Maintaining Friends

Videos: The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Relationships!

VIDEO 1:

What Are the 3 Requirements for Better Friendships? An Overview!

Are you tired of feeling like you don’t have good friends? Do you wish your friendships felt more satisfying, more enjoyable, more meaningful, or more fun? Do you wonder what it is that makes some friendship feel good while others feel blah? Does it feel like you have no control over whether your friendships turn out to be worthwhile or not?

This is the 1st of 4 videos, with the following three each going deeper into one of the Relationship Requirements. In this video, Shasta Nelson, a leading expert on friendship, teaches the 3 Relationship Requirements that we can use to assess and evaluate every relationship in our lives. When we understand these three actions— we then know how to start, repair, or deepen every friendship around us. When we study what builds trust, what bonds effective teams, what makes for a healthy marriage, or what is present in our closest friendships— these three things always rise to the top.


VIDEO 2:

What Can You Do If Your Friendships Don’t Feel Good? Add Positivity!

Do you walk away from time spent with people and feel like it was a waste of time? Do you feel judged? Do you wonder what they think of you? Do you feel worse about yourself or your life? Or does your time always feel boring or shallow? The 1st Relationship Requirement is Positivity— meaning it has to be enjoyable!

Positivity doesn’t mean acting like Pollyanna, nor does it mean only talking about positive things. In a nutshell— this is the foundation for all relationships because if our time together doesn’t feel good… we’re not going to want to repeat it. It’s hard to bond with someone if we don’t feel satisfied when we’re together. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the positivity in all of your friendships!


VIDEO 3:

What Can You Do If Your Friendships Don’t Feel Reliable? Add Consistency

Do you feel like you or your friends are just too busy to prioritize friendship? Do you wish for them to feel easier than having to schedule them weeks out and wonder if you’re really seeing each other enough? Do you talk or get together so infrequently that it always feels rushed or filled with updating before the next gap of time starts? Do you wonder if your friends truly have your back? Do you feel supported in meaningful ways? Do you worry that they wouldn’t be there for you if you really needed them?

Consistency is where we log the hours that our friendship needs in order for us to start feeling safe with each other— like we can predict what to expect from the other. This is the activity that fosters trust and reliability. In a busy world… we have to be intentional about what it means to really be in each other’s lives. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the consistency in all of your friendships!


VIDEO 4:

What Can You Do If Friendships Don't Feel Meaningful? Add Vulnerability!

Do you feel like you or your friends are wearing facades? Are you at risk of showing up and trying to look like your Instagram feed? Do you wonder if you really know who they are, or are you scared to show who you really are? Or worse, are you over-sharing and making the mistake of thinking that if you just go raw and deep that that somehow accelerates the bond? Are you scared to share because you’ve been hurt before? Do you feel liked but doubt whether they really know you?

Vulnerability is where we get to know each other so that we ultimately feel seen. Vulnerability isn’t just sharing our insecurities and dark secrets; on the contrary it’s about learning how to share in an incremental and safe way that fosters the growth of a long-term and healthy relationship. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the vulnerability in all of your friendships!

How to Deepen the Long-Distance Friendship

Unfortunately, many, if not most, of the people we claim as our best friends don't live near us. I haven't seen statistics to back up that claim, but since we're moving, on average, every 5 years, I think it's safe to say that chances are high that we have moved away from friends we've loved dearly. And all too often, it doesn't matter how many monthly lunches with local friends we schedule, it's hard to feel as close to them as we do with those long-distance friends with whom we once logged massive hours getting to know every day in school, at that job, or when we lived as roommates.

For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Friends-- I call these dear friends our "Con

5 types of friends image

firmed Friends" and they frequently reside in the middle circle because we are too intimate with them to warrant them being on the more casual left-side, but we often aren't as consistent with them as we'd need to be to feel as close to them as we do with our right-side friends. This post is about how to move them to the right, into greater frientimacy.

How to Deepen the Friendship

So what if you actually want to develop a closer relationship with these long-distance friends? What if you want to keep building the friendship, rather than just do the minimum to maintain it? What it you want to feel like you know what's going on in each others lives more often than your infrequent phone calls or more deeply than what you can read on social media?

There are three requirements to all healthy relationships, as I teach in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness:

  1. Positivity: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must bring more joy and satisfaction than exhaustion or stress, in fact research suggests we need to keep the ratio above 5:1.
  2. Consistency: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must be repetitive and have some regularity to it because this developing history is what fosters our trust in each other.
  3. Vulnerability: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must incrementally and appropriately increase in sharing as our consistency increases with each other. It is through vulnerability that we feel seen and known.

And they are just as true for long-distance friends as they are for local friends. (Bonus: They also are the same three requirements for starting friendship as they are for deepening it!)

Specific Ideas for Applying the 3 Requirements to Our Long-Distance Friendships

I can guarantee that any relationship that isn’t feeling as meaningful as we want is because at least one of these three requirements is lacking.

So how we can practice these three requirements from a distance?

Positivity:

  • Send an encouraging card: Take 5 minutes to send a little tangible love through the postal system telling your friend why you admire her.
  • Recall a good memory: Find an old photo of you and your friend that will bring a smile to your faces, and text it to her with a little note of gratitude for the history you two share.
  • Refrain from giving advice: Most of the time, when we’re sharing, we just want validation and affirmation.  Advice can leave us feeling judged or defensive. When you do have time to share, make a point to respond to her in a way that leaves her feeling better about who she is and how she’s navigating her life.

Consistency:

  • Embrace texting: Even the shortest text exchange in between get-togethers reminds us gives us the sense of the other person being close. When you think of her— text her and tell her.
  • Schedule a regular time to catch-up: We feel far away from long-distance friends when so much time has passed in between conversations that we’re convinced it would take hours to catch-up. Instead, see if she’s up for scheduling a reoccurring 30 minute call every 1st Monday evening of the month, or every Sunday afternoon.
  • Prioritize the Slumber Parties: We don’t need as much consistency to maintain friendships as when we are building them, but it is still in time together that we can create new memories; so no matter how broke we are, or how busy we feel, we have to visit each other to protect and deepen the love we've already developed. These overnighters can be a game-changer for deepening that relationship.

    long distance friends

Vulnerability:

  • Get to the heart of the matter quickly: We may not talk to, or see, our long-distance friends as often so let’s not waste our time by asking all the typical update questions and risk us not sharing what really matters. Instead, suggest, “I know we don’t have a ton of time, but maybe we can each share one highlight and one lowlight since we’ve each see each other?” By leaving it open-ended, we give each person the chance to share in the life areas they want to, while inviting honesty.
  • Risk being an "inconvenience": We so often talk ourselves out of calling each other when we feel down because we don’t want to be a burden or intrude on their busy lives, but it’s only by calling and saying “I just needed a friend” that we will feel the benefit of having a good friend, give her the permission to call when she needs, and help bond the relationship deeper by letting her help.
  • Invite her "bragging": Part of vulnerability is sharing what we're proud of... this can be hard because none of us want to be seen as bragging.  So make it easier and ask her: "Share with me something you're really proud of these days?"

Just because there are miles between us doesn't mean that we can't keep developing these friendships.  In fact, because we've invested so much in each other at one time-- and have the benefit of already feeling close to each other-- we're smart to do everything we can to protect those investments!

What other ideas have you tried? What sounds meaningful to you?

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Help! I Have Too Many Friends

Dear Shasta, I'm completely overwhelmed when I look at my schedule. Most of my scheduled events, in and of themselves, aren't things I would typically dread: coffee with a possible client, a call with someone who wants some advice, dinner with some friends from my husbands work, a lunch with a friend who's in town, dinner with my brother, date night, a quick happy hour with some girls I work with, weekly Sunday call with my parents, meeting a good friend for a walk; but collectively it is TOO much!

Honestly, after working with people all day, trying to stay in intermittent touch with my family members, scheduling the people in my inbox who "want to connect," and keeping up with all the networking... I don't even have the energy or time to call the people I actually want to feel the closest to.

How do I shorten the list? How do I say no?

--Sincerely,

Too Many Friends

Dearest Too Many Friends,

Let's start with the reminder that "people we're friendly with" and "people we've developed friendships with" are two different categories of people. This might actually be a case not necessarily of too many friends, but perhaps of too much socializing?

In fact, you even said it: the biggest problem is that you don't have the time for your close friends.

We have to figure out a way to say no even to people we care about, like, and consider to be friends, in some way or another, so that we have the energy to say yes to the relationships that we know sustain us,

So here's what I think we need to do:

  1. List the relationships you want to prioritize. Who are the friends you want to talk to often so that you really feel supported and not just scheduled with intermittent "catch-ups." Who are the relationships (including kids, spouses, parents, siblings) that are important to you to stay in touch with?
  2. Group them together by ideal consistency. In other words, who are the names on the list that you want to connect with daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Keep in mind that the more consistent we are, the more "intimate" those relationships will feel as those are the people who will really know what's going on in your life.
  3. Schedule them in first. If you can find the consistent blocks of time--driving home from work, happy hour after work, lunch-- to give those people, do it! Or at least block that time off with "Call one of my closest friends."
  4. Then comes the really tricky part: figuring out what relationships/types of relationships you have time or energy to add in.  For me, I have a second list of friends who I love and want to stay in touch with but with whom I haven't developed the intimacy/consistency that I have with my first list. I also want to leave a few slots a month for networking contacts, and a few slots for doing favors for others (i.e. a phone call for a friend of a friend).  What other groups/types of relationships do you need to pay attention to? I think for us to actually look at our calendar/life and see how limited those spots are can help us be more strategic with who we give them to and how frequently we give someone one of those slots.  The truth of the matter is that whether we end up feeling like we have 1 extra slot a day to give, or only one each week: we need to know it and offer it strategically and thoughtfully.
  5. Think through your strategy for how to decide with whom you give your extra space/time. If you don't decide then it will end up being the squeaky wheel (i.e. whoever asks the most or will be the most upset if you say no) or simply first-come, first-served. Which puts other people in charge of our schedule instead of us.  Some possible questions could be: Does this person interest me? Am I clear what the objective is of why we're getting together? Do I think I can be helpful to them? Do I think they can be helpful to me? Can this be scheduled with ease (i.e. without me having to travel far?) Is this the best way to connect with this person (or can I meet them at some event I need to go? Or can it be an email instead of a get-together?)

And then comes the hard part of learning to kindly say no to everyone else.  Which we simply have to do. (Here's a blog post I wrote last year about How to Say 'Not Interested' Nicely)

Our time is finite with only so many slots and its our job to make sure that the relationships that matter most to us are the ones with whom we are making time.

The most important other piece I can say is a reminder that you can't use whether it feels "good" to determine whether or not to be honest with them.  For most of us, saying no to someone, or disappointing them, won't feel good. But neither will it feel good to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or unavailable for the people who fill us up the most!

I am the master, not the victim, of my schedule, my calendar, and my life. Shasta Nelson

This is maturity at it's best: women learning that they aren't victims of their calendar, but are in fact, in charge of them.  So we if we don't like how it looks then we have the power to do life differently.  But the calendar won't look any different until our behaviors reflect what we say matters most.

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The 4 Bonding Styles-- Which Is Yours?

Can you articulate what experiences you need to have with others to feel closer to them?  And did you know that while there are the 3 main requirements of all healthy relationships (consistency, positivity, and vulnerability, taught in Frientimacy), how we each judge our closeness to someone else will look different based, in part, on our temperament? With the December holidays often gathering us with friends and family, and the soon-following New Year that inspires us to prioritize our relationships in the year ahead; let's take a moment to look at how our temperaments can inform the bonding process.

By reminding ourselves how we're each wired differently we can better understand 1) how to increase our chances of feeling connected in our interactions 2)  and hopefully also to feel more aware that others might need something different.

