This is Day 27 in the series “31 Days: What You Should Know Before An Affair“
I sat at PF Chang’s last week with two of my dearest friends—the kind of friends you could call at 2 AM, and with few questions asked, would get in their car and drive straight to you if I needed them. They know me well and are familiar with my edgy opinions, vulnerable insecurities, and past failures. They know my husband, each of my children, and could make a list of my many idiosyncrasies.
Elaine and I grew up in the same town, attended the same church, and faced much of childhood and adolescence together—which includes all the goodness a memorable high school experience holds—boyfriends, dances, driving, and youth group. Many nights we visited her red farm-house with the wrap-around porch, drank sweetened iced-tea at her kitchen table, ate snacks after our musical theater productions, and took a couple life-changing trips to the beach to show some Idaho guys around.
There were some years apart for school, and then years we came back together. She was in my wedding and I was in hers. I was at her births and she was present at mine. It’s the kind of friendship where it becomes less about daily contact and more about the history we share. She’s the kind of friend where you just pick right back up where you left off, and the comfort of it feels like an old glove that’s been broken in over time. She’s always been that for me.
So on Easter Sunday 1999, after my confession and my life completely fell apart, she was who I called. Not only is she who I called, she is the only person who would unswervingly stay in the messiness of my life with me through the next decade of pain. Everyone should have at least one of these kind of friends. And sitting here writing this down I could cry for the goodness of it.
I met Janet five years after my affair, as I was still climbing out of my mud. She watched me hide from being seen in that first mom’s group I dared to attend, and gently pursued me anyway, even though I seemed guarded and offered neat and tidy answers to regular get-to-know-you questions.
As my mom’s group table leader, she’d call me on the phone and ask how I was doing each week, even when I was apprehensive to show up and be seen.
Over the years, she has been no-nonsense, sincere, grounded, and made me feel safe. This is why she was one of the first people to whom I dared to privately tell my story face to face. She had shown me she cared, and I took the risk with her, because I’d become convinced she’d earned the right to hear my story. I trusted her that when she heard it, she wouldn’t abandon me.
So sitting in the car late one night, she gently made space for my story as I finally spilled over all the details, like a boiling pot of water as it rises with nowhere else to go. She met me with empathy, and it shattered my shame. She didn’t judge me, and never turned away. I was relieved to know I’d been right about her. In the years to come, she has helped me take more risks, talked me off ledges, and is still helping me learn to be brave.
Time at dinner flew by, enjoying lettuce wraps, crab wonton, double pan-fried noodles and heart-connecting conversation. Did I mention the double pan-fried noodles? So. Good. And we were standing in the parking lot in lingering conversation, when they both said it to me in unison.
I was grumbling about how difficult it was to make new friends at the kids’ new school, confessing how I’d wander around at drop-off and pick-up, noticing women in conversation and wondering if my new BFF was among them.
Elaine and Janet suggested I go to the moms-in-touch group at the school, to try it out. And while I briefly acknowledged her idea as a possibility, I quipped off several reasons why that probably wouldn’t turn out to be what I was looking for.
I sarcastically retorted that they might be over-churchy, at worst fundamental, at best judgmental and most likely an unsafe place for me to be me—besides if they googled me, then I’d be found out, and there’d really be no chance of me finding my BFF. I remember just saying it all in such rapid fire succession—as if I was declaring rational and indisputable facts— thinking they’d laugh with me and our parking-lot conversation would soon end.
Instead, they both saw right through my excuses, simultaneously rolled their eyes, and in unison, declared the real truth out loud,
“You mean like how YOU used to be before your affair!”
I laughed and sadly admitted they were right. I did used to be like that way back then, before all my failure. They call me out every time! But I love them for it. They have a perspective I can’t see, and I need them in my life–to call me out, to hold me accountable, to protect me from myself.
You need the perspective of a safe friend.
Someone with whom you’re willing to be vulnerable.
Someone you’re willing to let all the way in—who you’ll let see the real you.
Someone who cares about you, who has earned the right to hear your story, and who has your best interest at heart.
Both of these friends speak hard truth to me, and I always look forward to when they do. We all have blind spots we can’t see, and it takes a real friend to be able to risk rejection and defensiveness to tell you what they see in your blind spot. It also takes courage for you to be certain enough of their love for you, to hear the hard message they deliver and receive it’s truth, knowing they are for you always.
We need the perspective of a friend who will tell us hard truths and help us navigate our marriage with honesty, and call us out for our comparisons, dangerous thoughts, and tendencies toward secrecy for selfish gain.
As much as we’d like to believe we can handle all our stuff, the truth is we need each other in the deepest ways.
Our close friends have a perspective we don’t, and are instrumental in helping us avoid the deep pain of our unfortunate choices.
I learned this the hard way, when I pulled back from all friendship for a few years.
And we know how that went.
How has a close friend helped you see your blind spots?
What do you think is the best benefit of authentic friendship?
Read Day 28 HERE
Throughout this series, if you have a question or a struggle and want me to address it or write on it in this series, please send me an email (jacque at jacquewatkins dot com) or a voicemail (green button on right sidebar) and I will do my best to incorporate it into this series. It will make me so happy to have feedback from you and to write what it is you might need. I can’t wait to hear from you.