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Susan Shapiro Barash Headshot

Confusing Friendship With Twinship

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So often women are drawn to other women because their stories and circumstances are so similar to theirs. After all, who isn't ready to dish about a tiff with her sister, a troublesome boss, a daughter who won't listen or concerns about money. It's soothing to be with someone who is right there, with the same struggles, in the same stage of life, or suffers an affliction so similar to yours. It's as if you speak in code.

The gender identity of female friends is riveting to begin with, but once we are 'twins' in terms of our experiences (maybe you're both pregnant, engaged, relocated, mothers of five year olds, gym rats, divorcees...), it's beyond attractive. It feels as if you're found and known at last. It's a relief to be with someone who understands how you feel not because you explain it well but because she's in the exact same place. Often times, after trading emails with the friend who perfectly reflects your experience, the friendships with those who have disparate lifestyles become less significant and pale in comparison.

It can be tiring to describe your battles with weight or your teenager's curfew demands or your husband's unhappy career with someone who doesn't have this in her life. Surely it's easier to cancel lunch with a friend who also has a toddler with a spiky fever than to cancel with the friend who is still single, in the city, continuing to relish an apple martini after work. Perhaps with the latter a tension arises when you ask her to muster some empathy. Just as it frustrates you, she may become exhausted from the effort herself.

In comparison, when you're with your 'twin,' you can confide in how disappointing old friends, from the old days prove to be and she'll agree. So if the old friend thinks you've abandoned her while you believe it's the other way around, the loss is mitigated by your new friends, in your new stage of life.

As friends from a former life fall by the wayside, women frequently say it's because they haven't time for a friend whose trajectory is not like theirs. They choose to prioritize those friends who are in the same place emotionally, physically and financially. If this seems a short cut, it's easy enough to forgive, because our days are so full and we are pulled in many directions. Who wouldn't prefer a friend where there are mutual benefits and immediate gratifications?

The problem is that even with the new friend whose perceptions and attitudes are like yours, circumstances change and friendships don't exist in a vacuum. Life is all about change, a quality we both dread and yearn for, and friendships, particularly those where women have set themselves up as 'twins', may suffer the consequences. If we expect our friends to reflect us precisely, we might feel let down when the friends' lives veer off course and they can no longer be the support system they had in the past.

A way to lessen this disappointment is to recognize a friend's uniqueness from the start, and to not believe that you are sworn to the same lifestyle and same journey. If you view yourselves as separate, then you are able to embrace your differences and remain friends when you no longer celebrate or struggle in an identical way. When your paths are no longer parallel, it isn't a betrayal, but about a real bond that exists beyond the 'twinning phase' and exists no matter what, based on mutual respect and care.

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