In this group of 5 of us friends-- we have 3 of the 4 temperaments represented!

How Myers-Briggs Informs the Bonding Process

There are so many nuanced and amazing ways to better understand ourselves but since Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory (MBTI) is one of the most popular, I thought I'd use that one today to illustrate how we are each looking for something different in our interactions and relationships.

While there are 16 different types of people identified within the Myers-Briggs sorter, we all tend to fall under one of 4 major groups: the Artisans, the Guardians, the Idealists, and the Rationals.  With that said, we are all incredibly unique and might have elements of many, or all, of them.  What's most important is simply reminding ourselves to take a moment to assess what it takes for us to feel close to someone else AND to not assume that everyone else feels the same.  :)

(It's not imperative for you to know your type to identify with one the following four explanations, but if you'd like to take the inventory, I know there are multiple free assessments you can search for, and if you want to purchase from the official Myers-Briggs Foundation you can do so here.)

  1. The Artisans, or SP's:  Our fun-loving, optimistic, spontaneous, and creative Artisans (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they play together. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if there were fun things-to-do, game-playing, and lots of activity. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone they deem boring, or who doesn't share their interests or hobbies. The more they can play with someone or engage in a shared activity together-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  2. The Guardians, or SJ's: Our loyal, responsible, hard-working, thoughtful, and organized Guardians (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they support each other. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel everyone participated in a tradition, followed social or family etiquette by getting along, helped prepare for or plan the events, and basically showed priority to the value of being together. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel that person isn't "carrying their weight," or "living up to expectations." The more they feel needed and feel that others are playing their roles and contributing-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  3. The Idealists, or NF's: Our idealistic, romantic, deep-feeling, and passionate Idealists (roughly 10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel seen and understood. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel they had meaningful conversations, which included people expressing an interest in their lives, ideas, and feelings; and trusting them to share the same. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel like the conversations were "shallow" which happens if the conversations stayed on "updating" and "concrete" topics instead of on the sharing of lives and feelings. The more they feel expressed, seen for who they are, and affirmed-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  4. The Rationals, or NT's: Our pragmatic, skeptical, strategic, utilitarian, and autonomous Rationals (roughly 5-10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel intellectually stimulated. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they helped solve a problem, were asked for their opinion on something they deemed important, or participated in a rousing conversation that challenged them to think. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they don't feel like that person values, or is capable of, thinking for themselves, examining abstract subjects such as politics, economics, technology, or the exploration of how things work. The more they feel respected for their intellectual processing and the willingness of others to engage with them in their areas of interest-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.

Maximizing the Bonding Process

It is imperative that I understand what I most need in order to leave a gathering feeling more connected to those I love. When I can articulate what I need-- be it activities, traditions/support, heartfelt conversation, or sharing stimulating ideas-- I can be more thoughtful about how I might foster those moments.

But just as powerful as realizing that I need to take the initiative of getting my needs met is the realization that I will want to also be purposeful in engaging in the actions that will feel bonding to those I love and cherish.  That might mean:

  • Playing games or lacing up ice-skates with my Artisan... even if I am tempted to go clean the kitchen or don't feel very skilled at the activity, remembering that they will feel closer to me by building that memory.
  • Attending the family meal, dropping off a thoughtful gift, or showing up at the religious event with my Guardian... even if I don't find the event "meaningful" or would rather be playing than helping show support or giving in service, remembering I can love them by supporting the people, institutions, and ideals that they love.
  • Staying focused and asking follow-up questions with my Idealist... even if it feels awkward, remembering they feel valued by the interest that I show.
  • Asking what book my Rational is reading these days and exploring what they think about it.... even if the topic is "boring" to me, remembering that they feel respected when we share opinions and thoughts.

Our temptation might be to judge each others way of bonding as "shallow," "boring," "exhausting," or simply as "not me." But being in relationship with others calls us to be intentional about our needs and theirs.

May you end December feeling ever closer, and more connected, to those in your tribe.

xoxo

p.s.  Does this resonate? Is this helpful? In what ways might you apply this information to benefit your relationships?  :)

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The 7 Verbs for Better Sex, Works for Friendships, Too

To say that I am impressed with the work of the acclaimed "sex therapist"--Dr. Esther Perel-- would be an understatement. And seeing that she's a New York Times bestseller and viral Ted Talk presenter, I clearly am not alone in my esteem.  She is known for her research and work around sex, infidelity, marriage, and the difference between desire and love. Esther Perel

While I am constantly reminding all of us that we need to expand our understanding of the word intimacy to be about more than sex (we all need far more intimacy in our lives than any romantic relationship--or act within that relationship--can provide!), that's not to say that the principles of healthy romance can't inform healthy friendships!  Intimacy-- the act of being close and feeling bonded-- might look different in specifics with a romantic partner, but the general values are similar in any relationship.

Esther Perel's 7 Verbs for Better Relationships

Sitting in the audience of one of Esther Perel's talks this last Sunday night inspired me in many ways, but one idea I knew I had to share this week with all of you was her 7 verbs to healthier relationships.  Similar to how we might learn the same core verbs when learning a new language (e.g. to have, to want, to be), she offers up 7 verbs that she feels are core to sustained love.

Obviously in a sexual relationship, the verbs might be more specific to how you behave in the bedroom, but those same verbs can be incredibly powerful and convicting when we think about how we practice them in any realm of life, including our friendships.

When looking at these seven verbs, ask yourself: How comfortable am I at practicing this verb? How hard or easy are each of these actions for me?

  1. To Ask: What do we need? Do we ask for it? Instead of telling people what we don't want or being hurt when they don't meet our needs-- are we becoming more practiced with requesting what we want and need? This is so crucial-- I talk about it a lot in Frientimacy because so many friendships experience misunderstandings simply because we didn't ask for what would have felt good.What do you need to ask for from your friends?
  2. To Give: Are we generous? Do we enjoy bringing pleasure and joy to others? Can we give without strings attached? Do we notice opportunities for giving and then take them?  My guess is that most of us do this one pretty well-- at least most of us report that we feel like we're the "givers" in our friendships, but maybe an inquiry is whether we are doing it with joy and generosity? What do you need to give to yourself and/or your friendships?
  3. To Receive: Are we quick to receive what is given-- be it offers to help or compliments? Do we say thank you, instead of brushing the gifts away? Do we let others give to us without fear, score-keeping, or feelings of inferiority? Can we sit back and take in the generosity of others? Again, in Frientimacy I have a whole chapter talking about this because for those of us who feel like we give so much, the answer may not be that we need to give less, but that we need to receive more? Women, especially, find this one hard because we like how it feels to be the giver and we're afraid of having needs or being seen as narcissistic or arrogant. What do you need to receive from yourself and your friends?
  4. To Take:  Can we take what we need without needing to wait for others to grant us permission or offer it up? Are we empowered to identify what feels good and pursue it? I LOVE that this is a different verb than to "receive." For many of us, we need to say "yes" to help or "thank you" to an affirmation, but there are so many things we need to "take" that we can't wait for someone to offer.  Some of us need to take more days off, some of us need to take control of our work, some of us need to take the time to have a courageous conversation, and some of us need to take the initiative.  What do you need to take that would matter to you and/or your friendships?
  5. To Imagine:  We don't talk about this one much, but what do you need to imagine in your relationships? How comfortable are you at thinking outside the box? How willing are you to fantasize about what you could experience? How willing are you share your dreams and hopes with others?  Obviously in a sexual situation, to be able to share one's fantasies with a partner looks different from sharing our dreams, ideas, and hopes with a friend-- but they both take vulnerability as we risk sharing "bigger" and "more" with another.  Where do you need to imagine? What imaginations might want to be shared with another?
  6. To Share: hmmmm.... this is a powerful word, different still from giving and receiving, huh? Whether it's the picture of a child who is sharing a toy (not giving it away) or the idea of sitting on a couch and sharing stories with a friend, the idea of sharing is that we are doing something together, not just doing it beside each other as we each do our own thing. The dictionary defines it as "having portion of something with another." How well do you share with your friends? How does sharing look different from giving to you? What could you share that would feel bonding?
  7. To Refuse: Esther made the statement: "If you've never had the freedom to say no, then you've never had the permission to say yes." Wow, let that one soak in.  Are you comfortable saying no to your friends? Are you willing to refuse what doesn't feel good? We often feel like we have to always say yes "because they're my friend" but I actually teach the opposite: It should be with our friends that we can practice this verb most safely! We need to practice saying no and trust that our friends will trust us more when we say yes because we've proven we can say no. What do you need to practice refusing? Where do you need to say no?

Aren't those powerful? Which one is the one that is most difficult for you or the one you do the least often?  Which one do you need to practice more within your friendships?  Which one is calling out to you say "Pay attention to opportunities to act on this verb!"

Improving our friendships, and feeling greater intimacy, might not be doing "more" of what comes easiest to us, but it might be doing "more" of that which feels the most difficult?

As your muscles get more practiced at all seven of these verbs-- I hope primarily for more meaningful platonic friendships, but I would also be thrilled if it led to better sex, too.  May you develop greater intimacy in all the relationships you crave! xoxo

 

Amazing Moms Make Time for Friends

What memories do you have of your mom doing things with her friends?

Years ago, in a specific friendship workshop I used to lead, I would ask adult women to write down everything they could remember about their moms and the topic of friendship:

  • Who did she hang out with, that you remember? Did she have her own friends or was it more about getting together with other families?
  • Do you remember her going away for weekends with friends? If so, what did she say to you about those weekends away? Do you remember seeing photos?
  • Do you remember her going out for girls nights often? What would they go do? Who went with her?
  • Can you remember any advice or comments she ever made about friendships?  Hers? Or yours? Or just in general?

I was somewhat shocked the first couple of times when I gave that exercise as more women in the room, than not, would shake their heads, wrinkle their foreheads, and murmur something along the lines of, "I don't really remember my mom doing stuff with her friends," or "I'm sure she had friends, but I couldn't name any of them," or "She would talk to her sister a lot but that was about it."

At first I was alarmed that so many moms didn't have good friends, but the more I talked about it with other women, we started wondering if, in fact, the bigger issue was simply that the mothers tried to do friendships when their kids wouldn't notice.  In other words, were the moms more likely to hang out with their friends when the kids were in school or soccer practice, thinking it was best to spend time with their friends when it wouldn't "take away" time from their kids?

This week I sat in a cafe and wrote love notes for Mothers Day to a handful of my girlfriends who are mothers... I never want them to doubt how much I admire them as they raise incredible human beings!

It makes sense on some levels, doesn't it?  Whether it's guilt from not spending enough quality time with your kids, frustration from the spouse at having to parent on their own while you're off "playing," or crying from the kids who insist you're the only one who can put them to bed-- it can be hard to schedule time with friends in the evenings and weekends.

And yet... it's imperative that we do.  Our daughters, and sons, need to see how much friendships are valued. For their health and happiness, they need to see us put into action the values of being connected to others.  They need to be able to one day answer the question "What kind of friendships did your mom have?" with a list of memories and details.

