Monday, October 1, 2012

What Women Want—Deep, Loving Relationships


Women crave connection. I’m not springing freakish scientific revelations on you today. We know this. We’ve known it all along. We gravitate toward those we believe will love and accept us. We seek out friendships and relationships in which we’ll feel a trusted sense of belonging.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Then why are we so afraid to get real with one another?
If it’s depth we’re after, why does it seem like many of us take the zigzag approach?

Sure it takes effort. Yes, it will require us to forgive and ask forgiveness. And most certainly we’ll endure stale or awkward times when we’re unsure of next steps. We will get hurt.
But that’s part of the adventure. It’s also part of another word that seems to be disappearing in our culture—commitment.

Think of archeologists.
Excavating a site demands extreme patience, as the process has a tendency to proceed painfully slow. But dedicated archeologists persist. They get their hands dirty. And if they refuse to give up, they often end up with what they were hoping for.

Sometimes I enjoy entertaining thoughts about what this world would look like if all of us threw off our insecurities and consistently encouraged one another. I revisit scenes from popular book club selections like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Help, The Red Tent, Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons, and The Secret Life of Bees and contemplate the rich relationships depicted in these novels, how bonds both strengthened and frayed through brokenness, misunderstandings, and periods of great loss.

I realize our desire for deep, loving relationships includes with our spouses and families, but regardless of our life stage, women are wired to engage with one another. It fascinates me how we instinctually create natural support networks. Book clubs, moms groups, and neighborhood game nights are just a few examples of how women band together. Psychological studies support that strong female bonds can improve memory, increase oxytocin levels, and help prevent depression.
When I asked you several weeks ago what women want it didn’t surprise me deep, loving relationships was a frequent response. Didn’t surprise me at all.

What never ceases to surprise and delight me is the depth and beauty I’ve experienced in my own friendships—how some women have embedded in my heart, becoming like sisters to me.

It takes risk. It takes commitment. It takes time.
But it gives in innumerable, courage-building ways.

“A laotong relationship is made by choice...when we first looked in each other's eyes in the palanquin I felt something special pass between us--like a spark to start a fire or a seed to grow rice. But a single spark is not enough to warm a room nor is a single seed enough to grow a fruitful crop. Deep love--true-heart love--must grow.” ~ Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Why do you think it’s so difficult for women to get real with one another? Do you have a particular relationship you are thankful for today?

*photos by stock.XCHNG
 

22 comments:

  1. I do agree that women are wired tio engage with one another. The women in my Women's Ministry at our church rock and it is a fast growing group and fellowship, while the men's ministry can't get off the ground.

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  2. Depends on the women, I suppose. I have a friend I treasure every day. She knows EVERYTHING about me and vice versa. And I do mean everything. But those are far and few between so I guard our friendship dearly!

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  3. I think it's hard to get deep with women because we're afraid to be rejected. When we meet a woman who we're drawn to, it's usually because she appears to have something we do not - and then we're afraid to open up with her in case she sees that we don't possess that same quality. The best relationships are the ones in which we see the same qualities in another person that we're already confident we possess - then there's no fear of opening up. It's been interesting for me to form relationships with women online - and then to meet some of them at ACFW - because there are way less boundaries and walls. We all open up on our blogs - and each others - and so many of those fears are already laid to rest. Love it.

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  4. I'm not great at friendships with other women. I tend to be independent and stick close to my family, but in the past year, I've really prayed that God would help me lower my defenses and learn to connect with other women. It has been such a blessing to me.

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  5. Oh, I'm totally with Julie on this one and I'm continuing to pray too! I am so thankful for my relationship with my sister. That's priceless. No fear of rejection there. I know she loves me with that no-matter-what love. I think that's what we all need to give to enter that deeper friendship relationship.

    Thanks for this post, Wendy.

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  6. I wouldn't be the same without my girlfriends! I love connecting with others. I do think Gabe is right on the money...fear of rejection. We want to come across as who we really are, but we wonder if that's enough.

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  7. Because we've all been pulped by a relationship before? Because scars from those times are still tender. Because that kind of depth and openness take time and trust.

    I'm honored to say I have a dear friend whom I trust completely and with whom I can share all that basement-level stuff that I usually keep packed away.

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  8. I'm definitely best friends w/my hubby. For some reason, it's easier for me to chat with a roomful of guys than girls. I think because guys like to talk about themselves and you just listen and learn! Also, guys like video games...

    But the deepest girlfriend relationships I have are always, ALWAYS nurtured and rooted in prayer. Prayer for each other. Prayer for our families. I have been blessed with a couple of author friends who have truly come alongside me, lifting me up when I need it, and keeping it real when I need it. I pray for them every day, and I know they're praying for me, too. Those prayers make us better wives, daughters, mothers, and friends!

    Thanks for pointing out this true need of our womanly hearts--those female relationships keep us from "dumping" everything on our husbands!

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  9. What a beautiful quote!! Why is it hard? I think a lot of it is just being so busy. I mean, in high school I think close friends are pretty real with eachother. I was real with all two of mine. LOL
    Great post, Wendy!!

