Dr. Meg Meeker: Men don’t ‘get’ women’s friendships

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MEG MEEKER is a best-selling doctor with years of experience as a Mom, a wife, an active member in her congregation and community. She writes as a veteran physician with a specialty in medical care of children, adolescents—and their parents, which she explains is really one of the central vocations for a pediatrician if we’re honest about the specialty. Her earlier book focused on advice to fathers; her new book is “The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity.”

THIS WEEK, you can read a longer interview with Dr. Meg Meeker in ReadTheSpirit, but we asked Meg to talk specifically about the nature of friendships among women, the focus of our Friendship and Faith project. Such friendships rank high in the top 10 habits for happy women. Here’s what Meg told us …

DR. MEG MEEKER TALKS ABOUT WOMEN AND FRIENDSHIP

As women, we all need a couple of friends in our inner circle who are never surprised by anything we say, who never judge. We need women who can step into the midst of our lives when we feel out of control and chaotic—and they will still love us. These are the few women in our lives who we can call at 3 a.m. when we need to tell someone: “My life is falling apart! Help!” And they respond. These friends have to be women because they understand us emotionally, spirituality and physically. I’m talking about the friends who’ll keep us standing up during that day when we feel we just can’t stand up. These are the core friends who are essential in life—not many, maybe one and at most three or four. I’m not talking about how many friends we have listed on Facebook. I’m talking about the inner circle of friendships among women.

Women are relational. We bond with each other in ways that are different than men making friends with other men. You can see this as early as young girls playing together or high-school friendships. Girls braid each other’s hair; they do each other’s makeup. Girls and women bond through talking and touch.

Guys ask us: Why do you do that? Guys bond through activities like sports or working on a project together—or just watching a football game. Two men who are friends can spend a whole afternoon watching a game, never say a word to each other through the whole thing—and they go home thinking they’ve just had a terrific time together. But that’s not the experience of women. We need to talk, to listen, to look at each other, to share. As we feel closer to another woman, we show that by divulging some of our innermost thoughts. Men who are friends may never do that, but that’s what women need to feel deeply connected to a friend.

For women, friendships develop through face-to-face time together and that’s one of the reasons women are so lonely today. We stay electronically connected to one another. We text. We use the cell. Email. Facebook. But that’s not the kind of intimate, face-to-face experience we need.

When we’re together in person we can fully read another woman. We can see our friend’s facial expressions, watch her eyes, we can hug or touch her hand. We’re responding to each other on many levels. Friends, men or women, may have coffee with each other. But, women have many ways to spend time together that aren’t as common for men. We may walk together. We find other ways to spend time together.

When we stop doing that because our lives are too busy, we lose that deep satisfaction in life that comes from our intimate relationships with friends. There’s a void in our lives and I don’t believe that women can substitute for that lack of friendship with other women by placing those expectations on the men in our lives. Generally, we can’t connect with male friends on that level we can experience in friendship with women. It’s true: There is a woman-to-woman thing we share in a good friendship. Once we are up front about admitting that, and once we begin spending time on the woman-to-woman friendships that can bring such satisfaction in life, then we can free ourselves from placing all those expectations on other people in our lives. Our relationships with our husbands and our children become lighter and richer and more enjoyable because we’re not trying to substitute for our women friends in those relationships.

We need our friends to help us get through those early child-rearing years and then through those middle years when teens are so tough. As we age, we need women helping us through the empty-nest years when nobody understands the changes in our world. As I’m seeing with my own mother, many women outlive their husbands—so we need friendships with other women for longetivity. In the end, we may be left with just women together as friends. Our friendships with other women are an essential part of all the different phases of our lives.

YOU CAN READ an in-depth interview with Dr. Meg Meeker in ReadTheSpirit this week.

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(Originally published at www.FriendshipAndFaith.com)


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