Coffee Shop Confessional

The theory of friendship…

I have a friend who I care for very much who sort of disappeared on me over the last 2 years when I needed her most. I had had a baby and after a traumatic birth found myself stuck behind the foggy mist of post-natal anxiety. While my life turned upside down and I was desperately trying to hang onto anything which was a link to my old self, she who knew me best, went silent. I’ve been in this position before and was reminded of the familiar sense of loss. As the fog started to clear in my mind I began to ponder once again about these friendships where you laugh, cry and share all your thoughts with the other- only for it all to change.

Why did I miss this friend when she had forgotten me during a time I needed her? I needed answers and as human interaction interests me above anything else I began to read about what bonds women together. After much reading I did find the answer, or an answer which I liked. I came across some research conducted by Taylor et al, (2000) which found that women reacted to stress in a very unique way. Rather than ‘fight or flight’ like their male counterparts, when threatened by predators women would ‘tend and befriend.’ This means women tended to their children, and looked to befriend other women which is where they would find safety.  If women felt safe in the friendship it would release oxytocin and would make them want to hang out with these women more.  I was blown away by this research – it explained to me why I could feel so connected to my good friends and why I cherished these friendships. It seemed to me after reading this research that the right friendship could physically release the same hormone I have always associated with looking after my babies.  Perhaps, this is why I have always liked women’s circles and I have been excited about starting my own circle to explore life, thoughts and experiences. The research did show that the evolutionary process of women ‘befriending other women is inherently necessary for the protection of offspring.’ Since pregnant and nursing women make women more vulnerable to an outside threat and protection may be found in a larger female group. In terms of how some of the ways the ‘tend and befriend’  works now, it was found in another study ‘that women who have a high stress burden due to the demand of multiples roles such as caregiver and wage earner who engage in tend and befriend coping are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than other women.’ Interestingly around the same time my sister was going through the same thing except she had known this friend so long they had been born on the same day in the same hospital! ‘I’m giving up on her,’ she said. ‘She never replies to a single message or picks up when I ring. I feel like she’s lost all care for our friendship.’ I listened to all the things which had hurt her and said ‘I think Z sounds depressed. Give her time – she’s been there for you in the past and if she can’t even pick up the phone then something may not be right with her.’ This was the choice – to preserve the friendship or give up.

This research  had signalled to me that although my friend had disappeared when I needed her now, there was a time when she was very present and that friendship had been a joyful and safe place.  I realised I didn’t want to close the door on this friendship. I told my sister not to do the same.

My friend did eventually contact me and we had that conversation where I asked where she had been. She had been struggling herself and had no idea she had become absent. She was tearful and I didn’t want to cause her any pain.

‘It’s ok.’ I said. ‘My door and my heart is always open to you. And for now let’s drink tea, eat chocolate cake and talk about those resolutions we’re definitely going to keep this time!’

10 thoughts on “The theory of friendship…

  1. People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person. When someone is in your life for a REASON . . . It is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end .Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.

    When people come into your life for a SEASON . . .Because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

    LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

    ~Author Unknown

    You have learned well Leila, it says more of the beauty your heart has learned to look beyond what appears to outsiders and see the truth within us all ❤

  2. Friends have been the mainstay of my life, when family have turned their backs… Loving friends are so precious… I still have friends from my schooldays and my early twenties, and though I;m almost eighty now, they are still beautiful and beloved, though we live at opposite sides of the world… Samuel Johnson, the famous maker of the first dictionary once said that friendships must be worked at and I think he’s right … in that accepting each other and our ups and downs, with no judgement or demands is what friendship is all about ….

    • There is so much wisdom in your posts that I can see you would have a very valuable journey with relationships both friendships and family. Samuel Johnson’s words are so true – it is about no judgements and demands and I ‘m trying to be every mindful of this. Thank you for taking the time to read my post x

  3. Interesting thoughts. Thank you. And even more so that your friend had been struggling and had no idea she was “absent”. Sometimes there is a simple explanation to the things that hurt us. 🙂
    (Happy new year)

  4. The research you mentioned seems to go some way towards explaining why military conflict is almost the sole provence of men. If only ‘fight’ could be replaced by ‘tend.’

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