Don't Skip Girls' Night!
Why Women-Only Time Is VitalBy Natasha Burton
Until recently I'd never experienced a true girls' night out. Sure, I'd skipped over to frat row with my female roommates in college. I went on a ladies-only trip to Mexico with my sorority sisters and even did a girls' weekend in Las Vegas once. But, truth be told, my heart really wasn't into the whole “just us gals” thing. I had ulterior (read: male-oriented) motives.
Those designated girls' nights and trips were often punctuated with “checking in” calls to a boyfriend, along with a nagging wish that the time would pass quickly so I could get back to him. What was I supposed to do with a bunch of women anyway — drink cosmos and complain about cramps? Plus, what was the point of getting all dressed up if there weren't boys to impress?
Given my guy-centric agenda, it probably comes as little surprise that I'm the type of girl who always has a boyfriend. Over the years I developed a bad habit of prioritizing these romantic relationships over my friendships with women. In college I bailed on my roommate's 21st birthday dinner to attend a Lakers game with my then-boyfriend. The guy became an ex, and my friendship with my roommate also ended. Although we lived together for three years, I wasn't invited to her wedding. And rightly so — I was always a better girlfriend than I ever was a friend. ...Read More
In choosing to miss out on the bonding time that my other female friends habitually enjoyed — thinking I was so smart for focusing on my romantic relationships instead — I lost something rather vital. According to Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., creator of The Friendship Blog and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-Up With Your Best Friend, no-guys-allowed time is valuable. “Other women also shape us as people. Our female friends provide virtual mirrors that allow us to see who we are and whom we want to become,” she says.
“With girlfriends, women can let it all hang out. Only other women understand your concerns about looking good or looking young [or] your career dreams that are still unrealized,” Levine notes. It's difficult to appreciate these kinds of conversations when you're checking your phone every three seconds to see if your boyfriend texted you back already.
Aside from the immediate effects of spending quality time with female friends, sustaining these friendships has a long-lasting positive impact on a woman's life. “Female friends enhance a woman's physical health and emotional well-being at every stage of her life,” Levine says. “And, because of the discrepancies in life expectancies between males and females, husbands frequently pre-decease their wives. Thus, girlfriends become vitally important to their sense of social support.”
In addition to these personal benefits, having separate social lives and other outlets for support helps build a healthy romantic relationship. Being that I prioritized my bonds with boyfriends, it would have behooved me to know that I couldn't put all of my emotional expectations on one person. “Being with girlfriends helps a woman feel more confident, better understood and more relaxed — making her a better mother, lover, wife or partner,” Levine says. “Time spent apart from a significant other also gives both partners a chance to breathe and to appreciate each other more when they are together.”
This breathing room is exactly what made me nervous. I didn't have the confidence to be my own person. Instead I latched on, developing my identity through being someone's girlfriend, making me incredibly dependent on those relationships. I saw myself in terms of the attention I was able to secure from men. Girls' nights felt forced, like a gender-segregated time quota I was supposed to be meeting rather than opportunities for me to reap the benefits of emotional support and happiness they could bring.
Years passed without a single girls-only trip. Then this summer I attended my friend Julie's bachelorette party in South Beach, Florida. As a first-time bridesmaid, I was excited to participate in the planning yet still anticipated being antsy for male company that weekend. At the very least, I expected to feel jealous or anxious: If she was getting married, I should be at that stage too, which would in turn make me wish I were back home with my boyfriend trying to make that happen.
But instead, I found myself busting out Elaine Benes-esque dance moves under the stars, laughing hysterically, my skin coated in sweat, my bangs stuck to my forehead, the only reprieve from the sticky heat being the fast-melting pina colada I was clutching (and trying not to spill) and surrounded by none other than nine other similarly shiny-faced women, most of whom I had only known for a handful of hours. I was actually having fun. Love him as I do, I wasn't hoping my boyfriend would magically appear. I didn't need my ego stroked by having some guy approach and offer to buy me a drink. (Though, at $18 a pina colada, I sure wouldn't have turned any of 'em down.)
This was a much needed attitude adjustment. Perhaps in growing up I've also grown comfortable seeing myself confidently as an individual rather than as a half of a coupled whole. Miraculously, nothing catastrophic happens when my boyfriend plays golf with the guys while I lunch and catch a yoga class with my girlfriends.
In fact, I can't wait till the next weekend in South Beach — and you better believe there will be no boys allowed.
Spending time with just the girls is a vital part of a woman's life.Stockbyte/Thinkstock
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