Men Crave Intimate Friendships, Too

It felt like a sacred gift to be invited into a weekend of male bonding.

While there had never been a sign hung that had said, “No girls allowed,” this year when the seven men gathered for the weekend that is becoming a bit of a tradition– the wives were invited, too.

One of my husbands best friends, Paul, celebrated a milestone birthday five years ago by inviting this handful of men to join him for a weekend of sharing life. He graciously covers the food and lodging expenses and says, “Your presence is your gift.” This year, motivated in part, because one of the men is recovering from a health crisis and needed his wife present, the wives were welcomed into the circle for the birthday weekend.  What a privilege.

We women were lucky to get in on a weekend of male bonding!

We women were lucky to get in on a weekend of male bonding!

So for my blog post this weekend, I wanted to share a few of the evident truths, as they were played out in a beautiful house along the Gorge, outside of Portland:

  1. Men Crave Being Known.  Wanting to be seen, known, and accepted is a human experience, not a gender preference. Men want to be witnessed and validated and included as much as any woman I’ve ever met.  Our culture may model it as having to happen around a TV, sport, or activity– but many a man has confided to me “I wish men could just get together to talk the way women seem able.” And this weekend that’s just what they did.  Every guy was given an hour (an hour!) to share with the group whatever had gone on in their lives since the last time they were together. I’ve often said that I think the need for meaningful friendship is just as crucial for men, and probably even more important for us to talk about, since our culture has given very little modeling or permission for men to share deeply. But they want to. Yes, they do.
  2. Men Know How To Process Feelings. In fact, if there is a gap in our society between those who like to share feelings and those who may not want to do it as much– I don’t think it’s based on gender as much as it might be based on temperaments, strengths, or personality. These men, shared deeply about how it felt to be aging, how their career changes were impacting their identity, what it felt like to watch their children grow up, and how they wanted to change some of their life values. When given the space– every single one of them shared life with incredible authenticity.
  3. Men Don’t Need Women Prompting Them.  I want it to be clear that while we women were there… we were in the background. Only the men were given an hour.  We were witnesses more than participants.  You could sense that sometimes when our men were sharing that we wanted to jump in and help tell the story, but to the credit of all the women there: we sat back and let them stay in the leading role.  I often watch my friends jump in and “save” their husbands in social settings, or watch as men “lean back” and let their social wives carry the conversations… but sometimes I think that has more to do with habits and roles, than desire.  For in this house, the men seemed happy to have us there, but they didn’t need us to help bring them together.
  4. Men Don’t Need an Activity or Sport. Some experts have said that men do friendship shoulder-to-shoulder (activity or task-focused), while women do friendship face-to-face (conversation-focused). Again, I think that is more temperament-based than gender-based; but second, even if that’s true of more men, in general, I think it should be seen as descriptive rather than prescriptive.  In other words, if that’s true then it’s because we’re describing what we are seeing now, not saying that’s how it has to be or how they prefer it. I’ve had as many women tell me that they don’t like sitting and talking (Come on! Let’s go shopping! Dancing! Hiking! Let’s do something!) as I’ve had men say to me “I only watch football so I can hang out with my friends.” This weekend– these men sat through 7 hours of sharing and when given free time, kept on sharing more. No other activity required.
My sweet husband on the right with one of his best friends, Paul. They talk on the phone for at least 2 hours every week.

My sweet husband on the right with one of his best friends, Paul. They talk on the phone for at least 2 hours every week.

My husband, Greg, and Paul have been friends for nearly 24 years, most of that time their glue has been a 2-3 hour conversation that they have once a week. Every week.  They call and share life together.

Their experience is a bit like what every single man said at the end of the birthday weekend: “I need more of this in my life.” Indeed.  It’s rare and sacred to spend a weekend sharing and being received.

Is it awkward sometimes? Indeed!  Women find sharing awkward, too, so I can only imagine how it feels to be a guy who may not have as much practice (and cultural permission) in sharing.  But does that make it less needed or desired? Not at all. The need is as high as ever.

Oh how I wish our culture would shine a light on men’s friendships in such a way that encouraged and applauded men for initiating time together, for sharing deeply and honestly, and for showing up to really be seen.

Deep and meaningful friendships is DEFINITELY not a girl thing.

Posted in Mens Friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Equinox Prayer: Grant Us More Love

Today is the last day of winter. A chapter is ending as we come to the Equinox.

