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Women and Friendship: Maintaining Freindships Can Extend Your Life

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.

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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!

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Listen to our two part series on friendship here.

6 comments

  1. So true … especially the lowering your expectations point. Good luck with the podcast, ladies!

    • Jennette Cronk /

      As I’ve gotten older, I found that not every friend needs to be involved in every single area of my life. Some friends are better suited to hear about your relationships, others might be able to help you with work issues. I’m not suggesting keeping things from any of your friends, merely recognizing each friend’s strength. I have learned not to expect every friend to give me the same kinds of fulfillment. Some are great at calling and easy chitchat. Others are great at big life events and handling a crisis.

  2. Jessica /

    Great article, I have had ups and downs with my closest friends but in the end what matters most-making up and resolving the issue or holding onto it and losing an important person? I may not have fifty friends, but like most things in life, friendships are about quality…not quantity.

    • Jennette Cronk /

      You are so right! It is hard to maintain friendships over a long period of time if you let little things get in the way. Time really can heal many wounds. Sometimes, all it takes is a little break from a person to give them space to heal or deal with whatever it is they are going through.

  3. Wonderful post! Sometimes we take our friendship with our girlfriends for granted. This article really puts things into perspective 🙂

    • Jennette Cronk /

      Thank you! I was shocked when I read that information from the study. It is true though, when life is out of control, there’s nothing like a girl’s-night with some cherished friends and lots of laughter.

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