Survey: The relationships of women


People / Monday, August 12th, 2019

Hello, friends.

I come from a weekend of in-law time, good chats, cousin games. I come from enjoying Chastin’s amazing corn salad and slices of Kim’s scrumptious mega sandwich and the yummy tortilla mountain pies of another sister-in-law who does not want to be written about.

(I just threw that in to make you laugh, sister. xo)

I come from missing my son, and trying and failing to be myself and hold it together. I am blessed to be loved by kind women when I’m not doing that well.

Several weeks ago, I promised a survey on relationships, and the vote carried for lady friendships. The following survey is therefore open only to women. Apologies to the few men who admit to reading this blog. (The rest who read-but-do-not-admit-it may look awkward now. Thank you.)

I’m so excited to start this conversation with you.

You would think that friendships would come easily to us. You would think hey, we’re women, and good at this, right? You would think – but you would be wrong.

This is a favorite line in my household.

Part of my goal with the survey is to help you understand yourself and your own patterns. If you have any questions, comment below and I will do my best to help. More discussion will be forthcoming when I hear what you have to say.

As before, your survey entries will be completely anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself. You may skip any question. In the questions you do answer, please be as honest as you can.

After you complete the survey, consider telling me a little more about yourself in the normal comment box, below. I didn’t leave any space in the survey for open-ended responses and observations on relationships, so now is your chance to share them. Since this is a really personal topic and your pastor’s wife might be reading what you say, you may comment anonymously this time (grin), using your age instead of your name.

Did you learn anything about yourself in completing the survey?
What’s good and hard in your friendships right now?
If you could ask a single question on feminine relationships, what would it be?

(Believe me, I don’t have the answers, but I do have some smart friends.)

I must close this survey soon, or I run the risk of bumping up into too many responses for the month and requiring another upgrade, which I am not willing to pay for. Sorry. So talk quick, and don’t overthink what I asked. It’s just to have fun, pull together some demographics, and get you thinking.

Enjoy,

Shari

59 Replies to “Survey: The relationships of women”

  1. I feel I’ve been incredibly blessed with many close girlfriends. Sisters, youth group friends and high school friends who’ve lasted over the years. I could probably find others to invest in as close friends, but there are only so many friendships a person can maintain.

  2. It’s good to be in my mid-thirties with the best adult friends I’ve ever had. That’s partly because I’ve now been in one location for six years straight. Moving and changing really challenge friendships. I’m so thankful for the friendships that have been strengthened with the hard changes and the new ones I’ve made since then.
    The biggest current challenge is time. I’m an introvert and live in a house young humans who need me. So, I crave alone time, but still really need friend time.

  3. Time is what can be difficult with relationships. My first priority is my husband and children. But when we do get together we have good times.

    A question I would have is how to build trust in each other?

  4. I think that an ideal friendship has a margin of safety… That spot that happens when both parties are honest and gracious and not easily offended. No one is perfect at all of those things all the time, so figuring out how to cover for one another’s weak times is another thing. Agreeing on everything is not as important to me as being mutually inspired and accepted.

    1. This was fun! My question is, Am I the only one that is pretty sure that everyone else has more and better friendships than me??

    2. Yes to all of this. Being honest and gracious and not easily offended. Because even the best of friends will not always see things eye to eye or like every single thing about each other.

  5. A question I have is how to rebuild trust or a friendship that you still want, but that has been destroyed. And if the other person doesn’t want it…is it a no go, absolutely? How do you handle that, when the friendship means everything to you and seems to mean nothing to her?

    1. I am the other person in this equation… I do not want the friendship because of how it has damaged me in deep ways, and my friend does not understand/respect my spoken requests for space and release from her. The more relentlessly she pursues me, the more guarded and withdrawn I become.

