“One of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”
Everyone started to laugh, but he was serious…
Before I tell you more about that quote above… I have some questions. Why do so many women run from deep friendship? I’m being serious. I have watched it more times than I can possibly count.
A woman has a lot of friends but none of them deep or real (all surface), or a woman chooses not to get close to anyone, only having acquaintances, or she says “I’m a guy’s girl” and primarily hangs with her husband, or boyfriend and/or male friends. Or there’s the scenario where a woman makes BBBEEESSSTTT friends with other women and they do everything together, even confessing their best friendedness on social media (all the time), but then, all of a sudden, she drops the best friends and moves on. What is this?
Then there are the women who seem to thrive on stirring the hypothetical pot and picking apart every mishap and mistake that every other woman makes. This one really breaks my heart. First it makes me grateful to have nontoxic friends (so grateful) but then it makes me a little mad. I’m confused (or just super naive) because I THOUGHT we were all in this together? Or maybe not really. We aren’t?
I was thinking that instead of judging that woman who is trying to figure it all out (just like you and me) and loves her babies fiercely (just like you and me) but maybe shows it differently, just needs your woman-to-woman support and confirmation. Maybe the women that I described above – but admittedly do not understand – just need ME to try to empathize and not judge their actions either. Maybe I can take a step in that direction and rather than being put off by what seems shallow to me – I should try to look deeper at what’s really going on. Maybe they need me and I need them. I have no idea, really. But I’ll accept the challenge to put on my ‘support all women even if they get on my nerves’ hat and pull up my ‘get over yourself, there is no maximum capacity to your tribe’ britches and be the woman God made me to be. Who’s with me?
Okay… on to the reason I started this post.
I’ve been thinking lately about relationships. But more specifically about relationships that women have with one another. Female relationships are like a mystical unicorn; so magical but often super allusive.
The relationships are deep, meaningful and spiritual – but often tossed away at the drop of a hat. This sisterhood is one of life’s great mysteries, one that legends are made of… one that the male species will never quit grasp and that all women long for.
Growing up, my mom always encouraged the development of the relationships I had with my girlfriends. She had girlfriends too. She told me that (at that stage in my life) they far exceeded the importance of any crush or romantic relationship I might have or want. I grew up knowing that my female friendships where what would feed my soul, be steadfast, be lifelong, come to me with no agenda, make me laugh until I cried, celebrate with me, and pick me up during difficult times. I grew up knowing that I didn’t just want best girlfriends, I needed them. I tell my daughters the exact same thing!
I have always, and still do, make it priority to maintain my tribe. I still connect with my ‘lifelong’ tribe of girls on a regular basis, I gained a whole new set of tribe members in college and I have added again to the tribe throughout more recent years of figuring out marriage, motherhood and this whole ‘getting older’ thing. I am honored and humbled to say that I get to lean on and enjoy my tribe, my sisterhood all the dang time. But this is ON purpose. It doesn’t happen by itself. I make the point and effort, and SO do they. They make my life more carefree – even if just for a moment. They commiserate with me, shoot me straight (this is a big important one), support my marriage, encourage my faith, know my family dynamic, LOVE my kids like family, care about my stories, know my past, support my successes (or attempts), want me to do well, have seen me be really immature/stupid/thoughtless/careless/annoying/over-reactive/you name it… and they still love me… I could literally go on and on. I want to get across the point that whether you have a ‘tribe’ or a ‘sisterhood’ that you feel a part of or not – It. Is. Not. Too. Late. to connect or reconnect with women around you.
I’m sorry to say it, but the people who live in your house are not enough. Studies even show that friendship has a bigger impact on our physical and psychological well-being than family relationships. Us women have deep abysses’ for souls and we need a lot of fulfillment. A part of this fulfillment can come from the women in your life. Because we GET each other. We have been where each other are. We can advise and love one another through things that a male cannot do as effectively. And our kids cannot fill this void either. It’s a different heart compartment altogether.
I have my personal top 6 reasons why having a female tribe is imperative, to me! Maybe you can relate.
