A psychotherapist offers advice about how to be, and keep, a friend.
Barth (Integrative Clinical Social Work Practice, 2014, etc.), whose Psychology Today blog frequently focuses on women’s friendships, draws on interviews with diverse women to examine the “magical, meaningful, and surprisingly difficult” connections they make with friends. Friendships, she writes, “can make us feel simultaneously special and outcast, loved and unlovable, vulnerable and strong, helpful and useless, angry and happy, alone and lonely, supportive and held.” From the testimony of her interviewees as well as research, she finds that women’s friendships often are characterized by emotional intimacy, trust, respect, and honesty. But friendships take many forms: some women consider friends to be occasional companions rather than confidantes; some want friends to visit often, while others are fine catching up on social media. Some women obsess over not having a large enough number of friends (an obsession exacerbated by Facebook), while others feel happy with just a few. “Research has found that friendships support mental and physical health in a variety of ways,” writes the author, but “the number of friends is less important than the role they play in your life.” In fact, “so-called superficial links can provide many of the same outcomes as more intense bonds.” After an overview of friendships, Barth devotes most of the book to problems, including disillusionment, betrayal, rejection, exclusion, competition, sexual tension, anger, setting boundaries, and loss. Each chapter, filled with vignettes and anecdotes, ends with a section titled “What You Can Do." For anyone lamenting not having enough friends, the author suggests a simple solution: “try to make and stay in some kind of contact with other people.” For anyone dealing with sexual tension or a friend who changes gender, “sometimes talking about things is the best solution, even when it feels like the hardest.” For those grieving, “research shows that taking care of yourself physically and maintaining connections with your own support system are important tools in the healing process.”
Nothing groundbreaking, but a friendly, supportive guide for navigating relationships.