I Don't Make Girlfriends - I Build Sisters
Over the last couple of months I have been doing a deep dive into interpersonal relationships and as I am finding more openness and vulnerability in this adventure, I am noticing more and more that the people, and in particular, the women in my life are all craving the same thing: Connection. It’s no surprise that 2020 has reawakened our need for intimacy. I know for myself, I have suppressed for a long time my primal need for safety and belonging in order to fill that void for others. Sitting in self-isolation with limited contact as of late, one is truly able to marinate and get specific about true desires. When loneliness sets in, whether it’s in self-isolation or simply being away from the comforts of home, it’s easy for me to default into thinking that what my body craves and hungers for is sex. I want to be touched and seen, I want to feel my highest and sexiest, I want to be revered and needed. But with sex, if you’re not truly honest with yourself, these feelings are fleeting. Temporary. When I delve into my breathwork practice and just sit the eff down with these feelings, I realized, no sis, it’s intimacy that I need.
Men and women form bonds differently
Human beings are hardwired for connection but how we present it is different. In men’s friendships, intimacy revolves around experiences that are relevant to their shared interests. It is often less about internal struggles as it is about finding commonality externally. That does not undervalue the strength in men’s friendships; it’s powerful, fluid, complex. It’s a concept that I am only beginning to understand as I step back and observe the men in my life. Masculine energy is so sharp and forward thinking; and while I have more recently been trying to tap into that part of me, how men relate to each other will continue to baffle me.
While I can’t truly speak to mens' relationships, I understand the complexities of relationships with women. For women, intimacy means self-disclosure and trust. Evolutionarily, it meant a sense of kinship after female exogamy, mutual surveillance and cooperation in their communities as well as safety and crucial leverage over predation and aggression. Women turn to their friends for empathy and advice. We also tend to co-ruminate and go through all our stressful stimuli and analyze and re-analyze every possible solution and its outcome, to the detriment of our mental health sometimes. While I am trying less and less to compare and despair over my own human experiences, I know that the women in my life are the ones I can relate to with regards to these questions and behaviors.
So then why am I having such a hard time forming bonds?
Evolutionary competition - Imagine being a part of a well established, mixed-gender group (college friends, neighborhood,.). Everyone’s roles are clear, everyone receives equitable distribution of time with each other, maybe you share a pizza. You are bonded with this group; you have best friends and maybe a partner. This is your family. Now imagine a stranger walks in, compliments your best friend, eyes your partner and takes a piece of pizza. How does that make you feel? We are possessive and hypersensitive to threat. The novelty and youthfulness of a new woman makes her a powerful sexual rival. Her newness and different/same experiences may eventually be a threat to your relationship with your bff. She might be liked so much that others in the group will give her their slice of pizza to the detriment of their own hunger, or worse, they give away your piece. That’s a threat to your survival and progeny. Protect it.
Gossip - We are avid storytellers. Stories create community but also opens us to the claims of others. Imagine being the girl coming into the group established above. You’re putting yourself out there to be nice, maybe you found a potential partner not knowing he was already seeing someone (unbeknownst to you she’s there!) and you’re hungry, so you help yourself to some pizza because everyone looks like they’ve had their piece. For some reason, you’re getting a lot of side eyes from the women in the group. They’re whispering. Oh shit. Wait, why would I want to be a part of a group that doesn't see the truth in my real story? How can I trust that they are not saying mean things behind my back? Are they stable and trustworthy?
Worthiness wounds - at some point in our young lives, our fire, our light was diminished. It could have been an experience with a parent, it might be from the betrayal of a friend, it may even be that you got second place instead of first and that wasn’t good enough. With enough evidence, this becomes very true to us and we don’t feel worthy of attention or love. But we try to assimilate anyway because external validation is the only way to feel any sense of love, you fake it until you make it. So in this scenario, you come into the group, small and fragile. The girls in the group are way prettier, the possible suitors are already linked with these pretty girls and though I’m hungry, I don’t take any pizza, I don’t even ask.
So am I screwed? WTF can I do?
Get out of other peoples’ heads - I can’t control what other people are thinking or what they think of me. We come into experiences from such different places that it is a waste of energy to ruminate on all the scenarios of why they hate me. Instead of thinking about what they could possibly dislike about me, I try to think about what is not to love about me. What would I like to bring to the table to prove my worthiness (to myself, to the group)? What behaviors would I like to present and have mirrored back to me? We can’t control other people, but we can control our behaviors and responses.
Get real about what you want - In my case, I had to sit my ass down and dig deep into the tension and what my body felt. What am I actually hungry for? What type of nourishment am I needing from interaction? Do I need to self care and find intimacy within myself? (Which honestly, is likely too). Why am I craving connection, what am I missing? And if it is something tangible, sweet! But don’t be afraid to give a voice to your wants and needs and set your boundaries.
Find people in the same arena - We all experience a spring exodus from old stories, old relationships, old beliefs and past lives. There are people out there fighting the same fight you are. If you’re willing to endure the blood from your openness, the sweat from the stamina it takes to build connection and the tears from every time you fail or fall down you may find allies fighting the same fight. Be patient, building trust on both ends takes time. Revel in your own successful swipes with your sword and encourage your allies to do the same. Keep going.
Be brave - I am a big believer in the reciprocal nature of the universe. You get what you give. While this may have initially contributed to my downfall over the past decade as I gave too much and received little, I delved into the scary work of reframing my perspective and asking/demanding for my needs. Putting yourself out there is terrifying and hearing that fire in my voice that was suppressed for so long is surreal and uncomfortable but well worth the effort.
So maybe a part of me still wants sex, that’s okay. Channeling that energy towards building new relationships, really holding space for the goddesses that I have loved forever and using that energy to give myself the intimacy that I need has been profoundly helpful in getting me through this self-isolation. Getting back into the world will be a different adventure entirely.