1. It’s a powerful force:
The true benefits of friendship are honestly immeasurable. Friends make our lives so much better. Period. But they have to be real friends, not just acquaintances. Don’t say you’re too busy for this… you’re too busy ‘not’ to be supported in this way.
Women share a special bond; we bare our souls to each other, support and encourage one another.
The power of female friendships also has a scientific significance. Researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin (which is a hormone that is associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building. Sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’) is, for women especially, a cure-all in numerous respects. Relationships = oxytocin production.
2. It can change (and save) your life… no, really.
A study that I read found that women respond to stress differently than men. This fact has significant health implications. When people experience stress, the fight-or-flight response is triggered and releases hormones such as cortisol and oxytocin. Oxytocin (which we already talked about) is secreted by both men and women in response to stress. In women, it puts a buffer around the fight-or-flight response and actually encourages us to ‘protect and nurture’ our children and to gather with other women (God, you are so amazing). So, stress gives us the urge to gather up our little chicks and bond with those around us. Soooo fascinating. That urge you have to gather and bond is not just an urge… it is physiological!
In the study, Drs. Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor refer to it as the “tend and befriend” pattern. When we actually engage in tending and/or befriending, even more oxytocin is released, further countering stress and calming us down. This reinforces our natural caregiving tendencies and our need to be in relationship with other women. In other words; retreating and hiding away when under stress is super unnatural and unhealthy for us. I repeat: retreating and hiding away when under stress is unhealthy.
Unlike men, women produces estrogen during stress that enhances the effects of oxytocin and compels us to seek social support. Don’t deny this instinct.
Scientifically, friendship brings comfort that reduces the effects of stress. Women seeking support during stressful periods is really the top way that women are different, and really one of the most fundamental differences in men’s and women’s behavior. This difference ALONE contributes to the gender difference in life expectancy. That’s amazing to me.
This is really crazy: a breast cancer study I read about actually found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with ten or more friends. And, surprisingly, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend weren’t really associated with survival. Just ‘having friends’ was protective.
3. It’s electric!:
I don’t know how well I would adult and mother without the moral support of my girlfriends. I might be okay at it but it would be far less enjoyable. Being with other women (including the women in my extended family) helps me to be a better mother, and the moral support, physical, emotional and mental support create a beautiful environment for children (and mommas) to thrive! I would venture to say that it makes us better wives too.
Most women are natural nurturers and givers. Don’t shy away from that instinct. It is really important for us to receive and be sustained because, let’s face it, continual ‘giving’ results in total depletion. Women instinctively know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is actually restorative. Isn’t that nifty? God knew what he was doing when he made us this way (duh). We deplete and then can be re-charged again just by being with one another. We are an energy source for one another. I loves that.
4. Friendships can glorify God:
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” – 1 Cor. 10:31
When we lift each other up, support one another and (quite frankly) are able to lovingly call each other out when we slip, we are making God happy. He wants us to live in relationship with best friends and fellow believers. He is also (and wants us to be) the friend of sinners… wherever you are and wherever your friends are, supporting fellow humans glorifies God. It’s not your job or your burden to judge anyone. Period.
5. Oxygen, we all need it:
My girlfriends are my oxygen tanks. Girlfriends can fill a void in us that no other relationship can fill. Not our spouses, not our children, not our work or co-workers. If you’re lucky enough to find one great friend, or a few friends who are the real deal, you are a very fortunate person. Count your blessings.
6. Keeps us healthy… Stanford’s head of psychiatry says so:
So, about that quote at the very beginning of the post…
In an evening class at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said,
“Among other things… one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”
Everyone started to laugh, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences.
Physically, this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings, whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.
Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. The same professor said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. Just wow. Does this mean I can skip the gym? ANYWAYS…
There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising,” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—this is so NOT true.
In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
So, let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Clearly it’s very good for our health.
Do you make time for your girlfriends or is it a struggle to keep and maintain your female friendships? This is a normal feeling. Do you make your friends a priority? I’d love to know!
Let’s all go out there and be friends to one another. Our daughters and the next generation is watching and depending on us to SHOW them – like my mom did (not just tell them) how to be a real live awesome supportive strong encouraging welcoming making-time-for-friends Godly women.