The other day a friend sent me a link to an article on Empowher.com called “Do You Have Some Bad Friends? Fire Them!” When I clicked on the link I didn’t expect to see anything new, just the usual rundown of why certain friendships turn toxic and why doing a friendship cleanse can be the best thing for your emotional health.
Before I could dive into the text, I was struck by the story’s byline. It was written by a man. Not a psychologist or therapist or relationship expert. Just a guy.
To be fair, this author seems like a wonderful person who, according to his bio, was the caregiver to his wife during four bouts with breast cancer. He is the founder of an organization called The Patient/Partner Project and the author of a book called “Cancer for Two.” So it’s not like he’s some Joe Schmo off the street.
But still, my first thought when I saw his name was, “What could this guy know from BFF breakups?”
A lot of what Dave Balch writes is spot-on. Like, “the bottom line is that relationships with some friends are more stressful than they are beneficial.” And “we sometimes end romantic relationships when they no longer work; why is it so hard to end friendships when they no longer work?”
But then I came to this line, regarding the decision to dump a friend: “It only hurts for a little while.”
Here is what I have learned while writing this blog and hearing from women who have broken up with friends: It hurts for a long while.
This reaction to severed friendships is the most striking difference between men and women. Men have a really hard time wrapping their heads around how difficult it can be when two friends “separate.” To guys, it’s good riddance. While women are agonizing over what went wrong, and just how horribly guilty we feel (even when we know we did the right thing), men are wondering why we even broke up with said friend if we’re just going to weep over it all the time.
I’m not one to say that men shouldn’t write about women’s issues. One of the great friendship books I read last year, The Girls From Ames, was written by a man. But one of the great parts about that book was that author Jeffrey Zaslow addressed his vantage point as a female friendship “outsider” from the get-go. He was honest about the fact that, as a man, he couldn’t presume to truly understand female friendship without immersing himself in the research and the women he studied.
The author of this article clearly didn’t do anything wrong, and the advice he gives is pretty solid. But as I read the piece, with the caveat that it was from a man’s perspective in the back of my head, I couldn’t help but smile when he wrote: “It only hurts for a little while.” I’m still holding a grudge about the friend breakup from fourth grade. I know. Mature.
Ah, men. They just don’t get us.
Do you take issue when men write stories about female relationships?