Inspiring Ways Some Moms Still Prioritize Friendship

I want to shout-out to some of the amazing moms who I am lucky enough to call my friends, with hopes that perhaps one of the ideas inspires your own path to prioritizing friends:

  • For over 10 years, Sherilyn and I have talked on the phone every single Wednesday for almost an hour.  She has three kids who are frequently told, "You'll have to wait... I'm on the phone with Shasta" and she often has to say to me, "Will you hang on just a second?  Sorry."  She juggles all of us, no matter the ages of her kids over the years.  They will one day be able to say "My mom had a best friend she talked to all the time."
  • My friend Daneen, who at one point was the only mom in a weekly small group of us who got together every Tuesday evening, had two babies and both times showed back up for weekly girls night as soon as she could get them to take a bottle of her breast milk.  Was it stressful on her husband? Oh yes! But Tuesdays became Daddy and Daughter night and they figured it out.  Her daughters will definitely remember that mommy went out with friends often.
  • A few of my dearest far-flung friends-- Karen, J'Leen, Valerie, and Krista-- have had 6 kids (and added 2 step-kids) over the years and not a one of them has ever missed our annual girls weekend. Never once. That means they've missed a soccer game here-and-there, left Dad with sick kids, and had to pump up a storm before boarding the plane.  Their kids will long remember that their moms come back smiling and happy and excited for the next girls weekend.
  • One of my friends Kat is busy cooking her oldest son's favorite dishes every Sunday and planning awesome family vacations this year as she prepares for him to go off to college in the fall.  She knows her time with him is precious and she wants to soak up every second she can as a family.  And yet, not only does she drive over an hour to come into the city for a monthly women's group at my house, she also is going to turn it into a slumber party so she doesn't have to drive home so late. She won't be there for dinner or breakfast, but in her absence she's teaching them just how important friendship is.

I could go on and on.  My friends are kick-ass women who feel like there are never enough hours in the day to be the rock stars that they are in their careers, spend as much time with their husbands as they would ideally want, and be the kind of mom that their inner critic tells them they need to be.... but they don't let those become reasons to not keep up their friendships.

If you're reading those examples and thinking they're crazy-- then you haven't yet heard or absorbed just how important friendships are to your health.  All healthy relationships--including the ones with our parents, our spouses/romantic partners, and children-- add value to our lives. But it's primarily with our friends can we get the benefits of love without as much arguing about money, negotiating chores, scheduling their doctors appointments, or feeling like there is a never-ending to-do list attached with them.

But hopefully you're reading those and thinking "okay how can I start saying to my kids something like 'Just as you played with your friends at school today, now Mommy is going to go play with her friends because we all need good friends!'" Your kids will benefit, you will benefit, and your friends will benefit!

To all the mama's out there-- we love you and consider ourselves lucky to call you our friends! xoxo

 

Do you have a friend whose a mom that you want to give a shout-out or thank you to? Go for it!  We'll love her up with you!  What do you appreciate about her?  Or, if you're a mom-- share with us something you've done to prioritize friendships and let us give you virtual high fives!

2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

While these two steps won't fix every friendship, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn't feeling super meaningful. All too often we become increasingly frustrated or hurt by the actions of a friend-- albeit that she only calls us when it's convenient to her, that she talks too much, that she isn't vulnerable enough, or that she hangs out with a mutual friend and doesn't invite us.  In almost every friendship, there will be certain things that we believe could improve the depth of our friendships IF that one action were changed.  Certainly it's our responsibility to examine what meaning we assign that behavior, where that need comes from, and recognize it's our responsibility to get the need met as opposed to someone else's job to automatically know how to meet it... but there is also room in there for us to learn how to ask for what we need.

Having a need isn't the problem... we all have needs.  How we go about getting that need met can be what hurts us and our relationships.

In this video blog I share what I think should be the first two steps to having our needs met and I apply it to three different examples to help us see how we can apply these steps to our own friendships.

 

The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

Lunch with a friend? Yeah it was okay.... nothing amazing. Phone call with a friend? Glad we got that out-of-the-way for another 2 months....

Dinner with an out-of-town friend? Meh.

She's texting me to see when we can get together next?  hmmm.... three weeks from now is fine.

For many, the time with our friends isn't all that meaningful and amazing.  I mean it feels good to know we got together and caught up, but it's not like we're clearing our calendar in excitement for our next get-together.  We feel good about ourselves for keeping up with them, but it's hard to always be sure it's worth the extra money spent on drinks or the time away from ______ (the kids, the TV series you're currently bingeing, or the hot romance).

When the time together isn't super meaningful, it makes sense that we'd pull away a bit over time, let more time pass in between catch-ups, or not prioritize that friendship over everything that keeps us busy.

But for some of our friendships the answer may not be pulling away and spending less time with each other as much as it is to lean in and spend more time together.

For far too many of us, our friendships are caught in a vicious cycle of not spending enough time together to feel really meaningful. I call it the Constant Catch-Up Cycle.

This vicious Cycle is what happens when our time together is either too infrequent or too short to even get us across the line into really meaningful time together. It has less to do with her and more to do with the fact that the two of you aren't spending enough time together to get to that place where deeper conversations can happen.

Constant Catch Up Cycle

What is the Constant Catch-Up Cycle?

This Constant Catch-Up Cycle is what happens when we get together with friends and spend the whole time catching up (Read: updating and reporting) with each other since the last time we met, be it a month ago or a year ago. How are you? How's work going? How's your family? How's so-and-so? Are you dating? By the time we both give a cliff notes version to our lives, the check has come (or the commute is over so the phone call is too) and our time together is over, until next time.

What does feel good about this experience is that we can check that person off our list of people we need to "catch up with" and we feel accomplished in some way that we've now fulfilled a friendship responsibility.  Furthermore, and this is no small thing, it does keep us in touch which helps us feel like we're a wee bit closer to each other if we, or they, ever needed it.

Unfortunately, what doesn't feel good about this all-too-common experience is that these drive-by catch-ups rarely touch our hearts or enhance our lives.  Chances are high that we drove home, or got off the phone, and felt relief, but not necessarily love and joy.  It's more likely we alleviated some guilt than found ourselves excited to repeat it again. In other words, while they may now know how we feel about our job and we may know how their kids are doing, there are many things we simply can't experience when the time is too infrequent or too rushed.

The Price of Catching Up

Getting caught up in the Constant Catch-Up Cycle means that every time we're together we're focused on what has happened in our lives, which means that there are many feelings, topics, and experiences (usually all the ones we most crave!) that aren't as likely to happen.

Here are some of the things we often sacrifice when our time is limited or infrequent:

  • Pursuing the Transcendental and Philosophical Themes: We probably don't take the time to meander into topics like fears, ideas, politics, injustice, creative process, or personal growth since those don't come up in the first three questions we ask and answer. And even if we did mention them as part of an update... when was the last time we got into a long conversation where we both were sharing, prodding, growing, and learning?
  • Sharing the Unspoken Vulnerabilities: We are less likely to share our secret worries or dreams because we tend to stay on what's concrete and has happened, rather than on what really matters and what might happen. And the shorter our time together is, the less willing we will be to open something that feels big to us. We may have withheld something that is unfolding in our lives because we reasoned that it would take too long to catch them up on the back story.
  • The Opportunity for New Memories: We rarely create new memories together or have genuine fun together when we're "just grabbing a meal" or "calling real quick."  When was the last time we actually did something together that felt fulfilling, fun, and something to put in the memory bank?
  • The Feeling of Being in the Flow: We may not have been present enough to be ready to laugh, to pause, or to feel whatever needed to be felt since those things so often come from the part of us that is present, relaxed and open, not the part of us that is multi-tasking, rushed, and thinking about where we have to be next. When was the last time we were together without needing to do something or be somewhere afterward? When were we just sitting back ready to let our time together unfold and flow?
  • The Probability of Feeling Relaxed and Easy: If we don't see each other often then we have to spend our time "catching up" instead of watching movies, relaxing together, or just hanging out in each others homes. If we haven't talked in a while then it feels weird to call for 10 minutes while we're making dinner to ask her what she's cooking tonight. The more rare our time together is the less likely it is to feel like we're doing life together in a relaxed and easy manner. Sometimes talking about "nothing" is a hallmark of intimate type of friendship.

Chances are high that when most of us crave more meaningful friendships-- that it includes some of the things on that list above? I rarely am thinking, "Wow I wish I had someone to just call and update!" Instead, we're pining for laughter, long and deep conversations about life, the feeling of safety and ease, the relaxed feeling that spaciousness and intimacy creates.

The Invitation to Move Beyond Catching Up

I call this tendency a Cycle because just as it can be true that the less we see each other, the less meaningful our time together will often feel, which then reinforces the infrequency; so too is the opposite: the more consistent we are or the more we allow longer periods of time with those friends-- the more meaningful those friendships can often feel.  All it takes is one amazing long evening of laughter and authentic sharing and we'll be more excited to schedule it into our lives with a "yes please! I want more of that!"

We obviously can't do deep and consistent time with every friend in our lives, but we most certainly need it with a few.  Which friendship in your life isn't feeling super meaningful right now because you two are caught up in the Constant Catch-Up Cycle? And what might you do to increase the odds of the two of you getting past the "catch-up" so you can actually move into the enjoying of this friendship?

Grateful My Friends Have Other Friends

In late September, before I left for a vacation with my husband, I was caught up with all most closest friends and family and bid them goodbye.  While I was going to be on Facebook a bit and try to scan my emails occasionally, I was planning to be off-the-grid as much as possible.  I said farewell and off we went on our dream trip to Greece. Cue forward three weeks and I felt like I came home to a rapidly changed world!

One of my closest friends, who was scheduled for a c-section the week after I

my friends has other friends

was to get home ended up having her baby two weeks before I returned.  Not only was I not at the hospital with her as planned, but I wasn't even in the country.  Others surrounded her, organizing meal drop-offs, helping babysit her other daughter, and cheering her up with love. All I could do was send an email of congratulations from afar... I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had built an entire community of friends who could love her well in my absence.

Another close friend, in the span of those three weeks, was so inspired by a friends detox program that she ended up not only starting the 21-day process herself, but already had other friends paying her to do their shopping, chopping, and cooking so they could join her in the cleanse. She and I are friends who tell each other everything in our weekly calls, but in missing 3 weeks-- I wasn't there to bounce ideas off of, cheer lead for her courage, or help think through pricing and possibilities. This diet wasn't even on her radar when I left; when I returned she had the beginnings of a business! I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had other friends who not only supported her in that entire launch, but who first gave her the idea, and some who became her first clients.

A similar thing happened with my sister who had a job opportunity come up, interviewed, got it, turned in her two-week notice, and started a new job, all in the span of my vacation! Again, prayer of thanks that she has an awesome community around her who helped validate and cheer her on along the way.

My life felt like it was placed on pause while I went off on a much-anticipated vacation, but there was no stopping the lives of everyone I loved while I was gone. All I could do was come home and give them my time on the phone to catch me up on everything that had happened in their beautiful lives: new babies, new vision, and new jobs! (What relief that it was all good stuff and not any crisis's!)

Our Friends Deserve All The Love They Can Get

I hear from many women who feel threatened if their friends make other close friends. Their egos get wounded because they interpret that interest in more friends as though it means that they are inadequate.  And that can't be further from the truth.

The truth is, that when our friends make other good friends, it means our friends are healthy!  It means our friends know the value of community and know what it takes to foster love in lots of different places.  If we love our friends-- we will want others to love them, too.

All I did was go on a vacation. But it limited me from being "there" for my friends. All of us will have times in our lives where we can't be as available-- busy work periods, parents who need us, kids who are going through a rough patch, wedding planning that consumes our attention, having a baby that puts us out of commission for a bit, or going through a health challenge that leaves us without energy. There are any number of things in life that can constrain us from being the kind of friend we ideally would want to be; and many of them are to no fault of our own.

Our friends deserve having as many friendships as they can foster. They are better off with it.  And so are we.

We're better off with them having other friends? Absolutely!

  1. Less pressure and obligation: They don't lean on us too much, expecting us to be and do everything.
  2. More meaningful time together: They're typically happier and more centered with more friends so our time with them will feel more energetic and positive.
  3. More fun and opportunity: We will get to meet their friends at some events and possibly get exposed to more people we already know are wonderful (because our friend has chosen them!)

It's Our Responsibility

If we're feeling jealous, it's not her fault.  It's our responsibility to make sure that we are initiating time with her and making the most of the time we have together.

If we feel resentful that she isn't meeting all our needs, it's not her job to do so, but rather our responsibility to surround ourselves with a circle of love.

