“A few years ago, several of my closest friends got together and decided to leave me forever. They swear it was a coincidence — that they had to move due to job relocation, changes in military stations, whatever. All I know is, the majority of my core group was gone.
So many of the ladies I did life with up and moved to different parts of the country. We had spent years parenting together, sharing our secrets, and laughing until our bellies hurt. We confided in each other when our marriages felt less than perfect. We shared recipes and our biggest parenting fails. We prayed together and held each other’s hands when God felt too far away and life seemed too hard. Real life, in-the-trenches friends. Gone.
Sure, these girls would still be my friends, but the absence of our day-to-day relationship would leave a gaping hole in my life. My heart was broken.
My husband, who is usually ridiculously patient with me, pulled out his phone and started flipping through his contacts. He gently suggested that I needed to stop whining and work towards fixing the problem. (He’s a real jerk like that sometimes.) With all the determination, and maybe some of the cheesiness of a used car salesman, he started trying to sell me on a potential new friendships with everyone he knew: What about Tom’s wife? She seems nice? Maybe Tammy from work? I bet you would like her. No, dear husband, everyone knows Tammy is literally the worst. She is always trying to sell magic stretch-mark cream to whoever will listen. She is a know-it-all and a gossip. I wasn’t having it.
Making ‘new friends’ is easy. I like (most) people. I love dinners out and fancy cocktails with the girls while we pretend to be younger and cooler than we are. I love coffee talks and play-dates with mommas and a swarm of children. New friends? Got it. Hang out with someone 2-3 times. Casual acquaintances masquerading as friends — that’s my comfort zone. REAL FRIENDS? That’s more of an issue.
It takes time and energy and commitment to make real friends. Even scarier, it takes putting yourself out there. I can put on my costume and play the part of the friend who has things somewhat together.
I can prepare and clean my house for 3 hours the first few times you come for a visit, but I can only pretend it is usually this clean for so long before you find out the truth. One day you will stop in because you forgot your sweater, and you will see the underwear one of my boys flung on the couch and the dinner dishes piled up from last night.
I can tell you funny stories and be silly and carefree. But, I only have so many stories, and my life isn’t always fun and light. One day, my mask will fall off and you will catch me in a bad mood. One of those moods where I can’t even stand to be around myself.
We can sit together in church. We can worship side-by-side. We can share sweet things our kids said about Jesus. We can tell stories about real miracles we have seen unfold in our own lives. But, when I’m wrestling with God, and when I have moments of questioning my own faith, will you pray with me? Or will you judge me?
My husband and I can invite you out for a double date. We can laugh and joke. We can be charming and make you think we are the perfect couple. But, sooner or later, you would catch us bickering when we thought nobody was listening. I may need someone to talk to if I go through a season of feeling unheard or unloved by my husband. Will you assure me that every marriage goes through these tough times? Would you encourage me? Or will you take the opportunity to gossip about us when you are out with your other friends?
I can show you exactly what I want you to see. I can project the image of the perfect friend, but I can only keep up the act for so long before you see the other side of me. The messy me. The gross van, no makeup, annoyed with my kids, exhausted, stained yoga pants version of me.
It is terrifying to put yourself out there. Girls can be mean. Women can be vicious.
Yet, we simply can’t go through this life alone. What we do is too important to try to figure it out by ourselves. We need a circle of people who are going through the same things, and who are ready and willing to band around us. We fight too hard to not have allies.
God wove women together in the most complicated and intricate way. We have minds that never stop going. We feel big feelings. We have an innate need to be understood and heard and supported. Your guy friends or your husband can not offer you the same sacred camaraderie as a woman who is knee-deep in the exact kind of day-to-day mess as you are in.
Being in your beautifully packaged life is lonely. It’s suffocating and there is no room to grow. Stepping out is scary. It’s so easy to have lovely relationships where we only show each other our best, but what we get in return are fake friendships with fake people.
I have made some precious real-life friends over the past couple of years. Casual friendships have grown into girls who really know me and have my back. As it turns out, even my friends that moved away are still a huge part of my life — it just looks different now.
My friends are always there. When I am positive that I am screwing up my children, I am met with a story of hope from someone who just went through the same dang thing. They cheer me on to keep going. They tell me what I need to know, and not just what I want to hear. They pray for me. They support me. They love me.
We act like silly teenagers. We drink margaritas and practice our lame dance moves. They never judge me when my mom bladder can’t support our laughter, and I accidentally pee just a little bit. We have more fun than should be legal, and once we had more fun that actually is legal. (That’s a story for another day.)
If you are looking for encouragement as you build your friendships, take it from me: put yourself out there. Find a group of women and commit to them. Love them fiercely. Support them like sisters. Be their biggest cheerleader. Show up for life events, big and small. If you already have this, hang on to it with everything you have. The cost is high, but the value is unbelievably great.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hollifield of Momstrosity. It originally appeared on their blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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