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The 101 Of Female Friendships and Ditching The Toxic Pack Mentality

by Ellen "Jelly" McRae 15 days ago in friendship
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The ups and down of the all-female friendship groups.

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Girl cliques. All-female friendships. Girl groups that support each other against the common enemy -  everyone else.

I've heard of them. And I thought I was part of one or two for a while there.

Here's my friendship history in a nutshell. I've had my fair share of female friends rip my heart apart, abuse my trust and make me want to hate all females like me.

Yeah, we can do a good job of being sucky people.

It's hard to talk about this because I'm sure there is a line of people waiting to say the same thing about my behaviour to them. We're not perfect, that's for sure.

I've spent the last few years believing female friends weren't for me. If I were to reveal what I really thought, I firmly believed female friendships sucked. I would also tell you to stay away from them as if your life depended on it.

When the going gets tough with my female friends, and as I mentally prepare to do my flight routine, I'm reminded that I need female friends.

Everyone - my family, other friends, and professionals I've spoken to - tells me it's important to have a balanced friendship circle. And that I can't eliminate the entire sex because of a few bad experiences.

What hurts the most is that they are right. It hurts to say because I like it much better when I'm right about my stubbornness.

It's been a few years since I felt the initial sting of a collapsed female friendship. You could say I'm older, wiser, and far less bitter.

During this time, I've developed many ways to have balanced friendships with other females like me.

Here they are.

The good things about female friendships

I won't spend long here. We're drilled into the positives of friendship, almost to death, and we all know why we should keep friends in our life.

I'm not even going to bother talking about loneliness or the need for social interactions. That's not female-specific, anyhow, nor does it help when you're feeling bitter about the friendship world.

I view it the same as exercising. We all know we should do it because it's 'good for us'. Yet, we often need more convincing than that to ensure not only do we embrace it, but so we don't give up on it.

If female friendships were all bad, they would be illegal. 

That's what I need to remind myself of when I'm feeling at my most bitter and twisted.

Sarcasm aside, not every friendship is going to end in a disaster such as the ones I've experienced. It also doesn't mean the friendship is redundant or hasn't been helpful since it's ended.

There's so much about these friendships to love, embrace and encourage. Sometimes we don't realise these aspects until the friendships are gone and we no longer have these positives in our life.

If you're like me and you need a reminder, the following are the reasons why we females need other females around us:

  • Female problems - There are some things in this world only another female gets. Period pain. Postpartum issues. Pressure to succeed whilst being the caregiver everyone needs you to be. Being a woman in general. Despite how anyone else can be there for you and show sympathy, sometimes you need empathy to get you through the tough times.
  • Female perspective - Sometimes you can't replace a female's perspective on your situation. Even a female professional can't quite get into the trenches and offer another way of looking at life like a female friend can. It doesn't make a female friend better, by the way. It means they offer something different that you can't find elsewhere. That uniqueness of perceptive is worth holding onto.
  • Ability to read situations like you would - Though no one has the ability to interpret a situation like you, a female friend comes a pretty close second. It means you always have someone who understands why you might feel happy in a sad situation. Or feel confused in what is a clear situation. Again, it's empathy that helps you normalise your feelings about the world.
  • People to be bad with - Ok, perhaps not to be bad with, but you need people who understand having fun in the same way as you. Females often understand how females need to relax, play and vent, so they let other females do this with each other. It's being you without judgement.

The wish-I-could-forget aspects of female friendships

Enough of the good things about female friendships. We get it. And most of the time we can remember those good things when we're enjoying our friendships and feeling the love.

But there is room for improvement. Serious improvement.

The following areas are where we females need to lift our friendships with each other and how I believe we need to improve.

1. Being big mouths

Who here hates a cliche? Well, I certainly do, especially when it comes to the behaviours of females.

Yet, in my life experiences with other female friendships, the cliches about women's inability to keep their mouths shut ring true. 

For many, it's an impossible task.

Here are the aspects of our life when we need to learn to keep our mouths shut:

  • Telling someone else's news - As I'm aging, I see an increase in the number of people who tell friends of friends about expectant births too soon. It's not public information yet, but people treat it as gossip.
  • Sharing our thoughts on people - This was something my former female friends did a lot. They were vocal, too vocal, about what they thought of other people. It became impossible to feel like anyone was good enough, even if it was venting and not serious. We can breed toxic environments when we don't politely censor ourselves in all-female settings.
  • Telling someone else's secret - Everyone has had this happen to them. And it sucks. You regret ever telling anyone things you needed to get off your chest that you believed would remain a secret.
  • Telling a story everyone else would like to forget - Female friends know how to humiliate each other, and often love to bring up past situations everyone else has tried to forget. We have this horrible way of reminding each other we forget nothing in the female world.

It's not that we can't have opinions. I need to clarify that. Keeping our mouths shut isn't about sending us back to the kitchen where we belong (note the sarcasm).

Yet, we need to become better at moderating what we say about each other in gossip-like, negative tones.

2. Creating impossible standards for us to follow

Women are masters at tearing other women down.

I'm not even talking about the trolling that occurs online, where other women fail to celebrate the success of people like them. This is closer to home, and it hurts much more.

Female friends can be the first to judge and ridicule anyone who wants to better themselves. Or who tries to achieve something "impossible".

We are often the first doubters. We're the first ones to challenge how hard it will be. And the first one to say 'I told you so.' It's happened to me in my business way more often than I care to admit.