We need to foster additional friendships, too; not to replace her (and maybe not even ones we'll enjoy as much as with her!) but to feed other parts of our lives and to ensure that we have our own support system of meaningful friendships.

We all -- us and our friends -- need as much love as we can handle!  :)

Leave a comment: What other perks have you experienced in your friend having other friends?  Or... what has made this especially hard for you?

Top 11 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2014

I typically round-up my top 10 articles, but this year there was a tie between two of them so it's my top 11! Thanks for being a part of this community as a woman who is committed to being a healthy friend in this world! It's been an honor. For all of you who joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, or just want to re-read some of the goodies to see if they speak to you where you are now,  here are the 11 most read, popular blog posts from the last year:

1.   The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships. Here are the five most common beliefs that are damaging you and your friendships.

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

In this post I share with you several of the Circles that I have participated in-- each one feeding different parts of my life-- so that you can see how those groups got started, what happens at each of them, and which ones you might crave inviting into your life!

3. The Problem: My Friend Doesn’t Ask Me About My Life!

If you have relationships where you feel like you’re always the one doing most of the listening and question-asking, I challenge you today to consider how you’ve contributed to that imbalance and what you can do to show up in a way that builds the relationship and better supports you.

4.  How to Not Feel Judged

While it was my high school reunion that prompted me to worry about being judged, the way I showed up differently this time may be of service to you in any setting where you are prone to feel insecure, unaccepted or judged.

5. Men Really Need Intimate Friendships, Too

Are men's and women's friendships all that different?  And if they are, is it because they're hard-wired to be different or is that cultural influences shape them differently?  This article showcases some fabulous research that you'll want to share with the boys and men in your lives!

6.  Do You Feel Like People Pull Away From You?

Some of us might have intense personalities-- lots of energy, words, and enthusiasm that can sometimes overwhelm others.  We are who we are so it's not about changing us or saying that there is anything wrong with us... but we do have to learn how to use our energy in meaningful, helpful, and mature ways!

7.  5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend There are few things more bonding than time away with friends that extend beyond a dinner or an afternoon together.  Throw in an overnight experience and the bond factor goes waaay up!  Here are practical tips for planning and inviting women in your life to an adult slumber party.

8. We’re giving the wrong advice for “toxic” friendships!

Friendship experts commonly encourage you to get rid of any friendships that are toxic, stressful, or negative.  I have a caveat that I want to add to that!  This article shows why we can't simply get rid of people we have called friends without trying to improve the relationship first.

9. Quiz:  Am I a Good Friend?

We put a lot of focus on what we'd like to fix or improve in how our friends treat us, and here's a good quiz for helping us hold up the mirror in our own lives to see where we might be able to practice being a better friend!

10.  5 Types of Vulnerability: It’s Way More than Skeletons in Your Closet!

What is vulnerability?  We all hear this buzz word all the time but often mistakenly think it means we have to get better at sharing our shameful secrets with people... This blog post covers 5 different types of vulnerability that will help deepen any relationship as you practice them more regularly!

11.  The Myth that Keeps You Lonely

When we’re feeling that little nagging angst of loneliness– it’s for her that we want.  It’s for the fantasy best friend that we know would be the Thelma to our Louise, the fork to our spoon, the laughter to our jokes.  She would be the finisher of our sentences, the reader of our minds, and the affirmer of our hearts.  Our time together would be effortless, easy, safe, and comfortable.  But then we meet a whole bunch of candidates who aren’t quite good enough to fit our BFF opening so we quietly reject them and keep looking, albeit somewhat disillusioned. This post will help you see the pattern that might be preventing you from feeling more connected!

With gratitude for a year where we all grew in our maturity and loved more deeply,

Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite!

p.s.s  Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

3 Ways to Increase Meaningful Connection this Holiday Season

The caricature of women during the holiday season is one of a frazzled, exhausted, pressure-filled, and over-extended woman.   I'm not entirely sure how true that is anymore? I'm holding out hope that we're getting better at picking the events that matter, saying no to credit card debt, and letting go of the belief that we have to send cards and throw a party and hide the elf every night and make homemade cookies and buy everyone a present. I'm hoping... But even if we're not frazzled from over-commitment, it's far too easy to let the holidays whiz by without really sinking in to meaningful moments.

Here are three ways to help increase your sense of connection this holiday season:

1)  Initiate Meaningful Sharing. Far more important than scheduling time to be with family and friends is then making sure that real sharing happens.  I do this most often by saying, "Let's all share one high-light from this month (or week) so far and one low-light." (read my post about that favorite sharing question here) to ensure that everyone gets to share about the subjects of their choosing and to help keep the conversation real.

But another idea that's especially good for groups of people not used to sharing is to put a bunch of meaningful questions in a jar and during dinner announce that tonight we'll each draw a question to answer.  This extends the meal time and keeps everyone laughing and connecting longer.  I'm keeping a jar on my table all month-long for everyone who comes over!

It doesn't have to be fancy-- just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

Questions could include:

  • What is one thing that surprised you in a good way, an unexpected gift, that you’re grateful happened?
  • What is one thing that you’re really, really, really proud of from this last year… something that matters to you that we can celebrate with you.
  • What’s an area of your life (i.e. work, health, hobbies, relationship) that has been really energizing and fulfilling for you. What contributes to that feeling?
  • What is one thing happening in your life right now that gives you hope?
  • If you had to give the last year a name/chapter title—what might it be and why?
  • What are three unique (not the typical “God/Family/Health) things in your life that you’re really grateful for?

A little note on this before I go onto the next idea.  It's common to feel a little weird doing this and that's okay.  I just tell myself that making sure everyone leaves feeling seen and heard matters way more to me than whether it will feel normal, comfortable or easy on me, or anyone else.  I used to try to guess whether a certain family member would think it was stupid or whether so-and-so would actually share-- I've been doing this long enough now to conclude that most people prefer meaningful conversation to small talk, everyone wants to be seen, and that it's a gift to all of us to have some structure that provides permission and expectation to share.  Courage to you!

2)  Choose One Person You Miss.  Ask yourself who you miss having more regularly in your life and commit to connecting with them this month.  It could be a far-away friend whom you decide you will Skype or call with... no matter what.  It could be someone locally that you just haven't seen enough of recently whom you call and say, "You are my priority this month.  My month won't be complete without being with you.. so name the time and place and I'll come to you... I want to spend time with you."  Or, it could be an aging family member, someone you've drifted apart from, or maybe even somebody where there has been some tension between the two of you.  The point is to just pick one person who pops into your head and find a way to really connect.

The gift of this is that everything else on your list will feel urgent, with a time-stamp to it, but that doesn't mean they are all things we'd list as "most important"; whereas this connection isn't urgent at all (the reason you've let it slide until now) but you're claiming it's importance and choosing to make it urgent.  You're deciding that it is indeed urgent to make sure that this season has a deeper connection as part of your celebration. Initiate today... and be completely committed to finding the time to catch up and affirm and love on one person you miss.

 3) Pick Presence for One Event.  In an ideal world, we'd be truly present to every single event-- decorating ginger-bread houses, the kids choir concert, shopping with your mom, signing the Christmas cards-- but the truth is that many "fun" things don't capture 100% of our attention.  So let's not claim we can do it all season, but let's intentionally pick one that matters.  Look at your calendar and say, "For this event... I am going to soak it up!" And then really be as present as you can be: choose to find the magic, watch their faces, add music, dance and laugh, pause and breathe deep, communicate your love, receive everything available to you in those moments.

In this exercise we're not worrying about updating our social media pages, we're not hurrying everyone along, we're not more focused on the logistics than the people, and we're not quick to temper.  Quite the opposite, we are cherishing as much as we can, holding gratitude, inhaling deeply, and smiling.  When we get to January-- we want to look back and remember that we were there at that event.

In choosing to do these two of these three things, we're not really adding more time to our month-- we're simply infusing the things we're already doing with meaning.  We are making sure that for as intentional as we are about getting through our list of tasks that we're also making sure that we're intentional about the outcome of those tasks.  For what's the point of filling up the calendar if not to also fill up our hearts?

May the month hold meaning for you,

Shasta

p.s.  What are other ideas you have?  Share them here and inspire others!  What are you doing to help add meaning? To make sure you feel connected?

Choose Friends. Make Time. Repeat.

We've all heard the stories of people on their death-beds saying things like, "I wish I had made more time for my family and friends," or "I wish I had played more, not taken it all so seriously."  We pass around inspirational blog posts on Facebook of experienced mothers saying things such as, "I wish I had worried far less about keeping the house clean and far more about playing," and from the wise women who reach the maturity to be able to say, "I wish I had eaten more ice cream with friends instead of forever trying to lose those stubborn 5 lbs. What a waste of energy my entire life!" We hear the wisdom.  And we resonate.  We know deep down that it is truth.  But knowing 1468613_10151969864577435_82284094_nsomething and having it change the way we live our lives are two very different things.

It's past time, my GirlFriends, that we choose friendship even when it feels inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming.  Even when we think we prefer sitting on the couch.  Even when we think we don't have the money to visit her.  Even when we think we don't have the time to call.

It's time to choose friendship in higher doses.  It's the medicine our bodies and souls are dying without.  It's the cure to that which ails us.  It's the love that will remind us how connected and supported we are.  It's the peace that comes with knowing we are not alone.  It's the safety net that will protect us when the storms come... and they always do.

What Could Choosing Friendship Look Like?

Choosing friendship means not missing the weddings, the birthdays, the big moments. We do whatever we can to be there even if it means buying a cheaper used car, forgoing a shopping trip, or putting off the new dishwasher.

Choosing friendship means we get on a plane and go see her.  Just because you miss her.  Even if the plane ticket goes on the credit card. We put far less important things on there and the investment is well worth it.

Choosing friendship means we tell our spouses, our kids, and our bosses that our annual girls weekend away is a non-negotiable.  We are going.  Every year. We don't ask if we can afford it this year, have the time, or if it's convenient on everyone else-- we say yes and figure it out. That's how we roll; that's what we do.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to a spontaneous invitation.  Or better yet, being the one to give a spontaneous invitation! I made a pot of soup-- can you come over tonight?

Choosing friendship means not allowing "tired" to be an excuse (the only exception is if you really will sleep during that exact time!) as whatever else we go home and do instead won't make us less tired, but it will make us less connected.

Choosing friendship means buying a random card at the grocery store, writing a few lines of love, and mailing it out to someone who pops into your heart. $4 and 10 minutes is always worth it.  Always.

Choosing friendship means initiating with new friends.  Even when the time together isn't yet as easy, meaningful and intimate as you would like it to be.  You initiate in faith that some of them will one day be your best friends. Much like we work out not because we see the difference in each work-out, but because we know we will over the long run.

Choosing friendship means telling your kids, "Just like you played with your friends today, it's time for mommy to go play with hers" even when they beg for you to stay home.  (And the more regular you are with going out, the easier it will be on everyone else!)

Choosing friendship means not letting your pouting lover dissuade you from going out... but saying, "I can't wait to come home... but I know if I want meaningful friendships that they require time together.  Thank you for supporting that!" And then kiss him/her on the mouth so hard that they recall just how much you love them... and then walk away for a few hours with women who will love you in different ways.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to more sleep-overs, more weekends away, more dinners around your table with friends, more evenings out, and more hours spent in conversation.

Choosing Friendship From a Place of Love and Hope

Yes we need boundaries,

yes we need to listen to our bodies,

yes we need to say no more often to some things,

yes we need to take our temperaments into consideration,

yes we are busy,

yes we don't want to rack up credit card bills,

yes we have more meaningful relationships to consider besides our friends...

yes, there are always ifs, and's, & but's....  

This isn't a post about draining yourself more and giving more when it feels yucky... no, this is a post about saying yes to people who have the highest likelihood of loving you in meaningful ways.

