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I got an email this morning from a new friend.  It told the tale of a mother, speaking to her newlywed daughter.  The mother gives this advice, “’Don’t forget your sisters… They’ll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.”

My friend added this note, “Remember that ‘sisters’ means ALL the women…  your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. You’ll need other women. Women always do.”

This email reminded me of something I had read in Self Nurture by Alice Domar.  Dr. Domar writes,

“Two generations ago, American women… grew up in stronger, more supportive social networks.  The web of interconnections was broader, and our communities were comprised of tightly knit extended families.  Despite their often constricted roles and marriages, our mothers and grandmothers had their emotional and spiritual needs met by many more women—their sisters and aunts and female cousins and grandmothers who either lived with them or in their neighborhoods.  These women cared for each other in crises, and on a daily basis.  They took care of each other’s babies, cooked meals for each other, and shared each other’s joys and sorrows.  By the 1970’s, the fabric of family unity and support began to fray, and with that sociological development came a new wrinkle on the old man-woman story.

“Before, women were wholly dependent on men to meet their economic needs, but primary emotional needs were often gratified by the nearby community of women.  In the past three decades, massive social changes have enabled women to become more economically independent, but the breakup of traditional extended families and neighborhoods has made it harder for women to have their emotional needs met by other women.  We began to think that the men in our lives should meet all our needs.

“It’s taken women several decades to recognize that no man, no matter how strong or sensitive, can meet all our needs.  So women of the new millennium find themselves stuck in a bind:  we no longer have the same strong-knit communities of women, nor do we have the illusion of perfect multifaceted men who can take care of us financially and emotionally.  Who, then is going to satisfy our many needs and desires?  The best answer I can offer is an old Wall Street pointer:  diversify, diversify.  We should recognize that different needs will be met by different people, including our partners, family members, friends—and ourselves.  This realization is liberating in an era when it’s too much to expect any one person or institution to fulfill every part of our complex selves. (15-16).”

To this I say “YES!”  One of the best ways to nourish ourselves is by recognizing that while we need many types of relationships in our lives, the relationships among women, whether formed by family, neighborhood, job or friendship, can be the most helpful.  Don’t believe me?  Check out some of these articles.  And remember, a friend is a gift you give yourself.

Women and Friendship:  Female Bonds Have Both Psychological and Physical Health Benefits

The Importance of Women’s Friendships

What are Friends For? A Longer Life

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June 2010