This site shows us what the moon looks like at any time... this is right now.  Isn't she beautiful? So full of hope!  (http://aa.usno.navy.mil/imagery/moon)

This site shows us what the moon looks like at any time… this is right now. Isn’t she beautiful? So full of hope! (http://aa.usno.navy.mil/imagery/moon)

That doesn’t mean it won’t still look or feel like winter, sometimes we still feel the impact of the previous life pages, but today the scales tip toward spring as the days begin to outlast the nights. We also have a new super moon and a total solar eclipse today as we head into spring so the message is powerfully consistent: we are moving from darkness to light.

Our story is changing, the pages are turning.  Today, nature whispers loudly that there is new life, birth, light, hope, awakening, emergence, and growth.

Where Do I Need More Light & Love?

For me, there is much power in metaphor. I love taking inspiration from all kinds of places and as I am provoked to look up at the sky and notice what is happening there, I can’t not ask myself:

  • “Do I feel pregnant with anything that I want to notice? Am I being called to birth in this season?”
  • “Where do I crave more light-ness in my life?”
  • “What part of my life feels like it’s be in hibernation? Is it ready yet to emerge?”
  • “Where do I feel like I’m in the dark? What would welcoming light look like?”
  • “Am I short on hope? Am I low-energy? Am I asleep? What might I learn from the days getting longer now? How can I slowly invite in more hope, energy, and wakefulness?”

Grant Us More Love and Belonging

And it strikes me–as I believe we are living in a world that has far too much loneliness– that what we all need more of is the feeling of belonging and acceptance.  To feeling really loved and welcomed and wanted. I want that for you, for me, for all of us so very much.

Often when coming out of hibernation, the idea of socializing may exhaust us; much the way that light feels blinding after we’ve been accustomed to darkness. Often when deciding to courageously connect with someone we feel vulnerable; much the way a brand new sprig must feel when it’s popped out of the dirt, having only known what it’s like to be a seed.  Often the energy of making new friends feels more painful than fun; much the way it feels to give birth, having only to trust that someday the delivery pains will feel far worth it.

My prayer for you today is that you intentionally choose what you want to wake up to, what you want to plant, what you want to birth.  I pray that you don’t feel victim in your life, but fell very much aware that you get to nurture that which matters most, that you get to face the sun and grow, that you get to decide what is planted in your garden.

Don’t fear the weeds that will inevitably come– we don’t stop planting just because we know unwanted growth will also happen.  Don’t stay in the cave just because it’s more familiar and comfortable– there was a season for survival and now there is season for thriving and growing. Don’t keep your eyes closed just because it feels too bright– just turn those safely closed eyes toward the sun and let it slowly wash over you and entice you out.

And May We Seek Love Above All Else

And above all, let’s recognize as we go into this new season that so much of what we chase is really just the stuff that we think will help us feel loved, which is vastly different from simply going straight for love.

We all too often think we’ll feel more accepted and loved if we earn more money, have the baby, marry the man, remodel the house, fit into a smaller dress size, or sign the contract.  We attach meaning in our heads that if we can accomplish these things we value then we will feel good enough, safe enough, and worthy enough to be loved.

But there are a thousand examples of people who feel like they belong without the thing you think you need.

You can create way more love in your life without the stuff, the promotions, or the accomplishments that you’re tempted to think are connected to the hunger you have.

My prayer for all of us today, as the days lengthen, is to look directly at love and ask, “How can I feel more love?” and go straight for love itself rather than pursuing the paths you only hope will lead there.

As the sun shines, may you feel welcomed and very much a part of our human family. And may love follow you all the days of your life.

Welcome to Spring.

———————

All women, no matter where you live or what your schedule is like, are welcome to join this CoachingCircle this Spring!

All women, no matter where you live or what your schedule is like, are welcome to join this CoachingCircle this Spring!

p.s.  I’m opening a virtual CoachingCircle called Closing the Intimacy Gap where I am super excited about working with a group of women to develop the intimacy they are built to experience! We have such capacity for love and deeper longings for community than we currently are experiencing.  I want to teach you the five most powerful actions you can take to deepen your friendships.  If you want to join me on a 12-week coaching journey this April 14-June 30 then request your invitation right here.

 

 

Posted in Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ten Steps to Starting Friendships

I’ve been consumed with researching and developing content for my next book, The Intimacy Gap (so cannot wait to share with you what I’m putting together to help us bridge the gap between the intimacy we have and the intimacy we need and want!) which will come out, most likely in the Spring of 2016.

But as I’ve been focused on what it means to deepen friendships–really, really, really, deepen them– it reminded me today that I also need to keep talking about how to start friendships!  If you’re in a place where you need to be gathering up people to befriend, then here’s a quick list of my best advice for creating new friendships!

