Dear Louise: I don't have any close female friends

I am in my mid-30s and female. I don’t have any close female friends.I don’t know why I can’t maintain close female friendships. Is there something I am doing wrong?

Dear Louise: I don't have any close female friends

I am in my mid-30s and female. I don’t have any close female friends.

I have fallen out with or had to stop being friends with the women in my life.

I have close male friends, but I feel lonely without good female friends. I am bubbly and kind-hearted.

I don’t know why I can’t maintain close female friendships. Is there something I am doing wrong?

I see women with close female friends around them and I envy them.

What is wrong with me that they don’t care enough to make the effort I do?

The thing I was first struck by when I read your letter was this — you write, “I have close male friends but I feel lonely without good female friends”.

I suppose my first question to you is, why? What is it that your male friends aren’t giving you (and presumably they are decent friends as you describe your relationship as ‘close’) that you believe you will find in a female friend?

Are you able to identify what that quality is? You say you’re lonely. Are you lonely because you feel like you’re missing out a sense of camaraderie with other women?

Do your male friends allow you enough space to be vulnerable? Do you feel like you have to behave in a certain way around them because you’re of a different gender?

I’m curious about this because a part of me is wondering if you feel under pressure, that because society expects women to have incredibly intimate relationships with one another, you’re afraid you’re ‘failing’ because you don’t currently have that (spoiler — you’re not failing).

Female friendship is often fetishised. Since we were little girls, we knew the importance of having that One Best Friend, the person who would be our Ride or Die, no matter what the circumstances.

We all want that person who will help us bury a body at 3am, no questions asked.

As a woman who attended single-sex schools and then entered into professions which are predominantly female (fashion and publishing), I’ve always had more female friends than male.

Those relationships have, at times, been intense, complicated, messy, enmeshed, but they have also been uplifting, mutually supportive, and deeply necessary.

But while I love those women, I’m not sure if I believe that their gender is the most important part of our connection.

Yes, it’s nice to have a shorthand, a shared language if you will, as our life experiences of navigating the world in a female body often intersect.

But in a true friendship, regardless of gender identification, you should feel free to be you, with all your strengths and all of your flaws.

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes; we say things we shouldn’t have, we can be thoughtless, insensitive.

Sometimes we let others down, inadvertently or not. But we need to be able to acknowledge these mistakes and strive to do better next time, and this seems to have been an issue with your former friends.

In your letter, you talk about these friends being ‘takers’ or the relationship being ‘one-sided’. You mention the one time you brought up your discomfort with their behaviour, they ‘disappeared’.

I must stress here that you were perfectly entitled to express your hurt and disappointment; it is not your fault that they couldn’t hear it and hold a space for your feelings.

You should be proud of yourself for standing up for yourself, and for asking for your needs to be met. Not everyone is capable of doing that!

While it is never pleasant to hear criticism, if we are secure enough in ourselves, we should be able to listen to others’ concerns without becoming defensive or going on the attack.

I’m sorry your friends were unable to do that for you. Sometimes, people are just not ready to be who we need them to be.

They are on their own journey right now, as are you.

I could give you a great deal of advice on how to find new friends. Like an agony aunt from an old issue of J17 magazine, I could tell you to take up a hobby, join a club, take an evening class (valid advice, and definitely worth trying).

I would reassure you that, despite what people might tell you, it doesn’t have to get harder to make new friends as you get older, you just have to remain open to it.

But actually, the most important thing is to take some time out and focus on your sense of self. In your letter, you write, “it’s like I am nothing” and you ask “what is wrong with me?”

To feel as if you are ‘nothing’ is an incredibly bleak state to be in. I ask you: What is it you want in a female friend?

Do you want someone to be kind to you? To be gentle and encouraging? To love you unconditionally?

Well, as cliched as it sounds, you have to be that friend to yourself now.

You have to treat yourself the way a best friend would, and no best friend worth having would ever make you feel like ‘nothing’.

Believe in that, my friend. Hold tight.

Submit your questions to asklouise@examiner.ie

One of the strongest, feminist voices in Ireland today, Louise is the author of best-selling books including Asking For It and Only Ever Yours.

'Dear Louise' returns next month.

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