  6. My besties are all sisters and cousins. Outside of that i love interacting with any and all females. Stranger or close acquaintance but I don’t trust enough or feel the necessity to get too close to anyone else. Many times I doubt that wall I’ve built when I see the little cliques around me enjoying their coffee shops, shopping days, and playdays. But in the end I know I’m not funny or witty enough to add any laughter to those groups and that really deep down I love investing in the more solitary mission God has called me to. (if I reveal that mission my pastors wife will know who I am 😊)

  7. Friendships with other ladies…. how I covet them! How they paralyze me! While I have many people I send Christmas mail to, my definition of a real “friend” is someone with whom I rarely discuss my green bean patch. 😄 Not that I couldn’t, but we would just gravitate toward deeper subjects. It is someone that I may not see often but when together we can pick up right where we left off…no ice breaking needed. We wouldn’t always agree but we would have fun disagreeing sometimes. I only know one person who may fit the category. Maybe my standard is too high? Maybe I’m not a person others feel safe being vulnerable with? Maybe I am too scared to be vulnerable myself? … Will be waiting like a fidgety 6 year old to see what discussion happens here!

  8. How does one deal with the question – I really like her but I don’t know if I rate on as high a level with her? Maybe she likes someone else more than she likes me? Maybe that’s just showing up insecurity in myself😔 it feels like something maybe grade 4s would struggle with, but an almost 40 year old woman…🤔

  9. Good things: exchanging ideas and stories, comfortable being together, laughter

    Hard things: hearing what i should be thinking or feeling and being verbally assessed and compared to herself

  10. The best friendship I have (with a lady) is with my twin sister. (People may think that’s a given, but not all twin sisters are close.) We think a lot alike and can finish each other’s sentences, but I think our having shared so many of the same life experiences from Day One of our lives has contributed hugely to our ability to do that.
    I’m blessed with so many other good women friendships, too. I love discussions with them that go deeper than the weather and how many jars of canned peaches you did yesterday.
    As a recovering people-pleaser, I’m still figuring out how to navigate friendships well when I disagree with someone. Underlying is a belief that my opinion must not matter as much as the other person’s if ours don’t match, and then I don’t want to share it. Pride is another icky substance that I want Jesus to scrub out of my life as I do relationships, even though the process hurts…

  11. Or is it 36? No, pretty sure it’s 37. Because my dear man is 41 and is 4 yrs older, so that means I’m 37. Being part of a fellowship in which I’ve been the youngest gal for 12 yrs, plus the only gal with children, means that very often I feel the sweet gals around me don’t always “get” where I’m at in life, even if they’ve been there themselves (often YRS ago) in some measure. I’m learning to appreciate features and personalities I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards. The gals I really connect to, are from other areas, and not friends I get to see often.

  12. I lost a few very close friends through a church split and I struggle a lot with the fear of something like that happening again.
    Four close friends died within two years. Because I lost a lot in a short time I tend to over react if a friendship is threatened.
    I’m an introvert and I need time alone but I am blessed with a few good soulmates.

  13. I liked the question about how I form friendships – it was a new thought to me, and I realized that I form friendships one on one.

  14. My biggest friendship challenges are “maintenance.” So one appears broken. How to reclaim it or nurture it back to health when I have not the remotest idea what broke it. It’s a bit awkward to go to the unsuspecting lady and say, “Can we be friends again?”

  15. I’m in the process of needing to let go of many old friendships as my life changes so drastically from theirs. I understand that friendships change over the years, but I don’t understand why relationships must be hindered, cut off, unsafe, or otherwise discarded when one person changes. And neither will they understand if I ‘let them go’. Can’t we keep on being friends, loving, sharing, caring for each other from the unique walks of life we’re in? Also, how long shall I pour my life into these ‘dead’ relationships, pursuing, inviting, caring, when they’re not giving anything good back? I’ve just realized that these ‘dead’ relationships are dragging me down, hindering true connection with my new friends in my ‘new life’. Is it time to let go and move on and plug in to others who will give and take more equally? And how to be okay with the hurt and betrayal that I’m sure they’ll feel?

    1. You took the words from my mouth. Oh, how I can relate to this. In a way this is something that makes me grow even more in Christ. Drawing near to Him when it’s hard and when those relationships I held dear are fading away. He said it wouldn’t be easy and it sure isn’t. Sometimes I feel I can get to a point of even questioning myself and the change that happened. Praying for you.

    1. A group of us, both guys and girls, were talking about this recently. The guys pointed out that most of them have good-but-not-best friends who have used them, or said really awful things to or about them, or ignored them for a long time (or been real pests) or worse, but after they’ve been mad or disappointed, they tend to just carry on, lesson learned. They might say amongst each other, “ugh, Joe can really get on a person’s nerves” or “you really have to watch Jim”, but they mostly go on hanging out as before. Also the guys seem to find it easier to totally avoid certain sensitive subjects without feeling any need to ‘bridge the gap’, even with their very closest friends.