This is a post that reminds us that if we want to feel known, then we want to say yes to more conversation.  That if we want to feel supported, then we want to say yes to more vulnerability. That if we want to feel joy, then we want to say yes to more moments that make memories.  That if we want to feel connected, then we must fly, call, and talk more.  That if we want good friendships then we will want to invest whatever we can today knowing it will come back to us in fabulous ways.

It is all so very easy to get used to the routine, the slow drain on our lives, the ongoing stress of our finances, the burden of everyone needing more of us... but that is not the way we choose to live.  We want more.  WAY more love and laughter and connection and joy.  Way more!

And you, and only you, can choose to say, "I will not let a year pass without us getting together.  I will not let this week pass without meeting a friend after work.  I will not let this evening pass without calling a friend and telling her that I miss her."

We do it not from guilt, but from love.  From the whisper of our future self saying to us now, "You won't regret having more love and connection in your life.  Do it.  Say yes."  We do it because we know this is what we value and how we want to structure our lives.

We will probably feel busy, tired, and broke whether we reach out or not... at least if we don't use those as excuses to not then we will at least have the friendships in our lives that energize us and protect us from the effects of the stress!

Choose Friends.  Make Time. Repeat.

Always in love,

Shasta

Leave a comment:  what excuse do you most consistently use to not spend more time with friends?  What would it take to not see that excuse as a limitation or justified reason to not pursue more love? Are you willing to consider that you might feel that way no matter whether you do or don't spend more time with friends but that one option might leave you with more love and joy, too?

 

Time to Plan an Adult Sleep-Over with Friends!

The power of sleep-overs is something we don't think much about as adults, or do all that frequently.  But we should.  There are still few experiences that can accelerate our intimacy and deepen our hearts as having un-rushed time together that includes talking until ready for bed and waking up in the same place together. Visiting Friends

Traveling to New York City-- a trip I seem to make at least twice a year-- has become so much more fun since one of my girlfriends from San Francisco moved there a couple of years back.  I see her far less frequently now that we're not getting together once a month for dinner on the west coast, but the time we spend together living in the same place for a few days in NYC is bonding us in ways that few of my friendships get to experience.

When I was back there two weeks ago I couldn't help but observe just how much intimacy these sleep-overs have added to our relationship: making coffee together in our pajamas in the mornings, debriefing our days with each other in the evening, making plans for dinner with her hubby and her cousin on Saturday night, being at home with her when her new dining room table arrived, and getting a feel for their rhythm and schedule.

A few days together did for our relationship what would have taken years of dinners and phone calls to get to.  There's something so magical about staying up late talking, spending time in someone else's life and home, and having a few days together to get past all the updates and still have time to just talk about other things.

Planning Friendship Get-Aways

I experience this same magic every spring during my annual girlfriend weekend with four of my friends who are committed to us meeting up somewhere every year.

This is my dream-- not having to shower to meet up but simply waking up together and all walking to a coffee shop to start our day together.

Although in this case we're not typically staying in each others homes, which means we miss out on seeing each other in normal day-to-day life a bit more, the upside is that we're all stepping out of our lives and making the weekend together entirely about talking and connecting which deepens our relationships in ways that a hundred phone calls couldn't compete with.  It's a bit more like a slumber party in all the best ways.  (And since all these women are mothers of young children, it's even more amazing to me that they all commit to step away for a weekend every single year!)

We don't necessarily do each others hair like we might do if we were teenagers and we don't make movies and boys the focus of our time together anymore, but we still laugh, get silly, tell secrets, and fill each other up with love.

Local Slumber Parties

For many, I find that slumber parties and sleep-overs seem to happen primarily with only one circle of friendships:  the confirmed circle, the friends we used to be close to but no longer live nearby.  Like my two previous examples it's either because she lives where I'm visiting or because we've all planned to meet up somewhere together, but these aren't friends who live in San Francisco.

But one thing I've really been enjoying lately is thinking more about sleep-overs with people who live nearby.

When we were kids it was exactly those people-- our closest friends, even if they just lived next door to us-- that we'd beg to have stay the night with us. It was rarely because they needed to spend the night, but more because we wanted extra time with each other.

One of the coolest nights happened earlier this year when one of my husbands best friends invited us to come spend the night at their home only 30 minutes away.

We typically just drive home after dinner, but they begged us to bring our pajamas and spend the night, and even though we had to leave in the morning right after breakfast, I assure you that the time together was several times more bonding than had we left the night before.

I also experience this magic every time my step-daughter asks us if she can spend the night with us when her husband occasionally leaves town.  We're lucky that they're local and we get to see them regularly, but it's an extra treat when she comes and stays the night with us-- the slower conversations, the watching of TV together, the embracing of her into our daily routine is fun in a way that just having them over for dinner cannot replicate.

Whether it's spending the night in normal life or leaving normal life to spend the night with each other-- they are both bonding in ways that can't easily be duplicated by regular get-togethers.  All the 2-4 hour scheduled dinners in the world can't replicate the experience of unrushed time and casual lounging around that sleep-overs afford.

(A few adult slumber party resources for you from other bloggers if you're up for planning a really intentional one:  5 reasons to host a slumber party, ideas for hosting, and fun ideas on pinterest)

Your Invitation

I challenge you to think of someone in your life who you might consider initiating a sleep-over!

  • Maybe it's someone who lives far away and you just want to call and say "Hey, either I should come to you or you should come to me-- but let's get a weekend on the calendar!"
  • Or maybe, it's two to three local friends who have all been getting to know each other better and you're ready to help deepen the bond by saying, "Hey maybe we should all try to find a weekend where we can have a sleepover together, like when we were kids!"
  • Or maybe, it's just skipping the hotel on one of your trips to see if a friend is up for hosting you, or calling a friend you know who travels near you and saying, "Hey next time you're in town, you are so welcome to my place! I know it's not as comfy as a hotel, but it might be more fun!"

We talked about vulnerability in a recent blog and this is an example of the "practicing new ways of spending time together" option.  It will feel a little awkward and it will require a little initiation... but trust me, when it comes to making you feel closer to someone, there are few experiences that can deepen your friendship than the gift of a night under the same roof!

LEAVE COMMENTS: Do you have friends spend the night? Share with us your ideas, how it helps your friendships, etc.! Never done a slumber party?  What's holding you back? Did this inspire you?  Will you accept my invitation/challenge?  :)

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Come to an already planned slumber party!  :) We are guaranteeing spots to everyone who registers by Nov. 1 for the New Years Retreat that I'm hosting in Northern California this January 2-4, 2015.  This weekend away might be a perfect excuse to call a friend and see if she wants to join you for a slumber party!  You can read all about the retreat by requesting the invitation here.  We already have women in their 20's and 60's signed up to be there-- so all ages are welcome!  It's going to be a super special weekend of celebrating/honoring the past year while preparing for the upcoming year with excitement and anticipation!

Reveal 2015

Comfy lodging, healthy and nourishing food, walks in beautiful nature, jacuzzi under the stars, retreat activities led by me, new friends, tons of laughter, and lots of time to hear your own heart whisper-- if that's your cup of tea, I so hope you do whatever you can to be with us!

NOTE: The retreat was initially designed for two friends to come together, but due to several requests, we're also opening it up for women to come alone and we'll match you up with other women who are coming alone so that you can all meet, share, and have someone witness your journey when appropriate!  So come as a pair of friends, or come and meet new friends-- but if you value reflection, listening to your own heart, connecting with other women, and rejuvenating your spirit-- then know that you are welcome at our slumber party!  RSVP by Nov. 1!

 

 

 

Not Enough Time for Friends? Awesome Examples of Structuring Life Around Relationships

When I ask women what one thing they wish they could change about their friendships-- the number one answer is along the lines of wishing their friends made more time for them. We're weary by how we have to schedule each other 3-weeks out, initiate a dozen emails back-and-forth, and wonder if we're a priority to the other person.

We live in a time-crunched culture where everyone believes that time is scarce and many a friendship is falling victim to a lack of time together.  We aren't just sitting on front porches, sipping iced tea late into the evening, talking about life, and watching our kids play in the quiet tree-lined streets together.

So in a world where many women are putting relationships on the back-burner, I want to hold up three of my friends who are making amazing decisions to structure their lives around their friends. May they inspire all of us to not just do what is easy, but to do what is important to us.

Willing to Schedule Time FOR Friendship

My girlfriend, Sherilyn, and I try to talk on the phone at least once a week, often for up to an hour at a time. That is impressive considering I do it in the middle of my work day, between writing, giving interviews, and running my company; and that she's doing it with

Sherilyn and me together earlier this summer in Seattle on one of her get-away's with friends. xoxo

three kids running around and begging for attention.  But we set aside the time, knowing that if we want to feel close to each other and really know what's going on in each others hearts that it's easier to do that on a regular basis than an irregular basis.

But last week she upped the ante and impressed me even more in proving just how important friendships are to her.

She's been gone this summer a bit more than normal, including at least two trips to spend time with friends, so when the husband of one of her close friends called to see if she could fly out for his wife's birthday over Labor Day weekend, she was tempted to say no.  And none of us would have faulted her: her husband has gone above and beyond this summer watching the kids so she could take off at various times, her kids start school the day after she would get back so she'll miss much of the school prep, and her schedule is nuts between now and then.  Had she said no, we would have supported her for not over-extending herself.

But she and her husband have a habit of separately thinking and praying about something for a period of time before making a big decision so they decided to convene in 24 hours to decide.  Both of them showed up in that conversation on the same page, with her husband articulating, "Life is about relationships... if there is anything we should be structuring our life around it is for this. Go be with your friends."

Wow.  So he's watching the kids one more weekend, and she's practicing not feeling guilty, trusting that she's making time for what they feel matters the most in life.  Most of us would have simply said no because we're busy and tired without even stopping to think about whether it supports our values or not.

Willing to Commit Finances FOR Friendship

Another one of my friends, Ayesha, announced two years ago to a monthly group of us that gets together to support each other, that her husband was taking a job in New York City.  But because her friendship meant so much to us she said she was going to keep flying out once a month to spend that evening with us.

Here I am with Ms. Ayesha in CA where I am so grateful that she still comes back frequently to be with her friends.

Buying a place in New York City isn't cheap and as they've been trying to get more established in their new city it would have made sense to say "this monthly expense of flying back-and-forth is too costly."  Indeed it has a pretty expensive price tag on it.

But she knows that if these are friendships that are important to her to maintain face-to-face then she will have to invest in them.

We can't all afford to do that, but what she's showcasing is amazing.  What she invites us to look at in our own budgets is how sometimes it costs us something to maintain the friendship; and that a price tag isn't bad if you're getting meaningful connection on the other side of it.

Willing to Move FOR Friendship

When one of my best friends, Daneen, texted me in June to let me know that she and her husband were thinking about moving away from San Francisco, my heart just fell.  We all know how hard it can feel to finally develop meaningful friendships so the idea of losing a little bit of that time together was tough to swallow.

And yet... I was so immensely proud of her because her reason for moving was to go back to a community where she feels like she belongs.  She and her husband met in college in this community, where his family lives and where they still have many friends.

A few days ago, Daneen, (in the middle) drove over an hour from her her new home to come into the City to spend an evening with me and Vania!

Since having a child, San Francisco has felt like a hard place to have community that both includes children and spirituality.  (Her story in her words.) While there is much they love here, they are moving away to a place where they hope to have more families over for dinner and more engagement in a church community. It's a small community so they're likely to run into people they know at the grocery store and can walk down the street to connect with neighbors.

In a world where people move frequently for jobs, more money, or for love--leaving friendships to chance; (Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post called 5 Things to Consider Before Moving Away From Friends) I find it amazingly inspiring to move for friendships, and trusting that they can find the other pieces.  All too often we leave a place, walking away from friendships, forgetting that it will take years before we can build those up again. And while she's moving away from me and a few others; she's leaning into a place where her life will be far more established around the community she craves. She is willing to plant herself where she believes her opportunities for meaningful friendship will increase.

