Old friends and new friends, best friends and lost friends, soul mates and confidants can inspire, enlighten, and sometimes hurt us. Male and female alike, most of us strive for friendships that are positive and enduring and share important qualities, such as strength, resilience, durability, patience, loyalty, and honesty.
There are gender differences in how men and women handle friendship. Many women say that their girlfriends respond to their problems differently than do most of the men in their lives. Some men tend toward a fix-it approach, whereas many women often provide a listening, sympathetic ear. Although, many men appear to offer a listening ear, they may not really “hear” the message sent. This can leave a woman feeling misunderstood and cause her to create distance from the connection. Of course, there are women who are not good listeners, either.
In addition, men characteristically withhold personal information in communication. In fact, one study conducted by Jack Sattel showed that some men gain power over women by giving minimal personal information, while encouraging women to self-disclose. When this happens women may feel uncomfortable, even if unconsciously unaware, of this power imbalance. The result is that women may find less satisfaction in conversations and relationships with such men. Men, in turn, may find themselves confused, perplexed, and not valued or appreciated.
Relationships, including friendships, are birthed — they mature, grow, and eventually end. Friendships often follow a cyclic pattern. Sometimes our friendships coincide with our own life cycles, and we can draw on the support of these friends throughout our entire lives. Other friendships last for shorter periods of time, emerging and blossoming in a particular situation or era of our lives. Whether a friend travels with us for a short stretch of the journey, for years, or for a lifetime, our bonds with them, if respected and carefully nurtured, can serve as a source of comfort, wisdom, and direction. They have the potential to help shape who we become. They teach us many lessons.
Berry, Carmen & Traeder, Tamara. (1995). Girlfriends. Wildcat Canyon Press.
Rubin, Lillian B. (1985). Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives. New York: HarperCollins.
Tannen, Deborah. (1991). You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Ballantine.