      We girls were all embarrassed to hear that we’ve all complained to our husbands about wanting more friends! But then the other girls in the group who I’m not that close with, I can’t picture that changing. It’s like, as women we’ve all got so many insecurities, yet at the same time, so many requirements! Ah well 🤷

  16. I wondered how my friends would respond to these questions about me and my tendencies. Do I even know myself in relationships? It is h.a.r.d. for me to make time for new quality friendships, and I find myself more deeply appreciative of the girlfr I can come back to after a period of silence and find it’s still the same. I have a very hard time relating to exclusive “friends”. My question would be, which elements of housework are not as important as time to host?

  17. This just brings a myriad of emotions.
    I used to do so much better on the friendship/ relationship things in life.
    I long for what used to be….people moved on, or I did , and things fell by the wayside….and I never realized that when you leave ones church, that people also leave the friendships. My insecurities really came to light.
    At my age, I wonder how to pursue and find those deep friendships that are safe, yet deep and fun.

  18. 58- This was a very good survey and I also have felt that other women have more or better friendships than myself. I do suffer a need to be liked so if a woman doesn’t like me for no reason I wonder what is wrong with me. Admittedly, I do look strange to people in my church because of the way I dress and wear a ” thing on my head”.

    1. This is so interesting! I’ve discovered I’m a private, one-on-over person. I am slow to new relationships because I’ve been burnt and put on the back burner so many times. But I’ve a very godly heritage with the most amazing Grandma and Mom anyone could wish for. I’ve been taught from little on up to love and accept everyone. This has kept me sane in life and very forgiving when my world crashed down from one more deserting or disloyal friend. The hardest are the thick deep friends who are ‘sisters’ and then they desert you through no change of actions on my part. That hurts. But since I find my fulfillment in Jesus, PTL it can be prayed through although the scars remain. My kindred spirits are not my cousins and sisters although we get along fine for the most part. I find kindred spirits in those who have walked along some on the same journey as I have, and those who are there through the thick and the thin. The worst trait I know of in a friendship is someone who isn’t confidential. When people talk about others I don’t trust them either because they are sure to talk about me also. That’s especially hard when it’s in the ministry. The best kind of friend will be totally honest in a loving way, encouraging my growth in Jesus, and we can agree to disagree although more often than not we have a kindred spirit through a life experience and they will be very confidential and trustworthy without feeling I’m to much. My life is too overwhelming for so many people that I only confide in my own confidential ”sister” support group, and it’s one on one, they are not connected in any way. God is SO GOOD!!! I AM SO BLESSED!!! And no I don’t look for new friends but I find new friends or they find me. Make new friends but keep the old, the new are silver, the old are gold.

  19. A friend who is trustworthy is huge! In the last year, Ive developed a friendship ( or rather deepened a friendship or should I say “mentorship”.) I now have a completely safe place to talk and explore life.Nothing, absolutely nothing is off limits conversation wise. To one who is a trauma survivor and hasn’t always had a safe place, this is huge. I want to be loved in the good and beautiful and the painful and ugly.

  20. I find it hard to confide in anyone who regularly talks about other people. What do they go and say behind my back?? But I know I am guilty of the same sometimes. I tend to feel shy and inferior and think that surely no one would want to talk to me because they all seem to be normal and I feel decidedly unnormal! but when you can have a safe person/people to confide in it is easier to feel like maybe others don’t view you as unnormal as you think! I am thankful to God for the sincere sweet mentor He’s brought into my life. The more I learn to know other people, the more I realize EVERYONE has their own issues no matter how perfect they look! Thanks for your thought provoking posts! I look forward to them

  21. At this stage in life, I find friendships harder to pursue than ever before. My family needs stretch me thin and sometimes rub me raw. There are times I’m desperate for a deep connection, and others when I don’t have the emotional energy to pursue much with church ladies besides “How was your week?” 😳Sometimes, I feel too slow and stupid to think of Good Questions…and I am not a super-quiet person. 😃
    My sisters and sisters-in-law are my best friends. We can be deeply honest and still love each other.
    One good thing, I think, is that as we age and grow up, maybe we learn to be ourselves and be okay with inviting people into our mess-whether it’s our hearts, or our houses!
    My husband is ordained, and I wonder if that is partly why I feel somewhat responsible and quite inadequate when I view the way we women relate at church.
    A question: What is the secret to not being dragged down or consumed by broken relationships? Am I taking too much ownership if I struggle like that?

