Female Friendships Pt. 1

#communication #friendship #girlfriends #lifestyle Mar 12, 2021

This morning I went down a rabbit hole that I intended to have a simple answer, but was met with more conflicting opinions and information than I initially predicted. I guess it was my own fault, I should have known that what I was researching would inevitably be far more complex than I thought. Regardless, I think it is something that should be touched on because it is something I know most women struggle with and/or deal with at one point in their life. It is a topic bloggers touch on often, especially female authors, because as writers this is how we process our thoughts and how we work through and make sense of what is happening around us. I have found interesting view points from several different writers, and though this topic was included in their blog, they felt that it was a more in depth issue and needed further explanation and research which resulted in them writing an entire book about it. I myself have my own personal view point on this subject, but suddenly felt the need to dig deeper inwards, and find out why I hold these opinions, and what is holding me back from change. Before we dive in, it needs to be made clear that in no way can this topic be covered in one blog post, I will probably make several, hence the reason these other bloggers have now written full length books on the issue. I would also like to mention that a lot of what I will include are my own personal experiences, so in no way am I trying to categorize anyone, however in some ways, as I said before, a lot of us can identify with this particular issue. 


 Female friendships are one of the greatest blessings on this earth, but can also be tumultuous, stressful, and be completely foreign territory no matter how long you’ve known someone.


I have been blessed to be surrounded by some incredible women that have helped shape the person I am today. However, I still struggle making new female friends, and often say that I hate even trying to get to know other women because it’s too much work. As a child I definitely went through the experience of dealing with “mean girls,” drama, and friend “breakups.” I can only attribute the way I feel now about female friendships to some of the dramatics I went through as a kid/young adult. I remember in elementary school being friends with a group of girls, some of which are still my closest girl friends to this day, and being considered the “popular” group at the time. They wore the trendy early 2000’s clothes, the cool shoes, and brought beautifully constructed lunches, all with organic ingredients. I however, wore hand me downs, dressed like a boy, had an awful haircut and brought cheese sandwiches or ate school lunch. I tried to fit in, tried to abide by the trends of my peers, but always came up short. It was near the end of fifth grade when it became clear that I was an outsider. I received a note from one of the girls in our group that meticulously defined all of my flaws; ugly, boyish, stupid, annoying. The note finished with signatures from every girl in our group, plus all of the signatures from each kid in both fifth grade classes. I learned later that most of those names were forged, but in the moment, believing that every person in my grade thought so ill of me destroyed my confidence. Looking back on it now, I can laugh about it, I can see where in some ways my behavior could have been bothersome to them, and they could have handled it better too, of course. As we get older though, and friendships become more in depth, I would even say more necessary for emotional survival, the things in which we argue about or the things that can make or break friendships become much more complex. Our priorities change from staying up all night at sleepovers to making sure we get to bed on time to wake up early for work. From spending the weekends shopping or playing imaginary games to just sitting on the couch talking or sleeping in because your work week was hectic. From being a child to raising them and not always having the time to just go out. We have bills, responsibilities, work schedules, houses to clean, the list goes on, and sometimes friendships fade. And then there are those that fade intentionally. I want to cover a couple of these complexities that come with female relationships and dive in deeper as to why I personally struggle connecting with other women, and why some of you may be struggling too.

The first thing that comes to mind is different lifestyles. Everybody is different, of course, but as you get older and start coming into your own power and deciding what and who you want to be, that can drastically change how you live, as well as shape the priorities you have. For example, I am a stay at home mom. My “work” schedule is never ending but also semi-flexible. However, my schedule also depends on my sons mood, when his nap is, when his meal times are, and if something is going to take more than an hour I will most likely need a sitter. Baby sitters are a whole other conversation as well. When you are a stay at home mom, you get into a rhythm, you know what your kid likes, you know what they are saying even if its babble, you know what their cries mean and you know how to handle their tantrums. Not everybody knows, and when your kid is only used to your presence, your care, and is fully dependent on you, a stranger can be daunting. Sure there are family members, in my circumstance, I live with my in-laws so the chances of having someone available to watch my son are far higher than those living without family nearby. All of this to say, an hour outing, though completely deserved, can be a lot for a stay at home mom to even feel like a possibility. A lot of my close female friends don’t have kids yet or aren’t planning to have kids, so trying to explain the ins and outs of motherhood just so that I can go on a coffee date can be exhausting. And then there is the other side of the spectrum as well. For somebody who doesn’t have kids, when you ask your mom friend to hang out, you are risking many rescheduled dates, interruptions during conversation, going to their house more often then them coming to you. They probably don’t text you as often, when you go out for drinks they probably get drunker faster, or they don’t want to stay out late because they are just exhausted. It puts a definite strain on a relationship because you are in two different phases in life.


You don’t have the same things to bond over, some of those things that really solidified your friendship in the first place.


