Women Vs Men
If you are like me, you may have wondered about the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances in female vs. male friendships. I am assuming that most women have had similar thoughts regarding the topic I am about to delve into. To put it bluntly, why do guys appear to have less problem ridden friendships then women do? In a recent study, a model was created of interactions and patterns people display in friendships (Bank & Hansford, 2000). The basic idea of this model was that people develop some sense of knowledge when it comes to the different patterns of relating in friendships, and use these patterns to generate intimacy in their friendships. It was also proposed in this study that these particular types of interaction patterns are structured, and that certain patterns of relating are regarded as more likely to create a sense of intimacy than the others do. Support for this model was found in 6 separate studies (Bank & Hansford, 2000). Interaction patterns like self-disclosure, emotional support, and other similar patterns were considered more typical of intimacy expectations than patterns that showed shared activities and practical support. When it came to gender, women rated intimacy interaction patterns like the previously listed ones, higher than men did. Women and men did, however, agree that interaction patterns showing the previously listed patterns were more likely to indicate intimacy in friendships (Burleson, 2003). The bottom here is that men, just like women, DO know what intimacy is. They also recognize the different types of behaviour a person needs to engage in to get it! The difference between the genders comes into play when it comes to the importance that's placed on these intimate patterns of relating. Intimacy is more important to women apparently! Implications of the results of this study and the controversy over whether women's same sex friendships are more intimate than men's is definitely a topic that is being hotly debated these days! There are differences in same-sex friendships, but why? How, as women, do we navigate this social mine field while still maintaining our sanity? I prefer to discard the ever present gender studies that bombard me daily, and instead, focus on the betterment of the present culture of women today. Right now. At this exact moment.
Setting the Stage
The glamorization of drama on television and in reality shows paints a very different picture about how intimate female friendships are in real life. Friendships are being displayed publicly where the women are acting like they are still going through the " toddler terrible two's." We are all ultimately being represented in an extremely negative manner by these shows. For those of us, myself included, who detest this sort of misrepresentation, are being unavoidably cast in the same shadow. It is also, in my opinion, setting the stage for all women who watch these shows to view this tyrannical type of behaviour as acceptable, or even worse, as normal! Our Daughters (and son's) everywhere are watching these shows and taking it all in (Camarena, Sarigiani & Peterson, 1990).There is a non-stop advertising for the need to have excessive fighting and drama that promotes gossip and betrayal as "the thing to do" to your friends. This does not, for me, indicate a more intimate friendship! True intimacy includes a solid foundation of trust. First and foremost. Loyalty and caring are close seconds to trust in the race for most important aspect of a friendship. These are the true building blocks of a friendship that will enhance the lives of both people in it. True intimacy is the sharing of the "REAL" you in a friendship. You should be allowed to be fully who you are deep down.....all the way down...inside of you, and still be loved and cherished as a person. This can happen for you ladies! Trust me. I am lucky enough to have found friends who have surpassed my hopes and dreams for what great friends should be.
Understanding and Change
My question in closing is this; how can women learn what a healthy friendship looks like in today's climate of women raging war on other women daily? How are we able to have a healthy friendship and understand what healthy means with all of this garbage constantly surrounding and assaulting our senses? Ladies, for myself, it comes down to the basics. Know your worth. You are a worthwhile person to have as a friend. Think about the qualities you would hope for in a friend and than look at your own qualifications. Do you have some of those amazing qualities you are looking for in someone else? I bet you do! (I am going to bet that at this point you are nodding your head agreement to what I just said ). Last but not least, remember what you were taught in kindergarten. I know this may sound too simple to be true, but hear me out. What were you actually taught when we were in kindergarten? Treat others as you would like to be treated, try your best at everything you do, try to do what you believe in your heart is right......and share your crayons.
Bank, B. J., & Hansford, S.L. (2000)Gender and friendship: Why are men's same-sex friendships less intimate and supportive? Personal Relationships, 7, 1-23.
Camarena, P., Sarigiani,P., & Peterson, A. (1990) Gender-specific pathways to
intimacy in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 19, 19-32.