The Ten Steps to Starting Friendships:

  1. Own the Opportunity: Value friendship enough to do something about it! Be proud of yourself.
  2. Use Your Resources: Offer to help someone local host a dinner party with their friends. E-mail your friends from across the country and ask them if they know any fun women in your area they can connect you with since you’re new! Look through your friends’ local friends on Facebook and introduce yourself. Follow locals on Twitter and see what events they’re inviting people to attend. (For more ideas, read chapter 5 of my book!)
  3. Practice Friendliness: Even if you’re shy, you simply have to decide what places feel authentic for you to be practicing friendliness: association meetings, lectures, networking events, the dog park, church, poetry readings, cafes, classes, and so on.
  4. Affirm Her: No need to talk about the weather! Start conversations with the things you noticed about them: their hair, their outfit, their confidence, their laugh. We like people who like us.
  5. Invite: Just making small talk with someone in the locker room after yoga is hardly the same as making a friend. As you meet women that you want to get to know better, you have to take the friendly chat to the next level. Try this: “Want to get a drink after class sometime next week?”
  6. Be Specific about your Availability: The disease of “we should get together sometime” can ruin the best of potential BFFs. Instead, try, “I’m usually available for happy hour most nights or for Sunday morning brunches. What works best for you?”
  7. Ask Personal Questions: By personal, I don’t mean private, but make sure conversation is about the two of you. Don’t risk an entire evening wasted on celebrity gossip, the latest movies, and hairstyles-gone-bad. These subjects feel temporarily bonding, but you haven’t shared yourself. Ask her why she appreciates where she works, what she’s got coming up that matters to her, what she loves to do in your new city, or what her highlights have been in the last few weeks.
  8. Share the Positive: It’s a proven fact that we want friends to improve our happiness and health, not to bring us down. We haven’t earned that right yet to cry on each other’s shoulders. For now we will be warm, positive, and open-minded—someone she wants to spend more time with.
  9. Follow Up. If it were a new romantic relationship, we’d be less than thrilled if he didn’t call for a week after our first date. Give the same respect to the women you connect with by writing an e-mail or text of thanks, expressing interest in getting to know her better.
  10. Follow Up If it were for work or romance, we’d suggest the very next opening on our calendar when we could pull off another rendezvous! Why delay for friendship? Let’s just say it takes 6-10 times of connecting with someone before we feel “close” to them. Why spread those out over a year if you can make a friend in two months of weekly get-togethers? Momentum helps the bond—keep getting together as frequently as possible.

Hopefully this list helps inspire you to be intentional as you’re meeting people and serves to remind you that waaaay more important than simply meeting people is how you treat the people you’re meeting and how you’re following up with them.  Most of us actually meet enough people, we’re just not thinking of them as potential friends and doing something about it!

I’d encourage you to pick the step that is hardest for you– step #1 of actually admitting the need?  Step #5 of initiating some time together? Step #8 of focusing on adding value and joy to your time together? Step #10 of repeating the get-togethers a few more times and trusting that with each time your friendship will feel better?– and focusing on practicing that one!

Are you willing to share with us in the comment section which step you find most challenging? :)

This list is an excerpt from my book Friendships Don’t Just Happen: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends, found on page 125.

Posted in How To?, Making Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

No Excuse! Commit to a Girlfriend Weekend!

If you’ve been following me for a while then you know that every year, around this time, I meet up with 4 of my friends for our Annual Girls Weekend.  This year marked our 10th year of weekend get-aways.

10 years.  I almost can’t believe it.  It’s not hard to believe that we’ve been friends for that long… in fact we became friends before that… with 1-2 of the friendships going back nearly 20 years.  But that five women have committed to taking the time and paying the money to go on a girls trip for 10 years in a row feels huge to me. That is commitment that moves me.

This year we met in San Antonio, where my friend J'Leen lives so we could watch her perform Improv on Saturday night since she credits our group friendship with her taking her first Improv class last year! What fun!!!

This year we met in San Antonio, where my friend J’Leen lives so we could watch her perform Improv on Saturday night since she credits our group friendship with her taking her first Improv class last year! What fun!!!

So Many Excuses to Not Get-Away!

That means that 5 incredibly busy women have prioritized time away with each other and made it happen. No matter what.

