Posts Tagged: friendships

Friends are Friends Forever…

What would we do without our friends? Near and far, young and old, our friends seem to brighten the day, help carry the load and take our sour lemons to make lemonade for us. Good friends make this life livable and lovely, with just enough hope to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But friendships aren’t without their struggles. For as much support friendships give, they also can challenge us in ways we don’t expect. Because our friendships are close to the heart, careless words and misunderstandings can cut deep. Close friendships make us consider our own actions, our motives, our values. They make us look inside and see our differences. And if we follow those challenges all the way through to the other side, we find a good deal of gratefulness for the challenges our friendships provide.

Friendships often come naturally, and sometimes even easily- like slipping on a pair of your favorite jeans. However, life-long friendships take work- relationship maintenance work. Those favorite jeans get holes and need some mending from time to time. Here are some steps to keep your friendships fresh as a daisy.

•    Positivity: You can keep the relationship climate positive and upbeat by avoiding criticism, gossip, and negativity. Some friendships bond over complaining about a thing or person. They feel intimately connected because they share a similar complaint. However, a lot of negative energy is produced in a friendship like this, so it’s best to dial back the temperature to positively cool.
•    TMI or JRI: Making sure there is appropriate (Just Right Information as opposed to Too Much Information) is a skill and a dance. Friends don’t often know what is “just the right amount of information” until after the information is put out there. Using self-disclosure in appropriate ways to gain closeness and depth is essential for friendships. Sometimes you don’t know “how much” is “too much” but the important thing is that you are paying attention to yourself during the sharing process, not feeling silly or embarrassed about sharing, and checking in with your friend about the Disclosure Temperature. There is no perfect way to talk about your life or yourself, but experimenting with self disclosure will help you gauge your own level of comfort.
•    Beat the Bush: What should you do when there is something IN the friendship that needs to be talked about? Women in general take a less direct path when communicating about the relationship, and sometimes “beat around the bush” when something is bothering them. But this passive approach can cause even more trouble. Talking DIRECTLY about the nature of the relationship and disclosing your personal needs and concerns helps the friendship grow in meaningful ways.
•    Giving Assurances: Letting your friend know that she is important to you is important, too. If you are like me, my busy To Do list gets in the way of me reaching out to my friends as regularly as I want to. Thank goodness for hands-free calling while I’m driving to work, and Facebook Birthday Reminders, and video texts when I’m struck with a funny and just have to connect. Giving assurances that you are thinking of your friend, even if miles and schedules and time zones separate you, can be enough to keep you close.
•    Being Keen on Kin: Have you ever had a friend that remembered your parents’ names, or your childhood nickname, or your child’s birthday? And you wondered, “how could they remember that?!” Do you remember the way it made you feel? Special, right? You probably know things about your close friends that no one else in the world knows. It’s easier than ever now to quickly reach out and remind them that you care. We can’t remember and care about every little detail of our friends’ lives, but we can find the thing that we DO remember best, and be keen on doing that. Being invested in each other’s friends, family and loved ones helps us share life.
•    Baring the Burden: Helping one another take care of life’s chores and obligations is sometimes the good stuff of life. Walking through life with our friends, lifting the load of medical appointments, driving kids around, troubled marriage, parental deaths, and job loss are some of the most meaningful gifts of friendship. Leaving just enough margin in your life to help carry each other’s burdens is the gold of life.
•    Retirement Plan: Investing time, resources and heart into the friendship is like saving for retirement. A little bit of time and talk grows exponentially over time.  By reaching out over the miles, sending a text about a shared interest, spending gobs of money to fly to a wedding, or calling out of the blue even though it’s been 10 years- these are all examples of friendship maintenance.

I think you’ll find that you don’t have to be perfect in “relationship maintenance,” you just have to be mindful. It’s never too late to reach out and say you care.

This Blog Goes Out to My Friends: God certainly had some perfect little tricks up his gold-lined linen sleeve when he put certain friends in my path. He picked Becky for Singing and Joanna for Dreaming and Jen E to be Family and Jen R to keep me real and Gen for Rants and Shannon to make me feel funny, and Rox for Prayer Power and Amy for Resale Crushes and Tara for forgiveness and Suzanne for Nantucket and Laura for Missions and Heidi for HELP! and Shay for Perspective and Susan for life-long and Jill for the Memories and Iesha for Personal Paradigm Shifts and Elaine for full-bellied laughter, and Laura R for the Swift Kick, and Bel for laughter, Lee Ann for the hand-written Letters (I was always jealous of your hand writing) and Gina for Bags and and and…oh, I’m lost in the revelry of friendship moments that have peppered my life with kindness and joy.



