Why We Need Girlfriends
We actually NEED girlfriends and the benefits of these fabulous female friendships.
I did a lot of research on this topic when I started Girlfriendology.com. I found an amazing amount of supporting information online and in the process, discovered a book that really focused on women’s biological needs for female friendships.
In this book, The Tending Instinct, renowned psychologist Shelley E. Taylor presents many, many examples of why and how we women actually need female friendships and the benefits for having girlfriends. Here’s a few of the examples:
First, early research on the effects of stress were only conducted on men. Eventually, when tests on stress were given to women, it showed that we respond much differently to stressful situations than men. Let me paraphrase my reaction to this illumination: Wow! What a surprise!
Hello? We know we’re different!
Back to the research. It’s an accepted fact in nature that males react to stress and confrontation with a fight or flight reaction. Women, it was found over and over in research tests, respond to stress by a need to “draw on their friends, neighbors, and relatives more than men do.” And, as Taylor described it, we don’t resort to ‘fight or flight,’ but more to ‘tend and befriend.’ We want to tend to and protect our young, and be supported by and supportive of our friends – especially our female friends.
The Tending Instinct asked: “Who provides the comforting resources of social support, the tending that brings stress systems down and keeps both mental and physical health on an even keel? … The answer was: women. Women are not only the tenders of children, but the tenders of men and one another as well.”
So, children look to women for tending, men look to women for tending and women look to women for tending. So, it’s pretty important that we women spend time with the women who keep us healthy, happier and less stressed. We are much better off from being in community and in friendship with women.
In other words, we need our girlfriends!
I found it especially interesting that this need for female friendship and bonding is natural, even instinctual. The Tending Instinct presented a study done by biologist Sue Carter when she studied prairie voles – small rodents that form strong, lifelong male/female pairs. When the male voles were stressed, they ran to their female mates. When the females were put under stress, they ran to their girlfriends – or the females voles they were raised with.
Taylor also noted that social trends like divorce, and living far away from family, siblings and relatives have removed many of the important familial and social ties that we long maintained. Taylor states: ‘Friendship is the bond most likely to fill these voids” and “women seem to be better at providing the emotional and health benefits of friendship, yet men do have this capacity.”
Some truths don’t need to come from research – women know them instinctively. Our girlfriends mean the world to us. We love them for their friendship, support and the lessons we learn from them. We thrive in their company by being accepted and loved regardless of our shortcomings – or theirs. We are our true selves with them and that when spending time with them, we let down any fronts or barriers and reconnect with our true self.
It’s no surprise that these female friendships make us healthier, happier, less stressed and actually extend our longevity.
Debba Haupert is the founder of Girlfriendology.com, the online community for women, based on female friendships, and filled with inspiring podcast interviews, videos, shopping, glogs and more.
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