What Am I Willing to Invest?

I hesitate to tell the stories because I don't want anyone feeling any guilt, whatsoever; but I choose to tell them because I think there's an inspirational element to them, also.

We are so often modeled by others that friendships come-and-go, that they are the first thing to let go of when life gets busy, or that they are only important when it's convenient.  So I think it's important for us to hear stories of what other women are doing, what they're willing to invest, what they're willing to do to maintain their friendships.  It's important for us to know that it's not crazy to make choices in favor of friendship. It invites us to ponder, "Maybe I do have one evening a week to go out with friends" or "Maybe I could commit to one hour a week to talk to one of my best friends."

Time isn't necessarily scarce; we just have to prioritize what we believe is worth structuring our lives around during the time that we do have.

--------------------------

Starting in 3 weeks!  "The Friendships You've Always Wanted! Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends!"*

Friendships Wanted banner-01One way to practice committing more time to our friendships is to choose friendship as your priority this September for International Women's Friendship Month!

Here I am with the wealth of books I selected to feature in this month's "The Friendships You've Always Wanted!" friendship course!

I really hope you'll consider joining us for this 21-day class filled with up to 13 expert interviews where we will all make a commitment for one month to focus on increasing the frientimacy (friendship intimacy with other women) in our lives!

With our workbook and lots of inspiring interviews-- we will find ways to 1) make more female friends and 2) do so in such a way that we are structuring our lives around them in a way that feels good to us!  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

* Sign up early and we'll send you a free copy of my book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!"

Quiz: Am I a Good Friend?

Apparently Everything Can Be Blamed on Your Friends It's all the rage right now to be asking whether your friends are good enough to be friends with you.  Blogger after blogger seems obsessed with encouraging you to do a spring cleaning of your friends as if it's their fault for why you can't lose weight, earn more money, or become more enlightened. "You don't have the right friends!" they cry out from their self-help havens.

This whole concept that we are the sum of who we hang out with has been dumbed-down and grossly abused so much that we're starting to believe that all we need to do is hang out with beautiful, skinny, wealthy, and successful people and we, too, will start to look and act like them. And so it's one more lie out there encouraging already-disconnected and far-too-lonely-of-women to end relationships with hopes that if they could just find Ms. Perfect to befriend us, then we, too, can become more like her.

My dear, dear friends-- I know it's tempting to have someone to blame for the parts of your life that you don't like, but let me gently suggest that while we are certainly impacted by our friends, they are not the reason you are not as happy as you want to be. And there is a better question to ask than: "Are my friends bad for me?"

How Our Friendships Do Impact Us

Our friendships do certainly influence us, and we know that behaviors, mindsets, and outlooks are "contagious" in a sense.  We are more likely to be similar to our friends (i.e. smoke if they do, be fashion-conscious if they are, wear plus-sizes if they do, talk about spirituality if they do, work long hours if they do) than vastly different, but that's not the same as saying you will become like them, against your will.

I'm all for joining a weight-loss community when that's your goal, attending church with other like-minded people when you want to grow more aware, or participating in a mastermind group when you want to increase your business-savvy-mindedness.  I cheer for you as you add friends into your life who can help you think bigger thoughts, expose you to new resources, and who can empathize with your experience.

But to seek more Common Friends to inspire one part of your life is a far-different invitation than to "get rid" of friends you've loved simply because they aren't everything you want to become.

This isn't about not ending painful relationships or not seeking out support in areas of our lives that we feel called to pay attention to... I'm all for both of those.  But to suggest to you that you need to end relationships with people you love because they aren't perfect or because you might not succeed if they have bad habits is just plan ol' fear-mongering. Who among us doesn't have a bad habit?  Who among us has all-desirable traits without any un-desirable traits?  And who says that they will pull us down... why can't we lift them up? And can we focus on our growth rather than keep pointing a finger at everyone else?

Instead Evaluate What Kind of Friend You Are

So pause for a moment from fretting over whether your friends are lifting you up, and instead ask, "Am I the best and healthiest friend I can be?"

How would you rate yourself 1-5 on the following statements?  Look for evidence in your relationships to see how you show up. (You might want to take this quiz a few times-- thinking of a different specific friend each time if you feel like you show up differently in different relationships.)

Are the following statements never true (score a 1) or always true (score 5), or somewhere in between?

  1. _____  My friends leave time with me feeling better about themselves and their lives.
  2. _____ I listen attentively to my friends, showing deep interest by asking follow-up questions to their sharing before sharing my own stories.
  3. _____I especially make sure to ask them questions and show interest about the parts of their lives that we don't have in common (marriage, kids, jobs) to make sure that they never feel like I don't care about those areas.
  4. _____ I affirm my friends, validating them on a wide variety of things such as the decisions they make, the roles they play (i.e. wife/mother/daughter), and how they go about doing things.
  5. _____ I want my friends to be as supported as possible, surrounded by a strong circle of love so I support them making other friends and I speak highly of the people they love.
  6. _____ I make it a point to reflect back to my friends their own truth rather than put my preferences on them; I do this by repeating back to them what I hear them saying, and making a point to tell them when I hear their voice sound more peaceful, and when I see their eyes light up when they're talking about something.
  7. _____ I am truly a cheerleader for my friends-- they would say that I believe in them, encourage them, and find joy in their success.
  8. _____ I initiate with my friends... showing them how much I value them by setting aside precious time for them, thinking up ways to be with them, and reaching out.
  9. _____ I follow-up with my friends when they tell me about upcoming dates such as their father's surgery, their kids first day of school, or a big speaking appointment they have-- I text, call, or email to let them know I'm thinking of them.
  10. _____ I stay in touch with my friends... they receive texts, comments on their Facebook posts, or phone calls from me in between our quality time spent together.  They feel like I know what's going on in their lives.
  11. _____ I practice vulnerability with my close friends, choosing to let them see me when I don't have it all figured out, sharing with them my fears when I'm processing, and am willing to let them see me as I am, without trying to impress them.
  12. _____ I let my friends shine.  I don't respond with insecurity when my friends succeed or get something I want.  I want them happy and successful so I never try to one-up with my own story, devalue what she has, or begrudge her for her joy.
  13. _____ I try to serve my friends sometimes whether it's offering to help pack boxes, baking something to drop off, or offering to help her with a big event.

Add up your score.  Anything over 50 and I'd say you're doing pretty awesome at loving your friends with kindness, generosity, and attention.  Anything less than that and it might behoove you to pick one or two of the lowest scores and see what you can do to possibly become a better friend; which really means becoming a better person, overall!

And instead of focusing so much on whether everyone else is good enough for us, let's focus on making sure we're good enough for them!

Trusting all along the way, that as we become healthier and more loving, that we'll be the contagious ones in this world  bringing others up, rather than living with fear that they could bring us down.

Which one of the 13 are you going to work on?  How?  Please share if you're willing!

The Problem: My Friend Doesn't Ask Me About My Life!

"It's their fault for not asking me about my life..."

I have this strong memory of being at a cafe a couple of years ago with 4 of my close friends.  In an attempt to invite us all into more sharing and connection, I said, "Let's go around the circle and say one thing that feeds us in our group friendship (i.e what we currently like and appreciate), and one thing we want more of from the group (i.e what need we have that isn't being met or how others could support us more meaningfully.)

The question was popular and everyone shared really beautiful things-- affirming each other for how their lives were enhanced by our friendships, and bravely sharing how it could be even better.  It was super touching to hear each person share what would feel good to receive from the group, ranging from understanding for always talking about the same problem in one life to asking for more encouragement as another struggled with her marriage.

I was thinking ahead to what I would share and decided to be truly honest and share that would feel good to me would be to have them initiate asking about my life a little more... I felt that I often I did that for them, but didn't always feel like they asked about me as frequently.

Does your friend talk too much? Maybe it's your responsibility to talk more?

The whole afternoon ended up being hugely ironic in that right before my turn everyone got distracted and the conversation ended up veering in another direction.

I felt hurt, but was certain that surely, at some point, one of them would realize that I hadn't yet had my turn.  I kept waiting for one of them to ask me to share.

No one did.... and in the car on the way home I licked my wounds.  I remember feeling pity for myself, frustration toward them, and disappointment in how the relationships clearly weren't that fulfilling and mutual.

In transparency to what I felt back then, I blamed them. They were clearly selfish, caught up in their own lives, and unable to fulfill my needs.

But in the middle of my pity-party where I was certain that I was the amazing friend and they were the problem... clarity hit me.

"It's my responsibility to share what I want to share..."

I'm always grateful when my voice of wisdom can still be heard over my ego... I've done my very best in recent years to give her as much permission and practice in speaking loudly to me.  So while in that car, I remember trying to hear her above the whining of the little girl stomping her foot in my head...which required stopping my defensiveness and blame long enough to listen:

"Shasta... you know they love you and care about your life.  No one is maliciously trying to ignore you.  You're making this way bigger than it needs to be. They would feel horrible if they knew they hurt you. 

Besides, you could have handled it differently, too.  You could have said, "Hey before we talk about x, let's finish our sharing first," or "Before we go, I wanted to make sure I was able to tell you guys about what you mean to me..." And deep inside you know that they would have loved to have heard you and then you'd be driving home feeling grateful for the friends in your life instead of licking imaginary wounds.

Not imaginary because they don't count... your need to be in friendships where you feel heard is super important and I'm so glad you can articulate that.  But it's your job to ask for what you need.  And honestly, to have the chance to share about your life doesn't require them to ask about it, it only requires that they receive it when you decide to share."

By the time I got home I knew that I could have handled that in a way that would have easily benefited all of us far more than me sitting there quietly as though I were testing them.

Friendship doesn't mean we don't disappoint each other sometimes... it means we're in relationships where we can trust each other to speak their needs-- and I hadn't done that.

Speaking Up

While in a fantasy world someone might just guess what's important to us to share, in the real world, the chances of someone asking all the right questions are pretty slim.

As a pastor I remember one woman accusing the church of being shallow after she had attended that prior weekend without anyone finding out that she had been dying inside from the knowledge that she had suffered a miscarriage the week before.  My heart broke that she hadn't received the support she craved. And I also knew that she could have shown up in a way that ensured she got what she needed.

It's nearly impossible to know what's going on in each others lives unless we volunteer it.  It's not the job of our friends to ask us about work, our marriages, our families, our holiday plans, and make their way down the list... only to have us then feel hurt that they neglected to ask about our health.  You get the idea.  If we have something that needs to be shared... then we need to share it.

Likewise, if we have a friend who calls us and then just talks and talks and then has to go; maybe we can take that as permission to call her and share our lives with her?

Or, if a friend has a habit of going on-and-on about her life, we can certainly experiment with saying, "I always love how freely you're able to share... I need to learn from you because I always feel like I get home without sharing much..." Or, "Hey before we're done with dinner, I wanted to be sure to tell you about what happened at work this last week."

We can offer up our lives.  It makes it no less sincere; nor means they care any less.

Less important than being asked something is whether we're all sharing-- whether that happens is as much my job as theirs.  I don't need to be asked in order to share.  I need to practice offering myself up, being willing to take the space, being willing to be vulnerable-- whether it's initiated by me or them.

Now when I sit in circle with women, I take responsibility to share more.  While I'm still a fan of women being more aware of asking questions and showing interest in each other, rather than filling the space themselves, I also know that most of them don't do it maliciously.

I know that our collective friendship depends upon it-- the relationship will start feeling lop-sided if I don't speak up and own part of the space.

I know that it's my job to reveal, not their job to guess.

I know that vulnerability isn't as dependent as much on the question being asked, as it is on the answer that is shared.

