Hard Truths About Friendships From Girlfriends

“My girlfriends, there through thick and thin. My girlfriends, there for anything. My girlfrieeennddsss”

Who else has been binging Girlfriends seasons on Netflix since they dropped? I know I have been enjoying every minute of these episodes. They definitely hit different now that I am an adult and not a pre-teen/teen trying to watch them. I can now relate and understand the storylines and the experiences of the characters more. I feel like I have run into quite a few Joans, Maya’s, Lynn, and whew, Toni’s. 

These girlfriends had their share of laughs, tears, drama, and fun. But one thing remained consistent throughout the seasons. That one thing is the importance of their friendships. I’m sure we have all been taught about making friends throughout childhood. We knew to pick friends based on similar interests like toys and colors and games. As adults, we probably still choose friends off of similarities, but there are a lot more factors we have to consider when choosing and maintaining friendships. 

This is what “Girlfriends” has taught me about adult friendships: 

Have boundaries and not expectations

Boundaries are so important as we grow older. It’s something that is easily overlooked because if you’re like Joan and want to be a “people pleaser” and always put people first, you tend to overlook your own needs and place yourself on the backburner. This is when you need boundaries. You need to be able to say NO. And mean it. Boundaries give us some personal space, literally and figuratively. We don’t always want our friends to share our secrets and sometimes we don’t always want their input. And that’s okay. There are just some imaginary lines that do not need to be crossed. 

Now while having boundaries, it is also important to make sure you are not having unrealistic and unfair expectations for your friends. This is a hard adult lesson I keep having to relearn. You can’t expect you from someone else. Let me make that clear. Just because you would respond or react a certain way, does not mean that everyone should respond or react that same way. It’s unfair to them and its also setting yourself up for heartbreak. 

Friendship eval: How are you establishing and maintaining boundaries? Are you letting unrealistic expectations interfere with your friendships? 

The importance of reliable friends

One thing these ladies did do often was show up. Well, there was that one time when Joan didn’t but…yea…most of the time they did show up for one another. Whether it was events, pep talks, or to lend a shoulder to cry on, they were always present in their friendships. That is very important in a friendship. You want to have reciprocity in your relationships. You want to receive what you put out. 

Let’s face it, life in 2020 is challenging and in a year of such unpredictability, you want to have some dependable people in your corner when you’re up and when you’re down. Even if it’s something as simple as a phone call or text during this pandemic, you want to be present, and know that your friends are also present, in your friendships. Sometimes all we need is someone who will show up for us.

Friendship eval: How are you and your friends showing up for each other? What does “showing up” mean to you?

Therapy is okay. 

Look I was so happy when Joan had her breakthrough in therapy. I was a little proud of Toni for at least attempting and continuing her own sessions. I am most proud that a show based in the early 2000s discussed therapy in the black community in a positive light. 

So that brings me to my point. Therapy is okay. You can go to church, pray, vent to friends, and still go to therapy. It is okay. And it can definitely help you find some breakthroughs that can help you be a better friend, like Toni, or set up some boundaries for your friendships, like Joan. As women, it is easy to go to your friends for advice and to vent but sometimes talking to a third party could do you some good. That third party can help us understand our friendship dynamics better and help us understand our own behaviors while we are in these friendships.

Friendship eval: How are you communicating about your friendships? How are you communicating with your friends? 

Sometimes your friends (or you) can be toxic

Toxic friendships and relationships were definitely displayed throughout the seasons of Girlfriends. Each relationship had its own elements of toxicity, whether it was the body image teasing, the namecalling, or the moments when the girls just could not keep secrets. But one relationship was the most toxic (in my opinion) and that was Joan’s and Toni’s friendship. We saw them go through many disputes and silent treatments and that can be normal in any friendship. Of course you won’t always get along or agree. But the underlying reasons for their fights was what made it toxic. 

These two friends often found themselves in unhealthy, unannounced competitions with each other. They were jealous of each other’s success or life changes. And these silent competitions and the jealousy would creep out and cause disruptions in their friendships. In my opinion, friendships can’t survive jealousy. We should be genuinely happy for our friends success no matter what stage we are in life. 

And we should want our friends to take whatever steps necessary to better themselves. Beware of friends like Toni, who tried to pressure Joan into quitting therapy. How toxic was that? 

Friendship eval: Are you able to recognize when your friendships have become unhealthy and toxic? 

Sometimes we just outgrow each other. 

As we grow we enter new seasons of life. Sometimes the people we love the most might not fit in those seasons. In the sixth season of the show, we see each of the women entering different seasons in life. Maya moved out of the city, Toni was focusing on being a single mother and her custody battle, Joan was living an A-List Celeb lifestyle, and Lynn was, you know, being Lynn. Lynn was the first one to begin to notice how the friendship dynamic was changing. Joan and Toni were consistently at odds and their issues drove a wedge between the four of them. Changes are a part of life. And it’s not uncommon for your friendships to change when you enter new phases on your journey. 

Raise your hand if you have outgrown or had some friends outgrow you along the way. I know I have. It hurts but sometimes it’s probably for the best. Sometimes we just outgrow people, places, and things. And we only cause more damage when we try to force the fit. Look at Issa and Molly and Kelly and Tiffany, from Insecure. Life happens and sometimes things just change. 

Friendship eval: Are you able to recognize and accept when you and a friend have outgrown each other? 

Friendships are a beautiful thing and they should be cherished. There are so many other factors to consider when making and maintaining healthy and positive freindships. Effective and healthy communication is definitely one that will help carry friendships a long way. 

Friendships are so important in these days. We want to feel loved, supported, and connected. There’s nothing like having a girls night with your crew and you’re all letting your hair down and enjoying each other’s company. 

So grab your girlfriends this weekend (and your masks) and do something you all enjoy! Catch up on missed time and check on each other’s wellness. I’m sure you could use that time!

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