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The Unchartered Territory of Friendship

Posted November 11, 2013 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five


The uncharted territory of a friendship allows the space for us to become.

I mean friendship to be defined as any relationship, so for you it might mean a best friendship with a girlfriend. I’ve also talked to you before though about a friendship with my dog. And friendships with significant others, people with whom we have a romantic relationship. And friendships with nature.  The best friendships create opportunities for us to find more.  More of our understanding of ourselves. And more of our understanding of the world.

The biggest challenge of relationships is vulnerability and courage (No this isn’t yet another post about my major crush on Brene Brown though it certainly probably is somehow). It is about how when we show up in relationships — we reach this paradox of asking for our needs to be met, meeting others needs, and growing from each interaction whether we want to or not.

Mark Nepo describes this experience in such a poignant way for me:

We are taught constantly and consistently to ask for what we need only to have the work of accepting what we are given.The reward for asking for what we need is that we become more intimate with ourselves.  We stand in our truth, in our sense of us. The reward for accepting what we are given is that we become intimate with everything in the world.

Oh. Wow.

It also highlights for me the ongoing struggle we experience as we do both. Some people’s work is in finding their own truth. In starting to ask the questions, realize the want and articulate the need.  This can be oh so painful.  

And for others the discovery of needs is intuitive.  The ask for needs is a breeze. The receiving, the discovering of the world or maybe the clash with the intimacy of the world is the opportunity for a major, courageous attempt. Perhaps I’m clear on what I think I need. What my truth is and so from that place I can more fully create a relationship with the world of others.

This is the space that relationships create.  This is the in between, the crevices and nooks and crannies of our best friendships.  It’s in those little moments where you compromise. Where you learn to say something.  Or you learn to listen.

Does this resonate?

I love the way it explains the continuum of relationships. And, it helps gives language to the work I do in helping some stand in their courage and say things they’ve never said before. And, there are some people who stand in their courage and accept the honesty the world is telling them.  It’s both.

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”