Monday, July 26, 2010

Friendships Among Women - Improving Friendships

Today we will start look at 5 tips that will improve your friendships. We will focus on one each day because each is a post in itself.

As I write these tips I do want to make note of the personality aspect of friendship. This is a link to my personality post to help you understand what your unique personality is. Go to

I do want to clarify that some personality types need and do better with less friends than others so as write this I do want to clarify that I am not advocating that everyone has to have 20 friends to be a balanced person. Some personality types do very well with 2 or 3 really close friends and some do really well with 10 or more really close friends. That is just all about how God made us and it is good however that may work for you.

The point of this post is to encourage various types of friendship with other women - always remember some will be closer than others but they all hold great value - these may and probably will include your mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, sis -in -laws, nieces, cousins and any other female family member you can think of because the best kind of family are the ones you actually can call your friends.

So enough about that - Tip Number One:

1. Don't expect one friend to meet all your needs.

In their book, What Every Mom Needs, Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall wrote, "...just as no marriage can meet our every need for intimacy, neither can a single friendship." It is important to realize that one person can not meet all our needs for friendship. When we look to one friend to meet all of our friendship needs we could run the risk of becoming too dependent on that friendship. This could lead to high expectations that we talked about previously that are friendship destroyers. We can become clingy and needy which also will eventually lead to the destruction of most relationships. When these traits begin to be part of a friendship it can suffocate a person allowing no room for the relationship to grow and develop in a healthy manner.

Just like any other relationship in our life, to really keep a friend we must be willing to let her go, giving room to be who she is. Do not hold on too tightly to a friend. We can do this by allowing and developing different types of friendships in our life. You will find that each friend offers something unique that can bring different interests, ways of thinking and expand our world. Having many different friends also allows us to grow in different areas of our personality. While one friend may share an interest and love for reading, another may love to go shopping or have a garden. I have some friends that we are tied together by our love of ministry, some who love to play board games (one of my favorite things to do!), some are family that we have a long rich history together and some we connected long ago over similar circumstances and have since developed a safe and secure friendship that only life's journey together can create.

Each friend offers a different adventure to share.

1 Peter 4:80
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friendships Among Women - Ending Friendships

Ending a Friendship

This is a hard post to write on friendship but it is a reality of life that we have all experienced at one time or another. Not every friendship in your life will last a lifetime. Some friendships will last through all the changes and seasons of life and some will not. That doesn't mean the ones that don't weren't necessary or important, they were there for the season they were needed. Many of us are able to keep a few friends from our childhood, but this can be difficult as we get older. Distance can cause a friendship to fade, as can change of circumstances in our lives. Sometimes we just grow apart.

It's not always a negative thing to end a friendship, sometimes it just happens naturally over time. Other times, the friendship ends because of a disagreement or a major change in life. Sometimes a friendship can become unhealthy and negative. There are friends that tend to be users, or overly negative or in a perpetual crisis. Over time these types of friends will wear on us. When a friend starts taking away from your happiness and creating more stress, it could be a sign you need to end or distance the relationship.

Some of your friendships will inevitably change over time. The path your life takes will determine the friends you keep and the friends you must say good-bye to.

There was a poem that circulated for awhile that talked about this and I really believe it is true. So when you look at friendships from this perspective you never have to feel it was wasted or shouldn't have been but that some friends are for a reason, some for a season and some for a lifetime. But you always will learn something from them all.

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

— Unknown

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friendships Among Women - Maintaining Friendships

Maintaining Friendships

Once the initial trust is felt between two women, the friendship can progress to the next stage, and that is working to maintain the friendship. In today’s hectic lifestyle, it seems that friendships of women are often placed to the wayside because of career, family or other pressing responsibilities. But what many women fail to acknowledge is that a friendship can help you get through life, causing a reduction in the amount of stress you feel on a daily basis, as we talked about a few posts ago.

