The Secret to great freindships is understanding why they break apart
In fifth grade the title of our social studies text book was People Need People. When I consider all the lesson I’ve learned about friendship over the years the title might well have read Girlfriends Need Girlfriends. Because most women are polite and loving they rarely say things that seem like a collective slam on the sisterhood, but the truth will set us all free. And the truth is, at their finest women are nurturing, resilient, warm, brilliant beings that can support each other through anything. At their worst women are overly sensitive, back-biting , mean, and downright vicious .
Then why do we continue to seek new friendships out and maintain old ones when these relationships can exasperate us at times? Because these relationships also provide a certain fabric to our lives that our lovers, spouses, and family members simply can’t.
There is something informal, yet sacred about unburdening your soul over lunch with a friend. I recall a looking forward to a conversation with a dear friend who lives in Australia for over a month. She was the only one I felt safe sharing my secret with it. I knew she would understand it and hold in a safe place for me. We don’t connect often, nor do we need to. It’s that kind of bond. Do you have a gal pal you can just pick up with no matter where you left off? Do you have a gal pal that you simply enjoy shopping with once a month? Or a friend from your childhood that you continue to pal around with from time to time?
All these relationship are valuable to your life and emotional well-being. Whether they are life-long ,or budding connections, we’d all do well to maintain our relationship bridges .In this world of changing fates and fortunes one never knows when the need to cross over one may arise. I wish someone had shared what I’m about to share with you earlier in the game. The ups and downs that are a natural part of friendship would have been far less upsetting .
I hope they make a difference for you.
No matter what anyone tells you, there are three simple levels of friendship shared between women.
1. Level 1 ; Tecofshops- (pronounced ‘ teh-cough-shops) The word is derived by combining the words tea, coffee, and shopping. These are the women that we’re not especially close to, but we can spending time over tea, coffee, shopping, having nails done, and movies. These are functional relationships because we have a chance to be social , get out, and stay connect ed. For our own reason we choose to keep our friendship with these women on the light side.
2. Level 2; Susan B. Anthony’s- These are women that we have forged some kind of bond with over time. We share a lengthy or short history with them. They can be childhood friends or women we’ve met in recent years. We’re more intimate with these women. They’ve often been inside our homes for dinner and we connect on many levels and share common interest. We would feel comfortable asking them for a small favor, like borrowing a book or picking us up to carpool for an event.
3. Level 3; Road Dogs- The phrase Road Dog sounds rough for good reason. These are the women that will roll up their sleeves with you and for you if necessary. They travel the rough roads of life with you much like an Alaskan sled dog. These friends are true and their loyalty is tested and uncompromising. Whatever comes up- obstacles be damned they are going to work it out with you and see you through. If you have one of these in your life I would suggest you do everything in your power to keep her. She’s a rare jewel. I only have one Road Dog in my life.
Once you have identified what kind of friend you have ; a Tecofshop, Susan B. Anthony, or Road Dog, all you’ll need to remember are 3 pointers and your friendships will remain a drama-free pleasure.
1. Accept and appreciate what you have- A Tecofshop is not a Road Dog, but can still be a treasured asset in your life. If you look at a rose and damn it because it’s not a lily you’ll never be happy and what’s worse the rose will eventually wither away and die. You may have a mix of friends and that’s beautiful. Love all of them for what they add to your life. I know a woman who meets with her friend for dinner once a month just to chat about the latest projects they are working one. It’s of great value to them because none of their other friends or family seem interested in hearing about it. My neighbor has a set of friends she bakes with quarterly- nothing else, just baking.
2. Create space and not waste- I only have a few soap box issues and one of them is a stubborn insistence that people not be thrown away. We throw out the trash and old can, not people. Your friends are going to let you down from time to time. That’s what people do. We’re all at different stages in our growth and development. Why not create space instead of waste. One of my clients asked me what to do about a friend who was driving her nuts , “I just can’t deal with her drama right now. Since her divorce she’s become hysterical.” She wanted to end the friendship, I suggested she get very busy for the next few months as pull back. Three months later they were thick as thieves and enjoying each other’s company once again. What are we to do about friends who become toxic? We can create years worth of space. They may heal and change over time and become better people. Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? If you cut ‘em’ off be for darn sure you’re totally finished. Guilt, regret, and shame have a way of creeping in slowly then all at once. Just as they people we throw away change, we change too. Unless the offense is totally outrageous, you'd be wise to leave the door cracked open, not slammed shut.
3. Don’t pull yourself or others in painful directions- A year ago a longstanding friendship of mine bit the dust. I was engaged and beside myself with emotion during the planning of my engagement party. I was so hurt when my former friend walked in, and announced her husband was out in the car with their dog an hour after the celebration had ended. She never apologized so I confronted her about what I perceived ,and still do, as disrespectful, considering I had stood beside her every step of the way at her wedding a year earlier. Imagine my dismay when she called me a needy woman, insulted my fiancé and future marriage and walked out of the restaurant. Shame on her for cruel, childish behavior and shame on me for breaking my own rule. When someone shows you who they are believe them. The friendship had always been based on her convienience and that day it was inconvienient to show up during the party. I was attempting to pull her in a painful direction of accountability and conversation, making her something she was not. A true friend works it out with you and beside you. She was a shopping buddy and should have remained one. Know who you’re dealing with and avoid drama at all costs. I was reminded of tremendous lesson that day- people can’t give you what’s not in them to give. Never force the fit.
In the final analysis it’s the people we share our lives with that make our world. Our friends are a big part of that equation. Keep your friendships in balance and they will balance you.