Yeah, but do you really know me?

On your birthday, have you ever gone the whole day without someone wishing you a happy birthday? I mean the WHOLE day? You wake up, drink your coffee, go to school or work, go to lunch, and go home without a single person acknowledging it’s your special day? Terrible, right? No phone call, no cards, no Facebook shout outs. You would feel like the most un-special person on earth! You may be tempted to keep the information quiet, hoping, wishing, pining away for someone to remember. “Don’t they KNOW it’s my birthday?!!” you may ask.

If that ever happened to me, I would dissolve into a puddle of tears by 10 a.m.

But this will never happen to me. Ever. I unashamedly start celebrating my birthday the first day of my birth month- and since my birthday falls on the last day of the month, that is 30 full days of me-ness. If I’m not sure that my friends are planning something, I plan my own parties (yes, parties plural) months in advance. I narrow down my wish list starting the day after Christmas. On the day of, I casually mention my Personal Day of Celebration to the grocery clerk, the bank teller, any clients I’m seeing that day, and you better believe to the students I’m teaching. My children have been trained to offer hand written poems and home-made creations with Yours Truly in mind. That day was created for me, and everyone around me is invited to celebrate! (It’s April 30th, fyi.)

Letting people into your life is a good thing. Many of our relationships only go skin deep. We see eachother as valuable and worthy of love, but we don’t often take the time and energy to appreciate one another, to celebrate one another, to really know one another.

Love has to have three elements: 1)to be seen, 2)to be known, and 3)to be unconditionally accepted. In this post, we will explore what it is to be known.

To be known is to be understood. Knowing means perceiving, seeking, finding, and joining. Knowing involves being exposed, unguarded, and vulnerable leading to intimate knowledge.  Knowing is so deep and intimate, the ancient biblical scribes used the words, “to know” as a Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Knowing is not just understanding, it is also joining.

For example, a father of two boys has an easier time bonding with the oldest son because they have so much in common. They enjoy watching football, playing catch and all things traditionally “male.” But this isn’t true for him and the youngest son. The youngest son enjoys art, drama, and reading. He’s smaller, less physically coordinated, less athletic than his brother, and seems to get hurt easily. The youngest son feels inferior.

The father sees the differences between the two boys, and although has little natural interest in art, drama and reading, realizes that he must work harder to connect with his youngest son. The father could routinely ask questions to engage his youngest son, but won’t find meaningful connection until he joins with the son in his interests. The father decides to register the two of them for an eight week art class. The father begins to understand the boy’s unique talent for art, and even discovers his own genuine interest in the subject. The father enjoys their new connection and looks for other ways the two of them can connect. The father sought greater understanding of his youngest son, joined him in his interests and experiences, and communicated the message, “I love you and want to know you better.” The son in turn felt affirmed for his unique interests and abilities, more self-confident than before, and a deeper bond with his father. This is knowing.

Here is an example of what knowing looks like in marriage. My husband and I have been married for 18 years, and by this time, we’ve figured out the roles and domestic duties that work the best for us. One duty that has fallen to him is bill paying, budgeting and financial planning. Give me cooking, cleaning or picking up the dog bombs any day. Too many line items, numbers, or spread sheets and my brain feels like scrambled eggs. On occasion, however, my husband asks to look over the finances together. I’d rather stick a fork in my eye, but I do it with a smile, because I’ve learned the importance of this exercise. It’s not just important to our bottom line, it is important to our intimacy too. I get to share in something that Mr. Dashing cares about. I get to experience his concerns, share his burdens and ultimately know his heart. What are his frustrations? What are his hopes? What are his proud accomplishments? I get to know him and join him in the process. I could simply make regular deposits, spend the money allotted, and follow the budget like a robot, but I’d miss the opportunity to share the responsibilities and the successes. More importantly, I’d miss the opportunity to join in his journey.

I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.

— Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium

Without this kind of knowing, we end up feeling like a person who goes through thier entire birthday without any acknowledgement or happy wishes. Without being truly known, we end up feeling like the most un-special person on earth. We feel like, “Doesn’t any body want to know the real me? Doesn’t anybody care?” We drfit further and further apart from the people we love until we barely recognize the them.

Knowing and being known starts with you. It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there. It starts with leaning in and asking the uncomfortable questions. It takes sacrificing “the ideal” for “the real.”

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

— Bernard M. Baruch

What activities in your life encourage the knowing that leads to loving?  Are you in supportive groups or circles of friends that meet routinely? Do you schedule time with important people so you can know deeply and be deeply known? If so, share your experience here! Let us know what you’ve done that has helped you!

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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