Category Archives: Friendship

Things that matter are not easy. Feelings of happiness are easy. Happiness is not. Flirting is easy. Love is not. Saying you’re friends is easy. Being friends is not.

–David Levithan

(via Things I’ve Learned from Being Open)

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For the sake of argument, let’s make it super sticky. Imagine you’re dating someone new, and you’re really into that person. Then the object of your affection asks you to share what you want and need in that relationship.

Gulp.

So you get brave and make yourself vulnerable. You tell the object of your affection that, although you understand the relationship is new, you’re enjoying that person’s company so much you’d be happy to get together… well, not every day (‘cause jeez, that might seem needy), but maybe every other day. And wow, it sure would be great if you could count on Saturday nights together. And really, you’d love it if neither of you were dating other people. And it would fill your cup if you could spend Valentine’s Day together. And just so you know, you like your coffee with sugar but no cream.

Then you finally look up from the floor and notice that the object of your affection looks totally freaked out. Said object then mutters, “Hmm… well, I’m busy this Saturday, but maybe the third Saturday of next month.”

And suddenly, as Brené Brown would say in her book Daring Greatly, you’ve just lost a lot of marbles from the trust jar.

I think we fail to express our wants and needs because we’re terrified of getting rejected or being judged or being perceived as needy. I had an experience like this recently.

I had gotten very close to a friend, and we had a lot of marbles in our jar. But then a point of conflict came up, and it left me feeling vulnerable and insecure and threatened, and I was craving reassurance, so I expressed a desire that we get together to talk about what had happened. Only my friend was feeling overwhelmed, not just because of our conflict, but because of other personal issues. My friend needed time alone, time to digest, and with great kindness, my friend rejected my request to process.

I felt devastated. Here I had made myself vulnerable, made my desire known, made it clear how insecure I felt, and my friend had chosen to prioritize a personal need for space above meeting my need for reassurance.

Ouch.

The more my friend pulled away, the more insecure and graspy I felt and behaved. Until I finally woke up from my self-absorbed state of neediness to realize that my friend had every right to prioritize a personal need for space over my need for reassurance.  As much as we care for others and want to meet their needs, we all have the right to meet our own needs first (file under “I fill myself first”).

Duh.

I apologized. My friend met my need two days later. I got the reassurance I needed. And our jar of marbles is safe and overflowing.

The true vulnerability comes in being courageous enough to make your want or need known, knowing that the person you’re sharing with might choose not to meet your need because it comes into conflict with their own – and that’s okay.  Can you sit with the excruciating vulnerability of having your need sitting out there – exposed and raw – knowing that the person you’ve made yourself vulnerable to has every right not to meet it?

I get queasy just writing this.

None of us want to come across as needy, and yet we all have needs, whether we like to admit it or not. Even the strongest and most independent among us have moments when our childhood wounds get triggered or we feel scared or we feel unloved. How often have you suppressed the desire to ask someone to just drop everything and give you a hug because you’re feeling lonely or insecure?

We live in a culture that values independence. We scorn those who appear clingy or dependent. It’s a John Wayne/Marlboro man culture, but the truth is, sometimes we just want to curl up on someone’s lap, have them run their fingers through our hair, and get rocked to sleep. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

So it leaves me back with my original question. It’s good to be vulnerable. As Brené teaches in her TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability, vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy. When we express a need and the person we’re vulnerable with chooses to meet that need (hopefully because it doesn’t conflict with their own needs, otherwise, they may be at risk of overgiving), we get marbles in the jar. Trust and intimacy grows, and we feel seen, heard, loved, nurtured.

But in order to gain the intimacy we desire, we need to risk having our needs not met, and we need to learn to soothe ourselves so we’re not making our happiness dependent upon someone else…

So it’s a fine line. Be vulnerable. Make your wants and needs known with those you can trust. But be willing to sit in that place of excruciating vulnerability when your wants and needs can’t be met, at least not at that moment. Learn to soothe yourself in those moments. Go for a hike in nature. Pray or meditate and let the Universe give you a hug. Do something you love – like dance or paint or read or take a hot bath. Let yourself just feel what you feel, and in time, you will find your own sunshine.

If someone perpetually chooses not to meet your wants and needs, you’ll lose marbles in the jar. I was fortunate with my friend because we had so much trust that one incident didn’t threaten the marbles in our jar. But I have another friend with whom I made myself vulnerable, and every time, my wants and needs were not met. This eroded the trust, and now, the friendship is only a superficial one.

Vulnerable Vs. Needy: The Fine Line

(via spinsterette)

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

(via the dopest ethiopienne)

THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. I may be in a serious cohabiting relationship, but that relationship does not exist to the exclusion or, really, even to the detriment of my friendships, either those that came before the start of my relationship or those that have blossomed since. I have picked my closest friends to exist in my life now and tomorrow and for as many tomorrows as we have left, however awesome or shitty or meh those days may be, simply because I like them. Because something in me resonates with something in them, something about them makes me wanna say, “This one! Yeah, I really enjoy this one. Let’s be important to one another forever.” And the circumstances of my romantic life don’t cancel these other relationships out or make them matter less. I hope that can always be true.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life…it’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s 4 a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt.