Now I’m not saying that just because you have a kid you lose all of your friends, not true at all, if anything you find yourself in a larger community of support and love because you start identifying with other mothers and find new things to bond over. With that being said, you also find the judgment. The adult kind, the kind that makes you start building walls to separate yourself from community, something I have done time and time again. There’s the “Breast is Best” moms, there’s the “I have everything together” moms, the “No Vaccinations” and the “Yes Vaccinations” moms. With community comes higher chance of division. When I first became a mom, I felt the need to connect and become a part of a New Moms Facebook group. You can laugh all you want, but I was feeling disconnected, and I thought it was a good way to at least find mommy and me groups or something, I don’t know. Very quickly I left the group because of the judgment. There were moms airing out their dirty laundry, asking for help or advice and here were these other women shaming them or laughing at them and using the poor woman for their entertainment. It infuriated me. And of course there were plenty of supportive women there, but the negatives always stood out to me and I quickly left the group before becoming too invested. I didn’t want to get hurt by people I barely knew. So that attitude of “screw female friends” came back into my head and I stopped trying. I also feel that when you find real kinship with your close friends, it puts an unrealistic expectation on other women. You desire the friendship that you already have, but from a completely different person, and for me that I think is the core issue when it comes to me making new female relationships.


I expect too much. 


A second idea, though simple in theory but complex in the long run, is fear. Fear of judgement, fear of having difference of opinion, fear of starting fresh with someone new. Female friendships really are like full time romantic relationships. They require care, communication, assurance, support and a lot of love. When things don’t work out or those friendships fade or end on bad terms, it can be more devastating than  ending a romantic relationship. In my late teens, I went through a long stint of destructive coping mechanisms; drug abuse, bad relationships and bad choices. Through those times, I had friends leave or distance themselves from me because they wanted to separate themselves from my toxic behavior. But I didn’t see it as toxic then, I took it as them being unsupportive of my journey and leaving because they were disgusted by me. My group of girlfriends was smaller during this time, and the news of my behavior spread through the grapevine and people left without talking to me or communicating how my actions were affecting them. We were also teenagers though, we hadn’t learned the art of communicating on a deeper level, and it created a lot of distrust, anger and resentment amongst our friend group. I remember receiving a text message from one of my friends whom I had been distancing myself from for some time. She attributed this distance to me using drugs, when in reality our lives were just changing and we were becoming different people. But it was also the drug use, I just hadn’t admitted that to myself yet. In her text she said that she was disappointed, disgusted, and couldn’t fathom being my friend anymore because she didn’t want my poor decisions affecting her life. She was breaking up with me, and she was angry that I had chosen the path I had chosen. She was protecting herself from my destructive behavior, but instead of communicating her frustration in a constructive way, she projected her own anger and her own pain which in turn made me respond with anger and pain. The discussion was never in person either, it was just over text, and we all know how text messages can be misconstrued or misread. And that was it, our friendship was over, and this created a domino affect amongst my friends at the time. They all started leaving, in a time that I needed them the most, but I didn’t communicate that, and they didn’t communicate their true feelings with me. It was fifth grade all over again, and without them I felt so lost. As I’ve shared before, this is where my downward spiral began, but we don’t need to get into that here. Years later, in my early twenties, I was mostly sober and ready to begin deep healing. I started reaching out to some of these old friends that I had hurt, knowing that I needed to take responsibility for my actions, but that I also needed to communicate how their actions hurt me, while also assuring them that though it hurt at the time, their feelings were justified and weren’t the reason for my poor behavior.


I needed to apologize.


It took a long time to let go of my feelings of hate and mistrust, but I knew that if I held onto these feelings of anger, they would only continue to eat at me from the inside out. We reconciled, we talked, we forgave. We grew up. It’s always hard putting your own ego to the side and chosing humility and empathy for those you don’t necessarily share the some opinions with. And the crazy part? We still aren’t close. All of that reconciliation, all of that drama and years of hurt, we still recognized that we are different people and that we don’t necessarily have to share our lives with each other anymore. Will I always love those girls? Absolutely. Will I harbor any resentment that our friendship didn’t withstand the turmoil of our younger years? No. I can’t convince people to be friends with me, I can’t convince people to take interest in what my life has turned into now. But what I can do is still love them from afar and cheer them on in my own way. Returning to the concept of fear, I think that this is what most women are scared of; investing time, energy, secrets and life stories with someone who may just fade away someday. Opening up to someone is terrifying, and they may think you are scary or damaged and not be interested in continuing a friend based relationship. I have this terrible habit of just talking too much and sharing too much information and it has  definitely backfired on me before. But as I’m thinking about it and ruminating on the things that I’ve been reading and learning in the process of writing this, there will never be a reward without trying. Though I may not still have some of those relationships from the past, I learned so much from them. I learned the power of forgiveness, I learned how to communicate my truth and the way that I’m feeling in a constructive way, I learned that it is okay to remove yourself from toxic situations for the betterment of your own future. In a way, the girl friends that didn’t stay helped write my story and create the person that I am and love today. So letting fear get in the way of a potentially amazing learning opportunity or, even better, a genuine friendship, is silly. Like I said above, there is still so much to cover with female friendships and so much more I could talk about but I will leave you with this for this week: allowing yourself to be open to community, friendship, and kinship is scary, but in the long run it can be so so beautiful.


It will take communication, it will take trust and it will take time but in the end, it could be worth it. 


 

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