I usually respond to a lot of questions each week about marriage. But last week’s question was about a friendship with another woman and I don’t think we give this topic enough time or energy. Our girlfriend relationships are crucial, probably even more important than marriage because there is no one person, even a good spouse that can meet all of our needs or desires. Therefore, I thought I’d tackle two more questions that have popped up regarding this important topic.
Question #1: Why are women so nasty to each other? It’s so hard to make female friends. I asked the Lord to bring me, Christian friends. Then I was invited to a weekly Bible study, just 3 women. It started out fine but then one woman used me against the other. Why are women so competitive and catty? Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I have been that way myself in the past but I long for closeness with some female friends. Help me understand what’s going on.
Question #2: I notice that in your book on depression, you encourage women to find a support group or trusted people to talk to. Here is my problem. I have issues trusting people with my feelings and thoughts. I don’t really even have any female friends to speak of. How do I overcome this in order to find help and support?
Answer: Female friendships are very important and the older I get the more I realize how important they are. Even the best man/husband doesn’t understand us the way our girlfriends do. Plus, statistics show that most women will outlive their husbands and research overwhelmingly confirms that having a supportive group of loving friends is crucial in one’s ability to handle life’s stressors.
That said, relationships take work and finding and maintaining good friendships is not always easy. Just as in marriage, we can get in some pretty unhealthy and even destructive relationships with our female friends. In addition, some women have been burned, hurt or wounded so deeply that their ability to trust others has been impacted and find themselves shutting down or pushing potential new friends away.
But I want you to know there is hope. Whether you’ve been discouraged or hurt in your past friendships with women, don’t give up. God knows our need for friends. Even in a perfect world, God told Adam that it was not good that he was alone, void of human companionship. In addition to making us physical and spiritual beings, God also made you a relational being and you will not function well isolated from connection with others. He knows we need relationships to thrive as human beings. That’s why he created families and the church (family of God). However, if your biological family was abusive and your ability to trust others damaged, learning to begin trusting others is very difficult for you, even if you are a Christian.
Second, start small. Don’t give all your trust to every person you meet. In other words, keep your emotional clothes on until you have known someone for a while and she shows you her trustworthiness. Often we can be attracted to people who ooze personality and charm but lack godly character. That kind of woman might be a fun person to hang out with at a retreat or social event, but without a godly character, she will not make a good close friend.
When you’re with other women, especially one that you might want to get to know better, observe how she interacts with others. Does she keep their confidences or does she talk about people behind their back? Is she catty and competitive? Does she act one way with the person in front of someone of status or importance and another way when they are not present? Observe her. Does she respect a person’s feelings and opinions, and listen when they talk?
If you’re not ready to join a Bible study or a specific women’s group yet, volunteer for a committee. Work on a project – a women’s retreat, setting up for VBS, serving a meal for the teens, cleaning up after a church event. Notice how a woman you might want to get to know handles herself when she’s frustrated, doesn’t get her way, or when someone else annoys her. You can tell a lot about a person simply by watching the way she treats other people. We all have a bad day so don’t judge and please be forbearing as James tells us that we all stumble in many ways. But when you observe someone over time consistently treating others with kindness, respect, and honesty, she might be someone you want to get to know better.
In my book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, I write that there are three necessary ingredients for a healthy friendship: mutual honesty, mutual caring, and mutual respect. If one of those ingredients is not mutually demonstrated, the relationship will not flourish. That doesn’t mean someone doesn’t sometimes act rudely or isn’t totally honest. But when she does, is she able to accept responsibility, apologize and ask for forgiveness? Or does she blame you, deny what happened, or refuse to share any responsibility?
You ask why do some women act nasty and catty even in the church? I think partly it’s because they haven’t matured and are still functioning as they did in junior high. They are insecure women and feel better about themselves by putting others down. Even Jesus didn’t trust everyone. It says in John 2, “but Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.”
Two final cautions: If you’ve been burnt in relationships or have trouble trusting others, your internal radar is already on high alert and it enables you to detect even the slightest nuance of annoyance, disappointment, or negativity emanating from other people. The problem when you detect these very human foibles is that you personalize them. You think someone is mad at you, someone doesn’t like you, or you’ve done something wrong. That interpretation is probably not true, although you are correct in picking up some negative vibes. It may be that the person is tired, busy, distracted, or needs to take care of something else right at the moment and isn’t able to give you her full attention. Try to not take these things personally so that you run away or shut down before you give that person a real chance to be a friend.
Second, although we definitely need friendships, our friends can never meet all of our needs. When we expect them to, we will surely be disappointed. Once you find a good friend who you trust, be careful to not become overly dependent on your her to always be there, totally understand you, and meet all of your emotional needs. No one can always be there, never tire, and be totally selfless and loving. That is God’s job. He uses our human friends to meet some of our needs, but not any one person to meet all of our needs.
When we lean too heavily for too long on one person whether it is our spouse or our girlfriend, the relationship is at risk of becoming unhealthy and the other person will eventually fail us and we (and they) will get hurt. They cannot be nor should they try to be God for us. Click To Tweet
Friends, can you chime in here. How have you learned to find a good female friend? What are some of the things you do to build and keep your friendships healthy and mutual?