If you have relationships where you feel like you're always the one doing most of the listening and question-asking, I challenge you today to consider how you've contributed to that imbalance and what you can do to show up in a way that builds the relationship and better supports you.

That's not to say that they don't have more to learn or that they couldn't do it differently; but we can't control them, we can only change how we show up.

 

 

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

When we were little we knew them as slumber parties.  We'd eagerly look forward to getting to stay up late, giggle, and act silly. Those long nights were bonding in ways that time at recess, afternoon play-dates, and long phone calls couldn't replicate. Our grown up version has come to be known as "Girls Weekends" and they are just as bonding and just as fabulous.

We Need Adult Slumber Parties!

I actually think we need these overnight parties more as adults than we did as kids.  We so rarely give that gift of extended time to our friendships anymore. If you're anything like me, I feel pretty impressed when a friend and I actually carve out time for lunch twice in a month, touch base on the phone a couple of times, or see each other for a long dinner in my living room-- but you add up all those hours and they, literally, still fall short of what a slumber party can offer.

And far beyond the gift of actual hours together is what the build-up of those hours all taking place at once can make happen.  You spread those hours out over a month and at least half your time together is updating about what has happened since you've seen each other last.  But you push all those hours into one gathering and once the "updating" of recent events is done, all the rest of the time is for the stuff that really matters. It builds on itself so that you're sharing stories, secrets, laughter, and tears.

I'm still riding high from my annual girls weekend nearly two weeks ago.  My heart is full.  So ab-so-lute-ly full.

picture of my girls weekend

There are simply no phone conversations, meals, or evenings long enough to provide the level of sharing that we relished in. The vulnerability, the un-rushed time, the radical presence we gave each other, the tears, the laughter, the goofiness, the honesty, and the personal growth all added up to feeling so seen and loved by each other.  Add in the food, the wine, the sleeping in, and the long walks-- and these are restorative weekends in every way!

But more important to telling you all the benefits to these adult slumber parties is to actually help you see how to plan one in your own life.  Even if you don't yet have this perfect group of friends... you can get started.

How to Plan a Girls Weekend:

  1. Decide Who You Want To Invite.  In my opinion, the who informs everything else like location, price, and activities; based on where everyone lives, whether they all consider each other friends, or how bonded everyone is already. When you think about bonding and connecting-- who comes to mind? A group of friends you've lost touch with from long ago? Random friends from here-and-there who don't know each other? A local group of women you are close to? Or, some local women you'd like to get to know better?
  2. Be Clear on Why Everyone Would Want to Get Together. If the women all know each other and consider everyone else a friend (as opposed to them all being your friend from different places who don't know your other friends), then the why is often a little easier because "just getting together" is reason enough so then the location and activity take a backseat to why the women would come.  If the women don't know each other well, then we usually need a bit more of an "excuse" such as for celebrating your birthday or other milestone; and the focus on an activity is more helpful whether it's for a concert, destination, or experience.
    1. If they don't know each other well and are all local then start with one night and keep it local.  I'd suggest finding something fun, such as a concert or restaurant you've been wanting to try, and send out an email to see who wants to join you and then either a) come back to your house for a slumber party and brunch the next day or b) share a hotel room downtown as part of the fun.
    2. If you're a group of friends who know each other decently well and are all local then I'd either start with the above step or throw out the idea to the group to gauge interest in doing a get-away weekend sometime.  The goal of this one is to keep it driving distance and priced low: you want to make it easy to say yes. Try to make it at least 2-full days, with 1-night of housing that is in everyone's budget (lots of homes to rent on places like AirBnB!). Invite your group to it as a chance for us to all get-away and play!
    3. If they don't know each other well and are not local then realize that it's a bigger ask (airfare and travel time, and time with women they don't really know) so the motivation will be for you and/or the focus of the trip. It really needs an excuse like "this year for my 42nd birthday I really want my closest friends with me!" or an event like "I want to run the Nike Half Marathon this year" or "I've always wanted to do a girls trip to Vegas!"-- with a "Who's In?" and being okay with whatever group of 3-5 women say yes. (The benefit of this is that once they all hang out for a weekend together, chances are high that someone will say "We should do this again!" and you might have the birth of an annual ritual on your hands that will be easier now that they know each other!)
    4. If they know each other well and are not local then the bigger issue is usually someone just needs to be a catalyst who says, "I miss all of you! I'm jealous every time I hear about others have girls weekends-- what do you all say we do one and catch up?" Again, keep the price as low as possible (does anyone in the group know anyone with a vacation home that can be borrowed? where is it cheapest to all fly into for everyone?) as that will be the objection for many women who feel guilty taking family money to do something for themselves.
  3. Plan the Easiest Time Away Possible. The biggest mistake is made when the price tag starts climbing and the stress of planning outweighs the intended benefits.  Keep it as simple as possible.  The goal is to get you together overnight with some of your friends.  That's it.  You can always dream bigger in following years once everyone is SOLD on that time together.  But at first, just err on the side of keeping it affordable and relaxing.  The truth is we can all go sight-seeing with our families and romantic partners so that's not what we need; what we need is uninterrupted girl time so make sure your trip factors that focus in! Way better to have more unscheduled time with everyone just hanging out than to be on any schedule packed full of activities.  The highest priority is quality time together.
  4. Get the Dates on the Calendar ASAP.  The rest of it can come together later.... what is highest priority is that a weekend is actually selected and committed to-- dates and location need to be set.  Then everyone can keep a look out for airfare deals or groupons to local restaurants and start to make the arrangements necessary with their obligations.
  5. Be at Peace If Not "Everyone" Can Come.  Not everyone can/will prioritize this in their calendar and finances.  That's okay.  Keep planning for those who can.  If even 3-4 of you can go, you'll still get the benefits, and chances are high that next year others will try to come.  Just get it going....  :)

    girls weekends someday

This time next year, you can have a photo album filled with memories of a get-away with women you grew to love even more.

And, if you're lucky, some of the group get-aways you start might even turn into annual traditions will bless your life far into the future!

 

 

I'd love to hear other tips you'd give for planning Girls Weekends-- feel free to add them in the comments.  Or, if you have questions or reservations, I'm happy to brainstorm, give suggestions, or offer up any other tips you might want.

 

 

 

 

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

We all want those really easy, meaningful, comfortable, and deep friendships with no drama, right?  And while that sounds fabulous, the truth is that most of us are silently suffering from some form of loneliness as we just keep waiting for those relationships to fall in our laps, the way little girls look for little fairies hovering over flowers. I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

1.  You Hope That Good Friendships Will Be Discovered.  This is still numero uno on the mistake list.  In fact I titled my book Friendships Don't Just Happen to help speak to this very damaging belief in our lives.

But we all have examples of meeting an amazing woman that we connected with, loved, 180279_10151573165137435_1652204527_nand experienced great chemistry with... only to never really see much, or ever again. Simply meeting each other and liking each other doesn't make for a friendship.

And on the flip side, we all have an example of a friend (often someone we worked with or continued to see in some setting) that we grew to love that we didn't necessarily have fireworks with when we first met them.

Friendship isn't finding someone; friendship is developing consistent positive behaviors over time with someone.  And that doesn't just happen.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

2.  You Stop Developing New Friends. You hear me say this repeatedly, but it bears the repetition: We are losing half our close friends every 7 years.

That means that life changes such as moves, career transitions, relationship changes, and different life stages each bring a shift in our friendships that frequently leave us drifting apart from some friends.

Realizing that friendship development from stranger to close friend can sometimes take a year or two, we don't want to wait until we need close friends before we start them.  We never want to stop paying attention to progressing other relationships from our Left-Side to our Right-Side of the Circles.

Just for an example, let's pretend that our Committed Friends are at 100% with us-- as vulnerable, as close, and as involved as we want.  While we may not need to foster any other friendships to that same place right now, we certainly don't want to leave them all at 10%, 20%, or even 40%.

Because the truth is that life happens and there are events that will leave those 100% friends less available (i.e. friend moves away, starts traveling a lot for work, has a baby/gets married and gets caught up in her life).  They might go back to 20% or 40%, and the question that begs to be asked, then, is whether you have other friends at 50% or 60% that, with more time and connection, could develop into more meaningful friendships.

We want to make sure we're always welcoming new people into our Circles and fostering some of them into deeper Circles so that we have meaningful friendships at all levels, at any given time.

We need to see friend-making as an ongoing way of life, rather than as something we do once and then forget about.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

3.  You Think Mutuality Means Equal Initiation.  Oh so many friendships never get off the ground due to the fear in us that whispers, "I invited her last time, the ball is in her court now." So not true.

We all have strengths to give to our friendships; and initiation and planning are just that-- a strength that we all have in varying degrees.

I'm good at thinking up things to do and reaching out when I have the extra time and head space.  I never think, "Oh I had them over last time... it's their turn."  I think, "Oh I want to see them again, let me email them to see if they can come over!"

And they reciprocate in the friendships in plenty of other ways.  They thank me for inviting them over, they helped make a night of meaningful conversation and memories, they asked about my life, they showed interest, they shared their stories with me.  I got what I needed: time with friends.

Mutuality is important.  But mutuality is not 50/50 in each task, but it's whether we both are contributing to the friendship, overall.

If you're the one who wants it, then make the ask.  Don't let your fear of rejection stop you from initiating what you desire.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

4. You Compare New Friends With Close Friends.  I used to do this all the time!  I'd go out with someone new and conclude that the time with them just wasn't what I was looking for.  What I wanted was meaningful conversation, easy time together, lots of validation and affirmation, and just a whole bunch of obvious commonalities.  What I often got was two people trying to get to know each other, both showing up with their own insecurities (expressed often by one talking too much or both being very polite and image conscious), both wishing it felt more deep and less awkward.

What I'd conveniently forget is that all those things I wanted come with time together with someone.  My closest friends have gone through serious life with me and we've had so much vulnerability, history, and time together that it always feels super meaningful.

The awkwardness, or lack of intimacy, isn't a reflection on that person, but rather on that relationship.  In other words, time spent with someone doesn't show what they can become, only what it is now.  And right now it's two people meeting each other so it's actually quite appropriate and normal to not feel like best friends yet.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

5.  You Create a Story About Your Friends Actions.  And this is the most common mistake that happens when we start feeling sour about a friendship-- we assign meaning to their behaviors that usually either devalues our friend (i.e. "she shouldn't make that choice or have that priority") or devalues our friendship (i.e. "she must not care about me or prioritize our friendship") when usually neither of those are the intended message.

When we are feeling the love toward someone, we are generous with them, often assuming the best about them and their actions (i.e. she must be busy!).  When we're feeling like we have unmet needs that they aren't tending to, often we jump to conclusions that end up putting a wedge between us and them (i.e. she doesn't value me!").

Those stories are damaging.  They cover up the fact that there is probably a need there that needs articulating and expressing; and instead comes out in the form of judgment which never helps pull people together.

When we feel ourselves start to devalue people we love, we need to see that as an invitation to step back and own everything we can about what's going on.  Good questions: Am I mad at her because I might be jealous?  Am I judgmental because I'm insecure about my own life so somehow attacking her choices makes me feel better about mine?  Am I feeling neglected because I need more support in my life and I'm erroneously thinking it needs to come from her (remember it's our responsibility to make sure we have built up a circle of support so no one person needs to be everything to us all the time!)?  Am I looking for her faults to justify pulling away for some other reason?  Am I keeping a list of wrong-doing without ever taking the time to share with her what I need?

We all too often start pushing someone away when it's actually a relationship that has a lot of our invested time and resources in it.  I want to protect my investments, not walk away from them too easily!  Far more meaningful, usually, to salvage a relationship than to start over!

More blogs related to this: here and here.

Christmas Card Conundrums: Send Them? Why? How Many? To Whom?

