I've been married for almost two years, and I finally made it out of the honeymoon phase this past month. The first sign I had made my exit was when I got annoyed that my husband, Jeremy, stole all of my covers the other night.
The second sign was when I started yearning for more girlfriends in my life. For almost two years, I was perfectly content to spend every waking moment with my husband (only a slight exaggeration). For the most part, my social needs were met, or so I thought. What actually happened, though, was that I ignored my need for deep, encouraging friendships with other women. As a result, I've become pretty lonely.
After college, I moved away from my closest friends for graduate school. After graduate school, I married Jeremy. Now two years later, I am desperately thirsty for a friend—and not just any friend. I want a friend who knows my deepest thoughts without me even telling her; a friend that will confront me when I'm not honoring God in my life; a friend I can encourage and come to know just as deeply as she knows me.
Men and women relate so differently to each other that it would be foolish for me to expect Jeremy to fulfill the need for female companionship in my life—just as it would be foolish for me to expect Jeremy to meet the needs only God can in my life.
I believe I yearn for this type of friendship because God created us to live in community. The apostle Paul explained to the Corinthians that the Church is one body with many parts: "The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ . . . All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27). He told the Galatians to "carry each other's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), and the wisdom of Solomon says that "someone who falls alone is in real trouble" (Ecclesiastes 4:10). We need people around us.
I've come to discover this doesn't mean just any people. For me, it means other women! In the Old Testament we see Ruth committed to following Naomi, despite the four times that Ruth told Naomi to return to her parents. Ruth refused while coining the famous phrase, "Where you go, I'll go. Where you stay, I'll stay. What you pray, I'll pray" (Ruth 1:16). In the New Testament we see Mary journeying a long distance to see her older cousin, Elizabeth, after they both became pregnant miraculously. Mary spent three months with Elizabeth. They probably didn't go to Starbucks every day like we might in today's world, but they were definitely learning from each other's experiences. Both Ruth and Mary desired close relationships with the other women in their lives. It was natural.
I don't have this whole grown-up-girlfriend thing figured out, but I do know God knows the desires of my heart. He has wired me for community, and I'm praying he will give me the courage to cultivate meaningful friendships and connect with other women.
What about you? How do you cultivate meaningful relationships?
Natalie Lederhouse is the assistant editor for Today's Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter @nataliejean.