Girls Loving Girls – Part 2
- Friday, December 01, 2006
I’m sure unhealthy emotional dependency has occurred in many women’s relationships over the years, among married and single women alike.
Generating wacky solutions to unmet emotional needs is common. Actually, one friend and I were just laughing today about neediness. Hers, she said, has been shrinking. “I’ve gone from being a Hoover vacuum cleaner making that loud sucking sound to just being well…” and, picking up her soda, she sucked through the straw, “… something like this.” We both laughed. It’s good when we can get our needs in the light and laugh about them.
Nevertheless, the abundance of single (or single longer) women in our culture seems to create a climate ripe for emotional confusion. And without a making a gigantic leap, it’s not hard to imagine that in a society where sexual connection in any context, at any cost, has become a god, emotional dependence, especially if it is lodged in connection with one friend, can sexualize among women. I’ve even seen this among those who decidedly believe the sexualization of female friendships is wrong. …
So much of this has this heavy, shadowy feel. It makes me not even want to talk about it. But I can’t escape the notion that naming the truth, bringing it out into the light, is a key to re-forging a path for girls to love girls well. None of this mess shocks God – the darkness isn’t dark to him. So while there’s no need to dwell on every detail of what’s shady, we don’t need to fear getting slimed just because we talk candidly about the truth. …
Author/minister John Piper uses this metaphor: When God is not the center of our “planets of passion,” when we make anyone or anything else the sun in our universe so to speak – inevitably, our planets of passion will spin out of order. Our understanding of and desire for “connection” can get twisted. Or, as C.S. Lewis puts it in his book, "The Four Loves,"
Affection produces happiness if – and only if – there is common sense and give and take and ‘decency.’…There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness; patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be. That is the whole point. If we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will “go bad on us”28 (emphasis mine).
Maybe all of this is why the first two of the Ten Commandments are these: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”29 God wants to protect us from affection gone bad. And the antidote is to keep him, the Source of “a far higher sort of love,” central in every single relationship, including our closest girlfriends.
That “continua l … far higher sort of love” can only be the love that the triune God both puts into us – and empowers us to share. I think in part because of pride and embarrassment, for a long time I didn’t want to admit that I needed God’s help in something as seemingly simple as friendships with other women. But gratefully the truth caught up with me before too much damage had been done.
So, how do we go forward? How do we “discover God’s vision for relationships”?30 ….
For me, such living has begun with acknowledging my capacity to do the opposite. Specifically, when I find myself wanting more from a friend than she wants to or should give, I admit it (to God and maybe another person). And when I have found myself feeling clingy or preoccupied by the friendship, I do a quick little inventory. More often than not, it’s my problem – I’ve made her central to my happiness on some level – and I simply ask for God’s forgiveness and his help to relate differently. There are a few friendships I have had to let go all together – or let them take their natural scaled back course without trying to force them to provide the closeness I’ve desired. But oftentimes, relating differently has meant something as simple as learning that a friend’s unavailability is not necessarily all about me. Maybe she’s supposed to be doing other things with other folks, and that’s not only okay, it’s good.
As well, living for the well-being of others might also mean forgiving those who have wrongly needed or mistreated me. I remember one quasi-friend who said to me after I’d listened to her process her muck over a few dinners, “Oh, please don’t think I’m using you just for a sounding board; I really like you too.” Hmm … I’d never actually thought I was being used. But in retrospect, that was what was happening, and when I finally saw it (in, for example, her never communicating with me once her crises had passed), I had to admit her affection was primarily about what she could get. Then I had to forgive her. (It also proved to be a ripe occasion for asking why it had taken me a while to notice her motives.)
However, beyond these two crucial if difficult steps of repentance or forgiveness (there are no better words to do these steps justice), comes the fun stuff. First off, how wonderful is it that there is a God to whom friendship matters? Moses, the Old Testament leader and prophet, scribe of the Ten Commandments as a matter of fact, was called a “friend” of God. And Jesus was himself called a “friend of sinners.” God is into friendship. So, though it can be a wee tad humbling, I say, let’s ask God to teach us what it is to be good friends as women, to have healthy intimacy and affection – even in a hyper-sexualized, intimacy-starved society. Let’s ask him what it is to relate to one another so that the weirdness diminishes and the beauty that God has planted in each woman multiplies. And then let’s take risks. I am completely convinced he will honor this desire in our lives.
Click here to read Part 1.
28C.S. Lewis, "The Four Loves" (New York: Harcourt, 1960), 81-82.
30Lori Rentzel, "Emotional Dependency: How to Keep Your Friendships Healthy" (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 26.
Adapted from "Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn't Expect," © 2006 by Connally Gilliam. Published by SaltRiver Books (an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers).
Connally Gilliam earned a Master's of Teaching (English) from the University of Virginia and has taught high school and college writing. She now works for Navigators as a Life Coach for Twenty-somethings in the Washington, DC, metro area. She loves sharing coffee with friends and discovering how God is real, even in a crazy, changing and unintentionally single world.
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