  22. I am one of those men who faithfully read your blog. I taught a class on Christian Manhood at MBS last year. We as men made an assumption that ladies have more friends and are more open then we men are. After questioning several students and staff I came to the conclusion that the ladies don’t necessarily have more friends that we do. Just my interesting tidbit.

  23. I *think* I am a friendly, outgoing person. I feel like I pour into my friendships in abundance. I value my friends so much! My struggle comes when those friends are always too busy to spend time together. There is always church events, school events, sports, doctor visits, play dates, bible studies, and so much more. I long to have friends over for tea, meet friends at a park, go for walks with friends, and meet friends at the coffee shop. But for every single time it does work , there were 3 dozen attempts that didn’t. Surely my friends will soon think I have nothing to do but chase them down! 🙈 Or maybe it’s because I am an extrovert? 😉 I can’t wait to see the results of your survey!

    1. I connect with this—a people person and pursuing others. Just yesterday I invited and only a few came. Yet I am also on the other side of being pursued in other relationships where I often feel too overwhelmed with life to participate.

      A few things i’ve been rolling around in my head: 1) I need to meet people where they are
      2) My worth and value does not stem from many friends or people who affirm me
      3) I need to listen to those little nudges to pursue others or not pursue, and leave the outcome in God’s hands
      4) God isn’t impressed with lots of friends, but he is interested in changing me through the friends I do have

      I have so much to learn in this discussion. Looking forward to it, Shari!

  24. I feel like am very blessed with close friends & family. My struggle is with “couple” friends. We have so few couples we can call to hang out with. Everyone is busy and when we have friends over, it doesn’t feel like the invitations get reciprocated. We attend a smaller church and the couples our age have their own friends or we aren’t invited to their get togethers. Makes you feel insecure about yourself, that’s for sure!
    Thanks for tackling these hard topics and being so honest about how difficult life can be at times!

  25. This was fun! And made me reflect. Esp the sliding scale gave me pause. Because of my transient life style, I’ve needed to let go of friendships, release them, and make new besties.
    I think it’s stifling to relationships to insist that they always stay the same, but it’s also hard to hold them with open hands. I’m sure some might disagree with me but I also feel that if a friendship is only about meeting for coffee one on one, the relationship is smaller than what it might be. Hmmm that might be another blog post. 😉

  26. How do you befriend someone who doesn’t let anyone get close to her? It seems like I’m her friend only when she wants me to be and even if we’ve been “good” friends for a bit, the next time we’re together I might not be her friend anymore. On another note, I generally make surface friends fairly easily, but how do you move beyond that and develop a deeper relationship?

    1. I would love to know how you make surface friends fairly easily! If I’m ‘surface friends’ with someone and we click, it tends to do deep pretty quickly. But I don’t make friends easily at all.

  27. Is it possible to form friendships with ladies who are constantly spending time with their sisters, in-laws, mothers, mothers-in-law? Some of the ladies in my church seem to have such a tight network with their extensive family that there is no room for new friends. Every time I offer childcare, they tell me that grandma or aunt so-and-so is already planning to care for their children. When I invite them over, they are already planning a birthday party for cousin such-and-such and therefore it won’t suit that day. I don’t think they dislike me. I think they are just so satisfied and so busy with their daily interaction with siblings and in-laws that there is no space to add someone new. Is there any hope of forming friendships, or should I just give up on it?

    I’m not expecting them to be my soul mates, I just want a little companionship and conversation and someone who will watch my kids in an emergency.

    1. This has been a frequent experience of mine. I do not have any family nearby, but most of the ladies in my church have their entire extended families surrounding them. I often wish they would understand how much I need them, even though they don’t need me. I’ve finally accepted that they never will understand unless they have experienced it. I do think everyone should move at least once in their life, to broaden their world and perspectives! In my case, I’ve noticed that my best bets for these kinds of family-like friends are ladies who are also transplants or who also don’t have their families nearby.

