Weaving the Fabric of Female Friendship (Part 1)

The Depth and Diversity of Women’s Bonds

In the realm of human connections, female friendships are uniquely profound, acting as emotional lifelines through life’s highs and lows. Woven with shared experiences and empathetic exchanges, these relationships are pillars of support.

Women, as research suggests, often communicate with a richness of emotion, creating a tapestry of understanding and intimacy in their friendships. Dr. Deborah Tannen notes that conversation is more than mere words to many women; it’s a channel for affirmation and connection. Yet, this expressiveness can also lead to conflicts due to misunderstandings (Tannen, 2011).

Societal roles have historically placed women as the emotional backbone in relationships, fulfilling yet at times leading to uneven emotional labour or competition among peers (Li et al., 2022).

Psychologically, the merits of female friendships are substantial. They act as shields against mental health struggles, with studies highlighting their role in reducing depression and anxiety (Choi et al., 2020). The ‘love hormone’ oxytocin also plays a crucial role in these bonds, aiding in stress management and being released during meaningful interactions (Taylor et al., 2000).

However, these deep bonds are not without their challenges. Disagreements within female friendships can be as emotionally taxing as romantic breakups, often due to misaligned expectations or life changes.

Recognizing and navigating these complexities is key to maintaining these bonds. Relational psychology underscores the importance of vulnerability and communication in strengthening friendships.

The essence of female friendships lies in their deep dialogues and shared growth. Their influence on mental health and resilience in the face of adversity is profound. While they require care and understanding, the emotional depth they add to life is invaluable. Cherish these bonds, for like all treasured things, they flourish with nurturing and love.

Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences. 

Choi, K. W., et al. (2020). The impact of social relationships on the mental health of women in the United States. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 177(10), 42.

Li, L., Lee, Y., & Lai, D. W. L. (2022). Mental health of employed family caregivers in Canada: A gender-based analysis on the role of workplace support. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 95(4), 470-492.

Tannen, D. (2011). Genderlect Styles. In E. Griffin, A. Ledbetter, & G. Sparks (Eds.), A First Look at Communication Theory (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L. C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 411–429.