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Finding Friendship in Adulthood Part 1 of 3: In the Beginning…

I was thirteen when I had my first heartbreak and it wasn’t even over a boy. The combination of braces, dorky glasses, and being a late physical bloomer made me, for a short period of time, “unwanted” in the seventh grade. My friends abandoned me overnight. There was no fallout, no hideous argument, or embarrassing faux paux. It was just because I was me.

And all of a sudden being me hurt like hell.

I was hopeful as time progressed and I became an adult that dealing with shallow pubescent friendships would disappear, but I was wrong. And while I don’t want to diminish the pain inflicted in those earlier years the greater problem in dealing with such friendships into adulthood is that fallouts can be devastating. They aren’t cured over a good summer. Where you wake up one day with longer hair, bigger boobs, and you hide your glasses so all of a sudden you’re sitting back at the cool kid table. No, no, no—if there’s one thing I’ve learned about adults, it’s that they can be a lot less forgiving.

I’ve been blessed with a balance of both friendships: the kind that break your heart and the kind that will do anything to repair it. And the only way to have the latter is to not become the former.

Sifting through life into the meaty years of adulthood can get ugly. People aren’t simply getting engaged and having their first baby. They are getting divorced. They are fighting cancer. They are battling infertility and miscarriages. The proverbially honeymoon is over and the seven year itch can’t be scratched away.

Life gets hard.

This is the time when you need friends more than ever. You need friends that are closer than family, thicker than blood, and as powerful as an army. The kind of friends who will wage war for you and paint your toenails. Who will hold your hand as you cry about a dying parent and go to story time at the library. You need real friends who aren’t afraid of the real you. But you won’t find them until you find yourself.

I’m not sure if it’s the pressure built up in our teen years or the debilitating effects of social media perfection, but somewhere between going to prom and getting our first post-college job we’ve lost the ability to be honest with ourselves and with others.

You cannot have a friendship that will weather storms if it’s built on dishonesty or even worse shallow attempts at honesty. No one knows it all. No one is perfect. And no one isn’t dealing with some form of massive problem at any given time. Whether that’s at home, in the office, or in your own mind we’ve all got ugly circulating through. So stand up straight and lift your head high, it’s time to be transparent.

I read an article the other day about friendship and it made a point that took me some time to be comfortable with. The author claimed that if you weren’t experiencing discord in your friendships (at one point or another) then you weren’t being honest. I scratched my head for a while as this little nugget of wisdom sat in my belly. At first I denied it to be false. I don’t like discord in any of my relationships. It gives me anxiety. However, I don’t mind it in my marriage. I’m not saying I enjoy fighting with my husband; in fact the exact opposite is true. But, I don’t avoid it. I’m more honest with him than any other person on this planet and that’s because of two very important reasons: love and safety.

I know my husband loves me. Therefore, I feel safe in being honest with him because I know he won’t just abandon ship when things get uncomfortable. Once this clicked I realized the authors claim about discord was entirely true. It doesn’t mean that we must fight with our friends, it simply means that if we are being transparent with them and ourselves because we feel safe and we love them then there will be times where we disagree. Times where our goals may not align and our opinions may differ. And that’s ok. It’s even more than ok, it’s healthy. Friendships built upon placation will eventually fizzle because one or both parties will get burned out.

So how do we accomplish this? How do we build a friendship with strength and transparency and safety?

We start with ourselves.

1. Share your burdens.

Show your friends that you trust them with what’s going on in your life. If you don’t trust them figure out why, if it can be fixed good. If it can’t, move on. A friendship without trust is dead.

2. Listen to their burdens.

It may not happen on the same day or even in the same week. But become the trustworthy person you want them to be for you. Listen and listen well. And when it comes to the dark, heavy stuff keep it to yourself. Gossip has no place here. Safety is paramount to trust.

3. Love with action.

Be willing to make sacrifices. Be willing to go the distance even when it’s inconvenient. Love isn’t manifested in words. Love does. Love gets up and out the door and does what needs to be done.

4. Keep it simple.

Friendship isn’t founded in fancy restaurants over expensive wine. Friendship is found in comfort. Friendship is unwashed hair in old yoga pants while you clean your toilets over a cup of coffee. You don’t have to entertain each other. You just have to show up, be present, and keep being honest.

5. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

We are going to mess up. We are going to say things that come from parts of our heart founded in jealousy or anger or pain. It might feel personal, but don’t take it personal. Forgive. And then forgive again. If you are following the first four steps then forgiveness shouldn’t be following a trail of manipulation. Someone in a healthy, honest friendship that has love and safety present shouldn’t feel used or controlled. Forgiveness here is reciprocal and endless because you’ve established trust. Some friendships will be for a season. Others a moment. But the ones you work at, the ones you pursue and bare a transparent heart to will be forever. No matter where you live or trials you go through.

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