Friendships with other women have the potential to either enrich your life greatly or hurt you deeply. But you can navigate the complex dynamics of relationships well if you realize that God wants to use your friendships to help you and your friends grow.  Grown-up friendships stretch and encourage both you and your friends to become more mature.

Here’s how you can build grown-up friendships:

Be willing to invest yourself in friendships. Realize that good friendships don’t just happen; they take time and require risks. Invest the time and take the risks necessary to build solid friendships. Don’t settle for just fleeting fun marred by insecurity; pursue relationships that help you connect well with other women and experience deep joy together.

Discover the purpose for each of your friendships. Understand that God has an overarching purpose for all grown-up friendships, which is that they should honor Him by encouraging the people involved to become the people He wants them to be. But ask God to show you the unique purpose for each of your friendships, as well. Ask your friends questions as you explore the potential purpose for your friendships with them, and pray about the information you receive until you discover what God wants to accomplish in each of your lives through your friendship.

Rank your friendships by intimacy level. Recognize that not all of your relationships are meant to be close. Know that, while you’re called to love everyone, you’re not called to share intimately with everyone.

Put your friendships in the proper perspective by ranking them according to whether they’re acquaintances (people you know by name and with whom you usually share facts or clichés, such as a cashier at your favorite grocery store), companions (people you talk with about opinions or concerns, and with whom you share something in common, such as a hobby or children of the same age) or close friends (people you trust enough to share your deep thoughts and feelings together). After taking inventory of your current friendships, ask yourself if you’re experiencing true intimacy in any of your friendships, or if you’re spread too thin by trying to have too many intimate friendships.

Identify those people with whom you sense God is leading you to become close friends, and become intentional about doing so while letting go of unnecessary pressure in your other friendships. Make sure that God is your number one close friend, and rely on the love He gives to love other people.

Open your heart, with God’s help. Don’t close your heart off to people God wants you love. If you’re having trouble acting loving toward a difficult person, ask God – the source of all love – to help you by giving you the love you need for her. Be aware of how people press your fear buttons through their words and actions. Once you identify how they trigger fear in you, talk with them honestly about it, with the goal of sharing a loving conversation that will enlighten you both and draw you closer together. Constantly keep your heart open to receive God’s love so you can love your friends as He intends.

Set and respect healthy boundaries. Pursue healing from any past wounds that are affecting your ability to build current relationships in healthy ways. Reflect on your emotions and what words and actions trigger them so you can understand how to express them at appropriate times and in ways that are most helpful to you and your friends. Make sure that your physical expressions of affection honor God and bless your friends rather than making them uncomfortable. Recognize that God has created you to be unique. Don’t try to become like your friends; embrace your own identity with confidence.

Embrace differences between yourself and your friends. Accept the fact that you and your friends have different personalities and approaches to life. Realize that, instead of causing you to grow apart, your differences can actually improve your friendship if you respond to them wisely. Let go of attempts to change your friends and address frustrations and unmet expectations as they occur. View the differences between you as gifts rather than annoyances. Bring out the best in each other by inviting God to use the differences between you to teach you to love in deeper ways. Ask God what He is trying to accomplish by pulling you and your friends together, and keep His purposes in mind as you work through your differences.