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The Cure for Connection

(for us ladies)

      Have you ever felt so completely alone that you felt if you left this earth no one would miss you (apart from your family of course, because there would be no dinner or clean laundry?)

      Have you ever gone to church, the one place we “should” feel welcomed and accepted, but left feeling like an outsider?  People may have smiled and said “good-morning” but no one had a conversation with you?  Did you leave feeling like you might actually be invisible?

      Have you ever wondered if you would ever meet that female friend, who understood and accepted you completely, problems and all?  The kind of friend you could call to explain your latest dilemma or achievement, and she would discuss the problem or be thrilled with your latest accomplishment?  Or would even know what you were going to say without you saying it first?  The kind of friend we call “a soul mate”

     Women need friends in a different way than men tend to need friends.  The latest research has shown that when women converse with other women, a hormone, oxytocin, is released, which in turn, reduces stress.  Of course, we have always known that women are more relational verbally (we have so many more words in us!).  We’d be happy just sitting anywhere (and we have) with a cup of coffee discussing all the minute details that comprise our lives.

      As a therapist, I have worked with many women who are lonely.  And that loneliness makes them sad, discouraged, and even ill at times.  They wonder why they do not have close female friends with whom they can spend time with and share the meaningful moments of their lives.

      If married, women share their lives with their husbands, of course.  However, men can have a difficult time processing all the details women want to endlessly discuss.  Husbands often feel overwhelmed listening to all of the “information” their wives wish to share with them.  Many men like to “fix” the problem and move on.  Women, on the other hand, like to dissect, discuss, and process situations.   

     This is why, I believe, God gave women girlfriends.  We can do all of our “pink talking” without driving our “blue-speaking” husbands crazy.  You can find more about male and female relational “color” differences in Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.

      There are many reasons why women don’t have the friendships they desire:

1.      moving to a new location to accommodate their own or their husband’s careers

2.     being housebound by small children

3.     illness – physical, such as disease or surgery, or mental health, such as depression

4.     fears – of rejection, even of acceptance

5.     employment taking so much time, that by the time they take care of their families there is little time or energy for socializing

6.     difficulty in finding women who enjoy similar interests

      There are other reasons, of course, but the point is that we need friendships in order to enrich our lives and enjoy that feeling of satisfaction in connecting with another woman.  God made us social beings – to deny this need would be to deny one of the essential characteristics of being a woman.

  Barriers to connection

      When homebound with small children many women become discouraged, feeling a lack of mental stimulation.  Starting a neighborhood mom’s club or a weekly child care group which rotates from home to home, is a way to socialize with other women or get out of the house.  MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is a great opportunity to meet with other moms (at any church that has a MOPS group) while your child is cared for in a class or nursery.

      Illness can be a factor in lack of friendships.  If you are homebound, due to physical or mental health reasons, it can be very difficult to make friends or sustain friendships.  Check with your church to see if another woman feels called to participate in a phone relationship or a visitation outreach.  Just as importantly, is there anyone you could minister to over the phone?

      If you work full time (or even part time), it can be frustrating to find the time or the energy to find or meet with other women.  You need to be creative in searching out other women and finding time to meet.  Perhaps you could start a working woman’s Saturday morning breakfast club.  It’s been said that “necessity is the mother of invention.”  Brainstorm with other women (or your husband!) to come up with possible ways of getting together.

      If we have a difficult time finding someone who enjoys the same things we do, perhaps God is opening the door to a new experience for us.  We may have to be willing to stretch ourselves in order to connect with a woman with different interests to find a new friend.  Ultimately, it is up to us to search and up to God to provide.

 How to connect

      Pray and ask God what he would have you do, where he would have you go, who he would have you call.  In a word, ask for his direction and blessing in this search.

      Part of the way to develop friendships with other women is to be open to the women and situations that come into your life.  One of my clients who struggled with loneliness told me how she initially rejected a friendship with a specific woman because they had such extremely diverse political views.  After spending time with mutual friends and this woman, my client began to enjoy the woman, which eventually resulted in a close friendship.

      Creating a scenario such as a  women’s group - whether it be for coffee, gardening, cooking, scrap booking, or whatever you can think of - is a way to expose yourself to new friendships and perhaps even new opportunities.

        Gossiping and devaluing other women undermines potential relationships.  Make an effort to be positive about other women.  If there is someone you have a conflict with, attempt to resolve it.  Try to understand why you don’t like that person.  Is it because she reminds you too much of your own flaws, something you do not like in yourself?  Did she make a social mistake once or a relationship mistake?  Can you make it a focus of your own spiritual growth to forgive her and possibly restore the relationship?

         Women also tend to be very status oriented.  We want friends who mirror our values (thus validating what’s important to us), and who fit in with our schema (our belief system) of who we are.  The problem with this is that we may be dismissing someone who might be a wonderful friend.  Don’t limit the possibilities - a new friend may be “disguised” in someone you would not ordinarily consider.

           Connecting with other women is something we all need. It certainly takes thought, time and effort but it is something we have some amount of control over.  Ultimately it’s up to us to find and enjoy the potential friends God has waiting for us.

  

Open to God’s possibilities,   Mary