When my husband and I got married, we moved from Miami, Florida to Huntsville, Alabama. Moving from the melting pot of South Florida to “the South” was a culture shock in itself. I had to start wearing gloves and boots, perfect strangers in the store would say hi to me, and strangest of all, there wasn’t a Haitian market anywhere in the city. That meant no Haitian spices, no Haitian bread, and no Haitian hot chocolate. We had moved to the town where my husband was pursuing his bachelor’s degree, so he already knew tons of people there. He introduced me to everyone he knew in the hopes that I would take it upon myself to get to know people and make new friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I got to know a lot of people, whom I still love and keep in touch with today. But they were mostly college students younger than us, and all single. So it was more like having younger siblings. It was great to hang out and kick it with them, but there were a lot of things that came with being a new wife that I just couldn’t talk to them about.
My siblings and family were all in Florida, and I was terrible at keeping in touch with the few other friends I did have.
Needless to say, I relied on my husband a lot for companionship
When my husband would leave the house to go study at the library, I wanted to know exactly when I could expect him to come back. If he stayed out any longer than the time he had told me, I would get irritated and snap at him when he came home.
This went on for most of the first year we were married.
Eventually I did make friends in spite of myself. Two girls my age that I worked with became family to me. We even lived in the same apartment complex and I would sleep over whenever Jono had to be out of town. They understood my hermit ways and still loved me because they were the same way. So instead of calling or texting each other, we would just have movie binges and long talks during sleepovers. We would cook meals together and dance to Christmas music like kids. And when I got pregnant with our first child, they were there to make me teas for nausea and took walks around the block with me to make sure I stayed active.
Being friends with these ladies made me realize a few important things about myself and my marriage.
1. I was putting a strain on my relationship with my husband.
Jono once admitted to me that it was a big relief to him when I made friends in Huntsville because he had started feeling trapped at home trying to cater to me emotionally. And he did it because he felt bad that I had to leave my job, family, and friends in Florida when we got married. But in reality, I was smothering him with my dependence. It’s not healthy if your spouse feels relieved at getting some time away from you.
2. I used my introverted disposition as an excuse to neglect friendship.
I’m a huge introvert. But the benefits of friendship don’t come cheaply. You can only withdraw what you’ve put in. Friendships that aren’t nurtured eventually wither, even the best of them. I’d cut myself off from the friends I did have when I moved to Huntsville because I wasn’t intentional about staying in touch with them. They probably eventually figured that I didn’t want to be bothered and stopped trying to reach out as well.
I didn’t want that to happen again.
So when we moved away from Huntsville, I decided that I would keep in touch no matter what. That no matter what we all had going on in our lives, we’d have a standing appointment, whether it was every month or every other week; some set time to catch up. These days, WhatsApp group messaging is my best friend. I can keep in contact without having to stop what I’m doing to talk on the phone.
The point is, if you want to keep great friendships, you have to put effort into them.
3. Having friendships with other women is a necessary part of my growth as a person.
Having a circle of women that I can be vulnerable with is amazing. I think that sometimes we subconsciously compare and compete with each other as women, so we distance ourselves and try to make it look like we have it all together. Having real friends releases you from that pressure and challenges you to be authentic instead of having shallow small talk. You’re challenged and inspired to do things you never thought you could do.
When you can be the real you with your friends, eventually, hopefully, you’ll have the courage to be the real YOU wherever you are.
And that’s the mark of a mature woman.
So I’m challenging you (and myself!) to be intentional about taking the first step to develop friendships with other women. You can start with a text message, or going to choir rehearsal. Take one small step today, and keep doing it.
I promise you the rewards will outweigh the inconvenience. Friendships have the power to change the course of your life. And because YOU will be a better person, so will your marriage!
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