Sometimes when I’m describing my friendships with girls, I feel like I’m talking about a dating relationship.
“She said we have a special connection, but I’m not sure.”
“I really enjoy spending time with her, but she seems too busy to really commit to our relationship.”
“Things are moving way too fast, but I don’t know how to tell her to slow down!”
“We don’t have as much in common as I thoughtㅡwe’re on totally different wavelengths.”
“I think it’s time to cut my losses and get out.”
Close friendships and dating relationships are practically the same thing! (Minus the sexual attraction.) There is the building of trust, the growing in intimacy, the fights, the hang outs, the communication issues. Things can get really complicated. Or other times, things flow surprisingly naturally.
Friendship is one of the things I’ve struggled with the most since coming to Korea and throughout my life. Connecting with people is one of the deepest desires I have, but simultaneously one of the scariest challenges I face.
Because people aren’t perfect. People disappoint. Because no one can actually go inside my mind and read it, so there is always a limit to how fully people can understand me (and I them).
I’m pretty good at connecting with new people and putting them at ease.
People often tell me that there is something about me that makes them feel comfortable and able to be themselves. I think that’s awesome. (I also think it’s partly because I laugh a lot, so I make people feel funnier than usual.) It’s true, I enjoy drawing people out of their shells, encouraging them, making them laugh. I’m good at those things.
But building close friendships requires more than casual interactions or spur-of-the-moment deep conversations do. Close friendships take time to build and they also require true vulnerability. People often tell me they appreciate how open and real I am, but sometimes I have an extremely difficult time being open and honest, namely when people hurt me or when I think my honesty will hurt them.
I’m working on being more honest, but it’s challenging.
When someone breaks my trust, my gut instinct is to run away. Honestly, a lot of the time that, “Let’s cut my losses and get out” attitude is me. I don’t even tell the person they hurt me or hint that my view of our relationship has changed, I just back off and start keeping my distance. And they pick up on it real quick. (I’ve noticed this works for both guys and girls.) It’s like the least mature version of a break up ever.
But I’m starting to learn that some relationships are worth fighting for. And I’m starting to realize that there are people––not just in general, but right here in Korea––who think friendship with me is worth fighting for. (Wow.)
Over the past few months I’ve had certain conversations with girls that I have put off as much as possible or tried to convince myself weren’t necessary, but that, when I finally had them, brought about beautiful, unexpected things. Weight was lifted. Rightness was restored. And I came away understanding more fully what true love is.
Love is about accepting people as they are, despite their imperfections. Love is about overlooking offense. Love is about trusting people enough to tell them how you really feel.
I have to say that these experiences give me hope about dating and marriage also. I’m starting to understand what it takes to be committed to someone long-term. I’m realizing that I can handle the messiness of intimate relationships. And I know that someday I will meet someone with whom I not only deeply connect and feel at ease, but whose lifelong friendship will be worth fighting for.