importance of friends

Hitting Pause on Romance for Friendship

Last week, while watching Grey's Anatomy (am I the only one still watching?!?), I had a bit of a "hmmmm.... I don't know if I agree with that friendship rule" moment. Meredith and Alex, platonic friends on Grey's Anatomy, as they keep practicing what friendship is supposed to look like between them.

Meredith was explaining to Alex (who is supposed to be trying to be her new best friend since Christina moved away) that his job was to answer every text from her, even if he was in the middle of having sex. Which he had been.

She said that "The Pause" is one of the rules of friendship.  Real friends will stop whatever they are doing--and spouses and lovers just need to get used to it--to respond and be present. The text wasn't even an SOS text.. it had simply said something along the lines of "What are you up to?"

I wondered if, as an advocate for friendship, I was supposed to agree with her rule that gave such priority to friendship?

But I don't.  I definitely don't. Our marriages/family are a priority and bonding time should never be interrupted. But even if we don't interrupt "moments" that doesn't mean we shouldn't interrupt our lives for each other.

With that said, there are a few more times I do think women, in general, should be willing to hit pause on romance/family for the sake of our friendships.

The Rules for "Pausing" Romance for our Friendship

Our reputations precede us when it comes to how much more important we think romance is than friendship. We have left a wake of broken and missed friendships in our past because we haven't practiced pausing the love in our homes to keep up the love in our circle of friends.  Here are a few places I think we can afford to pause romance in order to maintain friendships:

  1. Hit pause on romance when you're on a girls weekend: I had someone write me last week and describe how thrilled she was to finally go on a weekend-away with a friend she hadn't seen in years, but then felt disappointed by her friend who called to talk with her husband throughout every day. It left her walking beside a friend who was on the phone a lot feeling like even when she had her friend, she wasn't really with her. I love my husband and could talk to him all day long and want to tell him everything... but GirlFriends, come on, we can go a day or two without having to catch him up on everything in real-time. On a girls weekend? Then tell your lover you'll see him when you get home or call only when it doesn't leave your friend out. On a romantic weekend? Same thing! Tell your friend/sister/mother you won't be calling for a few days and gift your lover with your undivided attention. In other words-- give your undivided attention to whomever you're with.
  2. Hit pause on romance when it's new to make sure your friends still feel their importance I've seen and heard A LOT about women ignoring their friends for new love. Even if what we think we want is 24/7 with some new romantic interest, we will tell him/her "As much as I'd love to spend the whole weekend with you, I have a standing date with my friend on Sunday mornings so I can't get together until after that." Communicating you have a life and good friends can only improve a healthy relationship!
  3. Hit pause on romance/family when you're busy and time is limited. Yes life is full, no one is minimizing that.  But if having friendships is important then the intimacy has to be maintained with ongoing love and connection.  We will not go MIA on consequential relationships just because we're distracted with a busy life.  We will fit in the important people, including our friends, even if it takes time we could give to family/romance. We will find creative ways to make sure that
  4. Hit pause on romance even if he doesn't go out with his friends.  Many a couple, myself included, feel like they get almost all their needs met in each other, being married to their best friend.  It can be hard to give up time with him-- I love being with him. But we have to carve out the time and perhaps say, "If left to my own tendencies, I'd probably just spend every moment with you, but it's important for me to make/keep my friendships so please don't take it personally that I need to go out at least once a week to maintain my friendships." We HAVE to peel ourselves away from family to give time to our friendships... the more we do it, the more meaningful those times with them will be. Our goal is to have a wide support circle made up of many different kinds of love and connection in our lives.
  5. Hit pause on romance even in the midst of engagement and wedding euphoria.  With many women getting engaged this month and lots of weddings being planned this spring, it makes sense that woman are rightfully caught up in their love stories.  No need to feel guilt about that!  But we do need to hit pause to not only still make time for our friends, but also to make time for their lives when we are together.  We don't need to only talk about the wedding. We can hit pause and ask them about their lives, being intentional to make sure we're thoughtful of what they are feeling and experiencing.

I'm all for love.  Lots of it!  So no need to choose one or the other-- all love is important!

This Valentines weekend, even if we're caught up in romantic love, we can still pause in some way, to remind our friends that we love them and can't wait until our next get-together.  That's what friends do.

