I am excited about the opportunity to speak this Friday to a group of pastors and counselors in the Southern California area on how to help women suffering in emotionally destructive marriages. I put out a question on my CONQUER page about what you wish your pastor or Christian counselor had said to you when you sought help. I’d be interested in your replies as well.
I am going to be opening up a brand new website targeting people helpers, pastors, counselors, and church leaders to provide education, support, and training. If you can help us to understand what you felt they lacked, that will also help me shape that training.
Question: I'm isolated. It's difficult to have female friends because if I open up, they walk away–can't hear it or don't want to understand or help. I have a masters degree, am introverted, highly empathic, competent, successful, and lonely. Women are jealous and competitive. They act superior to me. I end up running back to my husband and staying because I'm ostracized by females. I believe 3 strands make us strong but how do I develop those 3 strands of friendship?
Answer: I am sorry that you feel so lonely and isolated….and that you believe that you have no other options other than to run back to your spouse and stay with him because you haven’t been able to make good female friends.
I’m not sure why you have separated from your husband, but let’s instead look at your relationship with women. You say you have been ostracized by females. You also said that women are jealous, competitive, and act superior. They don’t want to hear you, don’t want to understand and don’t want to help you. Hmmm.
That’s a pretty bold statement to make about all women. I’m not sure about the kind of women that you have sought out as friends, but in my experience, most women are kind-hearted, generous, sacrificial, and caring, sometimes to a fault.
If you’ve followed my ministry, you know I look for patterns. Since you’ve had a pattern of finding or attracting the wrong kind of women as friends, I think it can be helpful when we have gotten into the same kind of destructive relationship pattern, again and again, to ask ourselves a self-reflective question. What’s going on with me? Why am I drawn to, or am attracting this kind of person to me again and again? Or am I coloring all future people and relationships on some bad experiences from my past? What’s going on?
I would give the same advice for a woman who found herself repeatedly picking poor male partners. For example, if a woman gets divorced from a destructive spouse and then finds herself in another destructive relationship and then another, that does not prove all men are bad, narcissistic, alcoholic, or cruel. What it does show is that her people picker is off and she is gravitating or drawn to men with unhealthy character traits.
It’s tempting to get discouraged from your experiences and tell yourself a story, a lie, that “all women are bad” but that simply is not true. So the next question is, what do you need to do differently to find some better female friends?
I’d really welcome the perspectives of other women on the blog but let me share a few of my own thoughts.
I think finding good friends is harder as we get older. Sometimes our children provided opportunities for us to meet a lot of different mom’s who later became our friends too. Once the kids grow up, finding good friends isn’t quite as easy. It’s not like we can walk up to a woman at church and say “do you want to be my friend?”
Finding and developing quality female friends is going to take some effort, especially in today’s world of isolation and business. Click To Tweet
So here are a few suggestions.
1. Put yourself in activities you enjoy where you can meet new people. That might be a choir, Bible study, helping feed the homeless, line dancing, volunteering at a pregnancy center or the American Red Cross, hiking, photography, biking, or cooking classes. When you do that, you will find other like-minded people also share a love or interest in those activities. As you get to know people in a group, certain individuals will stand out more than others. Some women there might appear more self-centered, but a few women will stand out. She might have some great insights to share or good tips she’s learned from other classes. When you see a woman who seems like a potential person to develop a friendship, start talking with her more in class. See what she’s like. Suggest a coffee or dessert after class and see what happens. Friendships develop slowly and over time.There are week-long wilderness or camping vacations or cruises that cater to women who want to build better bonds. Also, retreats and other shared experiences can forge bonds of friendship faster than more casual meet-ups can.
2. Friendships form at different levels. There are fun friends, casual friends, and close, deep, sister-type friends. Not every friendship has to be at the same level. I have enjoyed certain friends right now in my new location, but I would not consider them my “close friends” yet. There is that potential, but I’m still getting to know them. I’m listening to how they interact with others, how they treat people when they get upset, how they “talk” about someone when the person is not there, how they care for one another when one gets sick. These things show a person’s character, and for close friends, I want to find a person of trustworthy character. However, that does not mean that my fun and casual friends are not friends and that I don’t enjoy them. All of them have good qualities that I enjoy.
3. Be the friend you’d like to have. Not only are you attracted to certain kinds of people, they are also attracted to you. Since you described yourself as educated, successful and highly empathic, I wonder if you are attracting more needy people who are looking to get something from you rather than having a reciprocal friendship. Or could you be intimidating women with some of your strengths? I’d encourage you to plant yourself in a good church or some other organization where you can serve and love people. When you do that, people will be attracted to you. From there you can see if something deeper can develop.
We all need friends. Women especially feel that disconnection and you are right to want to develop better female friendships. But I would encourage you to start by reevaluating your global assessment about all women. Thinking in that way will keep you from seeing anything other than what you already think and that will keep you frustrated and lonely.
Friend, when you are looking for a new friend, what did you do to find one?