Aside from the scientific reasons behind friendships of women, building and maintaining friendships is accomplished because both parties choose to work at the relationship. Much like a relationship with your spouse, friendships need the some of the same nurturing to survive. This can be easily accomplished by meeting for lunch or coffee once a month or a phone call. Maintaining a sense of connection can even be achieved in most cases through email, facebook and an occasional card sent in the mail. The main thing is to give that call or message when you know that friend is going through a struggle or has a special event in their lives. These are the practical things to do but what about the emotional parts?

Here are some suggestions

1. Be Flexible

A pastor offered this advice. He said, "Expect nothing from other people." This may seem like a strange idea. It seems that if you expected nothing, you would get what you expected. But the fact is that while we do need to set reasonable goals for our self, we will do well to keep our expectations for others modest. If we can break free from high expectations for others, than we are more likely to be able to accept — and enjoy — them as they are.

Perhaps the quickest way to kill a new friendship is to expect — or demand — too much. We women have a tendency toward expectations and when we let go of them whether with our husbands or friends we will be happier people and better friends. If you can lower your expectations, not only are you likely to reduce your own frustration, but you might be able to better see the other person's gifts, which may be much different than our own. Sometimes our own expectations blind us to the gift before us. We become so focused on what we want — or what we imagine we need — that we miss what the other person has to offer. We sometimes expect our friends to think and react like us but that is what makes friendships so fun - learning different ways of doing things and a different perspective from someone we love and trust but may be very different than us.

Often things are more than they appear at first glance — and it is often this way with relationships. If you can take a step back and allow a friendship to unfold on its own terms, you may be pleasantly surprised.

2. Enjoy Your Differences and be Transparent

It becomes more possible to weather another person's shortcomings when you're able to see their strengths. We can tell that a friendship is growing when we begin to genuinely enjoy another person's gifts — not feel threatened or envious of them.

Why do some people provoke envy while others — even extremely talented people — don't. It might have something to do with transparency. The more deeply we know another person's secret hopes and struggles — and the more we can identify with them— we are less likely to envy them, the more we want to see them succeed.

As we get closer to people the less inclined we are to jump to simple conclusions about their life and struggles (or how we might fix them). And the more open another person is with us, the more clearly we can see the truth of Plato's saying, "Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is waging a terrible internal battle."

3. Always Growing
Friendships do not say the same. They change and grow as we do — The twists and turns of life keep friendship fresh, even as the years wear on.

Some of our deepest friendships offer a sense of continual discovery and newness, but they can also provide a sense of consistency during years of change. When we are around long term, established friends — those who know our history, faults and failings and love us anyway — we feel safe and secure. And this is what friends do best — they see us, fragile and fault filled as we are, and yet they see the good in us and the hope that is ours whatever our situation.

Proverbs17:17 NIV
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Friendships Among Women - Building Friendships

There is some sad news for friendships in this era. A 2006 study from Duke University and the University of Arizona showed that Americans have almost one-third fewer confidants than they did in the 1980s, Another disheartening statistic was that there are now twice as many people who report not having any close friends to share their problems with.

Lynn Smith-Lovin, one of the authors of the report told, "This change indicates something that is not good for our society. Ties with a close network of people create a safety net."

Perhaps an important question to ask is: How does one build and maintain a friendship?

Interestingly, building friendships can be just as complicated as maintaining friendships
. In some cases, it may be more complicated to build the friendship than it is to keep it going over time. Meeting someone new is often an awkward situation, especially in regards to friendships of women. You don’t know how the other person is going to respond to you, and you fear rejection. You may begin the conversation with a comment about the weather or about an article of clothing the woman is wearing, but there is no depth at this point in the friendship. Depth takes trust and it takes time when it comes to friendships of women.

According to All friendships of women must start with a period of putting yourself emotionally out on a limb. Depending on your personality and the personality of the woman you are meeting, self-disclosure can occur over several meetings. Human beings tend to put up an emotional walls to protect them from being hurt or embarrassed by another person. When two women are meeting each other for the first time, a period of evaluation and assessment can occur. It doesn’t matter how young or old the woman is, because the friendship of women begins like this even on a school’s playground.

