‘The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated’ – William James.
Don’t worry, the irony of starting a column about the bliss of female friends with a quote by a man has not been lost on me. It does, however, emphasise the vital role my female friends have played in helping me maintain perspective, balance, humour, and sanity during ‘the menopause years’. Having spent much of my life as a fully paid up member of the ‘loner brigade’ it finally dawned on me how impoverished this was. Perhaps I was a late developer, whatever, I now cherish and truly value the enriching, uplifting, and absolute delight my girlfriends have brought to my life.
Given the ability to sit down with my younger self I’d explain how my future sanity, happiness, and contentment will ultimately rest with the wise and witty females I surround myself with. (I’d also take the opportunity to tell myself to moisturise my neck as well as my face, wear sunscreen on my hands, and that little boobs are truly wonderful things).
In my experience, female friendships will provide more romance, thoughtfulness, and encouragement than any other relationship. They’ve been responsible for helping me gain a much-needed perspective on the more challenging aspects life, and especially in my relationships with men… and they’ve probably kept me from the grisly prospect of ‘life without parole’ for a succession of gruesome murders!
Please, let me explain.
It starts with compliments…
Fewer things in life will make your heart sing than a well-timed compliment. The one that comes to you out of the blue. Unprompted. Heartfelt. Unconditional. And unless you’re one of the incredibly blessed females who has a husband/partner paying undivided attention to you (which I, personally, might find a little unnerving), then the source of the compliment is likely to be from one of your girlfriends.
Man-compliments (or lack thereof)
I feel compelled at this stage to explain I live with a man who has many wonderful qualities, however, his ability to notice things happening around him isn’t one of them, myself included.
A perfect example of this was when we first started to live together; I decided to ‘surprise’ him by redesigning our downstairs living space and spent the day working, moving furniture around (literally, whole room layouts completely altered), and confess to a degree of childish excitement waiting for him to notice.
And I waited…
…until a full 3 weeks later he chimes “oh, you moved the sofas”.
Face, meet palm.
The consolation here was that if it took 3 weeks for him to notice sofas had been moved, then failing to notice I’d had my hair cut should come as no surprise. I’d never take things personally again. Ever.
When I say compliments I’m not talking about the empty ‘oh don’t you look fabulous sweetie’ kind, but rather the one’s that help you feel less invisible. Noticing you’ve had your hair cut, you’ve lost weight, you’re wearing a different shade of lipstick, your nails are looking good (or perhaps that’s just me with my chewed, bitten, broken nails?), your skin looks great, your eyes are sparkling, your new boots/bag/blouse are rather lovely.
True girl friends notice – and rejoice in each other – every detail of us
Empathy and laughter
As someone who prefers to focus on what’s possible versus endless moaning, anytime there is a call for ‘crisis talks’ with a girlfriend the emphasis is on listening and empathy. There is never any hint of sympathy. No one wants to feel pitied. And I most definitely don’t mean females who drain the very essence of joy from you with their relentless misery. I’m talking about the juicy, plump, fulfilling experience of time spent with girlfriends who enable you to feel grounded when the pressure gets too great, who bring with them fresh perspectives, wise insights, laughter, and preferably lots of cake!
Empathy allows us to draw strength from one another by sharing our thoughts and experiences, without judgement, without comparison and in way that steadies us through the simple act of listening. (Brene Brown describes empathy perfectly by explaining how it rarely starts with the words ‘at least……’), I take enormous comfort from knowing I’m not the first, that I am normal, that I am enough.
Laughter is just as critical. I love a great laugh, especially at the absurdity of life and the struggles that leave me feeling like I’ll pass out from anxiety/rage/frustration. Laughter is a fabulous leveller, and best of all is the ability to laugh at ourselves. I’m helped greatly in this regard by sisters and girlfriends who will tease me relentlessly until I quit wallowing in the pity pool. Empathy and laughter are two of the greatest gifts we can give our female friends. Treasure them always.
Kindness and encouragement
The countless small gestures that make a true friendship are, without exception, deeply personal and heartfelt. In my experience they’ve almost exclusively been from my female friends – and have been outside of the regular confines of gift giving.
My female friends have blissed me out more times than I can count with their kind and thoughtful ways; a silly card, a quote, a message, a joke, a gift, a memory shared. For no reason, other than they knew I’d love it, it would make me laugh, it would restore my faith. And I do likewise for them. And that kindness can come in many forms…
I recently complained to a girlfriend how addled my memory had become, laughing in a slightly hysterical way at how frustrating it was making continued treks up the stairs before finally, finally, coming back down with the thing I’d gone up there for in the first place. How I also resented my partner for his apparent indifference to my increased anxiety about diminished cognitive function. Why hadn’t he sensed my torment?
As this wasn’t my first moan-fest about indifference (and his ability to mindread for goodness sake!) she said “you constantly expect the impossible. Stop expecting the impossible and you’ll both be a lot happier”.
Bam! Brilliant advice. Simple, relevant, thoughtful, and in no small part responsible for stopping me from feeling resentful.
Bromance, schmomance, female friendships are truly golden
And so, going back to the chat with my younger self, I say quit believing one person can ever be everything to you. Especially your relationship with your ‘significant other’. Your relationship with your female friends will be one of the longest romances you’ll have. They’ll be vital to your sanity, particularly when life’s unsettling waves come crashing in. They’ll provide you with endless laughter, insights, advice, and perspective. And if you’re wise enough to surround yourself with smart, independent thinking female friends they’ll call you out and hold you to account when you’re being irrational or unreasonable and lift you up and cheer you when you’ve achieved brilliance.
For a blissful life surround yourself with trusted females and never side-line them for any other relationship.
About Angi Egan, Menopause Columnist and Blogger
Having experienced the menopause, and all the delights this involves, Angi brings a real life perspective and a much needed dash of humour. Previously Angi has headed up large retail brands across the UK, Europe, Asia & USA. She is an expert in Spa and holistic medicine and has experience in psychotherapy, coaching and business consultancy.
Find Angi online
The M-word Blog – a fantastic and entertaining blog that covers the insights and musings of a middle-aged, menopausal female