      Another gripe. SO. MANY. of the Mennonite ladies in my community are unavailable to each other because almost all of them work. I have lived in many different plain communities in various states and regions, and the number of women working outside the home was my big shock when I landed in this one. When there is a practical need like baby meals or assistance needed, it seems to be all the overloaded young moms taking care of each other. I understand single women working to support themselves, but I struggle to not be resentful when all the middle-aged women are so busy making money that they are completely non-committed to our church body and its needs. I want them to sit down for coffee with me, and teach me “how to love my husband and children” like Titus describes. Even after living here for quite a few years, it still surprises me when just to have coffee with somebody, they’ll schedule it 2 months out because everything is booked up till then.
      One interesting note. I have realized that many of the ladies around me ARE hungry for deeper connection, hungrier than they even realize. Sometimes I have 3 or 4 or 5 ladies ask me within one or two weeks to meet to chat, and I try hard to do whatever I need to do to offer them some time within a few days. I have young children also, so I learn how to make this work in various stages. My perspective is that I have the chance to build community among the women around me, to draw them out, and to lead us into deeper connection through shared values or similar experiences. In the end, these factors are much more important for deep, lasting relationships than factors like growing up in the same community or being in the same extended family.

  28. I became chronically ill at 21 years of age. My friends were young and didn’t know how to relate to someone who couldn’t go to volleyball games or do crazy weekend trips. I think they also felt guilty for being healthy. Bless their hearts! I felt abandoned and desperately hung on to those relationships. Of course that didn’t help anything and I eventually realized I needed to let go. Relationships are difficult for me because I have a fear of being a burden to others and being rejected over things I can’t control. I tend to overthink every action or statement I make in an attempt to not mess anything up. I do have a few with whom I can be absolutely myself but even with them I watch carefully for any sign that I may have offended. My therapist calls it PTSD and I’m learning that I do have something to offer others and that I’m not a burden. But new pathways in the brain are not easily formed.

  29. As a pastors wife, I find it difficult to know how much to share with others the things that may burden or concern me. Often it is taken with more weight than I may feel. I do not trust people who talk about others critically and would rather discuss issues and ideas than people . I had a dear older friend in the congregation who was “safe” to talk to and was not afraid to challenge me, but she is in heaven now and I still miss her!

  30. I struggle with feeling like even with those I feel the closest to, I nearly always have to instigate getting together! They seem to enjoy it and appreciate it, but I end up fearing I’m a “charity case” to them. I guess that shows my struggle with insecurity. I’m pretty introverted, so making casual conversation can be very exhausting for me, and doesn’t feel worth it.
    I’m not real easy to get to know deeply, and I have very little tolerance for ladies that are always smiling sweetly and counting their blessings! Ha! To me, they are not being real, and I can’t relate.
    That sounds pretty negative, and I do have several friendships that I treasure a lot! When you haven’t hung out for months or years even, and can pick up where you left off with no difficulty, that’s awesome.
    I have no sisters, and sometimes wonder if that has handicapped me in relating to women?
    This survey has been good food for thought.

    1. Essentials to a solid friendship are honesty, graciousness, not easily offended, covering for eachother in low times, a sense of humor, mutual acceptance of one another and a significant amount of shared values and goals. Also, in any healthy relationship there will be a huge amount of give-and-take required; If we go into friendships with a “feed my hungry soul and fill the cavern inside of me” mentality, any chance of a healthy, wholesome friendship blossoming in that environment is certainly doomed. Ladies who are able to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously are some of the best in my opinion. I have a deep appreciation for women who can inspire me to reach higher in the areas of both overcoming my weaknesses as well as excelling in my strengths.

      I think each woman with whom I rub shoulders with on a fairly regular basis has something valuable to add to the tapestry of my life, and ladies do not need to be my bosom buddies in order for me to find these nuggets of gold within them, to enjoy these rich qualities within them, and to be inspired by them. For example, I do not personally know Shari Zook, but have been the recipient of her gift of written words and insightful depth of thought. She has been an inspiration to me.

      Rejection and people walking out of my life has been part of my story; I have a huge storehouse of fear and distrust which I have to fight against when I try to build healthy relationships. To use Shari’s words, “I have nightmares of the backs of people I love as they walk away from me.” A solid identity in Jesus, as well as a fairly robust acceptance of one’s self is the only clear antidote to this dilemma, but easier said then done, I know.

