Friendship and Intimacy {The Lonely Nomad}

We’ve made very few intimate friends in our 12 years of marriage.  I realize this only in hindsight.  Oh, we’ve had plenty of “friends”, we’ve waved goodbye to a decent amount of people that felt fondly for us. But they only knew our poker face. Our smiling at the door, not our fighting in the car, face.

 

Partly I suppose our nomadic tendencies are to blame; it takes time to develop intimacy.  But more than that, the simple truth is that we haven’t invested in others, haven’t opened ourselves up and been vulnerable.  It requires a tremendous amount of trust to show your struggling side.

 

And there are appearances to keep up.

 

We did develop some true and strong and slightly messy friendships during our more than three years in Georgia.  And it was good. Even the parts that weren’t.

 

But I don’t have three years this time. I might only have one year, and half of that is already gone. I find myself in a lonely space of wanting intimate friendship but being scared or unwilling to allow for the slightly messy parts. But relationships don’t work that way. You have to let people see the hurting side of you, the less than picture perfect.

 

In some ways that feels harder than ever to do.

 

I want a best friend, here in the flesh.  I want real community and friendship and intimacy.  Someone or someones that I can tell the kinds of things that never make it to the blog, the kinds of things that take up residency in my heart, and soul, and mind.

 

But there’s also the very real necessity of protecting your secrets, your family, from the wrong hands. And there’s a fear of being found out for a hypocrite, of disappointing, of not living up to some standard or ideal. Or worse, being rejected.

 

And the possibility of all of the above can seem more painful than the loneliness itself.

 

Deciding who to trust with yourself is a tricky and terrifying business.

 

 -Jessica

Comments

  1. Hey… did you post this once before, maybe update it? I’ve got a weird deja vu thing going, like you’ve told us this before.

    In any case, even if you didn’t tell us this before, it sounds incredibly familiar, probably because I’m very much in the same boat. Most people don’t really know me that well, even the ones that know me the best, and at times it leaves me feeling quite lonely. Even with my wife, who is my best friend and closest confidant, there are just a lot of things inside that we never talk about – not because I’m hiding them or anything, it’s just we don’t go there.

    Compared to the person I was back in high school/college, I’m a veritable chatterbox now, but most of what I share with people is surface stuff, nothing too deep. It’s almost as if I have different levels of what I’m willing to share. There’s the “fit for public consumption” stuff that I’ll tell anyone, then there’s the stuff (including shadier parts of my testimony) that I’m willing to share with friends (this comment probably falls in that category). Then there is the fairly deep stuff that I’ll share with pretty close friends, but even those things are very filtered and I’m quite conscious of the parts I’m holding back. My wife, I can tell anything, but hey, she doesn’t want to hear a lot of it anyway, so why go there?

    So yeah, I can relate. I know what it’s like to be in a room full of friends and still feel completely lonely. Your last line — deciding who to share yourself with is tricky — is very true. I am discovering though that, as long as I’m honest with myself and honest about myself as I approach God, that it’s ok to hold some things back from others. God knows me, and as long as he accepts me (and I’m being honest with him), I’m not so worried about what others think…..
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    • I’m sure I’ve touched on the subject before and I’ve even referred to writing this post a couple of times before publishing it – so maybe that’s why it feels so familiar. Or maybe I’m just a broken record. :)

      I have always been pretty cautious in friendships. Which is unfortunate since I claim to want them so much.

      One thing that I didn’t expect with this move is that I’ve found the blog itself makes me even more guarded in friendship. Like, if I truly deeply become friends with someone who knows blog Jessica their understanding and respect of us will shatter. Or something. I almost wish I could just have a best friends who’d never heard of the blog.

      • I get that blog vs. real life guarding thing… I’m kinda there too. My blog (can hardly call it that… haven’t posted in months) pushes the envelope on debatable theological topics, but I’m really reluctant to go there in our small group settings…. if I can’t give a 30 second explanation of a concept, it’s easier not to go there than explain it badly.

        To be clear, you’re not a broken record. I really did a deja vu double take (late night, tired reading doesn’t help.P

        • Totally get that, too. I wish my small group didn’t know about my blog in some ways because now I feel like occasionally they’re just waiting for me to have a profound opinion during our group time. But I’m not one to share super openly without a backspace button. So for the most part I just sit there. Quietly. Believe it or not.