What usually sparks the flame of a friendship between two females is the ability to actively listen to one another. When you feel like you are being completely understood by the person you are talking to, it becomes easier to break down the protective walls around your emotions. The conversation starts to flow effortlessly and you begin to make connections over similar things in your life. Once that initial sense of trust is established, the friendship can begin to blossom. explains that another reason the friendship of women begins is that two people are experiencing similar things at a certain point in their life. You can easily see this when women start to have families, and are thrown into social settings with other moms. You begin to swap various tips and suggestions about raising kids and before long, you are inviting each other over to the house for coffee. Friendships are often began and solidified because of the similarities you share with another woman, especially if your social paths cross often.

As I contemplated this information I realized how true it is. We can all remember as teens and young adults how our friendships usually evolved from commonality. We were in the same class, same neighborhood and had some similar interests, as we began to have families we connected with the women who had children the same age as ours or the same church or work place.

As the studies also said after an initial time of assessing each other and deciding if we can trust this person we usually begin to open up more and more and become more vulnerable with each other. If that other women was worthy of our trust, held our confidences and didn't judge us then the friendship continued to grow and flourish.

The wonderful thing I have found with friendships among women is that although we start with a common interest, social gathering or work, once the friendship is established those things may change but the friendship continues.

Next post we will talk about the difference types of friendships we have as women.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Friendships Among Women - Scientific Study

As we are doing a series on Friendships Among Women I found this study that I thought was so interesting but not surprising - it just confirms what most of us already know.

An alternative to fight or flight. A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research---most of it on men---upside down.

Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There's no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.
In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

And that's not all. When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate. Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That's a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). The following paragraph is, in my opinion, very, very true and something all women should be aware of and NOT put our female friends on the back burners.

Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women, explains Dr. Josselson. We push them right to the back burner. That's really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very healing experience.
©2002 Gale Berkowitz

So call, email or text a girlfriend today and make a date for some "unpressured space!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Friendships Among Women

I'm going to start a new series today on "Friendships Among Women." I'm not sure how long it will be - maybe 2 posts maybe 20 it all depends on when I run out of information.

I have been pondering on this subject lately for a couple reasons. The first reason is that I have realized this year (almost my 53rd year of life) that one of the greatest (and I did say one, as there are many others) blessings in my life are my friendships with other women.

The second reason is that someone asked me very recently to share how I cultivate the relationships in my life and I was stumped, I never thought about it. I guess I just thought it just happened. Well, that questions stuck with me and I began to realize that it hasn't always been like this, about 9 years ago I went through a period of time that I literally did not have a close friend. I was lonely. I had forgotten about that time in my life until this question was asked.

I began to look back at some old journals I have - and believe me - I am not a consistent journaler but I do have at least a couple entries a year and they are usually at times when I am not in a good place.

So I found an entry from June 11, 2002 and this is what it said, "I don't have any true friends, the ones I have had have, we have moved apart. I have prayed for a friend that I can talk to, laugh with, enjoy being with. Of course I have my wonderful guy, but sometimes you just want and need to talk or hang out with a girl friend. Lord, I pray for you to send me a friend, someone that I can have understanding with and can grow in you with."

I had totally forgotten about that time but as I read the journal it all came back. I remember feeling so lonely, even at events with large amount of people I felt alone.

I began to ponder what happened, what changed how did I go from that very alone place to where I am now - a place of being truly blessed with incredible women and friendships in my life.

So that is where we are going with this blog series. I am going to try to uncover why we as women need friends, how do we find those women who are just the right connection for us and how do we maintain these friendships once we have them. We are going to talk about what qualities we need to develop in our lives to be someone that others want as a friend. I also have found some really fun and interesting scientific studies that have been done on friendships among women that I will share.

I do want to say thank you to every women in my life, my family girls, my prayer partners, my life coach buddies and individual friends that input so much into my life - you know who you are. God truly answered that prayer from 9 years ago when I asked for a friend to talk to, laugh with and hang with. He answered me abundantly but he also required something from me and that it what we are going to explore together.

If you are in a place of lonliness as I was 9 years ago, don't give up hope. God is doing a work in you and when you are ready He will flood your gates with all the wonderful relationships you can handle!

