I’m just not sure where I stand with her. I mean, does she want to be my friend for real, or does she see me as a project? What is our relationship about anyhow?

A young friend was confiding some insecurities in me today as we talked about friendship. Lately, the subject seems to be on repeat in all my interactions. Friendship. How we grow it. Where we find it. Why in the world is it so hard?

One aspect I have wrestled over the past decade is lopsided friends. You know the relationships where one of you wants deeply to be besties, and the other feels smothered? Or one is always feeling disappointed because the other isn’t quite meeting expectations (that the latter never agreed to in the first place)?

How do you deal with friendship when it isn’t reciprocal? 

Part of the problem I think comes from our natural tendency to draw identity from everything that isn’t Jesus.  Relationships, looks, money, status, social media followers, job, clothing, personality, and on and on. For women especially, the people we are connected to play a huge role in our sense of self and worth. I’m so-and-so’s wife/girlfriend/friend/mom can become the way we define ourselves. So, when one of those relationships pulls away or fails us, it can be very personal. In reality, being connected to Christ is our ultimate security. He always chooses us. He chose us when we didn’t even want him! It has nothing to do with us, so we can rest securely knowing his loving character is the base of his love for us.

Because the hard truth is, everyone won’t pick me. Friendship has an element of chemistry, much like dating. Sometimes I will feel drawn to or want to be close to someone who simply won’t share that interest or connection toward me. And if I know my worth is secure in Christ’s love, it won’t devastate me not being picked back. It’s not always personal, and no one owes me a friendship just because I want one.

Another aspect in friendship is timing, much like a tennis game. I don’t play tennis so don’t break this analogy down too far as I’m sure it will fall apart, but follow me here: in this sport, some people play a fast game three times a week. Some people play a slow game once a month. You can’t show up for a quick game on Wednesday with a gradual game gal who won’t be there until next Friday.  What one woman has the time and energy to offer you in friendship may not match up with what you want. But that also doesn’t have to be personal. You may want her to meet you weekly for a three-hour coffee, but she may be interested in a once a month brunch date. So, you have to decide: just because she is offering something less than you want doesn’t mean she is rejecting you. Can you change your expectations and play a slow game? It may be a huge blessing for you both.

What won’t work in building a friendship is pressure, manipulation, guilt, pity parties or rigidness. To build something worth having both people must be interested in the project. Sometimes, another woman will simply not have the time or interest to grow a friendship with you. And that is okay. There are many amazing women out there who will. They will pick you back if you can give them the freedom to play a game at the pace they desire, and you stay grounded in who God says you are in Christ.