Maintaining friendships as we age is difficult. Work and family obligations often take up valuable time, leaving little left for friends. Yet, in our senior years, it is friendship that helps us make it through loss, health issues, and difficult times.
Dr. Ruthellen Josselson, co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships, says “Every time we get overly busy with work or family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women…That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another.” Women create a “healing space” with other women where they are open to communicate freely.
Research shows the “healing space” of female companionship might extend into a longer life. Jeffrey Zaslow, who has three girls of his own, spent years researching friendship for his book, The Girls from Ames. Zaslow says, “A host of studies show that having a close group of friends helps women sleep better, improve their immune systems, stave off dementia and actually live longer.”
A report by the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging, conducted a study with 1,500 people over the course of 10 years. The study found , “People with extensive networks of good friends and confidantes outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent.” The study also showed that close relationships with family or children had little to no effect on longevity.
How Can We Maintain Friendships?
Forgive: Women were more likely than men to sever a friendship after a single offense, according to a study done by the Universite du Quebec at Montreal, Harvard University and Emmanuel College in Boston. Even though women tend to place a higher value on relationships, they also have extremely high standards. In order to maintain a lasting relationships, women need to be more forgiving of (and more open to communication about) any offence.
Lower Your Expectations: Holding people to impossibly high standards negatively impacts long-term friendships. People make mistakes and life-events creep up. Rather than pulling away or cutting people out, reaching out farther and being more understanding might be the answer.
Celebrate Your Friends: Each friend offers a unique perspective. Each friend brings their own talents and gifts into the relationship. Women who are able to celebrate the abilities of their friends are more likely to be involved in mutually nourishing relationships. Replace competition with celebration and a friendship will flourish.
The Work Life Balance Protection Agency has teamed up with One Social Brunette, for a new podcast! Dedicated to women’s issues and relationships (with themselves and others), the Sippin’ Social Hour is a new place to find community and healthy discussion. It’s your power hour before happy hour!