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 (New Living Translation)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Family Member

I'm sure you figured it out by the picture but we have a new family member in the Cunningham family. I would like to introduce, "MANGO" our new kitty. :)

Mango, has a story (as we all do). My niece Bev (who wrote the dog/cat blog) sent me a text the other day with a picture of an orange kitty explaining that kitty needed a home. Well, I have been looking for a kitty, much to my hubbys displeasure. :) Anyway, Bev's daughter Natalie had gotten a call from a friend that works in a salvage yard and the poor little kitty was being terrorized by some people there and they were talking about crushing the kitty in one of their machines. So Natalie ran over to rescue kitty.

Bev and I planned a secret meeting for me to meet kitty. (didn't want to tell hubby until I was sure kitty and I bonded) Well, we did bond and he is just the sweetest little thing.

Hubby is adjusting well, while watching for 'bad kitty behavior" Kitty has been told that bad behavior could break the deal, but so far so good.

I took Mango to the vet right away and found an interesting fact about him - he is a Hemingway Cat. It is a cat with 6 toes. They look like little mittens. Here is a link if you like interesting cat trivia,

Our polydactyl cat

I must note that I am very proud of my niece Bev who is an avid "dog" lover for rescuing kitty and taking such good care and having such concern for him. Bev, I don't think you are a dog lover I think you are an animal lover who has a very big heart. :) Check out Bev's blog at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independent to Interdependent

So once you realize you are allowing Independent behavior to hurt your relationships, how do you change that to the healthy relative, INTERDEPENDENCE?

  • Think of a few instances of independent behavior that have been problem for you.
  • Ask yourself how you have tried to justify your actions.
  • Have you tried to convince yourself that you have a right to make independent decisions?
  • Do you exercise independent behavior because you know it will bring up conflict if you try to get the other persons opinion.
  • Be honest with yourself - has your independent behavior damaged your relationship?
Once you come to the conclusion that change must take place then you need to learn how to negotiate conflict because once you decide to become interdependent you will actually have more conflict because there is more than one person making a decision.

So when there is a decision to be made in an interdependent manner here are the guidelines to use:

1. Set ground rules to make the discussion pleasant and safe. If it becomes disrespectful you will postpone it until emotional control is regained.
2. Introduce the conflict and try to understand each other's perspective
3. Brainstorm all the possibilities
4. Find a solution that you both agree on.

This is obviously very simplistic but it is the basic steps that need to be taken to create "compatibility" in your relationship. Compatibility is what happens when you discuss and brainstorm plans and include each other in each other's plans, dreams and desires. Start with something safe and small and try it out.

Remember it's just like a business partnership - everything is put on the table for discussion because your are "partners" not "sole proprietors".

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are you too Independent???

Our next and our last lovebuster is "Independent Behavior". So you may ask, "Whats wrong with that? Independence is a good thing, Right?"

Well, just like anything, when we are out of balance in an area it usually is not healthy and that is what we are talking about here, especially in light of relationships and our marriages.

This doesn't mean you need to be dependent and clingy, that is just as unhealthy as being too independent. What we want to work toward in relationships is "Interdependence"

Let's look at the difference:

Independent Behavior: Activities of a spouse or close relationship are planned and completed as though the other person doesn't exist."

Interdependent Behavior: Activities of a spouse or close relationship are planned and completed with the interests and of the other person in mind

It's the difference between sole proprietorship and a partnership. If you own 100 percent of the business, you have the right to make your own business decisions. But if you have a partner who owes 50 percent you should come to an agreement before making decisions.

The problem with independent behavior especially in marriage or a going toward marriage relationships is that it can tear relationships apart over time. It like some of the others we discussed can very slyly sneaks up on us and before we realize it has done some major damage to our relationship.

Only Interdependent behavior will help achieve long term relational happiness. True independent behavior is laced with selfishness and thoughtlessness. It is ignoring the feelings and interests of those closest to you. In most marriages independent behavior is the primary cause of fights.

Bottom line: When you ignore you close relationships interests and feelings, you are destroying your emotional bond.

Next Post: How to move from independent behavior to interdependent behavior.