Your Go-to-Frenemy Guide For Every Friend or Foe

While we are currently witnessing the rise of the divine feminine, the paradigm is shifting to prioritize and integrate collaboration over competition, feelings over facts, holistic health over hustle-till-you-drop, and open-hearted communication over avoidance and self-protection.

Equipped with our basic rights, women today are actively stepping into their power. Look around and not only will you find women pioneering success on their own terms in their households, communities, companies, and government, but you’ll find the essence of the divine feminine weaved throughout every industry (looking at you #metoo movement, Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods, and wellness companies like goop, Well + Good, and Mindbodygreen).   

This expansion of opportunities has caused women’s priorities to look very different from one another, creating a lack of information on how to properly navigate female friendships as responsibilities grow and priorities diversify. 

While there’s tons of information available on romantic relationships (cue: attract a lover, land a lover, keep a lover, fix a relationship, end a relationship, reinvigorate a relationship, etc.), there is not a lot out there on how to properly navigate female bonds and friendships.

Women have always relied on one another physically and emotionally. From the “it takes a village” approach in child rearing during the hunter-and-gatherer era to modern-day girls’ nights, females have been offering each other support and forming intimate bonds for ages. 

So how can we ultimately champion the rise of the divine feminine that our culture so desperately needs on the large scale, while consciously navigating the dynamics of our day-to-day female relationships on the small scale?

Maintaining Healthy Female Relationships

Ride-or-dies are the women in your life that witness your flaws in real time and choose to love you unconditionally anyway. These are the women that are secure enough in themselves to genuinely encourage your success and celebrate your victories. They’re cheering you on in an intimate, up-close-and-personal kind of way. Here’s what helps these relationships flourish:

Time to connect —

While the depth of these relationships is not dictated by frequency of time spent together, it’s important to deliberately make time to connect. Dinner dates, movie dates, workout dates, coffee/tea dates, reading dates, girls’ nights in, girls’ nights out. If you can’t physically see them, make a phone date.

Highest version of self — 

Be involved in their dreams. Remind them of their potential when they forget. Hint: we all forget. Supporting someone in their highest version of self is an intuitive dance. It’s knowing how to ebb and flow between the roles of fun sister (remind her to loosen up and embrace the levity of life – go dancing, have a wine night) hip aunt (hit a breathwork class together and contemplate the meaning of life), and tough-love mother (picking and choosing when to lovingly call out their BS to interrupt self-sabotaging behavior).

What do you need? — 

Before your girlfriend begins sharing, ask her what kind of support she’s seeking. “Do you need me to just listen, do you want feedback, or both?” Often, we’re just looking to be heard and have someone hold safe space for us. Having clarity helps us better show up for one another.

Live and let live — 

You may not agree with everything your bestie does — or who she chooses to date — but try offering your input only when asked. This does two things. If she ends up ignoring your well-intentioned advice, you’re not left bitter because you didn’t waste your energy solving those problems in the first place. Secondly, you’re empowering her to be in the driver seat of her own life and choices. You’re trusting her enough to be the authority on her life, even if you’d do it differently.

Navigating Complex Female Relationships

Some friends are only in our lives for a season. Perhaps we trauma-bonded with them during a particularly rough patch of our lives. Perhaps there’s years of history and every time you get together, you’re recycling old memories but never creating anything new.

When we’ve deeply bonded with another female and the friendship shifts apart for whatever reason, it can be incredibly painful. Oftentimes female bonds have a layer of depth and complexity that male to male, or even female to male relationships lack.

We tend to unpack ourselves differently in front of our friends than we do our romantic partners. Gal pals have access to the un-curated version of ourselves. When this level of intimacy is compromised, it strikes a chord deep within our core. 

When friendships start to feel tense or off, that doesn’t mean they need to end. There are ways to salvage the friendship and realign before calling it quits, or allowing it to fade into the abyss.  

Here’s how:

Talk to her, not about her — 

This can be scary for anyone who is nonconfrontational, but friends can’t read minds and there’s a possibility that the dynamics may have been misinterpreted… or, perhaps your intuition is spot-on and you’ve picked up on some dissonance. Either way, open up a conversation around it. Tip: Do this over a phone call or in person. It’s really easy to take text messages out of context.

Set boundaries — 

Maybe you two just need some space apart to recalibrate individually. Or perhaps you need to decrease the frequency and amount of time spent together. Whether you set boundaries verbally or energetically is up to you. Use your discretion. Boundaries are not a punishment towards your friend. They’re an act of self-love towards yourself to protect your energy, your heart, and to help keep you away from unhealthy dynamics.

Let it go / break up — 

If space and time isn’t cutting it, it might be time to let the friendship go completely. Sometimes these dynamics will fade out naturally. Other times, you’ll feel the need to communicate for the sake of closure. If you communicate with her, do so consciously, own your side of the street, and be grateful for the time shared and lessons learned. And if you don’t know when to let go? Go back through the last three to six months of interactions with this friend. Mark whether each interaction made you feel good (did she help bring out more of what you like about yourself?) or bad (did she bring out the worst in you?).

Look for the lesson — 

If she was only around for a season, there’s likely a nugget of wisdom to be extracted from the situation. What did you learn about life or yourself? If she aired on the side of a bully, did you learn to speak up for yourself? If she wasn’t able to cheer you on in your victories, did you discover how to celebrate yourself?

As women, it’s important to remember that when we act out of cruelty or desperation it’s very often driven from a deeper wounding. Try zooming out. Have compassion — but also protect yourself because compassion is not the same as tolerance. No matter how tough a dynamic is, let’s commit to behaving and communicating with our fellow females in ways that move the feminine forward while we work to simultaneously protect ourselves and our energy. I believe we can do both. 

Julianna Lembeck is a conscious storyteller for brands and individuals. She believes in the power of narrative to heal, provoke, transform, empower, and more. Discover different ways to collaborate with her at juliannalembeck.com.

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