Why they are key to every part of your health
My female friendships have come a long way. When I was younger, I was always a “boys girl” – as in “friends” with a bunch of guys and “acquaintances” with women. Looking back, I can now understand why. Being friends with guys means I can keep my distance without getting hurt – or competing. Guys never ask too many questions, and we tend to keep things light. I am the ultimate winged woman, free to make mistakes without another woman’s judgment of who I am. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure who I am or what I want to be, so it all feels like a safe space.
Fast forward to late adulthood and I can’t imagine my life without my girls. It’s easier now to be sure of who I am and what I stand for. To be fair, it was probably inevitable that I came to this place with a group of girls. But it wasn’t until much later that I learned that all strength and strength lies in a woman’s friendship. From navigating my career in one man’s world to sharing the joys and fears of motherhood — it’s all there. My female friendships lift and fill me in a way that my friendships with men cannot. So all of this got me thinking: Why am I afraid to get close to women? What was so complicated and confusing about those relationships?
While popular culture has given us female friendship gems like Lena Dunham’s, Girls and Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, most romantic comedies include the heroine’s best friends, who help set the stage for the heroine and propel her toward her love. The reality is, female friendships are incredibly complex and full of nuances, but there are also far fewer beautiful and rewarding relationships.
Featured image of Jenny Sathngam.
Why female friendships aren’t just pretty to have
Female friendships are essential to our health, and they can even help us live longer. Have you ever experienced that warm, euphoric feeling you get after leaving dinner with your best friend? Platonic proximity gives us the health-boosting, stress-reducing effects of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin — all crucial to mental health and physical longevity. matter. More than ever, the intimacy we share with our friends helps us avoid feeling isolated, increases our sense of belonging, and helps us cope with the world around us.
In a society where romantic relationships are everything and last, women can find friendships elusive and difficult to maintain — especially in adulthood. With that said, it’s never too late to build new relationships with women or work on the ones we already have. Plus, knowing the many benefits of friendships is a great reason to start investing in them in a new or different way. So what is the secret of lifelong friendship?
Keep reading for three tips that will help you build lasting friendships with women.
Let’s shine together
One of the common reasons why women feel challenged in their friendships is jealousy and competition. The reason for this stems from evolution, where our ancestors competed for the safety and protection of mates. In a modern and patriarchal society, women often find themselves competing for the affection and approval of men. When our worth is encapsulated in attracting male attention, rivalry can develop. Similarly, many women can associate the bitter feeling of seeing a friend get a big promotion or hit an important milestone before them. But since our friends are a direct reflection of us, shouldn’t we really celebrate and lift them up?
Here’s the idea behind Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s Shine theory. It says that by consciously investing our whole self in friendship, we can become allies instead of competitors. And when we encourage our friends to be who they are, we encourage ourselves as well. I don’t shine if you don’t shine, right? When we build relationships based on mutual support and solidity, we create the perfect conditions for friendships to last and flourish.
Let’s go deep together
In a world so focused on showing strength, vulnerability can feel like a weakness, and that means it’s hard for us to show it even in our closest friendships. Sometimes, it’s just easier to answer with the necessary “well, you?” when our friend asked how we were doing. But when we choose to close ourselves in this way, we also lose the potential for genuine connection.
The truth is, vulnerability and openness help us cultivate closeness to those we love and support feelings of belonging and security. When we let our guard down, we give ourselves a chance to communicate our true selves while creating a safe space that allows our friends to share theirs. When we allow ourselves to be seen—scars and all—we can develop the real intimacy necessary to forge lasting female friendships.
Commit to each other
We are all probably familiar with the defining stages of commitment in romantic relationships: moving in together, getting engaged, and getting married. Friendship, on the other hand, does not have the same obvious milestones. As a result, it can be easy to justify certain behaviors that we would never approve of in our significant other, such as transience and inconsistency.
As we begin to see our friendships as an investment, we can understand that commitment isn’t just for romantic relationships. By making a conscious effort to choose our friends, we create consistent habits that give us lasting support over time. True lasting friendship means accepting one’s place in all life stages and choosing to grow differently, but together.
How do you like and support your female friendships?