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The First Way to Make the Friendship Habit Stick

Have and inner and outer circle of friends.

Psychologists tell us that introverts feel drained by being with others while extroverts are energized by them. It would seem reasonable to conclude from this that some of us need many friends and others just a few. In my experience, this is not true. Regardless on our personality type, every mother needs connection with women on different levels. We need and inner circle of friends and an outer circle of friends, if you will; women who satisfy our longing for intimate emotional connection and others who provide us comfort and affection on a lighter level.

Women comprising our inner circle are usually few in number-three or four. These are the friends who can step into our kitchens at dinnertime and take over feeding our kids, put them to bed, and clean up the peanut butter on the floor and jelly on the chairs when we suddenly fall apart from tragic news. They feel like our right arm or our left leg, whichever we need on a certain day. When we are convinced that we cannot love our husbands because they fail to satisfy the needs on our lists, these friends challenge us to shorten the list because they know we have fortitude. They fill in the gaps of our lives where we fall short, because they love us. Inner-circle of friends have a cistern of patience for us that never seems to dry up, even though we repeatedly forget to call, or say things that sting, or let their birthdays slide by unnoticed.

Inner-circle of friends may come from family or extended family and have been in our lives long enough to see our tempers flare, our most shameful mistakes revealed, and the pounds we gained with the last pregnancy get stuck to our hips. And the greatest thing about these friends is that they don't care. They don't take our tempers personally, they don't see the extra rolls around our bellies, and when they catch us berating ourselves over our mistakes, they finally tell us to reroute our words because complaining brings about nothing good. And when we act like jerks to our husbands and kids, they gently refrain from scolding but diplomatically help us see that our attitude has soured and then they ask why.

The hallmark of inner-circle of friendships are trust, maturity, and faithfulness, all of which work together to cultivate the deep love between us. And each of us must flow in two directions: Both friends must fulfill for the other. Jealousy never exists in these friendships because the ugliness of it erects a wall between us, stunting trust and faithfulness. While we might expect inner-circle friendships to appear, flowing naturally in our lives, often they don't. They require attention, diligence, and emotional elbow grease on our part. Like a marriage, they need honing, sweat, and time. But the joy they bring to our lives and the peace they afford are immeasurable.

The outer circle of friends, while no less valuable, is nonetheless different. These are friends who bring casseroles when we are sick, who run our kids to school and soccer games, and who are always up for a brisk walk after dinner. They are companions who bring laughter and comfort and uplift us when we are down. Usually there are more outer-circle friends in a mother's life-about 10 or so. These friends will come to our daughter's wedding but may not know when our birthday is. They provide a sense of belonging in the woman's world and, no, they don't have to be mothers. Outer circle of friends will grow weary if we ignore them too long and they will move on because they need companionship. Our relationship with the outer circle women are limited only by differences in personality. Often one in the relationship may long for deeper commitment, but if the other doesn't feel it, then the friendship will stay in the outer circle and this is fine. Depth in a friendship requires mutual trust and comfort and this can't be forced by one woman to accommodate another.

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