Many years ago, a lovely gentleman came to see me with a not uncommon problem, but to my recollection as a therapist, never addressed with me before this time. The gentleman raised a beautiful family and had a healthy marriage. There was no history of any trauma in his background. No issues with work or health ensued. What seemed to be the problem, you might wonder? The situation that arose, causing angst, was his lack of understanding about his wife’s close platonic friendship with another woman. His wife enjoyed spending time with this friend, who often met at their home. This man could not make heads or tails about this kind of relationship. He understood that his wife, who had no sisters, yearned for a connection such as this. This kind man loved his wife and did not wish to create strife in the marriage. He was just trying to reconcile his understanding of this female friendship, resisting to view this woman as an interloper.
The Potency of These Connections
For a few sessions, I spent time explaining female friendships’ nature, myself having had strong, enduring ones for years. I shared with him the power of these connections. Many of these grew into intense, sister-like relationships, evolving into confidantes as they shared secrets, problems, and deep insecurities. Eventually, this man understood and accepted the new phenomenon occurring in his life. He thanked me, and I was grateful that he found peace.
I thought about how common this situation was. Female friendships are different from those of the opposite sex. Before being accused of stereotyping, I will acknowledge there are exceptions to this rule. Some men also have a group of brothers to share as much as men usually do. Some women have no desire for close female companions and keep these sisters at arm’s length. For the most part, however, my opinion stands.
There are happily married men who have no problem with their wives’ friends. Others are threatened and unwilling to examine this as the man who visited my office years earlier.
When A Spouse May Be Needlessly Threatened
Suddenly, I heard the husband whisper to his wife that she was spending more time with her new little friend, implying he felt ignored.
The sessions with my client dealing with this issue reminded me of an experience in 2002. At the time, I took a short trip to Paris with a friend who visited her daughter studying abroad. After five days, she remained with her daughter, and I flew home alone. On the plane, an American couple was sitting next to me. I gave a friendly hello and said no more. I tend to enjoy reading and not conversing on flights since I speak and listen for a living. At some point, the woman asked me a question, and we started talking. I discovered that she was close to my age and resided in the next town from me. After conversing for some time, there was a lapse in the discussion. Suddenly, I heard the husband whisper to his wife that she was spending more time with her new little friend, implying he felt ignored. I was a bit taken aback, knowing my husband would not have felt threatened by this. I decided not to engage her any further, but within a short time, she initiated conversation again. We exchanged more pleasantries, and when the plane landed, we made a plan to get together for coffee which occurred a few weeks later. We arranged another outing for later that month. A week before, a conflict arose for me, and I left a voicemail canceling. Following that, neither pursued future contact, and we never saw each other again. Perhaps, both of us knew on some level that it might be an issue for her husband going forward. Who knows?
Sometimes we never understand how and why events unfold the way they do. What I do believe is that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. A loving relationship with your spouse or partner can coexist with a close friendship, as my client came to recognize. If the friendship usurps the marriage, that is a different story and maybe diagnostic of something troubling in the union. Most of the time, however, they can cohabitate.
Numerous writings celebrate the nature of these female bonds. A film from long ago and a current series demonstrate the strength of such connections, which I will discuss in Part 2. Also, I will share more about my reflections on these special friendships.
What Are Your Thoughts?
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced these kinds of friendships? Has it ever interfered with your other relationships? I invite you to share your perspective.