Jean de La Fontaine, a celebrated 17th century poet wrote, “Rare is true love, true friendship is rarer.” I’ve always held onto the notion that if you can count your friends on one hand, you’re incredibly lucky. Acquaintances, peers, chums, pals, all of those fall nicely into other categories and serve sincere purposes, but a friend, according to my heart is a rare find.
In today’s society women are bombarded with messages of friendship on social media, movies and books. From an early age, some would argue as early as childhood, women are expected to find “the one”. Not him, rather her. The best friend: keeper of all secrets, sharer of all experiences and treasurer of the most sacred bond between women. In recent years, having one BFF isn’t good enough, society has upped the ante, and with the wild success of television shows like Sex and The City and Girls, and celebrities Instagramming their weekend escapades, women are now tasked with finding an entire crew of besties!
But women are complex creatures, and friendships are not as simplistic as a television or smart screen would have you believe. To guide us through the complexities of female friendships and dispel some myths surrounding the best friend, is registered psychotherapist Stacey Gorlicky.
Plenty: What role does friendship play in the lives of women across their life span?
Stacey Gorlicky: Friendships play a vital role throughout and across our lives giving us a source of strength and comfort. Having female friends has an immeasurable impact on our physical and psychological wellbeing. Women bare their souls to one another, encourage and support each other. Having a good friendship is vital. We can tell each other our most intimate secrets.
Close friendships give us a sense of community where we feel needed and loved.
Life can be full of joy and full of sadness. We need friends who can laugh with us until our abs hurt, hold our hand when we are afraid, love us when we don’t love ourselves, and hug us tight when we need them most.
Real friendships means supporting one another through some hard times, heartaches, losses and financial problems.
P: From the time we’re young girls, women are told find their BFF. The notion of the best friend is almost as romanticized as finding a “prince charming”. But is this a healthy notion? What about women who do not have that one BFF or spend their lifetime searching for someone to fulfill that role? How realistic is it to expect that we will have a friend that will fulfill all our needs, for all of our days?
S.G.: We all need companionship on some level. Some women grow up with a group of friends and have the ability to maintain those friends forever, while others go off in different directions. It is neither healthy nor unhealthy to have the notion that BFF’s are important. What makes it unhealthy is if you are fixated on finding a BFF to fulfill a void or loneliness within you. The same way someone might be fixated on finding prince charming to make them happy or go from lonely to fulfilled.
There are lots of women who do not have a BFF and are fulfilled within them. A BFF does not necessarily have to come from having another female friend. Many people feel that way about their mother, their sister and or their partners. Having females in your life is definitely important but creating an expectation that our friend is going to fulfill our needs is completely unrealistic. Eventually the realization will come that only you can fulfill you for all your days.
P: And what happens when we find that we no longer have that chemistry with our friends. How does that impact our sense of self and how to we bring closure to those relationships when they end? How do we breakup and mend our broken hearts especially when they are aching over the loss of a friend? There doesn’t seem to be as much open dialogue over this type of loss. There are no songs on the radio dedicated to the loss of a friend.
S.G.: We all learn and grow. Transformation and change is a natural part of life. We often think our friendships will never change. If a friendship grows apart and there is no longer any chemistry it can be shameful to one or both people. There may be a lot of history, secrets, memories, loss and grieving that can impact our sense of self. Bringing closure or mending a relationship really depends on how and why the friendship ended. It is important to let each other know that the secrets shared will be kept a secret. One of my favourite songs about the loss of a friendship is written by Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” It is about his friend who drowned while on a boat that he tried to save.
Mending a broken heart takes time and taking care of ourselves.
P: In today’s media there is such an emphasis on the “squad”. A group of women, whose photos are snapped doing fabulous things together and shared over various platforms. What purpose does the “squad” serve? How does the “squad” differ from those more personal, one-to-one connections? Are they both important?
S.G.: Squad differs from those more personal, one-to-one connections because there less intimacy in what you are experiencing through the group dynamic. Having a large group of friends is not necessarily better then having a one to one connection. It is important to experience both but more importantly it is good to have one or two good friends who you trust and know will always be there for you in the good times and bad.
P: What advice do you have for women, especially as women constantly seem to be evolving beings, when it comes to friendships?
S.G.: Loneliness is a way of life and not just a feeling. Limiting beliefs of ourselves can keep us from having social relationships. Feeling alone can be shameful making it even harder to reach out and ask for support. We need to remember to reach out and support one another.
Here are a few things we can do to help ourselves.
- Make friends with yourself first.
- Start writing a journal or a blog
- Don’t be ashamed of loneliness.
- Try to remember your favorite things. Look around. Loneliness is a state of mind that comes from forgetting what makes you happy.
- Join a group or volunteer.
- Find a hobby.
- Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love you.”
- Don’t stay inside; force yourself to get out of your house.
There is Plenty more to read about friendships. Shelley Rolland-Poruks shares The Importance of Nurturing Friendships, Kelly Quinn writes about The School of Friendship and Dr. Michelle Persyko gives some helpful advice on How To Break-up With a Friend.