The last two weeks, my friend, L, was back in town to visit family and friends. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire day with her and my other amazing friend, Jenna. L moved to Germany over 2 years ago, but her absence did nothing to diminish the powerful relationship that we have.
We tried to squeeze six months of catching up into 12 hours. We also tried to squeeze our guts back into our pants after consuming six months’ worth of carbs.
After much laughter, tears and more carbs, I drove L back to her mother’s house. During the drive, we lamented how far away we were now (can someone seriously just tie a tug boat to Europe and pull it over here?), and she remarked how she loved our relationship. Not friendship. Relationship.
Before you pervs think something dirty, let me clarify. I think by calling it a relationship, she was saying that we aren’t just some bullshit friends that lie to either other’s faces, or frenemies that lie behind our faces (or backs), but people really pouring our hearts into each other’s life.
Friendships take a lot of shapes, and over the years, ours has become more of a kinship. I don’t think that I ever consciously thought about how to be a friend until life got busier and friends starting getting farther away. I always thought that they just kinda happened, but in reality, they require nurturing much like our romantic relationships.
Communicate Well. While we probably think that simply talking to our friends all the time means that we have good communication, it doesn’t. Are we truly listening to what they’re saying or just waiting for our turn to tell a story? When our friends talk about something horrible in their life, do we immediately try to “one up” them by explaining why we have it worse? Or the contrary – are we constantly trying to make our lives seem better to compete with them?
Have you ever asked your friend what they needed from you? Not right that second necessarily, but in general. I’ve been trying to have that conversation with more of my friends because I may think that I’m being there for them by doing/saying XYZ when they really need ABC. It’s amazing what they may say. Instead of texting “how are you doing”, they may long for an in-person coffee date. Which leads me to love languages…
Speak Their Language. Some of you may be familiar with The 5 Love Languages. The premise of the book is that there are five primary ways to express and experience love that author calls “love languages,” and by understanding the way in which you love and your partner love, you can better your relationship. The love languages are categorized as: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.
While the book was written for romantic relationships, I think the basic principle still apply to good friends. Personally, my primary love language is gifts, not because I want things (I do), but I want things with meaning from people I love. If you give me something that I know you chose solely because of me, it makes me feel special. I also like having reminders that you think of me when I’m not around.
My friend, L, is definitely a quality time person. It’s about concentrated time with her doing something to build the relationship or having conversations that reach below the surface. I’m totally addicted to my phone, but I’ve become more conscious of not looking at it as much when she’s around. While she’s never said it to my face, I know that it’s an annoying habit that takes away from our quality time in her eyes (thanks for never smacking it out of my hand, L!).
Sacrifice. Real friendship isn’t convenient. It’s hard as balls sometimes to make time or do something for them that you really don’t want to do (I’m looking at every one of you that I’ve ever gone to a bridal or baby shower for!).
I’m guilty of booking my evenings and weekends to the max, rarely leaving time for me to breathe. Part of my new year’s resolution was to give myself some more space to be able to spend time with people that are important to me. I don’t need to go to that work happy hour, but my friend would probably love it if I took the time to call or randomly send them a card.
Fight Right. Just because you’re human, and I’m assuming your friend is too, you guys are going to disagree. And sometimes, a simple disagreement can turn into an outright argument. This is absolutely the worst part of friendships. Because you are good friends, you know what buttons to push and what hurts the most. Avoid saying the awful thing that comes to your mind out of hurt and anger. It’s going to be hard.
And even worse than the fighting is the making up. Since friends don’t have the benefit of makeup sex, it’s even harder to come back together and apologize. But do it. Don’t let it fester. Don’t do it via email. Don’t text it. Do it in person if you can. Start off by acknowledging their feelings and apologizing for your wrongdoing. Let them know how you feel and work together to come up with a solution for squashing the issue or making things better the next time it comes up.
I readily admit to failing miserably at all of these at one time or another (or currently!). As I make room in my life for my important relationships, I am learning how to better cherish my true, deep, no-bullshit friends. By really working at these relationships, I’m reaping the benefits of having a solid crew of people that love and sustain me through all of life’s ups and downs.
Also, I need at least three people to round out my Golden Girls fantasy someday.