I would like to see female friends:

  • Champion each other's success - Throw parties for each other, give praise when it's due, and celebrate each other's wins without provocation. Or with an invitation to do so.
  • Help each other without invitation - We often know our friends need help, support and offer a second set of hands. Yet, we don't help. Or blame how it will look if we're seen "interfering". We wait until it's too late. We need a better balance of being there for each other and reading the situation to act more supportive.
  • Be each other's cheerleaders - You might have doubts about our female friends and what they can do. But don't go public with this. You're sabotaging our friends if we do.
  • Put ourselves in each other's shoes - We need to walk a little longer in other women's shoes and think more about how we would want to be treated. Would we want someone to tear us down? No? Then why do it to each other?

3. Breaking each other's trust

We females are very good at commanding trust and then smashing it into a million pieces. This isn't about the secret-keeping trust I mentioned earlier. 

This is about:

  • Trusting you won't go after the ex that really hurt you
  • Trusting you won't bad mouth behind our backs
  • Trusting you're telling the truth when we ask for advice
  • Trust you will be there for us when we ask

Trust is an implicit quality in any relationship. But for some reason, in female friendships, we don't ever talk about what trust means to us.

We set rules and limitations for romantic relationships, but we don't see those same expectations for friends.

I would like to see female friends:

  • Develop a personal understanding of trust - Having a personal awareness of what trust means to us, rather than making it up on the fly.
  • Talk about those trust understandings with each other - Avoid keeping it bottled up, where the other person doesn't know what this trust is.
  • Talk (not fight) about when trust becomes broken - Instead of going to war, talk about the problem like mature people
  • Work on rebuilding trust in healthy ways - When the trust becomes broken, find mutual ways to repair the damage.

In many ways, it's the approach to a romantic relationship that could help female friendships. There's no reason we shouldn't approach friendships the same way, especially considering how so many last longer than romantic unions.

4. Devoid of honesty

In the spirit of prioritising honesty, let's go talk about honesty on its own. Female friendships are notorious for being shrouded in secrets and lies. And for approaching each other with dishonest thoughts.

We're too afraid to hurt and offend each other we side with dishonesty, albeit harmful, to keep a cohesive relationship intact. 

When we do venture down the honesty path, we're chastised for it.

I would like to see female friends:

  • Communicate with more honesty - Communication that tells the truth but isn't rude. There is a balance here, and female friendships could use more direct communication that leaves no need for interpretation.
  • Avoid getting offended at someone's honesty - If we seek honesty, we have to learn to take it. We need to understand honesty isn't always an insult that ends a friendship.
  • Avoid ridiculing someone for being honest - Bullying. If a female friend is being honest, they're often labelled as a bully, which is unfair in most situations. That ends the circle of honesty dead in its tracks.
  • Valuing honesty in the friendship - I can't be the only one who seeks honesty. But there's little point in embracing it if everyone else lies instead.

4. Taking sides

What ruined the relationship between me and my ex-best friend, Julie, was the way she took sides. It's a complicated story, but in short, she chose her loyalty and it divided us.

My problem with this part of female friendship wasn't that she wasn't on my side. It would have been nice, but this isn't a battle of right and wrong. 

There are no winners and losers.

The issue I had was the way she picked a side and stuck by it despite logic, emotion, or how escalated the situation became. The more she stuck by a side, rather than being a good friend on both sides, divided me and her. It became everything that underpinned our tension.

Taking sides has to end in female friendships. Here's what I would love to see happen:

  • Avoid inserting yourself into the fight
  • Don't play both sides - Don't tell one side you support them and do the same with the other. Don't encourage whispers and secrets passed around to each side.
  • Advocate for doing the right thing - Female friends could advocate for people taking accountability, pursuing forgiveness and encouraging each side to talk about it, rather than continue fighting.
  • Understand what hill you want to die on - Female friends need to realise if they put themselves into the argument, they too become part of the fight. Is this how you want yourself remembered? Is this cause really worth fighting that hard for?

When you realise you're trapped in an unhealthy female friendship

Trapped is the right word here. When you figure out your female friendship has become toxic and unbearable, you're so far into it that getting out seems impossible.

The biggest reason is everyone else.

When you break up with one friend, you run the risk of breaking up with all of them at the same time. The friends of friends, the casualties. It's the only element that traps you in this friendship. It sure did for me.

I lost all my friends for that very reason.

How to get out of toxic female friendships unscathed

  • Implement some much-needed honesty - Don't jump straight to breaking up with your friend. Talk about what has happened, how you're feeling, and what's happening on your side of the relationship.
  • Decide how you want to proceed from the conversation - If your friend is willing to work on the friendship, this is an opportunity to repair the damage. It's up to you to decide how far the friendship has gone and whether you can come back from it. If the friend isn't willing to work, if they are combative and defensive, you might have your answer.
  • Understand breaking up is the best thing to do - If you can't repair the friendship, it's ok to let it go. You don't have to keep female friends around because anyone tells you otherwise. It's your life. It's your relationship to endure. Unless someone else is willing to take your place, they can't decide happiness for you.

friendship

About the author

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

Writes about romanceships (romance + relationships) | Loves to talk about behind the scenes of being a solopreneur on The Frolics | Writes 1 Lovelock Drive | Discover everything I do and share here: www.ellenjellymcrae.com

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