Humans are social creatures requiring great friends – companionship, camaraderie and connection from an inner circle as a way to not only survive, but thrive. Without the vital connections of others, we feel lonely, and begin to develop mental and physical health issues ailments.
Friendships are the elixir for loneliness, and as a mental health counselor, I can’t say I’m shocked by the amount of lonely people that I cross paths with in my office. As moms, making friends is more challenging that we’d like to admit, and if you don’t have a support structure that you’ve carried with you from high school or college (and most people don’t), then you have to seek out friendship in other ways.
However, we live in a society that values individualism above all else. Those who stand on their own two feet, “love themselves first,” and do not seek help from others are seen as a powerful, strong, courageous people. The independence they project of being able to “do it all themselves” is celebrated by others; they’re viewed as the Supermoms among us that we all love to hate (or is that hate to love?).
With so many people afraid of social connection and the vulnerability required for deeper, lasting friendships, it is hard to build a tribe that you can consistently count on. The interdependence (that is, healthy dependence of another person) of these friendships helps us feel safe and secure as we move through life’s greatest challenges, including motherhood. So, how do we find and keep lasting friendships?
The ABCs of Making Super Friends
At a get-together sometime ago, I told one of my friends about another get-together I was just at with another friend, and she said, “Oh, I see, we aren’t your “A” friends.” I was stunned by the comment and didn’t know quite how to respond, but a few thoughts coursed through my mind and it had me thinking about the different types of friends we have in our lives, and their importance.
- “A” Friends. These friends know it all – the good, bad, and the ugly. The dark parts of all of us is something Carl Jung called the Shadow Self. There aren’t many people who feel comfortable accessing this part of their persona, let alone letting others see it. But when it is seen, it’s done with those who care most about us and who are going to stick around after being knee-deep in your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right along with you.
- “B” Friends. These are your good friends. You see them with some regularity like the monthly book club, play-group, moms’ night out, neighborhood BBQs, and happy hours. They know important things about your life and check in on your with some regularity, and it feels like this is a person you could count on for connection, although not deeply. You’ve let them in on some of your secrets of life – things your C friends wouldn’t know about you, and there is a genuine and authentic bond between the two of you.
- “C” Friends. These are your acquaintances. You get together every so often, see each other at the yearly Christmas party, and stay somewhat connected through social media. These people know you from the sidelines of your life. They generally know what you’re doing because you mention it at a party or on social media, but they probably don’t know the name of your firstborn child, or when you got married. They vaguely know what you do for a living, but aren’t tuned into how it affects your daily life.
Your “B” and “C” friends can become your “A” friends, and this is often how I suggest seeking out those few people who will be those true confidants in the darkest of times. Rather than jumping right into the deep end of a friendship, I suggest dipping a toe in the water to see how it feels. If there is trust there, go ahead and immerse your whole leg, then your other leg, then your torso, and finally your body. Along the way, those”B” and “C” friends that will stay by your side no matter what demonstrate that they can exhibit true interdependence with you.
The safety and security we feel from our “A” friends keep us from being lonely. With all friendships, we can cultivate just the right amount of closeness and companionship to help us thrive through all aspects of our lives, including motherhood, which is often quite a lonely place. Super moms have super friends, and they have the courage and strength to reach out to their closest compadres when they need to, even with the Shadow Self. And, their closest friends reach right back, not afraid to immerse themselves in your pain for as long as you need it, supporting you through the hard times and celebrating with you through the good ones.