Why You Need Your Girlfriends More Than You Think
Friendship among females can be complicated and simple, beautiful and brittle, and a bit messy sometimes. But there’s no force quite like women coming together to support each other.
I still remember when I first met Anna. I was six years old, and it was the first day of school. She was loud and outspoken, while I was shy and timid; we were polar opposites. As I struggled with the idea of talking to someone, she approached me with her bright green eyes and a big smile and invited me to join her.
Despite being so different, we clicked instantly and became close girlfriends throughout our school lives. And even when the dynamic of our relationship changed with adulthood, we still got together frequently; not a week went by that we wouldn’t speak to each other.
Over time we did all the BFF stuff: the sleepovers, lending each other clothes and jewelry, and swapping friendship bracelets. We watched romantic comedies while downing a pint of ice cream and dishing about the losers who broke our hearts. And even if at times it felt like we weren’t on the same page, she could figure out exactly what I was thinking, without me saying a word.
Recently I was devastated to learn that her work would be taking her to Cambodia indefinitely. Of course I wanted the best for her, but I was worried about what a distance of more than 10 thousand kilometers would do to our 25-year-old friendship. Because I’d always felt an incredible connection with her and the positive influence of her friendship, this event made me realize that most of my emotional and mental strength comes from deep bonds with the females I have in my life.
Indeed, the psychology behind close female friendships is strong. There’s even scientific evidence supporting that the relationships we build with our girlfriends could literally save our lives. According to a study by the University of Oxford, women’s overall health and well-being improves when they get together with their best friends at least twice a week. Some of the reported health benefits included faster recovery from illness, a stronger immune system, and lower anxiety levels. Another study even stated that women in early-stage breast cancer were four times more likely to survive if they had close friends.
“Through depression, loss, cancer, trauma, domestic violence, emotional abuse, career problems, infertility, loneliness, and death, women consistently find ways to hold one another’s hands and just get through,” said Kate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure, explaining to the Evening Standard that women cherished their girlfriends in the most powerful way.
When things get tough, all you need is someone who will truly listen and not judge, and family isn’t always the best at that. After you open up about certain things, there’s no going back. Your gal pals can listen, empathize, and show compassion without the tricky entanglements of family dynamics. I have been blessed to have great women in my family, but I know that’s not everyone’s case. Even so, those who are not born into the families they need can still seek that support in friendship.
Moreover, women offer a different kind of interconnection outside of the boy-meets-girl routine. We aren’t beholden to our friends the way we are to a romantic partner. With true friends, you might go long stretches without contact, but the connection and emotional bond remain intact. And no matter how in love you are with your other half nor how good your communication is, there are things that you can only share with your close girlfriends.
Funnily enough, when you meet a new woman, as with any other dating scenario, you’ll feel it if there is a connection. Sometimes it develops into a friendship and sometimes you realize you don’t have that much compatibility with her after all.
The way women relate is different from that of men. We’re more verbal and like to engage in conversation, whereas men usually bond over doing activities together. And while friendships are essential for both sexes, there’s research that shows that women may need to maintain friendship connections even more than men.
In studies from Stanford and UCLA, Psychologist Alisa Ruby Bash explained that female friendship increases serotonin and oxytocin in the brain. The former is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness while the latter is the “bonding hormone”. This hormonal surge is what sparks that protective and connective instinct.
Making and maintaining good friends takes time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it. Life would lose so much of its meaning without significant friendships. Whether it is to have a shoulder to cry on, to share our good moments, or simply to discuss what kind of earrings are best for your face shape, relying on your girlfriends for confidence, strength, and joy is something that can truly guide you through life.