Invest time in your friendships
“With James out of town a lot, I find myself at home most of the time,” Julia said as we began our coaching session.
“It sounds like you are feeling bored and possibly lonely,” I said. “Who do you like to spend time with?”
“I only have a few close friends, but they don’t live here. I am a good friend but find that I don’t easily become a friend. I hold myself back and guard myself against all of the bad things that could happen in a friendship.”
“What bad things are you talking about and when did this pattern begin?” I asked.
“It started early in life when people would take advantage of my willingness to do almost anything to become a friend. When I’d get frustrated about being taken advantage of, my mom would say, ‘You have to be a friend to have a friend.’ She assumed that I wasn’t being a friend and got what I deserved. I’m a very giving person and couldn’t fathom how I wasn’t being a good friend.”
“What does it mean to be a good friend?” I asked.
“It means being there for someone, listening to her and not judging her,” Julia said. “That’s what I want in a friendship. But my relationships have changed over the years. I go through ‘situational friendships’ with people who are at the same stage in life. When the kids were young, my friends all had young kids. ”
“That makes sense,” I said. “These friendships come naturally because you are both going through similar life experiences. What happens to these friendships as situations change?”
“We don’t have as much in common and usually the friendship fades as quickly as it started.”
“What do you call a nonsituational friend?” I asked.
“A true friend,” Julia said.
“Tell me about a true friend,” I said.
“True friends are people I can contact no matter what’s going on in our lives,” Julia said. “We are there for each other and have weathered many of life changes together.”
“It sounds like you are lacking time with your true friends and with your situational friends, right?” I said. “How can you develop and strengthen these relationships?”
“I haven’t called my high school friend, Kara, in years. I could call her,” Julia began. “As for situational relationships, I could call my friend Joanna to go on a hike. No matter what is happening in our lives, we both like to hike.”
“That sounds like a great way to start,” I said. “When will you make these calls?”
“I’ll do it by this Sunday,” Julia said. “In fact, I’ll give Joanna a call tonight to see if we can go hiking this weekend.”
“Before our next session, will you also think about the belief your mother had about having to be a friend to have a friend?” I asked. “If this is still true for you, how can you continue to be a good friend? And if it’s not true, what is your belief about being a good friend?”
“I will think about it and we can talk about it at our next session,” Julia replied.
Coaching Challenge: What do you expect in your friendships and how do you fulfill this role in the relationship? This week reach out to one of your friends to let them know how much you appreciate them, catch up or plan an activity.
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Sheri Fisher is a life coach in Grand Junction. The situations and characters in her column have been altered in order to maintain client confidentiality. Go to coachwithsheri.com for more information.