Friendship Interrupted: Real Women, Real Challenges, Real Solutions

By Judy Dippel and Debra Whiting Alexander, Ph.D.

dreamstime_14077616We know something important about you without even knowing you. We know that having friends in your life is good for you, but sometimes having friends in your life can be challenging, too.

If we asked you to list five things you are grateful for about the friends in your life, you probably wouldn’t be surprised when you could list them off in seconds. (Try it).

But the flip side is that in the same amount of time you could probably list at least five things that challenge and interrupt your friendships—things that really bug you about friends. (Try this, too). There’s a lot about women’s relationships that aren’t easy, and if you’re like most, you’ve had your share of challenging experiences. You are not alone!

We surveyed and interviewed women between the ages of thirty and eighty-five for our book,The Art of Authentic Friendship. We asked them to list and describe the top ten challenges they’ve faced with women friends and how they handled each situation. Women told us firsthand how difficult it can be to cope with broken or lost friendships. In fact, women from all walks of life confirmed to us the fact that friendship is not a trivial subject. It’s a highly charged emotional one, especially when things go wrong.

Sorting Through Challenges

What do you guess is the number one friendship challenge women struggle with?

The answer is, “Time”. For most women in our culture, days come and go and weeks seem to fly by. Months are torn from the calendar and holidays blend quickly from one to another. Time presses forward, unyielding. To-do lists and appointments fill up day planners with little or no time scheduled in for meaningful relationships. Trying to manage time is the ultimate stressor and finding time to be with friends is the number one challenge women face. Marianne told us, “It’s difficult to just be together, relax, and let friend-stuff happen. As women, we expect so much of ourselves in today’s world. We wear so many different hats, and have so many responsibilities. I honestly think the number one challenge we all face is finding time for each other.”

 

Remember life in the 1950s and 60s? Women frequently dropped in on friends for a leisurely cup of coffee and mid-morning visits. Today’s world looks and feels much different, but women still have a fundamental need for one another. Even though access to one another seems easier, technology has both connected and disconnected our relationships. Although its different today than in generations past, bonding together like women used to do in the “old days” is still possible. And, finding time to spend with friends is critical for your happiness and health. Research has proven it. The hours you share together with friends serves a dual purpose. To your friend you affirm the importance of the relationship; to yourself you confirm the importance of your need of friends for personal well-being. You both win when you place time with friends high on the list of your priorities.

Find Freedom in Making Choices That Are Right For You

Every day you have decisions to make. Begin by spending time with friends who matter most to you. Spend time with those who bring out the best in you and are inspiring to be around. Ask yourself, “what friends do I value most in my life?” Write down the first three women that come to mind and their phone numbers at the top of your “to do” list. Make them a priority in your busy life this week Write a quick note or e-mail—make a phone call—schedule lunch together. Your friends are a valued investment, so invest valuably. Be intentional. Remember, good friends are de-stressors and good for your health. Stop, breathe deeply and relax your mind and body. Feel your tension lessen as you look forward to spending time with people important to you. Take turns scheduling dates and interesting activities with friends on a regular basis.

Other steps you can take:

  • Imagine you have three extra hours a week. Make a wish list of how to spend them. Then do it, and remember to lighten up, laugh and enjoy the moment—think of it as your “adult recess.”
  • Spend more time doing what is important to you. Frequently ask yourself, Is this really what I want to be doing right now? If I were gone tomorrow, would anyone care that I did or did not do this? Will time spent with friends be more meaningful or helpful?
  • To free up more time for friends, let something go. Frequently remind yourself that your needs do matter. It’s not selfish to cancel something or add more fun with friends to your schedule to bring balance to your life.
  • Team up with a friend to accomplish a challenging task together. Your weakness may be her strength, and vice versa. It won’t seem nearly as big, and you’ll have fun while you’re working. Reward yourselves when you’re done.
  • Make technology work for you. Let answering machines and emails do what they are designed to do—save your messages! Wait to respond when you’re not distracted and when the time is convenient for you.
  • Keep in mind the way you think about managing your time is a powerful way to change your perspective. You have more control than you realize, and that knowledge alone is freeing.

Treat yourself! Take time for an ADULT RECESS this week!

 

 

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