindly of me, or repeat something I've told her in confidence.  
What makes this beautiful friendship work?  

I have another friendship that, over time, has worn me out.  It is very unbalanced.  While I enjoy her company, I have to maintain the friendship.    It was painful for me to realize that she was only willing to give me the leftovers.  In a balanced friendship, phone calls are returned.  Emails are enjoyed.  Time and effort are given freely.  It takes 2 to tango, as the saying goes.
I wanted to consider what makes friendships work.  
I have learned:
1. It is very difficult to be friends with someone who is preoccupied with self.
2. Never take a friendship for granted.  Any relationship that isn't nurtured, won't grow.  
3. When I am spending time with a friend, my goal is to let her know that I value her and appreciate her gift of friendship to me.
4. Negativity and moodiness have no place in friendship.
5. Transparency, while scary, is vital for a relationship to blossom. 

I've recently been going through some growing pains in a couple of friendships.  Nothing overt, just personal stuff.  Even though it hurts, this time I am approaching it with a different attitude: 
I want to see what the Lord is teaching me.  Not about them, but about myself.  My prayer is that my eyes would be opened to the things I do that might be hurtful to others.  I pray that I am not so preoccupied by my disappointment, that I miss out on the life lesson right before me.

Recommended reading:
The Friendships of Women, by Dee Breston


Rambling Girl said...

Thank you for posting this! I really enjoyed this post!

Jo said...

Your typed words speak volumes. I too have experienced just what you have. I think it's important to take the quiet time to realize what you're looking for in a person as well as what is going on in your life at that given time. I have a wonderful friend who is our neighbor ~ we are the same age but our children aren't. I can always be me (good or bad) and she is accepting. I've had other friendships where I feel I was their mother or therapist. I've let these relationships go for obvious reason.

Great thought provoking post ~ thanks for sharing.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah said...

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your heart. I have recently become a SAHM and am going through some of the same things you mentioned.

Samantha said...

I seem to be going through the same thing recently. It's so hard to want the friendship but feel like you are working for it harder then they seem to be.
Before my Dad passed away over 7 years ago he gave me some advice, he told me you can count your real friends(life long friends)on one hand. That most of those "friends" would be family members. At the time I thought he was a little crazy, a little "hardened". Now I realize that it was wisdom of years of experince. Of course I enjoy the friends I do have and sometimes crave the friendships of the past, but I now think it is so much more rewarding to have that bond and friendship with my mom, my sister(who is my bestest(lol) friend), and of course my husband. Tc, I hope your not feeling to blue.

Janet said...

I'm right there with you. Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to check out this book!

Carpoolqueen said...

I've learned some valuable lessons on friendship over the years, but the one that has been so empowering to me is a saying that I saw on a flair button from facebook (go figure).

"Don't make someone a priority who makes you an option."

Deep stuff if you let it sink in.

marty39 said...

Friendships are very complicated and very rewarding. We do have to cherish each one, they are all a gift from the Lord. Hugs, Marty

new every morning said...

OH, CPQ, what a great phrase! Who knew such wisdom abounded on facebook?!

I'm writing this one down. What a good, protective mantra!

wendy said...

I appreciate what you wrote - having recently experienced a painful point in a treasured friendship myself. I've had to reevaluate the whole thing, and my heart is broken over it. Sometimes I think it's just good to know that you're not the only one who's going through something that's hard.

Mom said...

This was so REAL! And I think most of us women go through this...several times in life. I too loved the phrase from FB that CPQ gave us! I pray that I will be able to be a lifelong friend to you, my dear sweet girl. I love you!!!

Kellie said...

Very good thoughts... I have felt the same way (and maybe with some of the same people from highschool... lol) but have found that through it all the Lord is teaching ME how to be a better friend... and balanced. My best friend is someone I can call at a moments notice and she's always there. Of course, I'm married to the greatest one in my life. lol Thanks for sharing those thoughts today!!!

Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

Oh friend - I think we can all relate to aspects of this post. Being at home can be isolating, but living life together with friends is such a beautiful thing...hard thing.

Lacy said...

Oh like the rest once spoke to me. Wow!!!I almost tear up as I type....part with gladness and sadness too. I want to be everyones friend and want everyone to like me as their friend. I have learned some valuable lessons about this...not everyone is going to like me and I dont have to be close to everyone. I am learning the levels of friendships are different for each person....some intimate and close (those are few) and some are casual and fun, some are just common workplace aquaintances. Well, enough blabbing...but this is another thing I wish we could chat over coffemate about. Keep your chin up and know that God made you a special friend.