Friendships: Women Don’t Tell Each Other Everything, Do We?

Posted on October 3, 2011 by

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women friendships

By the way, I forgot to tell you...

In the past week, I realized that there are two subjects that are taboo among women.

1. Admitting that you have a hard time making friends.

2. Admitting that you’ve been dumped by a friend.

Last week, my story “Why Do Moms Have a Hard Time Making Friends?” ran on the Huffington Post. We were flooded with page views, new subscribers and emails from many of you thanking me for writing about a topic that women rarely talk about.

Here’s what I think. I think that we, as a female race, are wonderful communicators. We’re emotional beings. We’re nurturing and we’re gossipy. And when it comes to friendships going sour, or finding women to bond with who are at the same life-stage that we are (i.e., women with children our own age, or women without children if that be the case) WE DON’T SAY A GOD-DAMN WORD.

In her book What Did I Do Wrong?: What to Do When You Don’t Know Why the Friendship Is Over, author Liz Pryor constructs a very good explanation to why we don’t talk about such things. Embarrassment is one. What are we saying about ourselves if we admit that we’re having a hard time making friends? It evokes insecurity. Weakness. And I’ll tell you what else. Blame that looks like this: It’s your fault. Stop worrying so much about making friends when you should be focusing on your kids. Stop pretending like you’re in high school.

These were some of the actual comments from the 650+ people who commented on my Huffington Post article. Why do you have any feelings at all? Isn’t that really what the negative commenters meant? The discussion was heated over on HuffPo. Of course it struck a chord–why would you admit to something that would subject you to ridicule? (Unless you’re me!)

Failed friendships is another taboo subject. If it’s hard to admit that it’s not so east to find a friend as an adult, then why would you admit that an adult friendship didn’t work out.  Why would you admit that a friend flat-out stopped calling you. What does that say about you? Social suicide. Right?

Pryor believes it goes way deeper. That we’re engrained to believe that women shouldn’t have any conflicts whatsoever. Unicorns and jelly beans! She writes:

“Every woman has experienced a failed friendship, but when it happens we rarely talk about it. Why? For one thing, we have nowhere to turn. The one person we confide in during times of duress is the very person who has left our side.

Women are raised to believe that the conflicts in male-female relationships may never resolve, but that the bond between two female friends is steadfast and impervious to other influences. After all, we don’t just make friends; we make friends forever… To protect ourselves, we internalize our hurt feelings, bury the issues deep inside us, and try to fill the hole by focusing our attention on anything but the failed friendship.”

It is our job as women, as teachers and mothers and friends to break through the stereotypes that we put ourselves in and that society dictates. There is a conscious choice that needs to be made when difficulties arise with other women. For us to reach out to other women and say, I’m having this problem can you help? —even if the problem isn’t one we want to readily admit. Part of being a feminist in this world (oooh, I said the “F” word, you’re not going to run away, are you?) is accepting that our feelings are okay to discuss. It’s about respecting women, respecting yourself, respecting our decisions and allowing ourselves to open up to the community or to other groups of women about our experience.

I’m not a self-help guru, or a therapist (we’ve got Ask Miri for that), but anyone reading this article, can you do two things, please?

1. Ask another woman out for coffee. Or say yes when another woman asks you. Coffee isn’t dating. Coffee isn’t a commitment. And coffee can really bring someone some peace.

2. If you’re having an issue with a friend–talk about it, will you? Not in a gossipy way. I don’t mean that. But in a helpful, constructive way so that other women, or supporters of yours, can hear you.

(Image: Pingu1963)

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