      Question: Does being a pastor’s wife add a completely different dimension of difficulty in this quest for keys to building robust wholesome friendships? What if you are the pastor’s wife and there are approximately 50 women looking at you with that exact amount of super high expectations of you? Because you know you will not meet their expectations, do you “stop, drop and roll” under the table and out of sight? Or do you tell them clearly, in their mother tongue, that you won’t be performing any superhuman antics just because you’re the pastor’s wife? How do you combat the ever high and lofty expectations and/or prejudices and animosity towards pastor’s wives without losing your sanity?

      1. YES!! Being a pastor’s wife adds many layers of complexities. I was still new in our church when my husband was ordained and I really hated how some of the women I had recently counted as “new friends” now related to me with great hesitation and even mistrust. Throughout these years of difficult church life, almost all my close friends are ladies who have no real connections to our church. It has been a lifeline to have some trusted peers and mentors to dump out to when nobody within the church feels safe. It is a very lonely road especially when people’s lofty expectations and abundant criticism break your trust -and your spirit- over and over.

  31. The biggest obstacle for me in friendships/relationships is trust, hands down. Our church just finished a 6 week series on relationships, using the Relationship Attachment Model- Know, Trust, Rely, Commit, Touch. The premise is that a relationship needs to progress, in that order, to be a healthy relationship. I cried most of the day (off and on) during and after the Trust sermon. It is extremely rare for me to get to the trust part in a relationship. I do not know why exactly. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t this way, but I think it is worse now than ever. I was hurt very, very badly last year by two women I dared to begin to trust. I have a number of friendships with women I like and/or admire, but I only let them get so close because I don’t ever again want to be hurt that severely. And I know in my head that I’m only hurting myself by refusing to trust anyone (except my husband and best friend-who lives far away) but my heart has a hard time listening. Close friendships are HARD. I think it’s even harder when you have children because every mama tends to side with her own children, and it seems women have a hard time forgiving another mom if their children are having conflict.

  32. Loved this post and survey. I am in the middle of a difficult female relationship which had me feeling down but when I really stop to think, I am so blessed with many friends who care. I love the difference between the safe, easy friendship with my sisters, the deep, focused friendships of the women in my small group, the fun friendships with old friends, the relevant & current friendships of my church sisters, and the unlikely, but loyal friendship of my long term non-churchgoing friend. Also a pastor’s wife, that fact has challenged almost every idea I ever had about myself, including my competency of friendships with women.

  33. i have no sisters, and wonder how that has affected my relationships. i’m close to my mom; i can sense her love and prayers yet just as vividly recall her disapproval. i am introverted and enjoy noting the details (and blessing my friends with that- words/prayers or art or food that i KNOW they like); but maybe some would rather i be a broadly cheerful friend!?

  34. In re: to the question about “forming friendships”… Did you mean “beginning a friendship” or did you mean “building a friendship”? I would answer that differently for those two verbs.

  35. I am in a church congregation of about 175 people. A sister congregation also has about that many. My friends are in both congregations. That’s a lot of children, and a lot of women. Every woman of them would have my back if I was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, was put on bedrest, had a housefire, etc. At the same time, I don’t feel close to very many of these ladies, and don’t know how to get close. Don’t know if I want to share with them, or how to get them to share with me. Part of that is my fear, part of that is distrust, part of that is investing in my husband and 6 children, and part of it is still a mystery that I would like to solve. I have no birth sisters. My mom is my best female friend, and I have a couple others I either grew up with or lived pretty near that I feel close to. Everyone else? Hard to get past surface stuff like garden, children, etc. I feel like I shock people when I start talking about what feels closest to my heart.

  36. I read these replies and say, “oh yes, we women are complicated.” No wonder I want to hide sometimes instead of trying. 😅

  37. As a busy mother of many, I don’t have a lot of time to invest in fun and fancy relationships. Pressure or guilt from anyone for not being more available causes me to run the other way. The friendships I value most are those with low expectations. We enjoy each other’s company and yet respect the fact that we have seasons of busyness that don’t allow for much contact. And when we do have time for a visit, we can pick up right where we left off.

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