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Navigating the Female Friendship

Whether you are 5 or 85, it seems that the complicated world of female friendships never ceases to challenge us in some way of another.

Last week on my Facebook page, I had a FLAME member send me a message that resonated so deeply, I could have written it myself. The gist of it was this:

At 40 years old, this woman was struggling between the want to make close and meaningful friendships but lacking the motivation do to so based on her experience in dealing with a lot of negative experiences in attracting the wrong kind of friends.

Ironically, I had just had a similar discussion with my Mom and Aunt 2 days prior. Whether you are 5 or 85, it seems that the complicated world of female friendships never ceases to challenge us in some way of another.

Throughout my life, I’ve had my fair share (and continue to deal with) the Needy Nellie’s and Stage 5 Clingers as well as had my own heartbreaks of one-sided, toxic or mean girl friendships. While this continues to be a huge area of growth for me, here are 3 basic things I’ve learned:

1. We all have different expectations: Typically when we enter a romantic relationship, there comes a point where we talk through what we want out of the relationship or what we are “looking for.” However this doesn’t usually happen in a friendship and this is where a lot of things can go wrong if we aren’t on the same page.

Some women expect their friendships to be the kind where they speak everyday and share absolutely everything with each other while others prefer to speak or see each other only on occasion. Some see their friendships as the sole support for major life and emotional challenges while others simply want a friendship that is light, fun and carefree. Some are territorial and only want you to themselves where others take on a more the merrier mentality.

Jobs, families and life circumstances can also play a big role in this equation as well and some only have limited time for friendships while others have a lot of time to devote.

When we don’t understand each other’s expectations or assume everyone’s circumstances are the same as our own, drama, misunderstandings and hurt can unfold which can affect our self-worth and confidence.

Going forward: Be open and don’t be afraid to voice your expectations or circumstances. For a long time, this was such a blind spot for me because I always thought doing this would come across as too direct or confrontational but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be at all. In fact, being more open and authentic off the bat weeds out the wrong kind of friends, leads to a better understanding of each other with the right ones, and creates less drama and stronger friendships. For example when I went through my divorce, there was a period that I really wanted to be left alone to deal with and process the situation. I had a few friends that wanted to be overly involved and instead of being honest, I just started to ghost them. This not only annoyed and stressed me out but hurt them. When I finally came clean and was open with them about my needs, they gave me my space and when I was ready, we were able to pick up where we left off with the friendship stronger than ever.

2. There are no quota’s or prizes for the amount of friends you have in life: Fortunately I realized quite early on in life that I don’t have to be friends with every person I meet but I know not everyone feels the same. In our socially connected world, it seems like everyone wants to “friend” everyone else on a very superficial level and it always amazes me how many people “friend” me on Facebook after speaking to them at a networking event for 2 minutes. The truth is, you don’t have to make or maintain a friendship with everyone you meet nor should you. Go for quality over quantity. By feeling obligated to be friends with everyone we meet or maintain every single friendship that has ever crossed our path, we dilute the time we have to spend with those who we really want to spend time with.

Going forward: As the saying goes, you are the direct reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with and since you can’t always chose when it comes to your job and family, the one area you can control are your friendships. If a current friend isn’t serving you, choose again. Make sure you are intentional in finding your friends and not just picking them by default. It’s OK to be picky and have standards! Does this take more effort? Of course, but putting your energy into finding those rare and kindred spirits is so much more fulfilling than wasting your energy dealing with the drama and aggro of having the wrong friends.

3. Understand how personality traits play a role: Introvert vs. extrovert, direct vs. sensitive, you can dice it many different ways but the role personality traits play in a friendship can be overlooked too often and again, tie back into those unspoken expectations we all have. As an introvert myself, I need more alone time to recharge than that of my extrovert friends which to can make me seem aloof or uninterested to some, however I can also be very direct when sharing my thoughts and opinions which can lead to some of my more sensitive friends to feel defensive if I’m not careful. Understanding how personalities play a role in our friendships can help us to take things less personal and recognize certain people who may not be a good fit for our tribe.

Going forward: Take the time to think through both your own and your friend’s personality traits and reflect on how they have impacted your friendships. When I did this myself, I realized a certain pattern of personality types that I was attracting that were less than ideal. Raising my awareness around this, I discovered I could spot these people a mile away and am now more cautious when I cross paths with this kind of personality steering clear of the friendship zone before it’s too late.

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