Why don't friends just talk about it?

06/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011


Dear Irene,

When a woman feels that she has a problem with a long-term friend or friendship, why does she not simply sit down and work it out? Why does she prefer to let the friendship die instead of trying to repair it? How can she just turn her back after so many years? It seems to me that women only remain friends as long as everything is perfect. As soon as a problem arises, they cut and run. Why are we such cowards?



Dear Lucy,

Like any other relationship, friendships are rarely perfect. Friends make seamless accommodations to one another all the time. But when larger issues or conflicts arise, they can suddenly create a wedge between two people. Perhaps, it's something one friend said or did that hurt the other person, or something she didn't say or do when she should have. Given the many myths associated with female friendships, it's easy to hold close friends up to unrealistic standards, and to feel disappointed or betrayed when they don't measure up.

So why don't friends just talk about it?

• Some women are afraid of dealing with a conflict or disagreement, even at the risk of losing a good friend.

• Some women don't know how to broach an uncomfortable subject because they lack self-confidence or experience resolving friendship problems. It may feel easier to avoid the problem and ditch the friend.

• Some women decide, rightly or wrongly, that a friendship is irreparable. Perhaps, words were exchanged that were so hurtful that they can't be taken back or undone. Or perhaps, things were building up for some time and this was the proverbial last straw.

More times than not, problems between friends can be resolved with open and honest communication. Think about it: There is usually much more to be gained than lost by trying to resolve a misunderstanding and if it doesn't work out, you are no worse off for trying. Thanks for your question reminding us that the risks are worthwhile if the relationship is a meaningful one.


Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at