Please welcome back guest writer Sarah Coleman for a piece on being vulnerable in friendship.
I’ve always found navigating friendships more difficult than dating but, then again, I married the first guy I dated. But, I knew that I really liked Kate the first time we had coffee together. She told me that she was terrible at following through on “we should get together” proclamations because she felt awkward. Was she overstepping boundaries? What if they didn’t reciprocate? When was it too soon to declare your affection?
All of these were things that I had struggled with for years, and had no idea that I wasn’t alone. Knowing that she felt just as awkward as I did made it easier for me to ask her to lunch or send her a message just to say hi. Friendship can be difficult at times, because in order to get beyond small talk, you have to make yourself vulnerable. That vulnerability never backfired with Kate, and I can only hope that she would say the same about me. Not surprisingly, because I put myself out there rather than perpetually waiting for invitations, our friendship flourished.
Several years ago, we talked about the idea of a friendship manifesto. I don’t remember many of the details of it now, but one of the core principles was that friends should understand that friendship is not always equal. Life happens, and one party may not be able to invest as much time and emotional energy as the other. This doesn’t have to be the death knell of the friendship, because there will come a time when the other person needs some extra understanding. The point is to be the best friend you can be.
Kate and I don’t talk as much as I’d like these days. She has two small children and is working on a book about overcoming birth trauma. I moved several hundred miles away, which really limits hang out time. But when we do get together, it feels like we’ve picked up where we left off, talking about faith, family, and our struggles with creativity. Because of her, I try to be more open about feeling socially awkward with people and, rather than expecting equal effort from friends, I focus on my role. I think I’m not only a better friend but a better person, too. She has made a great difference to my life and, while I don’t know if we will be sitting on the porch together when we’re eighty, I know that she is someone I will always respect and admire.