The importance of female friendships

kiumo on Flickr.comSynchronicity at work. At the same time I am reading a book to review about life long female friendships, I get the following email from B, a Silver & Grace community member:

I have just two women in my life who “get” me and I know would have my back in any circumstance and I theirs. There is nothing like it. I would not know what to do without these two great women and the strength they have given me in my worst times of need and have returned the favor, as well. These are the women who the men in our lives don’t “get” because they don’t understand. Sisterhood means so much more than blood lines!

There are many studies that point to the health benefits of female friendships. Cancer patients with strong female friendships have a higher survival rate. Having close friendships lowers our blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol . As well, we are better able to manage stress.

I have to admit, I was not one for sisterhood. Late in high school, I belonged to a gaggle of girls, and we were inseparable for two years. But after graduation, we went our separate ways. I consider one of them my dear friend to this day, but we talk on the phone a couple of times per year, and make the effort to see each other once a year. But we have no idea what goes on in each other’s lives on a daily basis, so we don’t turn to each other when the life gets to us. Another older woman is near and dear to my heart, but again, our interactions are rare.

A group of women at work have been friends forever. They go on vacations together. Their families socialize on a regular basis. And they are each other’s constant comfort and support. I am honoured to be on the fringe of this group, but I have to admit that I would not want to move into the inner circle. I think I would feel claustrophobic.

However, while I might not have lifelong best girlfriends, I have always turned to women when I need to sort something out. Be that parenting, relationships, or career. And now, I am really starting to understand the benefits of sisterhood.

It all has to do with peri-menopause and menopause. Seriously, no man can even begin to discuss mood swings, insomnia and fluctuating libido with anything other than an “Oh my god, my wife has gone insane” response. Women, on the other hand, respond with “Oh, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about.”

Going back to B’s email, I like to think that the women currently in my life ‘get’ me. Maybe it’s because I am an open book. What you see is what you get, so people either like me or they don’t. But either way, they don’t have to peel back any layers to see the real me.

As for ‘having my back’, this is interesting. I have a very strong group of very dear male friends I turn to ‘to have my back’. My two brothers, Mr Very Right, and several incredible men I met through work. They have always rallied around me in a time of need, and I would jump through hoops of fire for them. But I can honestly say, there are now women I would turn to, and I hope they would turn to me. And I will even go as far as to say I would probably turn to them first, before my wonderful boys.

To be honest it is a trust thing. Up until my forties, I didn’t really trust females. Crazy, but true.

In public school and most of high school, I wasn’t very cool, so, my female friends were pretty fickle when it came to friendship. They would hang out with me when no one else was around, but dump me like a hot potato when a boy was involved, or the cool crowd showed up. My adopted sister and I were fiercely competitive on many fronts, and just as we moved beyond this in our early twenties, she died in an accident, so I’ll never know where this might have led. And throughout my thirties, I never fully trusted my partner, suspecting there was another woman involved. Ten years of suspicion were confirmed when an affair with this woman ended our relationship.

But life is different now. I am settled and content, and as I tune into my own gifts as a woman, I recognize those same gifts in other women. And I am passionate about celebrating these gifts of sisterhood.

Silver & Grace is a product of that passion. Thank you, B, for sharing your thoughts and prompting this post. This is what the Silver & Grace sisterhood is all about.

Silver & Grace Approved Books

Looking for a great book on female friendships? This book has the Silver & Grace Seal of Approval as excellent resource. It can be purchased through Amazon.

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship

For other Silver & Grace Approved books check out Eliza’s Recommendations.

Comments

  1. Hi Eliza – Like you, over the years my friendships with women have waxed and waned. But now, I’ve got the greatest posse ever: my friends Judy and Mary – my sisters of choice. Your post speaks so marvelously of the magic in these relationships and how integral they are to a happier life.

  2. Hi Eliza,

    I wasn’t much for the gaggle of girls as you put it and the majority of trusted advisors in my life have been men. However, there have throughout my life been a few- very few exceptions- and I can name them all on one hand- who have been there for me through thick and thin.

    Now as I reach the second half of my life that number is growing quickly and the men I have as friends.- well now that I think about it, other then my husband and close family, I am not really hanging out with that many other than a few online friends I hold near and dear.

    .My sisterhood of women friends now are precious gifts and our bonds are very tight. I would say yes, as I get older, we get closer. Much closer.

  3. Sherry B says:

    Hi Eliza.

    I have to say my two best friends for the past fifteen or so years have been my two sisters, one four years younger and the other seven years older. They are the ones I go to for anything as I am for them. I was hurt by a few so called ‘friends’ in high school and again shortly there after and have opted to keep all women at arm’s length. But I do have to say in the past few months I have met some women that I seem to be able to talk to and meld with which is changing my perspective on my DTAW (Don’t Trust Any Woman) philosophy. So as you say Eliza, as I get older, more content, more confident with myself my trust issues with women are slowly waning and I’m hoping to welcome sisterhood with open arms.