Marina KeeganThe Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories 

(via The Sexual Intellectual)

I’m deeply convinced that if we lived in a world where people had much greater freedom to share physical affection and intimacy in nonsexual and nonromantic contexts, with friends and family members, there would be a dramatically higher rate of overall happiness, sense of security, emotional well-being, etc. I believe that it would create more meaningful, more emotional, and more loving friendships and family relationships. I believe it would bond people more closely and intensely. I believe that it would take a lot of the desperation for sex and romance away from romantic/sexual people who are single. If we, as a society, saw touch as caring, loving, and nurturing–not sexual or romantic–we would be free to experience it a lot more often, with a wider variety of people, regardless of sexual orientation or romantic status or whether we were monogamous vs. polyamorous. The benefits would be amazing, and I frankly can’t see any downsides.

The Thinking Asexual | “The Shifting Meanings of Physical Intimacy and Touch

Day 12: Playground #30Layers30Days

Where is your playground, your happy place? The place or places where you feel free. Where you don’t have to prove anything, bite your tongue, or hide your enthusiasm. Just easy, comfortable, defenses down. Imagination running wild. 

Where is your playground? Also, do you make time in your life to escape to this place?

I am writing this post while wearing Princeton sweatpants and a Hoagie Haven t-shirt, so I think we have a logical place to start. While it wasn’t a happy place in every moment of my time there, I loved Princeton when I was a student and I love going back to campus now as an alumna. It feels like coming home. I am known for twirling around in random spots on the lawn, for sitting with my feet in the fountain, for walking around and emitting happy little sighs. Coming back is a combination of tingly nostalgia feelings and happy catching up with old friends feelings, and most recently also snuggly boolovin feelings. There are hugs and smiles and pictures and “It was great to see you”s. All of these things are good. I plan to be at campus at least once a year for the rest of my days. I’ve been going 2 or more times since graduation.

Quad is a special subset of my Princeton experience that I think qualified as my playground when I was a student too, if this is the definition we’re following. Some of the best decisions in my life have been made on a whim, and joining Quad was one such decision. There I  developed some of the deepest friendships I created in my time on campus, which in turn helped me develop into the person I am today. There are few other spaces that have had such influence on me, few other places I felt such acceptance, such total freedom to be who I am –quite vocally, in fact– and do what I want to do, even if that is literally run around naked. I don’t know what can better represent enthusiastic defenselessness than that.

I talked in another post about the ocean as a place I like to escape to. That is true, but the beach is a thing I’m about all the time. It’s another space I feel really free, probably because I don’t really go to the beach with anyone except people I feel free with. I feel free to walk around in my bikini and not feel self-conscious about my body. I feel free to just lay out and read/listen to music. But nowhere do I feel more free than when I am in the water. I feel weightless, and like anything is possible. It’s so invigorating! I laugh whenever I think about the look of bliss on my face when JJ spun me around in the ocean when we were down in Virginia Beach this summer.

Speaking about faces, I would be remiss in talking about spaces in which I feel I “don’t have to prove anything, bite my tongue, or hide my enthusiasm” if I didn’t talk about sex. I think sex can count as a place. It’s gotta at least be a mental state. I wrestle with my level of enthusiasm in seduction, during the “will-we-won’t-we” moments when I don’t know if my partner wants me as much as I want them. I feel myself giving a little bit and then pulling back, waiting to see if it’s returned, and sometimes when it’s not, I feel rejected or undesirable to a degree. It’s a thing I’m working on. But when it is returned…sex is a state in which all of my self-consciousness disappears. I don’t think about how much of my hair has grown back since I last shaved, how my body looks turned this way, how ridiculous my face is at any given moment, or how loud I am/who can hear. I don’t even halfway think these things and then internally chastise myself to push the thoughts away. I am completely focused on pleasure, my partner’s and my own. I feel unencumbered and uninhibited — I want to try all the things to make each of us feel good, not out of a desire to prove I can do X thing, but just because doing it is awesome for both of us. It’s such a high. I even prefer to call sex “playtime,” which I guess makes this my most portable and most frequently visited playground.

I should meet people and do things. #FBombsevent

This is a thing that seems like it could be cool, but it also intimidates the hell out of me. Feminism and failure and fearlessness are all things I care about on both intellectual and personal levels. Note the Audre Lorde quote art in my bedroom: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” #goals

But roundtables sound like I definitely need to speak, potentially in the presence of people who seem way cooler/more up on their shit than me. Networking sounds like small talk and questions I have trouble answering, like “what inspires me” and “what am I about”. But I sorta want to get off of the #nonewfriends train I’ve been riding recently…

#decisionsdecisions