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Gal pals are hard to keep

Everyone expects their personal relationship with their partner to be tricky at times but, in my experience, the more confusing relationships are those between female friends.

There exists a bond between women that is more complicated than most. Its complexities lie in the fact that there are no ground rules, and expectations remain unspoken.

So what makes a good female friendship -- and is it ever right to drop a friend?

I remember saying to my mother that just because someone has had a boyfriend for a long time doesn't mean they've been a good boyfriend, and the same theory also applies to women in female friendships. Just because you have been friends with someone since you were two years old, or all through college, doesn't mean you have been 'good' friends -- it merely means they've been around and have known you a while.

Trouble

I feel that in friendships where people have known each other a long time, there is often the assumption that you must be very close. And this, I think, is when trouble brews.

I know that as I have grown up my interests, lifestyle, tastes have changed -- I am a different person. Unless your friends evolve at the same pace and in the same direction as you, this can lead to a distance growing between you over time.

Maybe you are not that pushed to be friends with a person anymore but, like most break-ups, usually one person doesn't want to let go.

When I was 22 I decided that I needed a break from going out and drinking. The reaction from two of my close girlfriends was that of sheer disgust. I had wanted to do something that made me happy, but they were deeply annoyed. I found it hard to stand up for myself amid the pressure and really questioned the friendships after that.

By 27, my friends and I have all left the nest, but some of us still need nurturing. And so female friendship can become even more complicated. Boyfriends take on emotional support as part of the package, but in friendships it isn't necessarily part of the deal. If you're single once you have left home, and have outgrown calling your mum with all your problems -- there are some things that might not be suitable for her ears -- it can be a little lonely out there by yourself, and so female co-dependency can begin.

Off-loading

I feel that girls can often wear each other out in terms of offloading. There have been times when the simple words “How is work going?” across a restaurant table, have let loose a torrent of extremely draining moaning. My friend left the restaurant feeling light as a feather while I felt as if I have absorbed every detail of what is going wrong in her work, and was exhausted.

In a boyfriend/girlfriend situation something would be said after a while, or the relationship would end but, with friends, it feels that much more difficult to confront -- you can't 'dump' a friend in need.

The new boyfriend dilemma is another tricky situation, and, of course, it can be hard when you suddenly don't get to see your friend as much as you would like to. But it becomes hell if you don't even like the guy she is with.

A friend told me that she is in a great relationship, which she is hoping will lead to marriage. Yet, if she turned around and said she was single again, she is sure her girlfriends would be delighted, which makes her wonder if they really want what's best for her.

Responsibility

So what is the solution?

In short, research would say we all must assume an element of self-responsibility in managing our emotions, and take care not to speed dial the same person when trouble strikes.

Cruciall,y when things are really bad, we should seek the help of professionals. We should try not to get too dependent on one friend, by developing a wide range of friendships and interests. We should also try and be encouraging for a friend when they announce they have a new boyfriend/husband/baby -- anything that will take them away from you, hard as it may be -- as it will come back to bite you if you don't.

Also, set personal boundaries in terms of what you will and won't put up with in friendships, and communicate this to the person.

Finally, don't be over-influenced by friends' thoughts, ambitions and lifestyles.

As Shakespeare wrote: 'To thine own self be true'.


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