I’m often approached by women who feel slighted, misunderstood, frustrated, or taken for granted by their friends: one friend doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a mom, another talks too much about herself; one won’t make time to get together for more than a quick lunch here and there, another never reciprocates invitations; one friend is having an affair, and another is jealous of her friend’s success.
These are understandable frustrations. It’s definitely easier to identify what bothers us about others, and wish they’d change, than it is to consider how we’re responding, isn’t it? But our relationships are the health clubs of our souls—the gyms where we get to practice the skills that we say are so important to us: forgiveness, speaking our needs, compassion, and boundaries, to name a few.
In my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, I encourage us to think of relationship work as just another form of exercise that we do to keep growing ever healthier.
Exercise is a good metaphor for intimacy because most of us know that, to become healthier, we will sometimes feel and look worse before we feel and look better. Our muscles have to be stretched and strained a bit before they can become stronger; our skin must sweat out the heat to keep our body regulated. We go in expecting exhaustion and discomfort—even wanting it!—as proof of our exertion.
The same is true for relationships. Far too many of us seem to think that intimacy should come without sweat, effort, or ache. When another per- son disappoints us, we sometimes withdraw, emotionally gun-shy. When we feel a pit in our stomachs or an ache in our hearts, we can be quick to toss around labels like “toxic” or “unhealthy,” and can assume that our best option is avoidance.
I invite you to not avoid your emotional sweat, and to not avoid your relational sweat.
Much the way we can’t expect to run a marathon if we haven’t been in training, we can’t expect to maturely respond in every relationship circumstance if we haven’t yet practiced much. Every trade and talent requires practice to improve; intimacy is no different. We become people who foster intimacy— we develop into those who choose to engage and connect with others. And we must practice to get there.
Shasta Nelson’s book comes out today, March 1! In it, she teaches the three requirements of frientimacy—friendship intimacy, so we know what friendship is and isn’t, what actions we need to practice, and how to best develop the deep and meaningful friendships we crave and need. For more on Shasta, go here: www.ShastaNelson.com and to buy her book, go here: http://amzn.to/1pdfEce