If you want relationships, you have to make them happen

When did relationships get so hard? I’m not talking about romance. I am extremely happy with my love life and adorable, though scraggly, husband.

I mean other relationships: FRIENDSHIPS.

In the past two years I feel like my friendships have gotten tossed on the back burner. And I mean like the way back burner, like the old stove that is rusting to pieces in the back yard.

Ok, I am exaggerating a bit.

But here is the truth: I get lonely and I want people to want to spend time with me.

When I was in high school and college, I really wanted a mentor. I wanted someone to notice that I was special and smart, a girl who just need a bit of attention and wisdom. I hoped and prayed that THE woman at church or THE professor would just take notice of me and ask me out to coffee.

It never happened. I was crushed.

Now that I am older (and less annoyingly needy), this longing for relationships has given me a startling kick-in-the-pants truth: If I want relationships, I usually have to make them happen myself.

If I want to get to know that student or offer some advice, I have to ask her out for coffee.

If I miss my mom friend, I shouldn’t just write on her Facebook wall “I miss you! Let’s get together soon!” Rather, I should call or text: “Hey, what day can we get together this week?”

If I am always canceling on a single friend who loves evening get-togethers, I need to offer a weekend alternative: “How about Saturday brunch?”

I find myself cringing when I say enthusiastically, “We should get together!” and then never doing anything about it.

Relationships take work, as well as Initiative, Creativity, Planning, Babysitters, Follow-through, and Sacrifice.

And sometimes, openness to being hurt. Last fall semester, I really wanted to build relationships with some of my former students (something I wanted in college, remember?). I contacted them (10-12) and offered a weekly “Sunday Supper” at my house. I had visions of great food, rousing discussions, lots of laughter, and deep mentoring relationships being formed.

I didn’t count on hurt feelings. But sometimes it happened, like weeks when no one showed up. Or other weeks when students were so late that dinner was cold (no apology or explanation). Opening up my home meant opening up my heart and that made me vulnerable to pain.

But it was worth it.  Not for the “thank you’s” or “You didn’t have to do this!” but for the fact that I could offer a bit of solace to students during such a busy and tumultuous time in their lives. I also got to laugh a lot, play games, and indulge in fancy deserts that I wouldn’t usually make for my immediate family.

We didn’t do “Sunday Suppers” in the spring semester (mostly because of my miscarriage and recovery…I just couldn’t pull it together) but I’ve recognized other desires in my life.

Like, I miss my “English” friends and discussing literature on a regular basis. I haven’t taught English on campus in a long time and I was starting to get really down.

So, out of pure self-pity and literature withdrawal, I decided to start a Jane Austen Book Club this summer.

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My Jane Austen Book Club

(My other motivation is that reading Austen is just amazingly fun so, really, I didn’t need those other excuses).

I’ve had a healthy amount of interest in the club so far so I think it will be a good time when we start in June.

I guess the point of all these stories is this: If you are lonely, have a need, want a friend…reach out and strive to make your relationships happen!

It won’t always work, but, as I have learned, if I want relationships in my life, I have to seek them out, invite people over, ask that person out for coffee, and make an effort to invest in people.

Because investing in people is worth it. But to invest, sometimes you have to take the first step.

When did relationships get hard for you?
What have you done to take the first step in your life?
Share your story below!