Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Is the Deal with Women Friendships Being So Hard?

I didn't get married until I was twenty-nine, which meant that I spent my entire twenties wondering what life as an old maid was going to look like and calculating the cost of cat food for the thirteen cats I would obviously have to acquire to keep me company in my spinsterhood.

OK, that's not really what I was doing, but there were a lot of evenings spent with girlfriends, bowls of ice cream in hand, over-analyzing our love lives and lamenting our singleness (insert sad emoticon face here). There was a lot of whining, tear-filled journaling, neurotic behavior and general emotional overload, but through all that drama, I had a solid group of girlfriends who were walking the wild and weird road of singleness with me. I'm pretty sure I'd have joined a traveling circus if it hadn't been for them.

I've had some heart-deep friendships over the years, most of whom I still feel like I could call up this minute and ask for advice or invite myself to their house in Texas or California or wherever else they've settled (Right? Lex, Chrissy, Lynds?).

There have also been new friendships each place Matt and I have lived and, while it takes a little longer to get close now because whole conversations take place over the course of at least eight play dates, I'm still finding "kindred spirits" in the midst of the crazy-town that is being a mom and a wife and the keeper of a house.

But, even while having friends who are more like sisters to me, I find that there are still some things about friendships between women that make them hard. And, it seems like no matter the depth of friendship, there can still be confusing emotions and jealousies and comparisons and hurt feelings. And, sometimes there's just plain weirdness that nobody can wrap their heads around.

A lot of times, I can track those issues right back to my own sin. Just this week, I sent an email and didn't get a response back in the "timely" fashion I expected to. And, so, I quickly formed opinions, cast judgment, and wrote someone off in the midst of assuming the worst. You're afraid to be my friend now, aren't you. Obviously, you can see what I see now, which is that I gave in to some really gross pride and let my own insecurities speak into a situation that turned out to be nothing more than an email lost in cyberspace. (This is why I'm for actual letters and possibly smoke signals).

So, here is what I'm wondering. What is the deal with friendships between women being so hard? Why do we assume the worst about each other sometimes? Why are we so quick to get our feelings hurt?

Somewhat annoyingly, men don't seem to have these issues. They talk about sports. They meet for lunch and talk about work. They watch football together and tell jokes and maybe get the chance to go on a camping trip on the rare occasion that their wives allow this temporary abandonment. But, according to my husband, they don't suffer the kind of relational drama that women experience. And, what's more, they do not understand it. Let me emphasize this reality of life: If you try to talk this sort of stuff out with the man you married, prepare yourself for a blank stare and possibly an awkward pat on the shoulder. He's not going to understand because, well, he doesn't have ovaries AND because most of what you're telling him doesn't make sense anyway. To anyone.

I have a theory. Despite all the seemingly obvious reasons that we have issues with one another (emotions, feelings, insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, comparison, pride, etc.), it's possible something else is going on underneath it all.

John Eldredge, in one of his books whose name I can't recall, talks about redemptive relationships being opposed. In a devotional book he's written called The Ransomed Heart, he says that, "Our enemy despises relationships, hates love in any form, fears its redemptive power." Pretty sure he's on to something.

Any relationship that offers some kind of redemption will be opposed by our enemy. And, I can't help but wonder if that's what's behind all the inexplicable drama that lives underneath the surface of relationships between women. We all need one another so desperately, and yet, we manage to push each other away all the time over petty disagreements and perceived hurts and misunderstandings.

But, what can we do about this?

We can fight back.

Let's promise each other that when we find ourselves believing the worst about one another or we give in to anger over some imagined snub, that we go to our friend and honestly tell them "This is how I feel. How can we be reconciled?"

It looks easy enough when I write it down, but Lord knows, I am not good at confrontation. I love to sweep things under the rug and pretend that everything is "just fine." I'm Southern, so it's basically a tradition. But, if you and I want to experience the kind of friendships we were made for, it's going to take a little initiative on our parts. We might have to expose our hearts in a way that isn't comfortable. We might even have to apologize for some wrong assumptions and maybe even some not so pretty pride.

But, it'll be worth it.

You and I need friends who offer the Gospel to us. And you and I need to be those kind of friends. There is redemptive power in this way of doing friendship that can overwhelm the mommy wars and the Pinterest-fails and the comparison traps.

Let's go there.


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