I have been to many women conferences, and I have heard many speakers warning attendees about the dangers of having close friends with whom they share confidences.
A lot of women have been told not to share their stories with other people either because they will mock them, use the information against them or tell stories about them. They cite instances where a woman is betrayed by her “frenemies” as reasons why she should not share confidences with others.
A lot of women believe this and keep quiet about stuff in their lives, until they are emotionally damaged and/ or physically abused, stripped of all dignity. Until it’s too late.
I agree that there is the likelihood of being betrayed by people we share our secrets with, but I strongly believe that we were never meant to walk alone.
Women are relational beings and we need each other. We need sisters to hold our hands and show us the way, wipe our tears when we cry, pick us up when we fall, we need people who know how we feel because they have felt that way, who have walked the path we are treading and can show us the pitfalls and assure us that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Nurse’s Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that the “more friends women have, the less likely they are to develop physical impairments as they age, and the more likely they are to lead a contented life.”
The study also showed that not having friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking cigarettes. The researchers examined how well the women functioned after the death of a spouse, one of life’s greatest stressors.
They found that even in the face of this major life loss, women with close friends with whom they can share their burdens, fare better than women who lack close friendships.”
I totally affirm the truth as revealed in that research as I have weathered the storms of life largely due to the support I have received from my friends and confidants.
I have always loved people and have always had friends. I was that friend who visited during summer holidays and never liked staying at home. I even remember writing a list of my friends, years before the advent of Facebook which I updated anytime I made a new friend. In all my years, I cannot remember having my confidences betrayed, mostly because I am an open book with not much secrets or maybe because by the time I speak to someone about something in my life, I have ruminated on it and come to terms with it.
One thing I have done though, which I believe has helped me greatly is my ability to categorize my friends and I have several categories. I will mention a few :
Acquaintances– these are friends that I know either professionally or socially but I am not close to. We meet in different fora, greet, gist, engage in small talk but nothing personal.
Party friends– these are friends I go out with because it’s always fun being with them, they always have a party or an event to go to and I always enjoy hanging out with them. We have a deeper relationship than my acquaintances but do not share secrets.
Internet friends- these are people that I communicate with mainly online, we rarely and may never meet but we like each other’s posts, comment on our status and generally discuss topical issues and exchange opinions.
Bestos. – these are people that know me inside out and I can talk to them freely about my life, fears and joys and contrary to most people’s thinking, you can have more than 1 best friend.
Older friends – I am a first child and had always wanted older siblings, so these are people that are older than me and who treat me like a younger sister. They are people I go to for advice or emulate their behavior.
Isolation is never a good thing. It’s the deer that gets isolated from the herd that ends up in the lions belly.
Isolation makes one think one’s situation or condition is unique and deprives us from the joy a support system brings. I understand that some of us are introverted and that’s okay, that’s the way we were made but we should have friends even in our introverted state and I recommend us having at least one friend in every category listed above. By the way the categories include both genders.
A lot of us middle aged women are becoming increasingly aware of our need for friends, confidants and support groups. The children we devoted most of our time to have grown up and left home ( and their generation no send at all ), our careers are more stable, even our husbands ( for those of us that have one) cannot fulfill the need we have to connect with other women no matter how fulfilling our marriages or relationships are.
Whether is it with friends, family, a therapist or a support group, women find it healing to tell their stories and live life with others. I have found, in my case, that most times I articulate my feelings better when I talk about them which leads to my having a deeper understanding of how I feel about what is going on in my life.
If relationships are the social fabric of life, now is the time to nurture our friendships and a good place to find friends is at our school alumni fora. There you will find people who you knew when they were nothing and had nothing and vice versa. It’s a place where you are likely to find love, acceptance and camaraderie . Where your achievements or lack of achievements should not matter much, where you can find yourself, be silly, be youthful, be yourself and speak free from inhibitions.
I am very involved in my school alumni fora (secondary, university) and I can tell you for free that it’s one of the best things that have happened to me. I have a community of friends I can laugh with, share my hurts and feelings with and be vulnerable with. I have received support in various way, emotionally, financially, socially and professionally.
There are many benefits of good friendships and social support and they include having an enhanced quality of life, physical and emotional health, and a sense of being valued, belonging , security and community.
Today don’t isolate yourself, please reach out to someone, don’t walk alone.