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A Therapist's Advice on Female Friendship Dynamics

Relationships, Personal Growth, Boundaries
8 min read

Friendships can be so many things.... wonderful, challenging, nuanced, temporary, long-lasting, the list goes on.  We wanted to dig in to some of our Frame community questions on the vulnerable moments that come up in friendship dynamics, with a focus on the female friendship dynamic in our 20’s and 30’s. 

Here Frame therapist Rachel Neporent answers those questions and weighs in on navigating shifts in friendships as we age, setting boundaries, addressing insecurities, making new friends in our 30s, and communication tools. 

 

Q:  I'm really finding it difficult to make new friends. I'm in my thirties and it feels like women, my age, just aren't looking to add new people to their lives. Any suggestions?

It might feel like people aren't looking to add new people into their lives, but it doesn't mean that that's a hundred percent true? Trying to challenge that distorted thought and then engaging in problem solving is helpful because if we live in this space of, “it feels like no one wants to make new friends, it might inhibit our ability to go out there and try.  That's the first thing, the second would be really looking at what do you like to do? Thinking about what you like to do and then engaging in those activities may allow you to meet people who have similar interests to you. 

An example of this would be if you go to yoga and everyone else there enjoys yoga, you're probably going to meet a few people who also want to talk about the class or talk about their practice. That carries into going to a special event that the yoga studio holds, or people getting together after class. Challenge yourself to say “yes” to these things. 

Another helpful way of connecting to new people in your thirties is really working on that connection to yourself. The more you work on energetically giving to yourself, giving to your passions and your hobbies, your work, your relationships, the more people are going to want to engage with you.

So again, back to the stem of the question, if we're engaging in a way of “nobody wants to talk to me, no one's looking to meet new people”, we're probably not going to meet new people because we're also putting off that energy that no one wants to talk to you.  So this might be the first time you’ve really had to try to make new friendships, but continuing to work on yourself, engaging in activities that you enjoy, and being open to what's shown to you is going to be really helpful in terms of creating new friendships. 

 

Q: What are your thoughts on friendship breakups? It sounds smart when needed, but I know it will create tension in my friend group. 

Friendship breakups can be really challenging and really confusing. I'm thinking of the phrase “friends forever”, where I think we often engage with the perspective that friendships are forever.

I think of course the hope is that we can have friendships forever, but we do go through changes and iterations of ourselves throughout our life so being open to the fact that relationships might also shift and change is really crucial to our growth as human beings

If a friendship is crossing your boundaries, or it's not meeting your needs, this is when re-evaluating your boundaries, your needs, and your friendship is super important. 

This question is specific to how a friendship breakup impacts a friend group, and I think this is even more sensitive because there's more than two people involved. It's you figuring out what boundaries are right for you, how to honor yourself, honor your other friendships and still be a part of that community or group in a way that feels doable. 

If it's really unsafe for you to be around and spend time with that person, then setting boundaries with your other friends and talking to them about what feels safe and comfortable for you might be needed. That might mean you don't spend time together, and talking to a therapist or a trusted friend or a family member about what boundaries work for you and maybe how you want to communicate this conversation, either with that one person or the group, is going to be really helpful. 

Know that some friendships are in your life for a reason at a certain time, and maybe that's what their purpose was. Everyone is going to have different perspectives, different life understandings or messaging that works for them. It's also about finding what works for you in terms of letting go, or loss, because that's really what this is like, it’s like a breakup with a romantic partner or a loss in life. 

Again, in these instances, it's so important to zoom out, to what actually works for you and like what actually makes you feel good.

That might mean moving on from a certain friendship, and that doesn't mean that you're bad, or you’re a bad friend. It just means that for the reasons within that relationship, that it's maybe not the right relationship or the right friendship for that current time in your life. 

 

Q: I introduced two of my close friends to each other. They hit it off and now I'm actually feeling left out. Can I say something? My feelings are hurt. 

It makes so much sense that your feelings would be hurt in this instance. My first thoughts are you can definitely say something, and you should say something. 

Express how you feel about the situation. This could sound like: You're both really important to me. I notice you are spending time together without me, can we talk about that because I do feel a little hurt by it. Is there something you guys enjoy doing that I don't, or is it possible that we can all spend time together? 

That’s one piece - approaching them in a really open and kind way, expressing your hurt, but also being curious about it. This way you don't get angry before you need to. 

The other piece is to be open to friendships growing, evolving, and changing. This is also an opportunity to try being vulnerable and confronting an individual in a healthy and safe way to really better understand what's happening. 

Come to the situation first with vulnerability, acknowledgement of your feelings and curiosity. From there you can further navigate the dynamic once you approach it in a curious and in kind way. 

 

Q: My friends are quite competitive. I don't feel comfortable being vulnerable or even sharing my successes because it seems I'm either too weak, or trying to brag. Any advice on breaking this tension?

I think when competition comes within a friendship, it can be really challenging to feel safe. When these frictions come up in friendships, it's really an opportunity to connect to yourself. What are your needs? What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel good, loved, and connected in relationships? If competition doesn't fit into that, which makes so much sense, this is an opportunity to talk to your friend. 

Another suggestion in order to handle this is modeling. Modeling that it's okay to be happy for your friends when they have an achievement, and then engage the way you would want someone to engage with you. Then there’s the vulnerability & communication piece, sharing with your friends I feel like there's this like unspoken competition when it comes to ‘x’. I really want our friendship to feel safe, healthy, and loving for both of us. 

Another thought is competition can come from insecurity. So if you try to help your friend feel secure, this might lessen the intensity of the competitiveness over time.

Just really being happy for your friend can also let them know that they can do that for you. 

 

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About the Author: Rachel Neporent is a licensed clinical social worker and modern millennial psychotherapist based in Los Angeles. She works with clients on anxiety, depression, trauma, wellness and self-care, relationship with self and others with the ultimate goal of healing and growing in tandem with finding your truest and best self and your most authentic lifestyle. 

Click here to view Rachel's profile and schedule a free introductory call.  

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