  2. Mark Allman says:

    Jessica,
    I think for most people if they have 2 or 3 really close friends then that is a lot. I know for myself it is hard to put anyone in that category. You do have to take a risk to have someone you can be like that with. At the same time if they are not willing to be open with you it will not happen. Both have to be all in or you will not have that friendship that is to die for. I believe it is worth that risk even if it blows up in your face. You risk others knowing things you may not want them to know but they will be things that are true. May God put that person on your door step.

    • So true. If the openness doesn’t go both ways then it can’t work. And having it blow up in your face can be pretty mortifying – and can magnify the loneliness. Which is why risking it is so hard.

  3. I felt the same way for a very long while. In my case my problem is over-sharing– I tend to scare people away pretty easily with my excitement, enthusiasm, and over-trusting. So I have had to learn to reign myself in and not expect to find a “perfect match” friend but rather have friends that I would consider little more than acquaintances physically, and then have real friends via the internet, whom I occasionally get together with. The thing is the Lord KNEW I was an introvert and needed to be more with my family and less out and about with others when I still was longing for a close friend. I now have a group of close friends– they are all online and I have met a few of them already in real life. Eventually I hope to meet all.
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    • Oddly, even though I communicate much better in writing (um, der – because I’m a writer) I don’t trust intimate things in writing. I have a very “Don’t write anything that you don’t want the whole world to see” mentality – it’s all very “worst case scenario” in my head. So if I do write something confidential I immediately erase it’s existence.

      So that makes it a little harder to be super open with friends online.

  4. You have no idea how much I relate to this post! I’ve always been very cautious about whom I share my true self with. Growing up none of my friends knew the turmoil of my home life and the things that troubled me deep inside. For example when my parents finally separated some of my friends whom I had known for over a decade were shocked because they thought we were such a happy family. Even with my hubby it took many years after we were married for me to feel comfortable opening up completely. A few of years ago I realized that even though many people like to come to me with their problems and trusted me, I had no one other than my hubby to whom I could go to. I began to feel very lonely. I prayed for a long time for God to give me someone whom I could trust and truly open up to, and someone who shared my Christian faith because I needed someone who would encourage me in the Lord and I could encourage her as well. Finally after several years of praying I met on a Facebook group a woman who asked if she knew anyone had children who wanted to be pen-pals with her daughter. I replied and we began to message back and forth. Long story short our kids don’t pen-pal anymore, but she has become the best friend I have ever had besides my husband. I have shared with her things that I would never share with anyone else! And she has too with me. Besides being an awesome Christian woman we have so many things in common it can be scary sometimes, lol. I am so grateful for her friendship and honestly once I found her I need no one else. I have many friends but I feel so satisfied with my hubby and my BFF that I no longer feel lonely for any other such intimate adult relationships. By the way, she lives clear on the other side of the country, so thanks to the miracle of the internet it doesn’t matter where I live (we are nomadic too) my friendship with her remains strong. I believe that anyone who desires such friendships can bring that desire to the Lord and He will bring the right person at the right time like He did for me and my BFF.

    • See above comment about why online friendships are typically not intimate for me. :)

      Really, I think everyone struggles with this, whether they’re nomadic or not. That seems pretty obvious from the responses.

  5. I just got back (seriously, like 10 minutes ago) from women’s group where we watched this Andy Stanley video about how our faith, if built solely on convictions and commitment, is like a 2-legged stool destined to topple. Community — honest, penetrating friendships that ask the hard questions and offer the hard answers, is the necessary third leg. This is the third time I’ve seen that video in the third home group and every time I come home I pity myself for my lack of true friends. But don’t ask me to actually pursue someone. Heck no if you think I’m going to willingly get down, dirty and honest. Yuck! Usually my response is, “I’m a journalist. I’m supposed to ask about other people’s lives. Not talk about my own crap.” Sigh…So surface friend I remain. Yet, I don’t think it any accident that this post was waiting in my inbox right after I got home today. Maybe it’s time to take the next step…
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    • This whole blogging thing has put odd barriers up for me, that I couldn’t have predicted. I’m “known” for being down and dirty and honest. But it’s still filtered. So letting people go beyond the blog level of down and dirty and honest I find nearly impossible.

