Getting Intentional About Female Friendship

By on June 17, 2013
Diane Lofgren friend Jeanice

By Diane Gage Lofgren and Margaret Bhola –

Just before New Year’s Eve, Jeanice, 61, picked up a book on her nightstand that Leanne, her friend from her dance studio in Orlando, Florida, had given her for Christmas. Jeanice read the intro and the first chapter of Women I Want to Grow Old With before turning off the light.

After church the next day, she stopped at the mall. She often did things to pass time since losing her husband a few years earlier to a motorcycle accident. Jeanice’s husband was struck when a truck ran a red light. Jeanice witnessed it all as she rode her motorcycle behind him.

This Sunday, before she could get out of her car, her friend Barbara*, 54, called. “Can you talk?”  Barbara asked anxiously.

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After moving from Orlando to Palm Beach a year earlier, Barbara called often, and vice versa, and the two friends got together in person a few times a year.

But this wasn’t just any check-in call. Barbara was in crisis. A man she had been dating for a year and scheduled to meet the next day in Washington, D.C., had just cancelled their plans. An emergency thwarted their plans to spend New Year’s in New York. Barbara had grown suspicious of his marital status, but this last-minute opt-out put her over the edge. Each time they were supposed to meet near his home, he cancelled the plans. Now, she was more than certain that this so-called “bachelor” was married. She called her friend for advice.

“You need to confront him,” Jeanice said without hesitation.

“Will you go with me? I’ll buy your ticket,” her friend asked desperately.

“Barbara’s question took my breath away,” said Jeanice. “But suddenly the book I had started reading on friendship popped into my mind. The authors talked about intentional friendship and how to be a friend in a crisis—how to listen with a mindset of service and support. I had no doubts that I was supposed to go. So I went home, got online, found a flight for Barbara to book, and within a few hours I was packed and on my way to meet her in DC.

“I had never done anything like that in my life, but through it all, I never doubted that it was the right thing to do,” says Jeanice. “I know I have friends who would be by my side if I asked. It’s such a treasure to know you can call someone at the drop of a hat, and they’ll be there for you.”

Don’t Leave Your Friendships to Chance

In Women I Want to Grow Old With, we pose the question, “If your life fell apart today, who are the first three women you’d call? Will you have the friends you need when you need friends the most?”

It’s a tough question. As we speak to groups of women, many recognize they’ve put off making friends. Or, they’ve let their friendships wane. Life’s other commitments—family, work, volunteerism, travel—seem to usurp time and thwart intentions.

Ah “intention.” What a loaded word. We meant to. We want to. We should have. We will…

Well, there will never be a better time than now to not leave your female relationships to chance. If fact, we suggest getting “intentional” about it—or put another way, make a declaration to have your female friendships be a priority in your life. As you meet women with whom you feel you have a special bond, seal the deal with a question, “Will you be a woman I grow old with? And then declare, “I would really like to have you as my friend forever.”

It’s not weird or pushy. It’s something most women want to hear. We all want to be wanted. As you widen your circle of friends, you’ll find that you connect
especially well with a few women. In these relationships, you start revealing more and more of who you really are. And as you do, you find what could be called true “intention holders”—women who grow to be part of your closest circle of friends. They encircle you with love and support. You feel safe and secure with them; they’re reliably by your side. They even hold your goals and dreams. They are the ones you can call to celebrate, to commiserate, and to comfort you. They lighten your load and completely get you. These women are there to help you get through, get over and get beyond. They give you hope!

Throughout her SOS trip, Jeanice, served as Barbara’s intention holder. To do that she continually reminded herself that her focus on this trip was not herself but her friend.

“Even when I didn’t agree with Barbara, I would tell myself, ‘This is not about you,'” she recalls. “I was there not to judge but to be by Barbara’s side so she didn’t have to walk through this difficult time alone.”

How did the story end? The “boyfriend” was married—even though earlier in the year he had produced divorce papers. Barbara had leaned on this man during a difficult year of transition and now felt deeply betrayed. Jeanice stayed by her friend’s side as Barbara and her soon-to-be ex-beau talked things through. After four days, Jeanice knew it was time to leave.

“I told her I loved her but needed to go,” says Jeanice. “She went down the elevator with me, and I put my hand on her chin, looked her in the eye, and said, “You need to get out of this. I love you and care about you, but you need to stop this.

“That was unique for me to do; I’m not confrontational,” says Jeanice. “And, it was a pivotal moment in our friendship. I was direct, but I said what I said in love.

“Barbara answered, ‘I know,’ and with that I knew she understood she could call me at any time. When I got home, I sent her a copy of the friendship book, Women I Want to Grow Old With, and a note to let her know how much I cared for her.”

Kicking Blanche to the Curb

What a tough situation wrapped in a beautiful friendship story. Barbara reached out for help from a friend, and Jeanice moved generously to do what she could to help. But what proceeded that moment is even more important. These two women had created a bond and kept their connection even when Barbara moved away to a different city. They remained intentional about staying in touch, being part of each other’s lives, and not letting time or distance separate them.

How easy it would have been for Jeanice not to act boldly and travel to support Barbara. Consider the many excuses the little voice in her head spoke in an effort to prevent her from going. We’ve named that voice Blanche. You know her well. She’s the invisible naysayer who sits on your shoulder and whispers doubt and excuses in your ear.

“You don’t have time to go.”
“You have no business getting involved in her business.”
“It will be too awkward.”
“She got herself into this.”
“I don’t really feel like traveling during the holidays.”

Or Blanche may pull the “too, too, too” trick.
“You’re too busy.”
“She’s too pre-occupied to be your friend.”
“You’re too emotional to help someone else.”

But instead of getting distracted from her good intentions, Jeanice followed her heart. In doing so, she validated how important Barbara’s friendship was to her. She did for someone else what she would want someone to do for her. She showed love. She kept her boundaries. She reached out and kept in touch.

We may not all be able to get on a plane to be by our friend’s side in time of need, but we can all be there in spirit and truth. We can listen, offer suggestions, and hold her chin in our hand—even if it’s on a phone call or through an email or handwritten card. Nothing else heals like understanding and compassion and no judgment. It’s a gift to give freely. It’s one we all want to receive when our souls are aching for understanding and support.

Are you a woman others want to grow old with? We bet you are!

*not her real name

Diane Gage Lofgren and Margaret Bhola are the authors of Women I Want to Grow Old With http://womeniwanttogrowoldwith.com/book that sprang from Diane and Margaret’s mutual desire to foster their female friendships–and their friendship with each other. Diane is the author of nine books and the Chief Communication Officer for a national health organization. Margaret, a health advocate, effective leader and team coach, is a National Marketing Director for NSA International.

 

 

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Getting Intentional About Female Friendship