Thursday, August 23, 2018

My Friendship Project

I am reading a book right now, The Friendship Project, which was (appropriately) given to me by a very close friend.  She read it and then passed it on to me to read and keep.  As I'm reading through the book, I'm questioning if the friend gave it to me just because she thought it was a good book (it is!) or because she considers me a good friend (I'm not!) or because she thinks I need some encouragement in becoming a good friend (I do!).  I guess it could just be a mix of all those things, but it's obviously a topic that I'm sensitive to because I know I'm not the friend to others that I want to be. 

Listen, I'm not trying to reprimand myself for being a bad friend, I know, with all sincerity, that I have the world's greatest intentions when it comes to friendship, and every excuse in the book not to follow through.  I think of other people sooooo much.  I consider their feelings and really try to understand where they are coming from.  I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I like to think that everyone is going through something I can't see.  I've got the friend empathy vibes down pat!  It's the actual going out of my comfort zone and acting on those feelings for others that's hard for me.  I'm an introvert with a large, loud family (God's funny that way!), so I like to retreat when I can, not jump into another relationship.  My husband is honestly my favorite person and the friend I want to hang out with often.  I have my parents downstairs to visit, and sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews galore that also make up most of my social calendar.  I also have this whole full-time job gig and kids with lots of activities that means I barely have any time for friends anyway.  It's easy to justify why the friend list is so short, it's harder to realize it might be because I'm not making it a priority.

A few weeks ago, Phil and I had the chance to go to a concert, as a coworker of ours had four tickets they couldn't use.  We were excited to see this band, and started planning which other couple we would ask.  We quickly ran out of couple friends whom we feel close enough to, that we could ask last minute, to come with us.  We have so many acquaintances from church and work but not many couples we know who can get a babysitter last minute or who wouldn't have other plans already in place.  Most of our close friends have lives as busy as ours and we didn't want to "burden" them with this invite. 

I need to get over that. 

I need to ask the nice mom I see at Mass if she has time to get coffee after.  We need to say hello to our new neighbors who just moved in beside us and bring them some cookies.  We need to host gatherings even though it stresses me out.  I need to talk to the parents on the sidelines as we watch our children play on the same team, and stop and chat after a school function even though I want to run straight home and go to bed.  I'm almost 40 for crying out loud, what am I waiting for?

I heard recently that it takes 200 hours together to become best friends with someone!  So of course, I can't see someone for 2 minutes once a month and expect magic to happen.  When I think back, my closest friendships have developed once I've invited someone into my home, or they've had me over to theirs.  That's when you really get to know someone well.  As a kid, it is so easy to form bonds: You wanna go play?  Yup!  Then as a college student, it came easily as well since I was surrounded by single people of the same age.  Once I became a mom, it got a little harder, but I could use my kids as an excuse to hang out with other moms, you know, play dates "for the kids".  Now that I'm not at home anymore, my interactions are with colleagues, and while I love so many of the people I work alongside, the relationship doesn't always go beyond professional.  But that doesn't mean I can't make a nice gesture to try.

I also think I need to stop relying on social media to fulfill my need for friendships.  While screen friends can be real friends, real friends aren't only screen friends.  I'd honestly rather have a few close friends than 1500 Instagram followers who don't know me in real life.  This is a subject that is sort of depressing to think about.  Who are my REAL friends?  Who would consider me their REAL friend?  All the social media likes in the world can't fill the social interaction hole we crave in real life.  

So I'm taking baby steps...first I'm going to finish the book, then I'm going to pray to God to bring me friends and allow me to meet people who would enjoy my friendship.  Then I'm going to start trying to become the friend I want to find because I can only change myself.  


  1. I'm an introvert, too. At this point in my life my friends are my husband, daughter, grandkids and stepkids. My brother and 2 sisters live in two other states so it's mostly social media interaction with them. I work full time so I just don't have a lot of time left over to cultivate friendships. I do have friends but it's pretty rare that I see any of them other than through social media. That's sad, I know. When I do see a friend we have to schedule time way ahead to make it work.

  2. That used to be me. We lived near family (which we loved) and spent all of our free time and all holidays- big and small- with family (my comfort zone). We had many acquaintances but few friends. Like you and the tickets, I realized this when I considered a surprise birthday party for my husband. I couldn’t think of anyone to invite other than family whom we would see all the time anyway, so I scrapped the idea.
    Then Hurricane Katrina hit and we were ultimately flung 1,200 miles from home. We lived in that new state for 5 years. That transition was the hardest and most refining of my life. I needed to grow up and be able to live more than an arms reach from my parents. I grew personally and our marriage grew tremendously as my husband and I learned to rely on each other more than we ever had before. It was only then that I began to make true friends. It was only then that I realized how much I needed them. (I used to think family was all I needed.) And it was only then that I had time for them. It’s been a true blessing for my husband and I. We couldn’t imagine our lives without our friends and have enjoyed celebrating holidays with both friends and family. Prayers for you as you open your heart to new friendships.

  3. I've been thinking about my friendships with other women lately. I also consider myself an introvert, and I've had to work hard to overcome the initial shyness that comes with reaching out to new people, but it's always been worth it for me. I now have some wonderful IRL friends that I rely on when things get tough. It honestly is so enriching. I've learned so much, and really "met" God through these friendships. Hoping for this blessing for you. Go, Colleen!

  4. Amy in OregonAugust 23, 2018

    I chuckled as I read this post, because I totally agree!! It's hard to make time for friends, and I always catch myself it worth it?? Is it worth sacrificing something else to cultivate a new friendship? Digital friends are good but you can only share concert tickets with friend IRL!!
    And finding good married couple friends is TOUGH!!!! You're not alone, I think many of us struggle with this. Baby steps!

  5. This is a great post. It is hard to foster friendships as life gets busy! While not on instagram any more, I used to have so many fun/funny interactions with awesome people there. That being said I don't think anyone from that world misses me or feels my absence... I don't mean to say that in a sad-sack way.. it's just the reality.. and a reminder that the IRL people, while requiring more effort, are worth it. Because we all want to be known and loved.. it's what we were created for. I want to check out that book!

  6. Colleen, I've been having so many of these same thoughts! I will have to check out this book!

  7. It’s so hard. I’ve reached out to an old friend several times through phone, email, snail mail, and nothing. I’m so disappointed. But don’t iscou t media friendships because they can become IRL friendships. I’m lucky that has happened and am so grateful to have a good mom friend. We decided we are going to eat lunch or dinner together once a month just us.


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