Friendships, and relationships in general, are hard. True story. But when done right, they can provide a great sense of belonging and support.
Years of being newly married, or being a new Mom, or being a new business owner can be incredibly lonely, which is why having 2 or 3 good friends is a great idea. And this won’t happen by accident, great intention is required to cultivate these lasting, and deeply connected friendships.
As a kid, all you had to do to make a friend was to share your lunch or hold someone’s hand. But the older you get, especially once you hit big life milestones like marriage, motherhood, relocation etc, the dynamics change. You may have heard some women lamenting how they drifted apart from their girlfriends once their lives started looking different.
Asking good questions, which is the subject of this post, is a great way of going beyond talking about the weather 🙂 When life takes over you probably won’t be spending lots of time together, but the time you are able to spend together can be of quality.
I’ll never forget the day my husband and I sat down with some friends of us and they broke the news to us that they were getting divorced after years of marriage. I was shocked because I had always looked up to their marriage, and I felt awful because I had been an awful friend. How do we call ourselves friends when we can’t share our struggles? To the point where we only find out about a struggling marriage at the end?
I’m certainly not saying that we could have prevented the breakup, my thought was that we could have at least supported, prayed and done all we can to help them fight for their relationship.
If we had asked the right questions and been more intentional about connecting, we would have had an idea of where they were at.
I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to friendships, it’s the one area that I’ve struggled with and have had awful breakups in. But all these experiences have taught me to be a better friend, and to quickly pick up if a friendship is toxic.
What does a good friendship look involve?
This may seem like a basic question, but most of the healthy friendships I’ve seen and have had:
A level of vulnerability
According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. But if you’ve experienced betrayal, or maybe have had the not so pretty parts of yourself used against you, then opening up might be terrifying.
But in order to cultivate relationships that go beyond talking about the weather, friends should be free to talk freely about stuff that is scary, shameful and hard.
Iron sharpens iron, and good friends tell their friends hard truths in love.
Some people though automatically jump to the truth-telling and skip the love part, making it hard to receive any truth from them, while others focus on the love and let their friends walk around with spinach in their teeth all day 🙂
A healthy friendship contains a balance of truth and love, encouraging the parties involved to be the best versions of themselves.
Assuming the best
Friends will do stuff that disappoints and even hurt you, but a healthy friendship always assumes the best (true of marriage too by the way). But if you assume the best, if you believe that your friend wants only the best for you and choose to see them in this light, it will be easier to offer grace when these times come.
So what can you ask?
These simple questions will help you not miss important information about your friends.
- What are you looking forward to this year?
Or you can pick any timeframe depending on the season. I love this question because as women and Moms it’s easy to get into a rut and be buried by the daily grind.
So asking this question usually opens paves way for me to figure out my friends’ level of enthusiasm and joy towards life. It will often reveal whether they are tired, excited, weary, scared etc. Knowing this then makes it possible for me to encourage appropriately.
2. How’s your walk with God?
This one is for if you are believers. I have to warn you though, most people never feel like they are ‘doing’enough to cultivate a deep relationship with God, and that’s okay. The goal is to encourage your friend to cultivate their spiritual practice, not to be judgemental or anything.
I know from my own life that when I’m right with God, I’m overall right with the world, so I want the same for those that I call friends.
3. Have you done anything that scared you lately?
Not referring to illegal activity but more to doing stuff out of the comfort zone 🙂 Dreams are scary to bring to life most of the time, so most people procrastinate on them and choose to fill their time with distractions and other things that keep them in their comfort zone.
So by enquiring on this, dreams can be reawakened, and support can be given.
4. Whom have you encouraged/mentored/raised up today?
It’s so easy to look inward and never really help others, but when we do, life becomes much more meaningful. I know how tough it can be, especially if you are the new mom/toddler/small kids stages.
So having friends ask such a question goes a long way in reminding us that there’s a world out there that we can bring kindness, encouragement and love into.
5. How’s your marriage doing?
Women put up masks, and we are no different when it comes to our marriages. While some people will share happily, others will bottle up hurts and disappointments and even abuse.
So as hard as this question is, ask your friends. And let them vent if they need to.
Ask for permission to probe, and let them speak to their level of comfortability.