The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Why don't friends just talk about it?

It's easy to hold friends up to unrealistic standards~

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

When a woman feels that she has a problem with a long-term friend or friendship, why does she not simply sit down and work it out? Why does she prefer to let the friendship die instead of trying to repair it? How can she just turn her back after so many years? It seems to me that women only remain friends as long as everything is perfect. As soon as a problem arises, they cut and run. Why are we such cowards?

Signed,
Lucy

 

ANSWER

Dear Lucy,

Like any other relationship, friendships are rarely perfect. Friends make seamless accommodations to one another all the time. But when larger issues or conflicts arise, they can suddenly create a wedge between two people. Perhaps, it's something one friend said or did that hurt the other person, or something she didn't say or do when she should have. Given the many myths associated with female friendships, it's easy to hold close friends up to unrealistic standards, and to feel disappointed or betrayed when they don't measure up.

So why don't friends just talk about it?

• Some women are afraid of dealing with a conflict or disagreement, even at the risk of losing a good friend.

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• Some women don't know how to broach an uncomfortable subject because they lack self-confidence or experience resolving friendship problems. It may feel easier to avoid the problem and ditch the friend.

• Some women decide, rightly or wrongly, that a friendship is irreparable. Perhaps, words were exchanged that were so hurtful that they can't be taken back or undone. Or perhaps, things were building up for some time and this was the proverbial last straw.

More times than not, problems between friends can be resolved with open and honest communication. Think about it: There is usually much more to be gained than lost by trying to resolve a misunderstanding and if it doesn't work out, you are no worse off for trying. Thanks for your question reminding us that the risks are worthwhile if the relationship is a meaningful one.

Best,
Irene

 

Follow me on Twitter: @IreneLevine

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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