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Avoid These Five Common Pitfalls of Female Friendship

[When we need friendship advice, we know exactly where to go! We're proud to have a guest post today by Huffington Post blogger, author and friendship expert Irene Levine. You'll find her thoughtful answers to girlfriend friendship dilemmas on her friendship blog. Today, she tells us how to be better girlfriends by pointing out five common stumbling blocks on the road to girlfriend bliss.] 

By Irene S. Levine, PhD 

As much as we would like them to, many friendships—even the best of them—don’t last forever. So when a close friendship falls apart, it’s natural to feel a sense of loss and pain, particularly if the friendship was a meaningful one. But with some insight and understanding, you may be able to avoid the traps that commonly derail female friendships. Here are five pitfalls to watch out for: (photo via flickr)

1) Getting too close too soon  

You think you’ve met your new best friend and immediately tell her your life story—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You tell her about your old best friend who unceremoniously dumped you, your boyfriend’s wicked temper, and that you recently overcame a serious drinking problem. Before you have time to blink, she seems like she is no longer interested in being your friend. 

A better approach: 

Finding a new friend is almost like love at first sight. While there might be compelling reasons why you are attracted to someone, it doesn’t mean the chemistry is going to be right for you for the long haul. Telling someone too much too soon may frighten her. Intimacy and sharing needs to unfold gradually as two women get to know one another over time. 

2) Being too secretive 

Some women are so private and insecure that they are unable to be open with their friends. It may be because they were betrayed or dumped unilaterally, either by a best friend or a spouse. Subsequent to that trauma, their lives become filled with secrets because they have a hard time trusting other people.  

A better approach: 

If someone (you or she) is unable to be one’s true self and share intimacies with a friend, the relationship remains one-sided and superficial. For a friendship to “stick,” two women need to be able to feel a sense of trust and comfort with each other that allows them to expose their real selves, warts and all. 

3) Being too needy 

You’ve really come to lean on your best friend. In fact, you call her constantly and let all your other friendships fall by the wayside because you would rather be with her than anyone else. She listens to all your problems and helps you resolve them. When you’re running short of money, you can count on her tiding you over until your next paycheck. You can’t stand the thought of her being with anyone else because the two of you are Besties. 

A better approach:

No friend wants to feel like someone else is totally dependent on her. She may feel like a savior at first but eventually she’s going to resent your neediness, jealousy and/or and possessiveness. Make sure that each of your friendships is reciprocal: that there’s some give and take between you.  

4) Benign neglect 

Through the various seasons of a woman’s life, she may be focused on so many other priorities  (career, children, lovers, or caregiving for an aging parent), that her friendships are placed on hold. She no longer has time to return phone calls, let alone plan face-time with friends.  

A better approach:

Friendships need to be nurtured or you run the risk of losing them. No one wants to have a one-sided friendship where one person always initiates the contact and is constantly turned down by the other. There is likely to be a time in your life when your needs for female friendships will intensify and it may be difficult to reclaim friendships that have been cast aside. With email and cell phones, there’s no excuse for not keeping in touch if a relationship is important to you. 

5) Awkward endings 

Your friend has disappointed you. Perhaps she forgot it was your 30th birthday, failed to show up at your mother’s funeral, or given the chance, consistently dumps you for a guy. You have a long shared history but you’ve had it with her. So you lash out in anger and say things you know will never be forgiven. There’s no going back. 

A better approach:

It’s normal for friendships have their ups and downs.  Two friends may grow in different directions, get on each other’s nerves, or be at different points in their lives (e.g. one married and one single; or one a mother and the other desperately trying to conceive).  If that’s the case, two friends may need a friendship sabbatical (time apart) or they may need to downgrade the intensity of their relationship. Unless a friend has created an egregious sin, it makes sense to leave the door open for possible reconciliation. Moreover, if you were once good friends with her, why would you want to hurt her now?   

If there’s an upside to stepping on these landmines unexpectedly, it is that they offer lessons about how to be a better friend. Friendship sometimes takes a bit of finesse, and now you are equipped to handle five of its most common challenges!

Irene S. Levine, PhD is an award-winning freelance journalist and author who is trained as a psychologist. She blogs about female friendships on The Huffington Post and on The Friendship Blog. Her book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, will be published by Overlook Press in Fall 2009. She is also a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.






  1. [...] in the Huffington post … like you. If you enjoyed this post you can buy me a coffee! Avoid These Five Common Pitfalls of Female Friendship – 04/14/2009 [When we need friendship advice, we know exactly where to [...]

    Pingback by Posts about Huffington Post as of April 14, 2009 » The Daily Parr — April 14, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

  2. This post is so true it’s uncanny. I am very fortunate to have four Female Friendships that have each lasted over 25 years with one lasting close to 30. All the relationships have gone through transition periods like mentioned in #4 and #5 where we have not talked or seen each other for a period of time. Luckily I am so fortunate to have women friends who truly understand the importance of communicating and sharing their feelings. Even when we were upset with each other, we managed to talk about it and overcome it to more on. My favorite saving is that Life Is A Work In Progress and I think the same applies to a great friendship.

    Comment by Karen Marie Shelton — April 15, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  3. What a great post! I have never really thought about friendships in this perspective. Somehow, I just always have friends that I call real friends and I have never wasted much time on people who drain me.
    However, I was reading on friendships lately, because it is such an important part in finding happiness and being mentally healthy.
    I came here through Girltime Coaching and will subscribe today! I’m glad I found your blog!

    Comment by Suzanne — April 16, 2009 @ 8:23 am

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