With love,

Shasta

p.s.  What rules so you wish you could set? What hurts you the most that your friends do when they're dating? Do you find it hard to go out with friends when your lover doesn't? Share with us!  :)

The Role of Female Friendships on March 8: International Women's Day

Tomorrow is March 8, International Women's Day.

Started in the early 1900's, now dozens of countries from Afghanistan to Zambia celebrate this international holiday to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. I've written before about my awakening to the ongoing needs to be powerful women so today I'm going to take a slightly different angle and talk about the role of friendship in that journey.

Relationships at the Center of Women's Development & Identity

Women's development is largely understood by psychologists and sociologists as being more dependent upon our connections with others, as compared to the development of men where they seemingly place higher value on their independence, self-reliance, and destiny fulfillment.

When I hear all those "masculine" words I actually feel very drawn to them so it reminds us that it's not an easy, either/or, black-and-white, male vs. female comparison.  Nonetheless, on the spectrum of where we form our identity, women tend to lean into feeling their worth based on our relationships: being chosen (married, dating), being a mother, on being admired by the other women in our lives, by being the glue in our extended families.

Historically, in fact, we were only defined and valued by our relationships to men-- who our fathers, husbands, and sons were.  Legally, morally, and socially, we had to be connected to men to have a secure status.   We've come a long way since the days where our characters were either "good" or "bad" due to our behavior with men and our place in society was dependent upon having a man to provide property, food, and reputation.  We are still expanding our definition of our own unique identity as women.

In the book "girlfriends" written in 1995 by Carmen Renee Berry and Tamara Traeder they make a compelling case for female friendship by saying,

"When we look to men as reference points, however, we lose sight of who we are as women. It is like trying to define an apple by comparing it to an orange.  The apple, described in terms of the orange, will never have it's own identity, appeal, and value; it will simply be "not an orange."

We are more than the value of our relationships to and with men, just as we are more than being "not men."

An Ode to My Female Friendships

We are women, and perhaps it's with other women that we can best define and name ourselves as we tell our stories, practice our power, and model our experiences. Not to negate one iota from the value I have found in connecting with men, but rather, to focus on the distinct value of connecting with women, it is in those relationships that I have found so much of myself.

So tomorrow, on International Women's Day*, this post is to the women who have taught me to not just try to imitate men or be different than men, but to simply become a woman.

Thank you for the stories you've shared, whether it was during the slumber parties of our childhood, in the bath rooms of high school, in the college classrooms after class, over happy hour drinks or coffee or tea, in parks watching the kids, or in the adjacent offices of our careers.

Thank you for modeling for me and letting me ask the awkward questions as we all bumped through life wearing training bras before we needed them, wishing for our periods only to then wonder why we had ever thought that sounded like fun, and watching each other survive broken hearts to remind ourselves that when the time came, and it always did, that we, too, would survive.

Thank you for asking for the promotion and giving me courage to do the same, and thank you for whispering your fears as you weighed the cost of ambition as it helped me gauge my own price tags.

Thank you for being just as excited about finding that perfect rug on sale that pulls in all the colors of your living room for a mere discounted price worthy of your hunt, as you were about splurging that day at the spa.

Thank you for simultaneously assuring me that I don't need to lose weight while also validating my desire to "get back into shape," for telling me you like my hair long or short, but always concluding that how it is now is your current favorite, and for nodding understanding about how fast time flies while also telling me how young I still am.

Thank you for being the kind of women I could call in tears should I ever need to tell you that they found a lump in my breast. And conversely, that I could call with indistinguishable words should I ever have a book go on the best-seller list.  But more often than not, simply calling you with a nonchalant, "What are you making for dinner tonight?"

We alone know that even when men are doing 50% of the household chores that there are still countless things we do that make our lists a bit longer; and we alone know the feeling of pride and exhaustion of believing that we are the only ones that could do those things.  We can brag and commiserate that we are multi-taskers, seek balance as though it's attainable, and feel guilty saying no even when it's precisely the right answer.  Thank you for being a woman with me.

It is an honor to be a woman with you.  It is my privilege to learn from you and your stories.  It is a gift that you hear my own.  Thank you.

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* For more information about this international holiday or to participate in one of the hundreds of events across the country visit the official web site of International Women's Day.

** On a side note, I'd be honored to have your vote of appreciation for my blog in the About.com Readers Awards for Favorite Friendship Blog. Two seconds of your time can help me narrow the gap from 2nd to 1st place! Thank you!