  4. @Betsy – waxed and waned … that is a perfect way to describe my friendships over the years. And I am so glad I captured the magic of sisterhood. I am really starting to feel that magic myself.

  5. @Wendi – yes, interestingly, my male friendships are diminishing as my female friendships increase. I still very much rely on Mr Very Right’s and my brothers’ advice, but I am turning more and more to women for advice and support.

  6. @Sherry – hey you! Welcome to the Silver & Grace conversations. Why is it we … not you and me, but ‘we’ as in women … distrust our fellow females? And do men distrust each other? Is it a primal competition for males that keeps us divided? Which means later in life, this competition lessens, and we can start to enjoy each other. This line of thought really needs to be pursued.

  7. I find this article and the comments really interesting because in some ways my experience has been the opposite. Yes, I had the bad experiences with other females when I was young, particularly because I changed schools so many times and little girls are horribly cliquey and will make you jump through hoops to be their friend. So, I did forge bonds with males early in life and all the way through to my 30s I have had trusted male friends. But nothing beats the bond I have with my closest girlfriends. I can’t really relate to the thought of women as competition or someone to distrust. But then my dad always told me never to compete for a man as it was beneath me, so maybe there’s something there. Or maybe I have just managed to attract great women in adulthood and all the crappy ones have not come near!

    My best friends and I met post school, around 18/19 and they are the support network I rely on in troubled times. Much more so than my family. We have partied together, studied together, travelled together, forged adult lives, responsibilities and relationships together, married and now are having kids together. After 20 years I find the time I spend with them something precious and real, an anchor in a demanding stage of our lives. We don’t see each other as often now, but when we do get together we can talk about anything and everything. We joke that any boundaries or face saving we ever had with each other in our 20s seems to have disappeared in our 30s. I can honestly say my girlfriends know me exactly for who I am, the good and the bad, and they love me unconditionally. In some ways they are just as great a love in my life as my husband. Writing this and reading it makes me realise how lucky that makes me.

    Eliza, I’m glad you’re having this chance to connect on a deeper level with the women in your life.Men are wonderful, but in my experience there are so many things that only a woman will understand.

    Kelly

  8. @Kelly@SHE-POWER – My best friends and I met post school, around 18/19 <– ah, see I met my husband (now ex) at age 19. Married at 20. First baby at 21. Second baby at 22. Third baby at 23. In that time period, we moved 5 times. I wasn't meeting or bonding with anyone. I was a tad busy :-) Your experience with female friends is awesome. Thanks for giving us another perspective, Kelly.

  9. I absolutely have a set of “sista friends” who I would turn to in a minute when I needed them or when they needed me I’d be there in a flash. I think women need the understanding and friendship of other women, trust is absolutely imperitive in the relationship. It took me some time to trust women (who hasn’t had a friend who turned on you, although I found post secondary school didn’t happen as much) My “girls” and I vacation together talk daily, do drinks, make soup when one is sick, help each other through operations, child bearing and birth and cancer diagnoses. I have honestly never felt more at peace or honest then with them.
    Each of my friends and I have known each other from high school to work, I think we as women need to trust other women to be there for us, open up to them show our vulnerability to each other.

    I urge all women who have never had women friends to invest in a relationship with a woman they are fabulous friends! I also have a set of ‘guys” i hange with and while fantastic they couldn’t replace my girl friends.

  10. @Kellie – hey you! Welcome to Silver & Grace. Your description of your female friendship relationships is very similar to the book I am reviewing here on Thursday. I am also reading a book on an entirely different subject, and I just had one of those brain leaps that join two seemingly unrelated subjects together. What if my lack of a tight set of sistas has nothing to do with my thoughts on female friendships at all? What if it has more to do with my personality type? In the true sense of the word introvert, I am one. As in, I get my energy from being alone, not from being with people. As I was reading all the truly wonderful things you do with your sistas, I was actually starting to feel rather claustrophobic. And if you said you did all that with a bunch of guys — okay, maybe not those exact things :-) — I would have had the same reaction. This is really fascinating! More thought is required ….

  11. Shane Keskeny says:

    I was rather enjoying your article until i seen this quote you wrote below.

    Seriously, no man can even begin to discuss mood swings, insomnia and fluctuating libido with anything other than an “Oh my god, my wife has gone insane” response. Women, on the other hand, respond with “Oh, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about.”

    Yea we Men dont have periods. But Just because Men may not have the same Cause for mood swings insomnia and “fluctuating libido” doesn’t mean we cant relate and share with one another. and its very unlikely I would call my wife “crazy”. :)

  12. Shane – yay! I love it when readers push back. It makes me think :) In the past year since writing this article I have started to experience some of the symptoms I talked about. In particular insomnia and mood swings. My husband has been extremely sympathetic and does not call me crazy… At least not for those reasons *grin* The key is communication. I let him know what I am experiencing and how it is impacting me. He, in turn, cares to understand. Thanks for having me look at an old post with fresh eyes.

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