Every so often I get a question in my inbox that triggers an idea for a blog that I would have never even thought up on my own; this week is one of those. (A sincere sorry to those who have written suggestions and I haven't yet gotten to them!  I might still!) This email landed in my inbox on the very day I was compiling my own Christmas card list:

"I begrudgingly addressed *320* Christmas Cards over the weekend and I couldn't help but think that you probably have some advice / decision criteria for thinning it out to a more manageable amount.  Clearly everyone has their own motivations and their "right" number --  all I know is that 320 is WAY TOO MUCH for us!  Perhaps this is a topic for a blog post!?"

While totally wanting to honor the truth in that question that everyone will have different reasons and list sizes, I can at least offer up some principles and questions that might help us each make those decisions for ourselves.

How I Decide How Many Holiday Cards To Send?

I'll start with my short answer, and then give a longer answer that shows how it plays out for me.

In short, my rule is this: "Send the maximum number that still feels loving and expansive to my heart and body, stopping 10 short of the number that starts feeling heavy, guilt-ladden, or resource-depleting."

What that looks like is a bit like planning a wedding invitation list.  You don't have to invite everyone-- a meaningful wedding can have 2 witnesses or 1000.  We make the choice based primarily on 2 things: "What time/money/energy do I have this season?" and "Who do I want to give those limited gifts to?"

  1. What are my resources this season?  In wedding language we would talk about a budget, how much time you have to make homemade centerpieces, and how much energy you want to put toward organizing this event in the midst of whatever else you have going on that year.  In holiday card language we must ask the same questions.  If your budget is tight this season, then you'll start reaching your limit sooner.  If your time is plentiful, then you may get excited about a few weeks of crafting homemade cards in front of a fireplace.  If your energy is waning then it may be that a short note of love being emailed out feels more do-able than coordinating that perfect holiday photo.  What resources are you coming into this season with?
  2. Who are my priorities with the resources I have?  In wedding language that would be like saying, "Okay, I have tons of money, now, would I rather pour that into a destination wedding for a few or an open-bar for everyone my parents have ever met?" Or, on the contrary, "I don't want to go into debt for this wedding, so I might need to either invite fewer people or decide to do snacks instead of a sit-down dinner." You know the process. In holiday card land, we need to do the same thing.

So finding that number between those two answers--where you stop short of feeling stress and angst-- is the goal.

And to state the obvious, every year is different for me.  So it doesn't matter what I did last year; it matters what we can and want to do this year.

What Is the Purpose of Sending Holiday Cards?

In a day and age of Facebook, when it feels like everyone knows what's going on with your life, do we still really need to even send holiday cards?

I lean toward yes. I believe holiday cards are a gift of thoughtfulness to people; not just updating. I'd like to invite you to send them out not from a place focused on your life, but but from a place focused on someone feeling remembered and loved. And to do that, we don't need "amazing" lives or worrying about how to wow others.

I remember the year after my divorce feeling like I couldn't send out cards because all the photos you see are of smiling families or couples.  But that misses the point.  I wanted to say thank you to my friends for supporting me that year and communicate that I was still alive after a tough year.  I remember one year not having much news to report and feeling lame, but again, that misses the point; I could still say "I'm wishing you the best new year" while I'm hoping the same for myself.

A challenge I hope some of you take on is that if you are typically the person who thinks they need to have this amazing card sent to a massive list as one of those things that makes you feel better about yourself-- this year consider just writing cards of love to 25 people instead.  And, on the flip-side, if you're someone who never sends out cards because you mistakenly think you need to have this"perfect" family photo or some big news--this year consider doing the same-- just pick 25 people (or whatever number feels do-able and good!) to say "Happy holidays!"

Let go of feeling like you have to reveal the perfect photo, share the most amazing updates, or have a glamorous and seemingly great life-- and instead, see it as a chance to send love to others who undoubtedly feel the same way you do 90% of the time.  Give love.

Who Makes the Cut and Stays on My List?

I actually think the 5 Circles of Friendship can serve as a useful resource as you make your decisions about who to send cards to.

One year, I decided to only send cards to my Confirmed Friends-- the women with whom I always want to feel close with even if we only talk once or twice a year, but opted to skip the friends I'm in constant touch with since I knew I'd be celebrating with them in other ways.  One year, I included my Committed and Community Friends in that list and decided that what felt best to me was hand writing cards to all 20 of them to tell them what I loved about them.  I obviously couldn't take on such an expression of love if my list that year included every friend in my life.

5 types of friends image

 

 

 

 

And every few years I think, "It's been a while since I've touched base with everyone-- I'm going to take it on!" and I look forward to a few evening of fires, hot drinks, and a big project. But even then, I go through my address book and ask myself:

  1. Who am I actually still in touch with?  (There's no point in sending cards to people from my past unless they're also still part of my present! And no guilt in not staying in touch with the whole world--that's what Facebook can help with!)
  2. Who fits this years criteria? (Nah, she's more business, and this year I'm sending to personal friends.  Or, no she's my daughter's friend, but not really mine.)

Going back to the wedding metaphor,  if you only have x hours and x dollars then you can't invite everyone and you need to pick your top 20 or your top 50 or your top 100.  And start on the Right-Side and work your way Left until the x number of cards you ordered are gone.

No wrong answer here. I don't for a second believe holiday cards have to be mutual.  I send them to the people I love with no strings attached.  They don't owe me one!  And I assume the same for those who send me one.  If they want to remove my name from next years list because I didn't send them one this year then so be it- my worth doesn't go up or down one iota based on how many cards I get.

Holiday love from me and my hubby, Greg Nelson, to you.  May you stand under your metaphoric "kissing ball" this season with courage and hope. xoxo

This year, I encourage you to give as much love as you can in whatever ways it feels do-able.  A card sent in stress is no gift at all.  Send what you can with love.  If it's only 6 cards-- then 6 it is. Our goal is let the people who matter to us know that they are loved-- however you do that is fine.  Breathe deeply and let go of any obligation to love in any way that causes you more stress than joy.

And because I cannot, and will not, send holiday cards to you all-- "I wish you each a very meaningful holiday-- that you will receive what you most deeply need." xoxo

What Are Your Unmet Needs?

If I've observed a common thread to many relationship endings it would be women not asking for what they need from their friends. Why We Go Through Life with Unmet Needs

Sometimes we don't ask because we think it will be less genuine when they actually give it to us, as though their sincerity is linked to their thinking it up on their own.  Sometimes we don't ask because we think it's rude or intrusive or needy, as though we're ignoring the fact that relationships ought to be mutually beneficial.  Sometimes we don't ask because we don't like to think of ourselves as ever needing anything, as though we drank our own kool-aid in our attempts to convince everyone that we're amazing and never have any needs.  Sometimes we don't ask because we fear rejection or don't want to risk the other saying no, as though there would be no choice in that scenario except to take it personally.  Sometimes we don't ask because we simply don't feel worth it, as though we're not good enough or significant enough to think we deserve to have our needs met.  All of these stories have been modeled to us in different ways and we certainly each develop a lens that we then use to validate our reason repetitively.

But in addition to all these more deep-rooted belief systems we've made up in our heads, I'm finding that one of the biggest obstacles to us asking for what we need is that we often don't even know what we need.

Figuring Out What We Need

I mean, we know when we start feeling resentful or frustrated, but we aren't very practiced at pausing and saying, "What is it I need right now?"

And the answer usually isn't what we think we're mad at.  We think we're mad at the kids for not picking up their shoes, but really it's because when they do that we feel something, a meaning that we have attached to that action.  So it may be that we need some cooperation so that we feel more connected to the kids, like we're all working together; or it may be that for our sanity we actually need more order in our lives to contribute to our sense of peace. Two different needs.  Stopping to not just be mad at some action, but realizing what need isn't being met helps us better communicate and problem-solve.  Is it really a peaceful space I need which I could get by making one room off-limits to the junk of others or by hiring housekeeping help?  Or is it feeling like my family is all in it together which can be solved by articulating that need and having the family brainstorm ways that we can each contribute more? What is my need?

I didn't think the movie "How Do You Know" with Reese Witherspoon was that great, but this one scene where the psychiatrist sums up his best therapeutic advice was as good as it gets!

In my book, Friendships Don't Just Happen! I share the scene from the movie How Do You Know where Reese Witherspoon plays a character whose entire life is turned upside down when she is cut from the professional softball team that has been her entire career.  She obligingly goes to see a therapist but before the session starts she talks herself out of it, willing herself to believe she doesn't need it.  The psychiatrist, who knows nothing about the situation that his new client is struggling with, watches her walk out the door before any conversation occurs.And in what I think is the best scene in the movie, Reese sticks her head back in the doorway and basically challenges him to sum up his best therapeutic advice for life before she leaves.  Without batting an eye he responds: "Figure out what you want and learn to ask for it."

I think about that a lot.  When I get upset at someone, I try to stop and think, "What is it I really need?  Not just what action do I wish they did right now.  But what does that action represent to me?  What is it I'm craving and longing for?"

If we would do that, we'd probably realize that half of our needs come down to wanting to feel connected to the other person.  Which could then better inform our response because I dare say most of us, when frustrated or hurt, are more likely to respond in some way that will actually leave us feeling more disconnected; in other words, less likely to actually get our needs met.

We want to feel acceptance, but instead, out of our hurt we judge the other, almost guaranteeing that we won't feel accepted.  We want to feel intimacy, but instead, out of our insecurities we start trying to impress instead of share, almost guaranteeing that we won't leave the conversation feeling deeply seen.  We want to feel harmony, but instead, out of our fear for conflict, we just ignore the problem, almost guaranteeing we won't feel a safe connection to the other because we know we didn't really deal with the issue.

I mention the Nonviolent Communication Method in my chapter on forgiveness as it's a fabulous method for helping use articulate what we need in relationships.  And here I want to actually share with you their list of needs we have, with hopes that it will help you start identifying which ones you might have right now.  When we start the work of being responsible for knowing ourselves, it's helpful to have a list that allows us to try on different words:  Is it x or x that resonates more with me?  With time, we become more familiar with the options, becoming more adept at naming what we're craving.

CONNECTION acceptance affection appreciation belonging cooperation communication closeness community companionship compassion consideration consistency empathy inclusion intimacy love mutuality nurturing respect/self-respect CONNECTION continued safety security stability support to know and be known to see and be seen to understand and be understood trust warmthPHYSICAL WELL-BEING air food movement/exercise rest/sleep sexual expression safety shelter touch water HONESTY authenticity integrity presencePLAY joy humor

PEACE beauty communion ease equality harmony inspiration order

AUTONOMY choice freedom independence space spontaneity

MEANING awareness celebration of life challenge clarity competence consciousness contribution creativity discovery efficacy effectiveness growth hope learning mourning participation purpose self-expression stimulation to matter understanding

Learn to Ask For What We Need

What's super cool about seeing our needs is then we can begin to actually take responsibility for getting them met.  Once we identify the need, we can then brainstorm a list of ways-- Ways I can increase feeling x (i.e. supported)-- to get that need met in our lives from a variety of places, taking responsibility for our own need. It may be that we can then say to a friend, "I need support.  I feel like I'm adrift, feeling more alone since my break-up. Would you be willing to do _______ which would help me feel like I'm not in this world by myself?"

The fabulous things about having identified the need and brainstorming ways we can get that need met is that when we do reach out to her as one piece of the strategy, we're less likely to see her as the one causing the unmet need and more likely to see her as part of the solution to our unmet need.  It's not her fault we all have needs-- even if it's in relationship with her that we often feel the unmet need.  It's our responsibility for knowing what we need and doing something about it!

If indeed the most important advice one could give was to 1) Figure out what you want, and 2) Learn to ask for it; think how many friendships we wouldn't have to simply walk away from, blaming them when it may be that we hadn't yet taken that advice to heart.

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Related blog: How To Ask For What You Need (sample scripts)