When friendship is hard.

4:18 PM


So the other day I posted on my Instagram story (for those unfamiliar with Instagram, "stories" are videos that disappear after a day, unlike the photos that remain in your feed) which received a lot of feedback, and so I thought I would do a blog post about the subject.  Unfortunately, unless you follow me and happened to see the videos, they are already gone and so you won't be able to go back and watch it now.  Maybe I should've saved it.  Oops.

In any case, I'll try and sum them up to bring you up to date before sharing the feedback I received.

   To make a long story short, I was talking about friendship.  It's a topic that has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time now, and that particular day, I just really needed to hear from others who may (or may not) have been feeling/thinking some of the same things I was.  I just needed to know I wasn't alone.

   I asked people to give thoughts/opinions/advice etc., on how they maintain friendships in this stage of life.  And the reason I say "this stage of life" is because I feel like it was so much easier when I was younger.  Making new friends came easily to me, and everywhere I went I met new people, formed new friendships, and enlarged my circles.  Today, however, friendships require time, intention and emotional energy that I don't always feel like I have left over after the many needs of my family.

  Not to mention the times in friendship that I realize I am wanting/expecting something out of it that the other person is not wanting to give.  And that's OK.  Unfortunately for me, I am an ENFP (if you're into the Meyer's-Briggs personality testing) which means that I can't stand the shallow, surface-only friendship thing.  I want to plunge deeply into intimacy with pretty much everyone I know.  This is a problem.

Here's an excerpt describing ENFPs (like me) when it comes to friendship:

As friends, ENFPs are cheerful and supportive, always sharing and developing ideas, and staying open-minded, taking in others’ thoughts and feelings. This warmth and sincerity makes people with the ENFP personality type masters of drawing people out of their shells, and as a result they tend to have a huge circle of friends.
More outgoing types will naturally gravitate towards them, but ENFPs will also go to great lengths and be surprisingly persistent in their efforts to get to know more reserved personalities. Their ability to tune into others and speak their language with that characteristic infectious enthusiasm helps them in this endeavor, and the allure of mystery that reserved types, especially Introverted Intuitives, bring to the table will keep ENFPs intrigued for years. These personality types may never be able to reciprocate the breadth of human interest that ENFPs present, but they do appreciate ENFPs’ efforts.
But ENFPs’ interest in others can be a double-edged sword – this pure idealism comes with certain expectations, and too often ENFPs hold their friends in an unrealistic light, expecting them to keep up with the constant flow of ideas and experiences that they consider integral to life. ENFPs put their whole hearts into their friendships, and it can come as a shock for them to find that their friends aren’t the flawless Titans that they believed them to be. Whether it’s simple social fatigue or a focus on the physical and the practical instead of the mystical, people with the ENFP personality type can find themselves disappointed by what they see as a lack of substance beneath the surface.
ENFPs tend to get deeply involved in others’ lives, going to great lengths and efforts to be the selfless, caring and supportive people they are, and all the while forget to take care of themselves. Both in terms of basic needs like financial stability and rest, as well as more emotional needs like mutual understanding and reciprocation, ENFP personalities tend to give much more of themselves than most are even capable of giving back. This sort of imbalance isn’t sustainable, as (seemingly) one-sided generosity often leads to criticism and resentment on both sides.
Luckily, ENFPs are open-minded and sincere enough in their friendships, and connect with and understand even their acquaintances well enough, that they recognize that not everyone expresses themselves in the same ways, and that that’s okay. Their sensitivity may make it too challenging to play with more critical and argumentative personalities, such as strongly expressed Thinking (T) and Judging (J) types, but they do appreciate, even cherish, the company of most anyone who appreciates theirs, and the adventures and experiences they have together are the stuff a good life is made of.

  If you lasted long enough to read through all of that, then you now know about all there is to know about me when it comes to friendships.  Maybe I should just walk around with all of this written in fine print on my forehead so that people can know what they're getting into when they become my friend.  Anyway, I digress.

   So I put some of my thoughts out there, and asked for feedback, and hoped I wasn't alone.  And lo and behold, there's a WHOLE HEAP of people out there that feel the very same way.  I received a plethora of response, both saying "I agree but I don't have any advice and please share what you learn!" and also, "Here's some things that have helped me".  And so since I found both to be informative and encouraging, and helpful, I will share from both sides.  No names are mentioned of course, but to those of you who wrote in, you know who you are, and I still wish so badly I could give you a giant hug, and sit down with you over a cup of coffee, and talk about everything (everything BUT the weather) that's going on in our hearts together.

Here's what people had to say:

I kinda feel like every time you post, you're reading my mind.
I completely agree with everything you said about struggling with friendships.
I don't know the answer.
I have no good advice, but I'm in the exact same boat.
Please write a post on the answers you receive! 
I have no advice, but I want to know how to do the friendship thing too! 
No answers here, but I'd love to hear what others say!
Such a hard stage of life and at the end of the day there is just no emotional energy left over for friendships.
I hope you do a recap on the feedback! 
I also crave deep friendships--surface friendships are harder to maintain.
I'm currently in the process of letting go of an unhealthy relationship and it's so hard.
I'm so there with you!
I struggle with this too. 
I don't have it figured out either so if you have more advice I'd love to hear it! 
I need deep friendships!  It's easy to feel empty when you're just "momming". 
I hope if I can just survive these years with my sanity intact, it will be different some day? 
I struggle with feeling like I don't belong because my friendships don't go deeper---we were created for intimacy.
I've had my feelings hurt so many times by friendships that were only surface and not deep. 
I tend to want to be deep close friends with everyone and I've learned not everyone wants that.
I feel like I'm too intense for people because I desire depth of friendship.  
I want to be everyone's best friend and hear their entire heart, hurts, and life plans upon meeting.

That last line is like someone crawled into my brain and took a picture and then sent it to me.  Seriously.  And then here are some things people shared that have helped them:

Learn the zones of friendship---The close, The acquaintance, and The at-arms-length people.
Learn your personality and how to engage with people with opposing personalities. 
Learn how to put up your guard and not jump in too fast with some people.
Accept that some people are toxic and it's OK to let them go and not feel guilty over it.  
Stick to a few "truest true" friends.
Build the relationship, and be there waiting and ready for when they're willing to open up.
Be more intentional about your inner circle.
Let go of friendships that are not edifying to either of you.
Send an "I'm praying for you" text.
Invite them over for coffee.
Schedule a play date.
Meet for a walk or sit by the lake.
Get together with a group and all take turns hosting.
Go to Bible study.
Send snail mail or make something for them.
Make the effort to get together.
Ask them what's been on their hearts.
Show you care.
Do life together.

 I sincerely hope this post can be of help and encouragement to you in some way.  It filled my heart with hope to know that, A. Friendship is HARD (it's not just in my head) and B. I am not alone in this (like the enemy would have me believe).

And I'll just end with the caption on this photo of my daughters (seen above) that I posted earlier today on Instagram....

"And in the end THIS RIGHT HERE is why I care so much about friendship. Not so that I can have a group of close friends that care about me and spend time with me, although those things are nice. But because I want to be able to show my daughters what friendship looks like. How friends support one another, encourage one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt. Friends don't speak ill of one another, don't give in to jealousy, and never, ever compare. Friends don't feel threatened by one another, or assume that someone else's strengths makes them weaker, or less than. Friends know that there's actually strength in numbers, and that all of our different gifts and talents are actually a beautiful thing, because that only means we can help each other out. THIS is what friendship means to me. The burden of responsibility weighs heavily to fight culture's lies, and pass on the truth about friendship to the next generation." 

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