This past weekend the leadership team from my MOPS group and I took a much needed vacation to my parents’ house in Galena, IL.  We went down there as a way to bond with each other and learn more about how to create a true community for our MOPS group.  (That’s our focus for this upcoming MOPS year – real community.)

The conversations we had were centered around similar topics and one of them was something that I found really interesting.  Friendships.  It was said and I’m sure thought because I know I thought it more than once that one could be completely surrounded by people and still feel alone.  We’re surrounded by our kids, social media, neighbors and maybe even girlfriends all day, every day, and yet we feel isolated.  We feel lonely.  

It got me thinking about friendships.  Do I feel this way?  Yes, I do sometimes and I definitely go through my peaks and valleys when it comes to friends.  I was burned a few times in college by calling someone my “best friend” too soon and then the friendship kind of petered out.  After that happened one too many times, I became very reluctant to ever use the phrase.  In fact I kind of cringe when others use it.  I don’t know why I do that either.  Maybe it’s because I feel like it’s an exclusive thing and we women, well we love to feel like we’re part of something special.  We love to feel like someone loves us and wants to spend time with us and only us.  We want that special friend, that best friend, to do life with.

There’s something that our husbands can’t give us either that a best girlfriend can.  My husband, although he’s awesome, does not think the way I do.  He doesn’t care about the tone of voice someone uses when they speak to him.  He doesn’t care if so and so hasn’t called or made an effort to maintain a friendship with him for weeks.  I do and I wish I didn’t.  I’m wired differently than he is and I crave that intimate, vulnerable and genuine friendship from another who just gets me because she’s like me.

My little sister, Laura.

We also heard Pam Hillary speak.  Pam is an executive coach and man was she inspiring.  She gave us a lot to think about in how to foster and build relationships with the women in our MOPS group as well as in our lives.  The thing that’s left me feeling convicted the most is the reality that if a friendship is causing anxiety or stress, either because expectations may not be met or one person is doing all the “work” to maintain the friendship, maybe it’s time to have a DTR (define the relationship).  Either the friendship needs to “break up” or both parties come to a mutual understanding of what it is that each one is looking for in that friendship.  I can’t say that I’ve done this but I can say that I do have a few friendships that are currently causing me a little anxiety and stress.  Thinking about whether or not to have a DTR though is causing me more stress than the actual friendship so I think I’m going to pass on that route.

Erin, my bestie from JR high.

Friendships are a lot like dating relationships.  You meet someone, form a bond and then eventually exchange words of mutual likeness towards each other.  “I really appreciate you as a friend,” can go a long way and mean a lot to someone when you say it.  A friend of mine (probably dare I say it and not ruin something, my best friend here in this stage of my life) and I recently had this discussion.  It’s awesome to have that understanding that we’re both seeking the same thing in our friendship.  I know that I can depend on her and she can depend on me.  Friendships are also like a dating relationship in that you often times grow apart.  The friendship can be based on proximity – there are some people who are just better friends with the people that are right there living life with them.  Those are the “love the one you’re with” kinds of people.  (One of the women on the retreat used that phrase and I thought it captured that kind of friendship perfectly!)  The friendship can be based on common interests – raising kids, sports, hobbies.  The friendship can also be based on a family relationship – my little sister is one of my very best friends.

Regan, the bestie from high school.

The friendship can also be based on loyalty.  I have three best friends that have truly stood the test of time and distance.  There’s my friend from junior high.  We lived in the same village for one year while my dad was stationed in Germany.  Then she had to move to a different Air Base but to this day she knows more about me than most people and we can pick up right where we left off whenever we talk.  Then there’s my friend from high school.  We have seen each other at our best and our worst.  She knows so much about me and the struggles that I’ve had.  She’s stood by me during my most rebellious time and never once turned her back.  Finally there’s my cousin’s wife.  Yes, my cousin’s wife, who is 11 years older than me.  We aren’t in the same stage of life but after living with her and her family for two summers I can say that a lot of my parenting style reflects her and her husband.  She makes me laugh more than anyone I know and I know that even when we’re playing phone tag for a solid week she still loves and cares about me.

My cousin’s wife, Rebecca.

So who are your friends?  Have you told the women in your life that you appreciate their friendship?  I encourage you do this and to put yourself out there.  After all, everyone needs a true friend.

Bert Anderson is a blogger and social media manager mom of three living outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She’s the author behind the blog First Time Mom, where she honestly chronicles the peaks and valleys of parenting. Even though she has more than one child, Bert maintains that whether you have one child or 19, there’s a first time for everything. She’s a lover of coffee, conversations, pop culture, healthy living and fitness.