Little girls trade Barbie clothes and teenagers share secrets and dreams, but what do women do to keep their friendships alive and flourishing? Although we vow never to lose touch, we and our female companions disappear down separate paths as we begin pursuing careers and having families and lives of our own. By the time we reach thirty, many of us are longing for the camaraderie we enjoyed in our high school days, and we are lucky to have one truly close friend and an abundance of mere acquaintances.
Kelly and Lisa have shared everything most of their lives. After high school a move distanced them by 500 miles, yet they remained involved with what the other was doing and feeling. Their secret: communication and honesty.
” Phone calls weren’t a practical way of keeping in touch because of the cost,” Kelly says, “but we took full advantage of the postal system, enjoying at least monthly letters back and forth. It was such fun opening our snail mail updates about what was happening in each other’s lives.” Emailing takes the place of old-fashioned handwriting these days, but the concept is the same…staying in touch.
For some it’s really as easy as all that, but what about the female entrepreneur who is constantly racing the clock while juggling business, family and household duties? Although she can not magically create extra time when needed, she can use it more wisely. Jean, who is on the go from sunrise to sunset it seems, carries a small recorder and “talks” to her best friend Marilyss while performing routine chores.
“It may seem silly to some people,” she says, ” but we both feel terrific knowing we make time for each other in spite of our hectic schedules.”
Obviously a practice such as this is for intimate friends who feel comfortable about needing one another. Many women grow to believe that they don’t need other women because their families fulfill them completely. Nothing could be farther from the truth, which is that everyone needs friends to lean on, especially with today’s pressures. Those who have a close friend value them immensely.
Sometimes friends find themselves drifting apart because of lifestyle changes such as marriage and children. They often want badly to remain close but can no longer seem to relate. For example, it is hard for a woman who has not yet become a mother, to understand the excitement of her friend over her baby’s small daily accomplishments. Doreen, single and childless, says of another friend, “Every time I ask how she’s doing she ends up going on and on about her little boy! Kids are o.k. don’t get me wrong, but I wanna hear about her!”
Doreen’s complaint reflects her frustration at having to compete with her friend’s marriage and family, and at no longer being the primary confidant. This is where honesty and communication are vital. An open discussion is in order if one friend in a pair begins feeling abandoned or insecure. The aim is to find common ground where their lives can still be shared. Without a doubt there will be some who just decide they have outgrown the friendship, but if the relationship is strong and they work at it, then a separation is the exception and not the rule.
What women want most from their friends is honesty. Secondly they want unconditional love and acceptance. Jamie recalls how frightened her friend Barb had been to tell her she had had an abortion.
“Barb’s always known how strongly I oppose, so when she chose an abortion, she kept it from me for a long time. When she finally told me, I admit I was shocked, but I was more hurt that she had felt it would make a difference between us. Nevertheless, I accepted it as something she felt was right for her and I love her just the same.”
It is the little things like showing interest, giving support, and just being there that keep a friendship healthy. A close friend will listen even if it is an inconvenient time to do so. Thoughtful tokens such as cards also express affection.
Dorothy and Marie, two women in their fifties, enjoy treating each other to dinner twice a month; Lois and Ruth get together weekly for a hike. Spending time together is ideal but not necessary. Some women remain close while rarely seeing each other, however it’s all too common for friendships to fade because of the difficulty in maintaining intimacy. The majority of older women have newer friends who they have met later in life.
It takes special dedication to keep a friendship alive and fresh over the long haul of life. A neglected friendship becomes easily lost in life’s shuffle. Those few friends you can genuinely connect with are priceless and irreplaceable. Being the kind of friend you would like having guarantees that your love and warmth will come back to you ten-fold.