I had a call the other day – the wife of a friend who was calling to talk to me about a problem her husband has – with us, well, more his mate, my husband. This friend believes that he may have offended, all because the contact with him hasn’t been followed through. Now while I was chatting away to her it got me thinking how important it is to keep the communication open and honest between people so that misunderstandings are avoided. Which led me to another thought about the need to maintain friendships. Like any relationship, friendships need effort and time and no excuses.

I wondered if this was a trait of the more emotionally astute – trying not to be gender biased. Although it does appear to me that women are very apt at maintaining friendships and many of them, by regular coffee catch-ups, quick emails or even simple Facebook hellos. But men have friends – long standing friends – so what do they do to keep those friendships alive? And what is different about female and male friendships?

According to a Wall Street Journal article there are some serious differences between male and female friendships (Really????). Women tend to be very open with each other about …everything. Men, not surprisingly, are not. They are more about doing than feeling. But according to said article – they are very good at maintaining friendships.

Research shows men develop their friend-base up to age 30, where women have a tendency to focus on career and motherhood during this stage (I think that is changing). Bizarrely, whilst scientific evidence has shown that friendship between women has a calming almost healing effect during stressful times by releasing the hormone oxytoxin, it is during the times that we get overly busy with family and work that we let go of the very friendships that can help us live better. Both groups, however, really start to cultivate stronger friendships and reconnect to old friends in their 40s. Perhaps a realisation that you can’t go through life alone?

So what is the key to maintaining any friendship? Communication. It doesn’t have to be all the time, just often enough for the other person to feel that they and their friendship are valued. “It is true that men don’t easily show intimacies and revelations of strong emotional response, but it doesn’t mean the relationships are not filled with trust deep regard and respect, fun and sometimes crisis support. Men relate to men quite well just not the same way that women relate to women”, Dr Roger Gould, a New York psychiatrist observed.

 

So why has our friend developed this problem? It may lie purely in the fact that my husband is out of practice. Out of practice communicating or out of practice planning social occasions. Generally women are the social planners whether by design or default. But in our house, I have noticed now, our social calendar is initiated by others (wives of mates or mates themselves) but less often by us and that is something that we as a couple need to work on to help maintain those valuable friendships, his,mine and ours.