Weaving the Fabric of Female Friendship (Part 2)

Strengthening Threads: Fostering and Sustaining Friendships in The Seasons of Life

In our quest for friendship, qualities like loyalty and kindness shine brightly. However, deep-rooted relationships require traits that aren’t always in the spotlight. Research points to the importance of confidence, rooted in a clear self-identity, as we navigate life’s changing scenes. Indeed, friendships serve various purposes: some for a reason, others for a season, and a few for a lifetime.

Essential Traits for Enduring Friendships:

  1. Adaptability: A friend’s capacity to adjust to life’s flux is invaluable. Their flexibility in the face of change is a testament to genuine support.
  2. Confident Self-awareness: Friends who know themselves well offer authenticity and stability, fostering real connection and collective growth.
  3. Attentive Listening and Boundaries: A trusted friend knows when to offer advice, when to listen, and when to simply be present.
  4. Encouraging Personal Growth: Celebrating each other’s growth is crucial. A true friend supports you not only in stillness but also applauds your successes.

Cultivating New Bonds Later in Life:

As the casual social settings of youth evolve into the busier crossroads of adulthood, finding new friends requires intentionality. Friendships formed later in life often possess an unparalleled richness.

  • Common Interests: Shared activities or clubs can be fertile grounds for new friendships.
  • Volunteering: Offering time to causes can connect you with like-minded individuals.
  • Rekindling Old Friendships: Revisiting past relationships with maturity can rejuvenate bonds.
  • Embracing Vulnerability: Authenticity and openness pave the way for meaningful connections, transcending the barriers of time and age.

The Dynamics of Friendship:

Friendships are as fluid as life itself. Some acquaintances teach us lessons, others are companions for particular phases, and some become lifelong partners. By embracing the transience of some friendships, we can fully engage with them. Recognizing the role each friend plays, allows us to appreciate their unique impact.

Friendships enrich our lives with their varied textures and depths. Identifying key attributes of a solid friend and mastering the art of building connections as adults is incredibly rewarding. Through life’s intricate ballet, friends—whether they’re with us for a reason, a season, or a lifetime—harmonize our dance.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.

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.

Building Relationships in Work-life is Key. It’s a two-way street.

Not feeling fulfilled at work? This might be why.

By: Erin Leslie

Are your work products and talents being diminished? How do you know?

Diminishing language or behaviour can be tricky to identify sometimes, especially if you are looking up to the other person as a mentor. 

Constructive feedback is a key indicator.

Leaders who support their teams typically share knowledge and best practices as an investment in you. After a collaborative effort or task review meeting you should feel like your next version or action will be your best! 

If you’re facing a wall of disappointment after your meetings, take some time to reflect on your own actions, the mentor relationships you have, the type of language being discussed and what you need from it to improve. 

How do you attempt to relay key message to your work peers and or mentors and ask them for guidance that fills your productivity bank? Not empties it.

Career counselling helps you understand the “ick” in your work-life and establish ways on how you can work to improve difficult or diminishing relationships. It highlights key areas that could be impacting your quality of work and provide you with implementable tools on how to improve them.

Here are some key reflections that can help you identify if you have positive working relationships and supportive communication at your current job:

  • How would you rate your ability to be assertive when its most necessary. 
  • Are you able to extend compassion at moments when it counts at work? 
  • How do you transmit information to your team or peers positively?
  • How do you internalize stressful or negative information? 
  • Do you see relationship building as an enabler or a hurdle?
  • Do you wish you could set personal work boundaries that support your needs emotionally but that don’t cut you off from the work team?
  • Are you able to inform a colleague that you are not satisfied with their communication style and need them to meet you in a different space?
  • How do you promote open and collaborative thinking at work? 
  • What is your network worth to you and how to evaluate its value?

Career coaching gives you tools to improve balanced work relationships and improves your career reach with how to grow a productive professional network. Have more confidence in your vocational relationships for a more focused work-life outcome for your future. 

Erin Leslie is a career counsellor at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Recenlty named 2022 Top 15 Coaches in Ottawa. With over 20 years in business leading technology teams delivering innovation in private and public sectors, Erin understands the complexity of career building and business strengths through an emotional intelligence lens. She publicly speaks about the invisible skillset EQ and how industries are shifting to a more human-centered focus to improve outcomes for employees, products and services. Erin is certified in EQ-i 2.0 assessments, performs vocational assessment analysis, and career planning to help professionals, teams and newcomers’ with all aspects of business negotiation, personal branding, networking and career accelerator skills. She believes that every career could benefit from career counselling.

Signs that Your Friendship Needs a Closer Look

Friendships tend to bring people a lot of fulfillment and joy. From vulnerable self-disclosures to inside jokes, there are many benefits to acquiring a confidant. But, similar to some romantic relationships, not all friendships were meant to thrive. Being aware of the roles we play in our connections and how they, in turn, affect our mental wellbeing can be crucial information. Listed below are signs to take notice of to analyze your friendships a bit closer.

You’re always there for them, but you feel like they’re never there for you.

“What ways would I like to be supported in my friendship?”

“I always put the needs of others before my own?”  

  • You’re there for every phone call, there to support when they’re not feeling their best, you even check-in, to see if they are doing okay. But you never feel as if your friend is as concerned about you as you are about them. Assess your needs for connection in the friendship, and whether or not they are being met.
  • Use this opportunity to notice whether you tend to over-extend yourself within your friendships.

They don’t want to hear about what is troubling you. 

“Do I feel about the lack of support I am experiencing?”

  • When you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent to, are your friends there for you? You call them, but they don’t pick up. Whenever you text, but they consistently reply hours later. You start to wonder whether you are a priority for them or not. You almost begin to feel alone, within your friendship. Tune into your experience and assess how you feel about the situation.

They criticize you or shame you.

“What ways does this person make me feel as if I am not good enough?”

  • You feel like your friend always has something negative to say something about how you look, how you’re acting, your lifestyle (if not harmful), and more. You feel tense, and like you always have to maintain a false persona. You perceive judgment when you share something personal with them and are often met with unsolicited and/or subtle criticisms. Reflect on your experiences as they pertain to feeling shame within your friendship.

They don’t celebrate your successes.

“Do I feel uncomfortable sharing my success stories with my friend?”

  • You achieve something significant to you, and share the news with your friend, hoping they will be as happy as you. But they’re not. They either dismiss or minimize your successes. You feel uncomfortable sharing your accomplishments and gains because you anticipate an expression of disapproval from your friend. In this case, it’s essential to assess how this makes you feel.

They only communicate with you when they need something. 

“How do I feel about only being important to this friend when they need something?”

  • Your friend reaches out, and you immediately sense that they’re going to ask you for a favour or some tangible assistance.
  • It seems like they no longer want to invest time in getting to know you better. You feel like a resource that serves one purpose. In this case, it’s essential to evaluate how you think about your role in the friendship.

If anything noted above resonates with your experiences, it may be helpful to evaluate how your friendship makes you feel—assessing your cognitive, emotional, and physiological states when you’re around this person or when you think about your relationship with them. It may also be necessary to initiate a conversation with the friend you’re thinking of surrounding your concerns. Doing so may help open a new, insightful dialogue or help you re-assess your boundaries, expectations, and understanding of friendships.

Clinicians at CFIR can support you to find and build relationships by enriching your interpersonal skills. Book an appointment today and start your journey to learning how to communicate and connect emotionally!

Nereah Felix, B.A. is a counsellor at Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Ottawa and is under the supervision of Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych. The clients who come to see her are provided with an authentic, non-judgmental, safe, and supportive environment to share their experiences and improve their wellbeing. Nereah is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa.