Sister! Sister! Examining Female Friendships
No man is an island! And the same can be said of women.
Friends are an integral part of lives and play a vital role in shaping who we are. They can either make or break us depending on a number of factors such as both their and our personality, character, influence, perception etc. They can either enhance or erode the quality of our lives based on the circumstances and nature of the friendship. While social relations are normally voluntary, sometimes we find ourselves thrust into friendships that are potentially destructive. As women, it helps to examine our friendships as they affect who we are in society.
I have been blessed with many friends in this life of just over 30 years. Some of the friendships have withstood the test of time and grown stronger through adversity, while others have withered like grass at the slightest wind of challenge. Some friendships have built me, while others threatened to destroy my very core.
I salute the friends that have grown with me throughout the years and those that God sent for a reason to see me through a season before wondering off. These are people from whom I learnt valuable life lessons and for that, I treasure them.
On the other hand, some friendships have been so potentially destructive that I had to cut them off for my own good. From these I learnt some lessons too, I learnt that a friend who neither values nor acknowledges individuality is not worth keeping.
Having observed and experienced, like any human being, a series of friendships in my lifetime, I have come up with a few categories of friends. These are by no means exhaustive but will hopefully be useful in helping us introspect and become better friends to the people we have been blessed with or to steer clear of hazardous relationships.
1. Sincere sister
The sincere sister is the best friend that anyone could have. I have a number of these and l love them to bits. Such sisters acknowledge your individuality and encourage you to be the best you can be. These are the people you can confide in knowing that Chattam rules apply and of course even if you are a motor mouth, you learn to respect their confidentiality too because the friendship is well worth keeping.
Such sisters are genuinely interested in your total well being and will move the world for you if they can. They will empty their bank accounts to help you buy a house, prep you for that important event in your life and just stand by you through thick and thin. You sure can trust this sister with your man because somehow, you read from the same moral code.
The sincere sister will never back stab you and anytime she has a problem with you, it will be laid on the table and discussed. So, it is with these sisters that you just grow together and somehow, you become like real sisters. Your relationship is characterized by reciprocity. Not surprisingly, your mother treats her like one of her daughters and her mother does the same for you. She is likely to be the best girl at your wedding and you at hers, depending on who gets married first. Infact, if she gets married before you, you will find a role for her at your wedding and any other significant events in your life. You secretly hope that your spouses will become best friends too, just like the two of you.
Naturally, such friendships last for a lifetime, who on earth would want to lose such a friend?
The co-pilot does just that, try to run your life alongside you. Actually, she expects you to put your life on autopilot so she can run it for you the moment you from the very moment the friendship begins.
The co-pilot is a good person and means well. However, she has difficulty relating without controlling and this negatively affects the friendship. Such friendships are usually born out of circumstances, e.g a sudden move to a new town etc. Individuality is a swear word in the co-pilot’s vocabulary and she treats friends like an extension of her personality.
Such a friend wants to be in charge of every area of your life. Don’t be surprised if she expects you to laugh at the same jokes, react in the same way to various stimuli, cook food using the same recipe, manage your finances like her, be in good books with everyone she likes and be a sworn enemy to anyone she does not get along with. The co-pilot kills you softly. As your personalities cannot co-exist, one of you must be subdued and it has to be you. You somehow get the feeling that your personality must experience sudden death the moment they extend a hand of friendship. Everything in your life must suddenly and neatly align with her views and preferences. Whatever does not conform must be flushed out.
This kind of friend does not wait for an invitation but will bulldoze her way into every area of your life and try to take charge. This sister is usually highly critical as a way of gaining a foothold into your life. If you are not careful, that criticism will erode your confidence, paving way for her to gain a stranglehold and subsequent control.
That you have a history, personality, preferences and other people in your life is immaterial – in fact, your desire to hold onto these is an inconvenience to the process of transforming you into a better person. Better, in this case, means being similar to her. This sister wants to be the star of your life and re-educate you into becoming a carbon copy of her. Such people usually can’t draw the line between themselves and the next person. They seem to see a seamless flow into the other personality. They believe friendship with another person makes them one, a bit like a man and a woman becoming one flesh in marriage. However, this oneness comes with the assumption that their personality must become the dominant one and everyone else must submit.
This kind of friendship can be very intrusive and overbearing, particularly for people who value their independence and love their space. It also stifles the dominated party and can actually steer one off track. On the other hand, the co-pilot, in a desperate bid to maintain the friendship, wants to be everything she can be to her friend without realizing the damage she is causing. Co-pilots are usually good leaders who are highly committed but their intensity and domineering nature can be off-putting, so, a few months later, such people find themselves alone and jump at the next sign of friendliness.
Friendships like this do not often last also because of their circumstantial nature. Such people are constantly on the lookout for new friends and when they find them, they try to isolate them from their circle before dominating them hence their friendships are usually intense. Co-pilots easily make new friends but cannot sustain the friendship.
Friendships with the co-pilot thrive when one party is in a crisis but crumble as soon as that party regains control of her life as the co-pilot will no longer serve much purpose. It is not surprising that the dominated party soon starts looking for excuses to get away and that usually marks the beginning of the end of the friendship. When confronted with a choice between saving the friendship and regaining freedom, naturally one chooses freedom. At some stage, the friendship can become a tussle for control over the friend’s life. Parting is often a good way to end this friendship but is never amicable because the co-pilot feels she has contributed immensely towards your life and you owe her. As in any struggle for power, the co-pilot is reluctant to cede control and breaking free can be difficult. Both emerge from the freedom fight with scars. To the co-pilot, the scars are a reminder that she was used but to you, they are a sign of freedom and serve to remind you to look out for certain traits in people and steer clear from those who display them.
Naturally, the man in your life feels castrated by this personality as she tries to extend her tentacles of control into his life. Since nothing you did before she came on the scene is good enough, she probably disapproves of him anyway and he can sense that he has an ultimatum to shape up or ship out.
However, as life would have it, cracks soon emerge as individuality finds expression and this, if not handled well, soon leads to the demise of the friendship. Such people can only relate with you as a carbon copy of them and see no value in any aspect of you that does not flatter them.
3. No qualms sister
Like the sincere sister, this is usually a great friend to have. She lives by the maxim “live and let live.” This sister respects your independence and expects the same from all her friends. Life is a party and she invites you all to have fun. She makes no judgments and does not expect to be judged. She will give her advice when needed but respects that you are an adult who can sift through it, therefore she does not expect you to treat everything she says as gospel truth. This relationship is characterized by warmth and respect.
You probably have a lot in common and there’s an unwritten agreement that you hangout for your common interests and separate for your individual interests.
Such friendships last a lifetime because they are not intrusive and there is a lot of clarity around parameters. This friendship can only be fun.
4. Soul sister
This is another beautiful friendship that usually grows over the years and sometimes dates as far back as childhood. The soul sister probably has a very similar personality to yours and so you get along very well. This sister knows your deepest darkest secrets, most likely because she’s your chief accomplice. She can sense your moods, knows what you like and what you can not handle. Because you grew up together, you’ve probably seen each other through thick and thin. Since you know each other so well, you get caught up in the same mischief and cover up for each other. You probably influence each other both positively and negatively, although the bad side is not really intentional. Your closeness could even align your menstrual cycles.
Even when you live in different countries, the friendship remains tight. Chances are, because you have this intricate tie, you can even sense when things are not well in each other’s lives and are likely to feel a sudden urge to communicate.
Like the sincere sister, the soul sister is like a family member and people may even begin to see some resemblance and argue that you are biological sisters. This person is likely to be your children’s godmother and naturally, you reciprocate in everything.
5. The all-knowing goddess
The all-knowing goddess is a bit like the co-pilot. In fact, they share many attributes in that friendship to them means control. However, the all-knowing goddess believes in gaining control through knowledge. Every word this friend utters is an attempt to demonstrate her knowledge which is superior to yours. Not surprisingly, every conversation with this personality is often one-sided, with the goddess imparting her knowledge to the ignoramus of a friend. The monologue often takes the form of a lecture or release of new knowledge. That the subject has had different experiences from which she has learnt her own lessons is immaterial. The friend, who in this case becomes a subject, is not allowed to make her own mistakes as she is extremely privileged to have the goddess sharing her expertise. Such friendships are disempowering. The all-knowing goddess expects no opposition and any challenge is treated like a cardinal sin. Not surprisingly, such friends will butt into your conversations with other people because they really expect you to look to them and no one else for information. They can also demean you publicly in an effort to showcase their knowledge. These people are willing to experiment with your life without caring about the consequences. Of course the all-knowing goddess has an opinion about everything and that should never be challenged. Such friends can be a bore.
6. The self-appointed mentor
Like the co-pilot and all-knowing goddess, the self appointed mentor is an achiever and now feels she must mentor someone. She feels she has self-actualised but society is failing to recognize it and so begins the quest for mentees. Usually, she preys on younger women who admire her achievements. Initially, the friendship soars as both parties enjoy some benefits. However, the self-appointed mentor, who in reality sees her young friend as a basket case in need of reconstruction, soon tries to control the mentee’s life. Young women achievers are very clear of what they want in life and so, as in the case with the co-pilot, the battle for freedom begins. The end can either be two scarred sisters that hate each other’s guts, or friends that learn to respect each other and relate better knowing their parameters.
7. Needy nutcase
You don’t want to get mixed up with this sister. She is needy and will just drain you of your energy. Such sisters seem to swing from one crisis to the next. When you start wondering why they draw so much tragedy, you realize that they seem to engineer crises because it’s the only way they can get attention.
The needy nutcase is often in a constant state of depression and tries to transmit that to everyone. To this sister, life is one long pity party. She is not herself unless there is a crisis that leads to a need and you have to be on standby to meet the needs.
This sister will try to make you feel guilty for every ounce of happiness you express and even try to make you regret every blessing you have. Such friends tend to be depressive and you can get swallowed in a deep pit of depression while trying to help them. The reality is that this sister does not want to get out of her problems. You would think that this sister would do well with the co-pilot, but no, she loves to wallow in her problems and rejects all solutions proposed by the ever helpful co-pilot. So, for your own sanity, you soon wonder off like everyone else. Even the co-pilot must concede defeat here and move on to more malleable people.
Having said this, the question is what kind of friend are you?