When I was in college, I remember having lots of girlfriends. These friends were close to me; we shared each others’ lives, problems and joys. Suddenly, as I got older and married, I began to spend less time with my girlfriends. A recent study conducted by Duke University and the University of Arizona proved that women today have an average of only two close friends, and 24% reported that they had no one they could confide in. This feeling of isolation can lead to depression or worse; we know that a lack of friends can lead to heart disease, cancer, depression and anxiety. Overall, the quality of life is lowered when we are lonely or don’t have any close friends.
Female friendships are so important because they provide a source of close, effective communication which is essential in raising healthy families. Many of my best friends have become even closer while raising children and being married. My friends have provided me with a sense of support and security that my husband could not provide (I need both and so do you). Women give more and, therefore, expect more from our friendships than men do. We know we can be vulnerable and honest with each other and that vulnerability will be protected with our friends. Women also have a tendency to hold on to their friendships longer than men do. Women feel very hurt when they lose a friend even if that friend wasn’t honest or lied to them.
Women get busy with children, parents, husbands and work, but an area they should never skimp on is maintaining their friendships. It appears to be more significant to women’s overall health than for men. It may be something as simple as setting a date for coffee or perhaps even planning a weekend away at a spa. No matter what you do, don’t let the relationship go because you don’t have time. You may lose more than a good friend.
Tips to Maintain your Friendships
1. Be there when it counts. When one of your friends is going through a tough time, one thing she shouldn’t have to worry about is whether you will be there. What I remember most about my miscarriage was that my best friend came and just held me. She didn’t say anything; she just held me and let me cry. This meant more to me than the flowers, calls, or anything else.
2. Friendships change so allow your best friend relationships to change. Being best friends doesn’t mean the relationships will be the same forever. Your relationships will change after high school, college, and marriage, but the love for each other will continue.
3. Make dates to connect. It may take writing things down in your schedule book or blocking your schedule, but take the time to connect and visit. Friendships take nurturing. If you begin to take the relationship for granted and don’t make the time, it will make her believe you no longer value it.
4. The only thing worse than not making a date to get together is “flaking out” on the date. If you make a date, commit to it and make sure you show up. Much better to meet for a short time than not at all.
Nothing is more symbolic of how you lived your life than being an old woman still very much connected to your girlfriends. Women need other women to mentor, learn from, heal with, laugh with, grieve with, and celebrate being a woman with. Lastly, having close girlfriends keeps your marriage healthier. Having a support system besides your husband helps you see things more objectively. Women who have good friends allow their partner more freedom and are less likely to be “needy” of constant attention from their partner. Guys, it is worthwhile to value your wife’s girlfriends. Many times, when your wife it is upset with you, it is her girlfriends that help her see things more objectively. The girlfriend is usually the one saying, “You have such a great husband.” –Mary Jo Rapini
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