Too Anxious, Too Exhausted, and Too Stressed for Friendships

business meetingYou are in a meeting that took weeks to arrange when your phone starts vibrating every 30 seconds.  You immediately run through the whereabouts of your family: kids are at school, husband is at work, and mom is playing golf so what could be so important.  Then panic begins as you imagine your child having an accident and being rushed to the hospital, your husband in a deadly car accident, or someone in the family dying.  So you check your phone discreetly only to find 15 messages from your friend.

Really?  Can’t this latest drama last till the end of the meeting?  But your phone keeps going off with new additional messages until you find that you are no longer participating in the meeting and severely distracted by the thoughts circling in your head wondering if your house is on fire or your friend is in jail.  So you cave and excuse yourself to return the dreaded phone call.

“I need to know what pumps to wear with my new black dress”, the panicked voice on the other end says.  Now you are angry that you go so anxious over nothing, exhausted from the million catastrophes that raided your mind, and stressed out from the unending craziness that hovers over your friend like a black cloud constantly raining on your parade.

Reasons for friendships.  You thought that having friendships would reduce your anxiety through shared experiences, alleviate your exhaustion by providing much-needed emotional support and minimize your stress by having someone to talk to.  But it doesn’t or at least has not in this case or the case before.  Now you are left wondering how to get rid of this ridiculous friendship and wondering if the risk of adding another friendship, even if it might be helpful, is really worth all of the effort.  After all, friendships require an investment of time, energy and intimacy all of which has long been long depleted from your account.

Get rid of the baggage.  Begin with the end in mind.  Friendships can be extremely helpful but if you find that you no longer care about which color pumps to wear then it is time to get rid of the friendships that do.  Backing away from a friend is difficult and there are two ways to effectively go about it.  One is the direct approach where you explain that you need to stop the friendship; the old “it’s not you, it’s me” approach.  The other way is to pull back a little at a time until the friendship is in the distance instead of so close by waiting 24 hours to return phone calls or respond to texts.

Less is more. In the end, you are better off with a few close friends that mutually support and encourage you instead of more friends that drain you.  But having a few close friends means kissing a lot of frogs along the way to see which will turn into a treasure.  More importantly, it means being a good friend to others so you can attract quality friendships.

Making the first move.  Sometimes you have to initiate a friendship by doing an act of kindness, listening to them complain, being empathetic when there is a problem, or just simply asking them to join you for a cup of coffee.  Don’t wait for others to make the first move or you are likely to fall into the dysfunctional friendship all over again.  Dysfunctional people are like leeches sticking to whatever surface that doesn’t repel them.  So stop being a target for them and make the first move.

Allow for grace.  Once you have started a friendship, have a couple of boundaries ready to keep you from falling back into your old pattern.  If for instance, your friend crosses a boundary such as calling after midnight, give grace once but after that if your boundary keeps being violated, then cut the friendship off.  The sooner you do this the better the result.

Risk intimacy.  In order for a friendship to reduce anxiety, alleviate exhaustion and minimize stress intimacy must be a two-way street.  You should not be giving more intimacy than your friend nor the other way around.  It must work together and naturally.  If not, this is not a close friend.

Know your seasons.  In every season of life, you will have different types of friends for different reasons.  When you were dating, your friendships were other single women.  When you got married and had kids, your friendships likewise were married with kids.  When you changed jobs, your friendships also changed.  This is normal.  Don’t try to force a friendship that was never meant to last beyond a season in your life.

Quality friendships can be extremely refreshing, encouraging, and are well worth the time, energy, risk and intimacy to achieve.  But with anything, practice makes perfect so don’t expect to have this down right away.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

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When A Friend Disappoints and Has An Affair

Our lives seem to have seasons.  For a time being my husband and I were in a season of graduations, than marriages, then kids, and now we are in a season of divorces.  I used to laugh at the fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce statistic smugly thinking that my friends would not be in that category, but now reality has set into my life.  Fifty percent of marriages ending in divorce is a conservative number among my friends.

