Why Female Friendships Are Like Oxygen
The Health Benefits Of Close Friendships
Posted Oct 30, 2012
In the summer of 2009, shortly after Christine Bronstein had given birth to her third child, she couldn’t explain why the tears wouldn’t stop streaming from her eyes. After all, for the first time in her life, she finally had what she had always craved - a relatively “normal” family. Yet in spite of her two healthy sons and her beautiful newborn girl, sadness washed over her.
Her postpartum depression left her feeling momentarily isolated and alone, but it didn’t take long until word got out to her girlfriends that Chris was suffering and needed help. Before she could blink through more tears, a gang of her inner circle women gathered to support Chris. One of these friends, Christina Flach, started calling this group of women “the wives,” since, overwhelmed by the demands of trying to be Superwomen, they had joked that they all needed wives to take care of them as they navigated marriages, divorces, births, and deaths together.
And so it was that they became A Band Of Wives, which grew outside of Chris’s inner circle into an online community of women gathering to support one another through obstacles, motherhood, business, and more.
When A Band of Wives began back in 2009, I had just launched the Owning Pink community, and a mutual friend introduced Chris and I. We instantly hit it off. When we realized we both had similar visions - to gather women together with the intention of helping them heal, connect, and thrive in body, mind, spirit, business, and life, we were excited to collaborate. Instead of responding with the catty competitiveness with which women are so often (misguidedly, I might add) stereotypically portrayed, Chris and I vowed to lift each other up. I became one of the “wives” in her online community, and she joined mine. A sisterhood was born.
The Health Benefits Of Close Friendships
When I started Owning Pink and Chris started A Band of Wives, both of us were in need of healing - her from postpartum depression, me from a series of tragic losses and a multitude of health problems. Little did we know at the time, but the scientific data proves that reaching out to other women as part of the healing process was the smartest medicine we could have prescribed for ourselves.
I’ve written blog posts before (you can read about it here) and I go into much greater detail in my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine about the health benefits of intimate friendships. But I’ll give you one little morsel to chew on that proves the value of intimate friendships.
A University of California - San Francisco study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology investigated the social networks of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer. This study found the women who had been socially isolated before their breast cancer diagnosis had a 66% increased risk of mortality from any cause and a two-fold increased risk of dying from their breast cancer compared to those with close friendships. And the more, the merrier. People with ten or more friends were four times more likely to survive their cancer than those who tried to get through cancer alone. In fact, the data suggests that friendships may be even more health-inducing than having a spouse. In the same study, having a spouse did not show a survival benefit - but having many friendships did!
Introducing Chris’s New Baby!
Given that my passion is to help you heal from whatever may be in need of healing in your life, it is with great excitement that I’m here celebrating with you my girl Chris’s latest birth. After a long gestation, Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal The Power Of Positive Female Connection, the book Chris has compiled with other “wives” from A Band Of Wives just hit the shelves today. And I’m honored to be one of the contributors, with an essay entitled “Healing,” about how so many women have lost their mojo and how we depend upon our sisters to help us get it back.
With stories covering topics such as self-love, overcoming obstacles, modern motherhood, BFF’s, finding yourself, making mischief, race and culture, and Mother Earth, I found myself getting lost in the beauty of women celebrating other women in their lives. (Yes, there were many tissues involved as I read this book.)
The 51 women who contributed to this book write about:
- Having your son get attacked by a shark (and how to survive when you don’t know whether your child will)
- How to face a brain tumor that threatens to steal your smile
- How you don’t need ovaries to be a hot, fertile mama
- How to lose more than 100 pounds by coming out of the closet, facing your addictions, and learning to love yourself
- How to use the loss of your sister as a vehicle for transformation
- How one piece of lingerie can finally make you fall in love with your breasts
- The courage it takes to raise twin babies born 15 weeks too early
- Small comforts that get us through losing our mothers
- How a girl’s best friend is another girl, not the BOFM (Boyfriend Of The Moment), and how much it stings to be BFF-less
- The allegiance we have to our mothers, even when they don’t quite know how to be mothers
- What happens on the other side of breast cancer (hint: it can be beautiful)
- How photographing naked women helped one woman fall in love with herself
- How to break your addiction to being a “good girl”
- How sometimes the best way to get over your ex is to plot revenge with your bestie
- How making love to a woman changed one woman’s sexual relationships with men forever
- How friendships among women cross all cultural boundaries, and how Western women must rise up in service to our sisters in countries where our sisters don’t share the freedoms we do
- And so much more…
Why Female Connections Help Us Thrive
In this book, Shasta Nelson writes about how we trade out half our friends every seven years, on average. It’s no wonder so many of us feel lonely and disconnected. This sense of disconnection often starts young in our female lives.
If you’re like me and many other women I’ve met, you may have experienced traumas at the hands of women in your younger life. Perhaps your BFF broke your heart on the schoolyard, as mine did. Maybe the girl you trusted betrayed you. Perhaps women have been competitive or critical or cutting to you. Maybe they’ve blown you off in favor of the man of the moment and left you reeling.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we can look past our differences, set aside any sense of comparison or judgment, and see each other for how we truly are, we discover that we’re all Pink on the inside, and all of us need each other like oxygen. When you surround yourself with the sacred container of intimate friendships, you no longer have to navigate the challenges of being human alone. When you stumble, your girlfriends will catch you. When they stumble, you can return the favor.
A Band of Wives and Owning Pink were both founded to offer this kind of support to women seeking authentic, safe, open-hearted community. And Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God was written as a gift to any woman who longs to feel connected, to find her divine spark within, to radiate in the company of other women, to share her gift, to heal from past traumas, and to let her freak flag fly.
An Invitation To Connect
Are you feeling lonely or disconnected from other women? What might you do to build stronger female friendships? For those of you who have found your people, what helped you find your tribe?
Tell us your stories of female connection in the comments below.
With love and friendship,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.