The Power of Friendships Between Women
Self-reflection and healing are difficult tasks made harder if we don’t have caring and supportive people around us. These people are often our lovers but not always. Finding a connection in a girlfriend, a fellow woman who sees you and accepts you – as well as makes herself open to you – is the kind of friendship every woman deserves.
Throughout history, women have come together in support of other women. This would bring generations together around a similar and difficult shared experience, for instance, childbirth, child rearing, relationship celebrations and challenges, life passages, and grievances. More recent common experiences include career and education achievements and frustrations.
Now, our lives are so much more separated. Making it crucial to find a female friend you can connect with. We make each other stronger.
Of course, this relationship is impacted, like all others, by our first relationship: the “Mother.”
And as with all relationships, our mother wound is reflected and sometimes even transformed during the process of opening up and becoming emotionally close to another woman.
But to learn about how to use the beautiful connection of friendship to heal that wound, we must learn to identify the impacts, both positive and negative, from our mother experience.
Friends and Their Reflections
By now, you know the attachment styles by heart. So let’s start by looking at them in action for this type of friendship:
The friendship of those with a stable attachment style has a feeling of ease, trust, and regularity. Communication is not always easy, but it happens in an authentic, noncritical manner. Imagine two girlfriends planning a trip to Spain together. They talk about what they want to do, see, and feel while traveling together. They share their research, get excited, go on their trip, roll with the disappointments and imperfections of all their great planning, and enjoy Spain, each other, and themselves.
An anxious friendship can make you feel needy or in need, and often leaves you feeling drained. Many unspoken expectations can lie below the surface, erupting in hurt and anger. Imagine this trip to Spain with two anxious friends. They spin and spin and plan and replan, wanting to have the perfect trip. They are very excited and nervous, and one wonders if she shouldn’t go because she will not have the bottled water she likes to wake up to in the morning. They go, it is great, but then the hotel reservations got changed without telling her. She freaks out, causes a scene, and anything else that does not go as planned only proves to her how scary and screwed-up life treats her.
Then you have the avoidant presentation. She does not give the other person much to work with and seems content to not be involved, avoids a lot of physical contact, and secretly longs to be close but does not know how. Imagine the same trip to Spain. Each plans their stay and tells the other what they want to do. Neither argues because that would cause conflict and connection, even though each is not in total agreement with what the other wants to do. Each thinks, well, we’ll do that for her and we’ll do this for me. All unspoken. During the trip when another person’s plans go awry (a huge storm blew in on the day they were planning on windsurfing), the other thinks to themselves, that was stupid anyway so it’s not a big deal but says to the person who planned it that they are sorry it did not go the way she wanted. The friend who planned the windsurfing feels shame and embarrassment for not thinking about the potential of a storm, feelings she does not share and keeps to herself.
And finally, the turbulent disorganized connection, which has a flavor of both. These friendships crash and burn. The disorganized wants you to know what she wants and needs without having to tell you. She’s furious when you can’t mindread and can even feel entitled to being understood without having to tell you how. When this friendship travels to Spain, it is with doubt and trepidation. Wanting the other person to take charge but not control her. These gals love to have fun but don’t know how. They need each other but don’t trust each other. When something on the trip fails to materialize, like meeting a hunk of a Spaniard on the seashore, they blame someone or something. She did not wear the right swimsuit, her girlfriend was talking really loud and that turned potential hunks off. Do you get the gist?
When female friendships develop they are rarely two of the same. Similar to romantic relations we are attracted to something different than ourselves. For instance, an avoidant may match up with an anxious to keep the dance going. Avoidants rarely last as a pair because no one makes much effort for the relationship to flourish. Anxious styles may join, and sometimes, with self-awareness, can grow more secure.
Disorganized needs stability and support but without professional aid, they can push buttons and drain friendships of their power.
I’m not saying these pairs cannot have a fabulous time, but I am saying that without working on your attachment style, understanding it, and accepting it, you become vulnerable to losing out on the beauty, warmth, and support that women can give each other.
All in all, each style can morph and change for the better with compassion, reflection, and love.
Growing in Friendship
There is a difference between finding a common connection with a friend versus seeing them as an extension of yourself and your mother experience.
This difference determines whether this friendship is healthy or unsustainable.
If you find yourself and your friend going through critical cycles, lashing out, and bickering, it’s likely time to reflect on how the mother wound is impacting the relationship. Just as with a romantic partner, as you grow more connected with a friend, our idiosyncrasies and hurts are less hidden. So it can go one of two ways: you address it with compassion or you let it fester.
And I think we are all a little disinterested in continuing the latter.
Remember, boundaries and discussing conflicts with a friend are signs of love, where the person is showing that the relationship is important to them and worth preserving.
Have you ever had a friend become angry, defensive, or worked up when you’ve tried to address a problem? Or vice versa? Sometimes it is difficult to catch ourselves but this friend reaching out, or you being the one to reach out, is proof of the relationship being a priority.
Let’s talk about an example:
Say you come from a family that is enmeshed. Everyone knows everything about each other, secrets are not kept, and there aren’t many boundaries. Of course, you grow up believing this to be normal and continue to build new relationships in the same manner.
Until one day your friend sits you down when you’re spending time together and she says “There is something we need to talk about. And I’m bringing this up because I care about our friendship and want to make sure we are both seen and understood.”
Immediately, your heart starts racing and you’re trying to figure out how you messed this up.
She continues, “I know you mean well and it isn’t your fault, but I was really hurt when I found out you shared the secret that I confided to you. In the future, I hope that when I share something delicate, you can keep it between us.”
Either you can respond defensively or you can look at it from her perspective and make the adjustments to salvage the relationship.
This friend not only acknowledged their own hurt but expressed understanding about why their friend acted the way they did. This shows compassion, honesty, boundaries, and caring communication. Such conversations, when received positively, can truly strengthen a friendship.
Unfortunately, such a conversation may not look or sound as loving as this example even though it may well be! It may start with irritation and exasperation, the receiver may jump into defense mode. BUT, listening for the intention behind the words and feeling the connection and the care you have for each other can allow for more genuine connections to develop.
When we consciously catch ourselves in a critical loop with a friend or work through a point of tension that your friend addressed, we take a step closer to healing that wound. Through this honest, secure, and loving companionship, we can safely act out healthier roles. We can find a community of women to reflect our positive progress and work to end the cycle of criticism that runs through generations of women.
Women have a way of looking truth in the face when they are not clouded by illusions. We thrive on that truth, challenging each other to remain accountable. In a sense, we already deal with so much inherent pain that we are no longer afraid of looking the pain of our truth in the face. This fearlessness, combined with a fellow woman that we trust, is empowering. As though, together, they can face whatever comes.
As I’ve said before, it’s not enough to just be aware of the impact of the first relationship. Nothing fully resolves by only being acknowledged. This awareness needs to be lived. Which is what makes an honest, supportive, and accepting female friendship so precious.
There is nothing more valuable than a genuine connection in a loving friendship. This can become our chosen family and a way to build a community that fends off feelings of isolation. We are here to break damaging cycles and wounds, and to build, grow, and expand the feminine connection inherent in all of us.
As women, we hold the energy of receptivity, compassion, and support. When we can encourage our innate knowing and support others to do the same, we can affect change– both in ourselves and in others.
Humans are incredibly social beings and as our society has pushed us towards individualism, we need these close connections to maintain healthy inner and outer worlds.
Through loving friendships we can change society, and perhaps even the world.
Let us break the cycle of inauthenticity, scarcity, and fear.