Most of the stories are similar in that they began with an emotional affair on the part of one spouse and then ended with a physical affair.  In some cases the affairs did not last but in many of the cases both parties divorce and then remarry.  As a friend to both spouses and unfortunately sometimes even a friend to the “other one”, the boundaries of friendship seem to become strained no matter how much like Switzerland I attempt to become.  Having learned from many past mistakes, here are a few suggestions as to how to handle learning that your friend has committed adultery.

Don’t rely on gossip.  This is not a time to listen to information second or third hand and rely on it as if it was gospel no matter how reliable the source.  Instead observe your friend for yourself, looking for any indication that the gossip was true before you say anything.  This simple step can reduce the effectiveness of gossip especially if it is not true.  It there are indications that your friend is having an affair, then do not discuss it with anyone until you have had an opportunity to speak with your friend first.

Consider your friendship.  Many friends run the other way instead of confronting a friend who is cheating because they don’t want to get involved.  If you are really their friend, you are already involved and divorce does not just affect the person getting the divorce, it affects everyone around them.  In some cases an affair and then divorce can have a ripple effect on the work environment, a group of close friends or the church.  Consider these questions.  How much do you really value the friendship?  Is this a friendship you would like to maintain no matter the outcome?  If so, then you may need to confront them.  If not, then walk away and don’t spread gossip.

Think and pray before confronting.  Ask God to give you the right time and place for a confrontation.   Ask for understanding from their perspective what happened, not from your perspective.  Recognizing that there usually is far more to the story than what you can see right now and usually more than one version of the same story goes a long way to understanding your friend.  The point of confrontation is for reconciliation of your friendship, not an opportunity to say, “I’m right, you are wrong”.  Most likely, this is the time when your friend really needs a true friend.

Gently confront.  True friendship is not based on performance; it is based on love for one another.  Everyone makes mistakes, some are larger than others, some are more obvious than others, and some are more destructive than others, but nonetheless, we all make mistakes.  By reminding yourself of times when you have made a mistake and needed a friend helps to keep the conversation in proper perspective.  Most important to remember is to speak the truth in love to your friend.  Do not mince words or fail to say what is right, just do it remembering that you too have been wrong in the past and will be wrong sometime in the future.

Being disappointed by a friend’s affair does not mean that you have to lose the relationship.  Rather, this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship if your friend wants your friendship going forward.  Your friend may not be thrilled by the conversation and in the end, your relationship may end but at least you will know that you did what was right, no matter how difficult.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Give the Gift of Prayer This Year

I don’t know about you, but every year I struggle with finding the perfect gift for my family and friends.  It is almost a mission to seek out the right gift balancing between the person’s needs, wants, and talents.  When the right gift is discovered it is pure joy to watch them open it and it is in moments like that when it is truly better to give then to receive.

This year as finances have become tighter, I find myself less interested in all of the bargains, deals, extra shopping hours and countless searches on the internet.  Rather it has become a time of self-reflection onto the meaning of Christmas rather than the gift giving of Christmas.  When I recall the best gifts I have received during the year, it is the rare moment when a friend tells me they have been praying for me without my prompting and without any knowledge of my present circumstances.  Those moments are precious to me and I can remember every one of them with great clarity far better than I can remember the gifts I received from Christmas even just last year.

So this year, I’m going to give to my family and friends the gift of prayer.  Not in a showy way or prideful manner that says “I’m more Christian than you”, not in a gossipy or need to know the details of their life manner, but rather a simple personal email with the below prayer.  This prayer was taken from the first chapter of Colossians and it was Paul’s prayer for his fellow believers.  While reading the passage, it occurred to me that many times I pray for circumstances rather than character, relief from stress rather than strength, and change rather than clarity.  But no more, here is my prayer.

May God bless this season of your life through (Col. 1:8-12):

  •   Thanksgiving for your faith
  •   Knowing His will for your life
  •   Gaining spiritual wisdom and understanding
  •   Living to honor and please Him
  •   Learning more knowledge of who God is
  •   Increasing in strength for endurance & patience
  •   Filling you with joy and thankfulness

Let me invite you to consider a similar prayer for your family and friends this year, perhaps in addition to or in replacement for a gift.  Just imagine for a moment the change that could occur during your family visits if you prayed this prayer for each family member before gathering together.  Maybe, just maybe, it might be the best Christmas yet.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.