  6. Oh Jess, It’s brave of you to even state this. Unfortunately I think its true for more of us than not, especially for those of us who have stepped away from conventional, or maybe never ever embraced it. It feels harder to find friends, real friends, who are safe, who get our choices, and are willing to hear and be part of the full picture, as messy as it can be, without critiquing our lifestyle choices. But when we find those friends, oh how special. More than once I’ve prayed through the loneliness… sometimes He’s used that loneliness to teach me something, and sometimes He’s put the right people in my life. I hope that He grants you your wish, that you find a close friend where you are. ((hugs))
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  7. Girl! I feel you! I live in the same place I grew up and still I am here. I’ve been challenged to find that person many times. I have invited people to be that person many times and nothing. I want an amazing group of women like my Mom had. That met once a week at a pie shop (every single week) for hours after dinner and talked. Nobody bashed their husbands. They cried, they grew, they streched, they laughed alot. I crave this and yet can not find it.
    I love my husband, he is my bestest friend ever (even though he is deployed…and we can’t live together until he gets out of the Army) he fixes about everything in my life. But I need a girlfriend. I haven’t cried in front of anyone in years. They ask how are you but you can see in their eyes they don’t want the real answer so the fake smile comes on. They ask how are you doing with the hubby gone. I said good and inside I die a little bit from the lies I tell.
    I’ll be praying that you find a bossom buddy (oh how I love Anne of Green Gables).

    Kristin

    • I am an expert at that fake smile. And I do think the younger generations have a much harder time making intimate friendships happen. I think it’s because our society is just less community driven in general.

      • I agree that we are less community driven. But that is the life I crave. I love being at our co-op for the sence of community. I teach my daughter about changes in her life with outher Moms and daughters so they can talk to any of us. I live in a house with my grandmother connected to my parents house. I need to be connected, but I can’t seemto find a grown up connected friendship. I have people the I love from youth group when i was young but we are flung all around now and as deep as those relationship were and as much as I love them they aren’t here in the dirt. There isn’t someone I can stop by and sit on their front porch with coffee or chocolate and wine and talk. Get deep. Be real. Cry. Laugh. Streach. I would love a girlfriend who streached and challenged me in my faith. I don’t care if they are cloth diaper, baby wearing slight hippies like me (althought I have to work in the corporate world for now…yuck). Just that we can go into the deep. How many times did God take people into the deep and that is where they grew. I want to be in the deep with God and also have someone in deep too weither that deep is clear beautiful bahamas water or more likely poopy brown Mississippi water.
        And I agree I am much much more open and true on my blog than in person.
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  8. Oh – Jay and I so feel the nomadic, who do we trust even in our Christian circle loneliness. I will say I have been blessed with my sister coming to Christ and becoming my best friend – we share everything with each other. But I know how you feel.

    We are about to begin another cycle here in a few months.
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  9. Jessica this arrived in my inbox today, funny to see your post after I read it: http://www.ransomedheart.com/daily-reading/it-must-be-small

    Might be something there for you :)
    Michelle recently posted..Rice Play – The True StoryMy Profile

    • Funny because I’ve been very seriously considering getting a therapist just so I have an objective party to talk to without feeling the need to be so guarded!

  10. That’s the thing with real friendship – it just takes time. On the other hand, sometimes you meet someone and boom! it happens, you just feel it in your bones. When I moved to different countries I spent too much time on skype trying to save my existing friendship and it unabled me to actually get to know the people around me…Its a vicious circle and if you come up with a good solution to this – let me know! :)

    • I totally get you. I left behind a couple of really close friends with this move and it would be easy for people to wonder why I don’t just keep my connections with them online. And I do keep my connections with them but it can never be the same as having them in your house every week. I need friendship in the flesh, I guess.

  11. Thank you for your realness, and for making me cry….tears of hurtful truth in my own life. and I’ve been in the same county my entire life :) {{hugs}}
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  12. The road to friendship can be such a long, lonely, and bumpy road. :( Especially when there is a lot of transition. Recently, I’ve reached the point where I’m blessed with deep relationships and intimacy, but that also creates more space for hurt and hurting others. Eek. Realizing there are all kinds of habits and weaknesses I need to work out. I look forward to what more you have to share on this topic. It’s def one of my fav things to talk about.

  13. I know this is an old one but I just read it today. I feel ya. We recently moved and we’re only going to be here for 6 more months. It’s hard to put any effort whatsoever into making friends when I know we’re just going to leave again. And we’ll be in our next location for only 2 years. Why risk the stability of our small-talk friendships with vulnerability and honesty, right?

    I just keep thinking that I’ll make real friends once we’re settled, that I’ll get serious about healthier cooking when we’re settled, that everything will be better when we’re settled so I can settle for suboptimal physical and emotional health until then. Obviously that isn’t true…

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