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  10. Oooh, I'm going to have to come back when I can read all the responses, because I'm interested in what everyone else is saying.

    I think it's because women are always comparing themselves with each other. Being real means being vulnerable and it's hard to feel that you're less than someone else, or that maybe they're doing something better than you and might look down on you for how YOU are doing it.

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  11. Being real involves risk, and that can be hard for many of us. I love when I connect with another woman at a deep level. Friendships like that are a real blessing. (Pun intended. =)

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  12. I feel so fortunate to have a circle of close friends that numbers 8. It's amazing how rewarding and important those women are to me, like family, but in some ways better because we got to pick each other. But it does require work and willingness to make time and be honest with each other (also willingness to eat cookies and drink wine, but that's much easier).

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  13. Hmm, let me think...Nope, I've got nothin'. Totally kidding! You know who I'm thankful for. ;)

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  14. Love this post, Wendy. I think woman sometimes feel they have to compete with one another - not sure why this happens. I have a best friend and we've been buds since high school. We are at an age when we are just totally real with one another. We've gone through good times and bad times together. Our relationship goes as deep as if we were sisters. I am so blessed to have her as my friend. I love when women do connect on a deeper level. We have so much to learn from one another...so much to share.

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  15. Jennifer, We've experienced a similar dynamic in several of the churches we've been involved with and I can't say why it happens. Glad yours rocks!

    Wise to guard that one, Jessica. Sounds like a true blessing and a keeper!

    Gabrielle, It is really cool to meet fellow bloggers in person, I'm with you on that. I'm turning what you wrote in my mind. I think you tapped into something I've noticed...how women get threatened by one another easily. It's funny in that I often appreciate those strengths I've yet to possess or I simply don't possess in others. But I get your meaning--how that could make me vulnerable to feel weaker than or less than in those areas. Another reason why it's so important to go after our purpose here and to be okay with our strengths and our "weaknesses."

    Julie, I pray you continue to be blessed. I've had some real struggles in this area which makes me feel like I can speak to it from an honest perspective.

    Heidi, Oh how cool that you have that with your sister--in your own family!

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  16. Lindsay, It's enough here. Always enough. Fear of being rejected, yeah that bites. I wonder if some of it ties in to past hurts, miscommunication, and that we're all a messed up bunch.

    Erica, I'm so thankful you have that. And I couldn't agree more. Like I wrote to Lindsay...that past hurt stuff can be brutal. Time and trust. Yes. And yes.

    Heather, I'll fall into a goofy trap where I'll go into great details about womanly topics and my husband will just stare at me with that 'seriously' face. Yes, as much as I love sharing the world with my husband, it most certainly is nice to have women to turn to for those things that women get so well.

    You like video games?

    Jessica, That is the effort part. It takes work. But the cool thing I've found is when it's mutual and healthy there is a beautiful give and take thing that plays out and it doesn't feel like effort at all after time goes by.

    Cindy, I agree. I think it ultimately comes down to insecurities and thinking we're supposed to be someone we're not. It can get things all muddled.

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  17. Keli, I know after I got burned pretty badly it certainly felt like a risk, but I have to say I'm deeply thankful I risked. The rewards have blown me away.

    Johanna, Cookies + wine = yum. And 8 = my favorite number. Double score. You hit upon something with that honesty point. We're afraid to do that sometimes too b/c that can get difficult and few of us know how to do it lovingly.

    Sarah, Back atcha sister.

    Loree, I LOVE your point about how we have so much to learn from one another. If we could step back and turn the comparison thing, spin it some so we aren't looking inward, but celebrating outward things in our friend so much more good would come of it.

    Okay, brain is fried. Daughter is trying on dozens of costumes in combination with a pumpkin outfit. Will certainly turn this into a future post. Sometimes just picturing Darth Pumpkin isn't enough. You'll want to see this!
    ~ Wendy

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  18. Wendy, like others have said, I think we're afraid of the risk involved. Since we're fiercely competitive, I think we're deeply afraid of being vulnerable and exposing our insecurities. However, as you said, the rewards of opening up and investing are far greater than the risk!

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  19. When I met my best friend, I knew I wanted to get to know this woman. We are both passionate about the Lord, the Word of God, and family.

    I think that kind of connection is rare. Our friendship has endured many ups and downs, upheavals in our lives, and geographic separation. 31 years later, we're still friends.

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  20. I'm thankful for the friendships I have with many women in my life, some lifelong relationships and some quite new. I think it's interesting what you said about the findings of those psychological studies. I totally believe it.

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  21. I am thankful for my sisters; our friendship and bonds are among my many treasured gifts. I am also thankful for the friendship I had with my late sister Wendy. The picture at the top of this post reminds me of us when we were little. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  22. Cultivating relationships with my girlfriends is so important to me. As you mention, we are healthier when we have girl friends that we connect with. As a single female, unfortunately the 'men' competition can destroy a friendship--jealousy and envy taking over. But I thank God for my friends who encourage and uplift me and I try to give back their support two- fold.

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