“How does Jenny respond when you talk to her about being so stingy?”

 

“Talk to her?!” she exclaimed.  “I’ve never brought the subject up.  I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

 

Lisa and I spent the next several minutes exploring how much she valued her relationship with Jenny.  Turns out, they were “best friends.”  But here she was, on the brink of tossing away an eight-year friendship because she didn’t want to hurt Jenny’s feelings. 

In other words, the one friendship she cared more about than any other was about to go under because she couldn’t speak the truth.

 

Fortunately, with a little advice and coaching, Lisa mustered up the courage to confront Jenny on this annoying habit and the problem began to slowly reverse itself.  The point to be learned here is that friends who do not care enough to confront may save themselves a little awkwardness in the present, but they will end up losing their friendships in the future.  A healthy relationship is built on honesty.

 

Healthy people aren’t afraid to be honest, and they aren’t afraid to be themselves.  They follow Emerson’s advice: “Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo.”  Translation: Speak the truth, because if you are afraid of making enemies, you’ll never have good friends.

 

Fruit #3: Personal space

 

Emotionally needy people don’t understand the meaning of space.  They mother and smother us with their very presence.  Their constant connecting becomes oppressive – if not possessive.  This kind of person has no appreciation for what C.S. Lewis meant when he said: “"In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out." 

In other words, Lewis recognized the need for space in a healthy relationship.  He saw the need for multifaceted relationships that help us shine where another friend, even a close one, simply is not able.  This is one of the marks of a space-free relationship: Each person relinquishes a possessive hold to enable the cultivation of other relationships.

 

Along this same line, a healthy relationship respects serenity.  It recognizes the value of a thoughtful silence and a private retreat.  Philosopher and author Henry David Thoreau once said, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” 

Let’s face it: There are times in everyone’s life when we need to be alone – times when we need to gather our wits and allow our soul to catch up.  Healthy people understand this.  Part of self-giving love means we provide space, when needed, for the companion of solitude to enter a relationship.  Of course, we also know when to return, when to break the silence and rejoin the other person’s journey.

 

All of us need space for the companion of solitude but, even more, we need to be in relationship.  After all, it is this very space and separation provided by a healthy relationship that draws us back to a full appreciation of the relationship.