Why female friendship is good for you
I think female friendship can bring out the best in us. A colleague notes that women’s friendships is formless and lacks ritual, rules and roles, but herein also lies it’s strength, its relative freedom from deceit.
It doesn’t surprise me that I receive less unhappy correspondence about friendship than about any other category of relationship. Friendship rarely becomes a nest of extreme pathology.
I’ve yet to receive a letter that says: “Dear Harriet: A close friend insults and degrades me and sometimes hits me. I love her and I don’t know what to do.” If a friend behaves terribly or evokes awful feelings, we don’t just dream of escape—we get out.
Friendship doesn’t always come easily or go well. When a colleague presented a passionate talk on women’s friendship at a Menninger(link is external) Women’s Conference that I co-directed, a common reaction of the participants was to feel inadequate, to wonder if their friendships measured up to the ones the speaker described.
Some women said they didn’t have friends, or didn’t know how to make them. Probably everyone has felt hurt, betrayed, or deeply disappointed by a friend at some time, or dismayed to recognize mean-spirited feelings of one’s own.
It’s also true that our commitment and capacity for friendship waxes and wanes. We may slight friendship during that early “Velcro stage” of a romantic relationship. We may neglect friends when family or work consumes our time and energy. We need friends less–or need fewer friends—at certain points in our lives. Or we may have the least energy for friends when we most need them. But women know that friendships matter deeply.
Friendship, generally speaking, is what women do best. Novelist Alice Adams (link is external)puts it most succinctly: “I think women know how to be friends. That’s what saves our lives.”