Last week, I had a great conversation about friendship with a group of women who aren’t afraid to get vulnerable. We explored what women want out of friendship, and how our needs today compare to the needs of our former selves.
As we evolve, so too do the criteria by which we assess our friendships. While some friends come into our lives for a reason or a season, there are those who become friends for life. Those friends tend to be the ones whose needs evolve alongside our own.
The meaning of friendship changes over time.
In my 20s, it was all about company. For me, a friend was a sidekick I could hang with, dance with, party with, pursue the opposite sex with — and commiserate with when said pursuits failed (which was often).
Finding romance was always my number one objective. That’s no longer the case, and not because I’m hitched to my greatest crush ever. Rather, it’s because I grew up and realized (far later than I’d have liked to) that so much more defines me than my desirability.
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to be wanted. It’s just not my only want anymore, nor is it my greatest one. I have much bigger wants, the biggest among them being the want to be myself. That’s what I seek through friendship — the freedom to be me.
What’s your biggest want from friendship?
Based on our chat about friendship and other conversations I’ve had on the subject, here are eight things women want out of friendship.
As women, we want friends we can count on to:
Listen. The greatest friends are those who meet you where you are, resisting the urge to present you with solutions and instead, waiting for you to ask for advice before giving it. They hold space for you to show up with whatever you happen to be carrying and help lighten your burden by simply listening.
Show up during our highs and lows. Consistency, that’s what we want from friendship. We’ve all had fairweather friends — those who show up as your bestie when you’re feeling on top of the world only to drop you like a hot potato when you’re not. But what about the opposite? I’ve definitely had friends who are quick to show up when I’m in the thick of despair, only to disappear as soon as I’m back to being my confident self. It makes me wonder if my happiness somehow threatens their own, which brings me to my next point: we want friends we can rely on to …
Celebrate our wins. Good friends don’t compete and compare. They aren’t intimidated by your greatness. They cheer you on. They want to see you succeed. Your success doesn’t rattle their confidence. On the contrary, it fills them with pride and happiness. Sometimes it even inspires them to be better versions of themselves.
Be open and vulnerable. Women seek out emotional intimacy in friendship. We want to be able to share our truths because keeping up appearances is JUST. TOO. DARNED. EXHAUSTING! Sometimes a girl’s just gotta let her flaws hang out without fear of judgement. Good friends let you do that and welcome the permission it gives them to do the same with you. My friend Aimee put it perfectly: “What I need most is to just be accepted and for my friends to allow me to accept them. No cleaning the house before the other comes over.” It’s ok to be messy.
Be trustworthy: This one isn’t gender-specific. We all want friends we can trust. The thing is, girls can be … well … particularly nasty! Women gossip and the chances are good that if your friends are gossiping to you, they’re probably gossipping about you. And that begs the question, are they really friends if they can’t be trusted not to badmouth you behind your back?
Make time: Life can be inconvenient. We can’t always schedule our needs to coincide with the availability of others. Challenges arise and when they do, we want our friends to make time for us. Granted, making time for a walk or a coffee (or a gin and tonic) isn’t always possible, but time for a telephone chat? That should never be too much to ask from a friend.
Go deep: This definitely wasn’t me in my 20s but now that I’m in my 50s, it’s top of my list and high on the list of many of the women I spoke to about friendship — most of whom are in or around my age group. My longing for deeper, more meaningful conversation began in my late forties. I remember discussing it with my friend Cecile who had this theory: women spend the first quarter of their lives focusing on themselves, and the second quarter focusing on their families. As they prepare to enter the third quarter, they find themselves faced with, now what? It’s big. It’s heavy. It needs an outlet. Good friends provide that outlet.
Share laughter: Yes, we want to go deep, but as my friend Ilona pointed out, we also value levity in our friendships. Discussing mutual interests, digging into juicy conversations about sex, laughing so hard, we accidentally toot (guilty) or pee a little (thankfully, not there yet). Fun and laughter may not be enough to build a lifetime friendship on but it certainly contributes to a solid foundation.
So, what have you learned about friendship here?
If you’re a woman, probably nothing. You already know this stuff. Does that mean you’ve just wasted three minutes of your life that you’ll never get back? Not necessarily.
If you find yourself ill at ease when thinking about or spending time with a female friend, chances are a few of the key friendship criteria are lacking. Returning to that well-known saying, friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Never be afraid to let go of friendships that no longer serve you — and never take for granted the ones that do.
Viv for Today xo
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