Earlier today I was told that if you keep having the same relationship issues then you must be the problem. I’m not so sure how I feel about that. I know I feel a little defensive (the truth hurts). I feel a tad convicted (the truth hurts a little). I also agree completely, but it’s been a long, difficult road for me to be honest about my motives, my weaknesses and my needs, so that I could stop having the same relationship issues and move on (the truth frees).
I have always had a thing for the underdog. Heck, every animal we have had to be rescued and/or was the runt! When I was in school I felt this need to protect the kids that others picked on. I was an outspoken young lady and a bit sarcastic, so I didn’t simply remove the victim from the situation. I typically did my best to lay-out the more “popular” student who was being unkind to the student I was “protecting.” The tongue is a sharp sword. I really believed that s/he deserved the tongue lashing and I had done nothing wrong. I referred to this as “Reverse Discrimination.” Ahhhhh, Youth…
I fell into a pattern of befriending people who “needed” me. In my adult life this led to an abundance of disfunctional friendships. I was always trying to “save” people. At first I would think she was wonderfully brave and then I would think it was my responsibility to show my friend unconditional love and then I would shift right into fixing mode. Of course, then I would often get frustrated when my friend didn’t follow my advice and/or kept making the same bad choices over and over. UGH! Who did I think I was?!
I didn’t expect my friends to “be there” for me. In fact, I rarely shared my struggles with any of my friends. I used to tell myself that it would reflect badly on God if I showed people my ugly junk. I also thought that they wouldn’t want to hear about my problems. I was a professional martyr. The truth of the matter was that I was afraid if I shared my stuff with anyone, she would run as fast and as far away from me as she possibly could. Truth be told, that did happen a time or two. I thought if I could do enough for my friend, then she would see that I was worth something and come through for me when I really needed it. My deeds went into the “friendship bank” and if I accumulated enough, then she would prove herself a true friend and I could trust her to love me and accept me one day.
I didn’t think these things consciously. I don’t think I even realized half of this until I moved to Texas and spent years with no close friends. I didn’t really want to know. I was too busy running from my lie, “I’m not worth fighting for.” I was hiding behind doing all of these “nice” things for my husband, our 5 children, our church, our extended family, the kids’ schools, and our friends. People don’t typically question a Christian “Stepford” wife when she’s doing it all.
We moved to Texas about 7 years ago. I knew absolutely NO ONE. Our church had split back home, our pastors relocated, our small group friends were dealing with this, as well as serious health and financial issues, and the group of ladies I had befriended had been very hurtful to me before I moved, so I didn’t feel like I could reach out to anyone. We were trying to sell our home there while buying a new one in Texas, which was a HUGE financial strain. My family of origin was going through a massive crisis and after a few months in Texas, our marriage began to become unhinged. At that point I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life.
I couldn’t seem to connect with anyone here and my confidence level had dipped considerably. It is very difficult to familiarize someone with your life and/or yourself when you are already 40-something.
Not being known is kind of a kick at first. It’s fun to go grocery shopping a mile from your home and not be recognized by ANYONE. It felt a bit surreal. It didn’t take long for the thrill of anonymity to wear off and be replaced by old-fashioned loneliness. But trying to make connections, even knowing where to begin was overwhelming. Trying to fit in with people who have already established friendships and lives, is not the same once your children are older and don’t attend the local schools. It was extremely lonely, but it gave me the time I needed to reflect on the friendships I had had and to decide that I needed to find healthy relationships this time around.
It has been seven years and I have yet to find a close friend here. I have a group of women from my church who are so very dear to me and know me intimately, but we are all very spread out and live very busy lives. I enjoy their company a few times a year, but I don’t have the kind of relationships with them that fills my need for regular companionship. I have friends in Michigan from my small group. We get together with them when we visit and they’ve come here a couple of times, also. Their friendship is a treasure to me. Unfortunately, in a good year, we see them about 3 times.
So, here is my want ad:
Wanted: Female friend who is close in proximity and wants to spend time with me. Someone who sees my value, because I will treasure her. A friend who will listen, as well as share and hold me accountable in love. A woman who is reasonably healthy in the mental department and who wants to grow and doesn’t want to waste her time being a victim! Someone who will celebrate my successes and sympathize with my losses. Most importantly, she must have the desire for a friendship that is honoring, that extends grace, and that has give and take from both people – not always equally, but in the degree that is needed in each season.
It seems like too much to ask. Maybe it is. I just know that I can’t really engage in any more highly disfunctional friendships such as I’ve had in the past. I don’t need to be anyone’s hero. I don’t need to save anyone anymore to feel good about myself. I’m a good friend. I have some good qualities and some junk, as well. I’m wise enough to know that I’m not strong enough to engage in a relationship like that again. The martyr is dying, but she ain’t gone, yet!
I realize I may sound arrogant. It’s taken me a long time to get to this healthy place and it’s been very lonely to go this long without a friend – especially during the traumatic last several years of my life. I understand that people go through seasons of want, as well as plenty. I don’t expect that someone I am friends with won’t have their junk, just as I do. I simply want a friend who is willing to look at her junk and be willing to really work through it because she realizes, as do I, that to do anything else is wasting this precious short life we have here on this earth. I want a friend who chooses joy because she understands how blessed we are, in spite of the junk we have to work through.
I have really crappy days when I wonder what the heck is wrong with me that I can’t have a best girlfriend here. Mostly I feel like He’s telling me to trust Him with this. I’m where I’m supposed to be for now and He’ll work it all out for me when it’s time. And except for the very rare crappy days, I’m at peace with this.
I understood that I was the problem because I kept having the same issues… He helped me understand that I had to work on me before I would be able to have healthy friendships that He could bless. And so, I wait and work on me…
I’m the problem…