  • No matter that during that time we’ve had 3 divorces… everyone has come, every year.  We’ve celebrated 2 weddings… and we have one more coming up this December!
  • No matter that 1 girl is on a strict budget and 2 have often used credit cards to come… everyone has come, every year. Even when they got hit with HUGE tax bills, bought new houses, had cars die, gave up per diem hours to attend, and had to scrimp in other areas to make it work.
  • No matter that my girlfriends have birthed 5 babies during that time.  We have, in fact, had someone pregnant more years than not, including last year when one of them was 8 months pregnant. Everyone has come, every year. Even the year when one of the girls had a late miscarriage the day before the trip… she came.
  • No matter that our work schedules are insane– conference attendance, speaking schedules, book launches, private practices to run, and a dozen reasons to say “I’m too busy!” Everyone has come, every year. Including this year when one woman had to return from a business conference, barely kiss her kids and husband, and then get back on a plane to head off to see us.
  • No matter that it inconveniences our husbands/boyfriends because they have to sacrifice the money, watch the kids, and do life alone for a few days. Everyone has come, every year. Even the years when some of the girls didn’t have a spouse, they had family watch their kids and they still came. Even the spouse who isn’t available 7-8 months out of the year steps up joyfully if we can plan around his schedule!
  • And speaking of kids… between my 4 girlfriends, they mother 8 children, ranging this year from 10 months old to 15 years old.  But they come every year… I shake my head in awe…

Kids and Girlfriend Get-Aways

I don’t want to downplay the commitment I make to be at Girls Weekend every year, because no matter whether we have kids or not, all of us have full and busy lives; but I absolutely am in awe of my friends who are moms who don’t use that as an excuse to not show up for their friendships.  When I hear about the Little League games my friends are missing by being gone, the extra stress it puts on their spouses those weekends, or the times when their kids are sick and they aren’t home to nurse them… I stand in deep gratitude for these women.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from them that might help make it easier for other mom’s to make the very difficult choice of justifying a get-away weekend:

  • Daddy Time: Several of them said, “It’s actually kind of awesome to watch our kids have these special weekends with Dad… yes it’s stressful in some ways, but this way they get to plan pizza night, feel like they have Dad’s undivided attention, and create memories.”
  • Modeling to the Kids: With statements like “I can only hope that my girls are watching me do this and looking forward to the days they are grown up and get to do girls weekends!” and “I just tell my kids– just like you get to go a have a slumber party sometimes, this is Mommy’s slumber party,” my friends are teaching their kids that friendship is worth scheduling.
  • Expectation Management: They all agreed, “Actually, the more we all do it, the easier it gets.  Now it’s not a surprise or a hardship to go away as much as it was in the early days, the families just know it’s going to happen and they’re practiced.”
  • Personal Self-Care: Now when I ask them why they come, most of them just say, “I wouldn’t NOT come!” or “This is the best weekend of my whole year!” We all recognize it as the time when our own cup gets filled up with love.  We process life, share what’s making us happy, talk about our fears, and become better people for having been away. I think, undoubtedly, that we all show up back home with more love to give.

I do think, like anything, that the more one does it, the more meaningful and easy it becomes.  One girlfriend weekend may, or may not, change anyone’s life or feel worth the stress… but you add up the years and how much value we add to each other’s life, and I really do believe that we are adding years to our lives. And each year we can go deeper, share more vulnerably, cheer for each other more loudly, and laugh so much more.  We’ve made our weekends meaningful and life-saving.

Today I just wanted to pop into your inbox to say that no matter what excuse feels so true for your life… I am one loud vote on the side of you saying yes to some friendship time that extends beyond a lunch or dinner.  Something about staying up late laughing and snorting, waking up and whispering about life, and spending a long full day together is truly as magical as life can possibly get.  Keep it cheap, keep it easy, and keep it meaningful– but whatever you do, get the invitations emailed and get that date on the calendar!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Huge love to Valerie, J’Leen, Karen, and Krista for juggling friendship as one of the priorities of your very busy and full lives.  I am blessed by your commitment. xoxo

p.s.s.  Other posts about Girls Weekends:

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

Weekend Get-Togethers: The Benefits of Long-Distance Friendships

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups:

Posted in Best Friends, Consistency, Group Friendships, How To?, Moms, Travel & Friends | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!

If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

——————————-

Girlfriends,
I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta’s fantastic book Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta’s book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo’s class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

Huge thanks Kristen Baker for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club… and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many “ah-has” and “Ohhhh that’s why that happened,” moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness – releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community – the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships – it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. “Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy”
  2. “Friendships don’t just happen” (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. “That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be”

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check – I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don’t yet have your own copy of Friendships Don’t Just Happen!– Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host– we’ll help!  :)

 

Posted in Books & Movies, GFC Member Stories, Girls Night, Group Friendships, Guest Blogs, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment