I’ve been on a lot of retreats. Growing up in the church, I always went on a Fall retreat, a Spring retreat, a Christmas retreat, a Family Retreat. My parents still stay in touch with a group of friends from college, so we go on New Years Retreats with them every year. I’ve been on retreats for PBuild and Cru, for Field Hockey and Student Government….
But I had never really been on what I will now call a Friend Retreat.
Two weekends ago, one of my best friends, Vanessa, visited me in DC. It was just Vanessa and me for three straight days. This meant that there was sooooo much time for us to talk. By the end of the weekend, I had heard basically every pivotal moment that’s happened in her life, in detail. And she had heard all of mine, too. We asked each other’s opinions on every topic and spent every moment trying to learn more and more about the other person.
I knew I had to write a post about this because of the effects this Retreat had on me. It’s unbelievable to think that a year ago I had never met Vanessa. And now she’s one of my best friends and we know almost everything about each other. I think about some of my other best friends and how there are so many moments I don’t know about, so many topics we haven’t discussed.
And so I had to write a blog post expressing my newfound belief that Friend Retreats are of the upmost importance for a truly close friendship.
I’m not saying you have to escape to a cool city with your best friend. I’m saying you should set aside a fair amount of hours to just talk, about yourself, about your fears, about your doubts, about your opinions, about your experiences, about the stuff you’ve never talked about before. And then set aside time to listen. Listen to your close friend share those things with you, and be invested. Ask questions, pay attention to every detail, draw connections about how many of those life experiences explain her funny habits or sad insecurities.
Maybe you set aside three hours one Saturday, or an entire Sunday, or a few hours each week for a month. What matters is that you retreat from the business of every day, and open yourself to meaningful conversation that helps deepen the friendship.
When this “retreat” is over, you’ll realize that it’s never really over. Every day I think of more and more stories to tell Vanessa, every day I think of more and more questions to ask her, every day I crave that special time. And when I’m frustrated that someone doesn’t understand me, I can remember that Vanessa does. That Vanessa knows every detail and understands me more than anyone could. And that we’ll forever have that bond. Once we took that time to have a Friend Retreat, making that time is so much easier. I can naturally ask her, “What do you think about blah blah blah in the news?” Or, “Wait, you never told me where your Dad went to college…”
Set aside time to know your closest friends. Tell them to give you their life story. Ask them their most influential moment in their life thus far. Tell them the craziest thing you’ve ever done.
Retreat with the people who mean the most to you. So that then your friendship can be based around not just a mutual love for traveling and all things Spanish (like Vanessa and me), but around a deep understanding of each other that allows for more unconditional love and a stronger bond.