When it comes to friendships, women experience deep, intimate connections. However, this depth can lead to more frequent friendship breakups. There are a plethora of reasons behind this phenomenon that resonates with many women.

The Fragility of Women’s Friendships

Author Danielle Bayard Jackson recently released her book, “Fighting for Our Friendships.” In a clip posted on Instagram, she read an excerpt titled “The Fragility of Women’s Friendship.” The excerpt highlighted that women tend to have more “prior friendships” and a lower threshold for dealing with perceived violations. This means that while women may enjoy long-lasting friendships, they are also more likely to experience friendship breakups over misunderstandings.

Jackson notes that women often have a mental list of things a friend has done wrong. This makes them less likely to reconcile after a falling-out compared to men. Essentially, female friendships can be quite fragile.

Emotional Investment and Communication

Stanford University linguist Deborah Tannen is the author of several books dedicated to women’s friendships. Through her research, she suggests that the pain of a friendship breakup is as intense as a romantic breakup. This is partly because women’s friendships often rely heavily on frequent communication and emotional investment.

“When someone you’ve been close to, who has been part of your life, suddenly refuses to see you or speak to you, her departure leaves a hole in your life and your heart,” Tannen wrote in her recent book, “You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships.”

When conflicts arise, women are more likely to avoid addressing the issues directly. This leads to a gradual drifting apart or a sudden ghosting. This avoidance can be as painful as physical separation and often leaves the affected party in confusion and hurt.

Scientific Insights into Women’s Friendships

A landmark UCLA study reveals that women respond to stress by seeking out friendships with other women, releasing the hormone oxytocin. The hormone has a calming effect. This “tend and befriend” response contrasts sharply with the male “fight or flight” reaction. The study suggests that these friendships not only provide emotional support, but also have significant health benefits. Some of the benefits include reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of disease.

Despite these benefits, the intensity of women’s friendships means that any conflict or perceived betrayal can have a pronounced impact. Women’s friendships are often seen as a sanctuary, a source of emotional sustenance and identity. When these friendships break down, the sense of loss can be profound.

Navigating and Healing Friendships

While it may seem easier to walk away from a problematic friendship, working through conflicts can lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships. By addressing issues directly and honestly, women can potentially salvage and strengthen their bonds. Understanding that strange or hurtful behavior may stem from underlying issues can also help in reconciling and moving forward.

Friendships among women are not just emotionally fulfilling, but also crucial for mental and physical health. Studies have shown that women with strong social ties live longer and healthier lives. Despite the challenges and potential for breakups, nurturing these friendships is essential. As Dr. Ruthellen Josselson, co-author of “Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships”, notes in her book, pushing female friendships to the back burner when life gets busy is a mistake. These relationships provide a unique source of strength and healing that cannot be replicated elsewhere.