A recent USA Today headline read “Friendship Really Can Get Better With Age”. The author began by saying that she didn’t imagine back in the 1970’s that the relationships she was building then would still be strong, and growing decades later. Like sisters in many ways. I can relate to that.
I am fortunate to have so many people I can call friends, but especially blessed by a group of women I’ve known for more than 30 years. We were in or at each other’s weddings, and now attending our children’s weddings together. We’ve supported each other with ailing parents or family funerals. But more importantly we’ve made a point not become like others who only get together at a wedding or funeral. We don’t always have time to talk on the phone given our busy lives, but we regularly schedule time to have lunch, dinner or a girl’s weekend away. Recently we have started to rotate dinner parties for each other and our spouses. Interestingly enough, our husbands have known each other for as many years and while they may not see each other as regularly their relationships don’t seem to skip a beat when they do get together. We have all commented that our husbands are very much alike in that they aren’t so apt to make new friends – the ones they nurtured as teenagers seem to be enduring, and enough for them.
Research notes that whether a close one on one relationship or close group relationships, women’s friendships in particular are at their root biologically driven. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry says “Humans are hard wired to attach in a non romantic way. There are evolutionary advantages for women to bond: to take care of each other, to provide a community and share responsibilities that increase the likelihood of survival”. Friendships also fend off loneliness and depression. “There are women in this second half of life who don’t necessarily have a partner, or who have a partner who isn’t their everything. And you could even question if it’s good for a partner to be their everything anyway.”
Some women may find comfort deepening the bonds of longtime friends while good friendships can also spring up at any time in life. Samantha Litzinger, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science notes that women often form close relationships based on similar experiences or interests later in life such as parenting, marriage struggles or hobbies. Some people believe new friends, or friendships that are deepened later in life can bloom because competitiveness that might have existed earlier may be fading allowing for less threatening relationships.
“Creating a bond with other women creates a rich space in our lives” says Litzinger. I couldn’t have said it better myself.