Friendship Rules
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Galentine's Day: 5 Ways to Celebrate Female Friendships

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When images of hearts, chocolates and flowers begin popping up all over, you know that Valentine’s Day is soon approaching. Of course, the holiday has become highly commercialized since its origins in the 1800s: Couples typically celebrate by exchanging gifts, cards and other expressions of affection. After Mother’s Day, it’s the second busiest day for dining out at restaurants.

Yet, as nice as it is to have a spouse or lover on Valentine’s Day, neither one can substitute for a close female friend. Spending time with a good friend is as comfortable as slipping into a pair of well-worn jeans. Best friends often seem joined at the hip because they never run out of things to discuss, always find something to laugh about, and share secrets they would never reveal to anyone else. What guy can possibly understand how the seasonal terror of looking for a bathing suit that makes you feel good?

Even when friendships are challenged by geography or changed life circumstances (e.g., graduation, marriage, new careers, giving birth, serious illness, etc.), the bonds of sisterhood are so strong that they can overcome these hurdles. But all friendships, even very good ones, require nurturance to survive and thrive.

Galentine’s Day is the perfect time for friends to recognize the importance of these vital ties.

What the heck is Galentine’s Day?

Galentine’s Day is celebrated on February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, each year. Much like the holiday tradition of Festivus popularized on Seinfeld, Galentine’s Day is another product of pop-culture. The writers of the award-winning sit-com, Parks and Recreation, created this one.

On Episode 16 of the show’s second season (which first aired in February 2010), the lead character Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) throws her annual Galentine’s Day brunch for female friends, proclaiming it the “best day of the year.” Since then it’s moved from the screen to terra firma, catching on with many women.

How to celebrate

If you want to nurture the female friendships that sustain you, here are five ways you can celebrate on February 13:

1) Gather your friends

Mid-week get-togethers can be tough, especially when women are juggling school, work and/or family. But get a babysitter or plan ahead to figure out a way to set aside time to do something you enjoy with friends. Meet for cocktails after work; invite your bestie to join you for a self-indulgent manicure, massage or spa day; or organize a group lunch for female co-workers or potluck dinner at home for your girlfriends.

2) Plan a future getaway

If you haven’t had face-time with your bestie for a long time, don’t count on your shared memories alone to last forever. Make plans to schedule a girlfriend getaway this spring or summer. Begin the planning process on Galentine’s Day. Talk about where you would both like to go and what you want to do.

3) Craft a hand-written note

At a time when most written communication between friends is electronic, a hand-written note can really have an impact. It’s far more impressive than sending a stock greeting card, too. Wish your friend(s) a Happy Galentine’s Day and tell her, in writing, how much and why you value her friendship.

4) Send flowers

Unless she has severe allergies, it’s hard to find a woman who doesn’t love receiving flowers at her doorstep or desktop. If they arrive on Galentine’s Day, she’ll probably think that they are an early Valentine’s Day delivery. Flowers from a girlfriend are even more disarming than ones received from a guy.

5) Help other women

Dispel the myth that women are competitive and aren’t supportive of one another. Pay it forward and do something nice for your neighbor, the mom you met at the PTA meeting or a co-worker. You can offer to babysit, take on a special task or help out a sister in some other meaningful way. Or else reach out to a stranger by making a commitment to volunteer your time to help the less fortunate.

Because Galentine’s Day has few rituals attached to it, you can figure out a way to celebrate that reflects your own style and sensibilities.

Friendship: 5 Myths and Misperceptions

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Friendships are unique and complicated. Not only do they vary from person to person but also, from one relationship to another. While no friendship is perfect, individuals are often reluctant to discuss the darker side of friendships — when it’s tough to make friends or friendships don’t pan out as we hoped they would. As a result, these relationships are often shrouded in mystery, myths and misperceptions:

Here are five common friendship myths:

Myth #1 - It’s too late to make friends.

Irrespective of age, many people feel like everyone else is already paired up and it’s too late to make new friends. It is true that the high school and college years are usually the easiest times for making new friends: People with similar interests and at a similar stage in life are thrown together in the same place at the same time. After that, our lives diverge as we pursue different career and romantic interests, and geography creates distances between old friends. But remember: Everyone else is in the same proverbial boat.

The reality: Friendships are dynamic and change over time so it’s never too late to make new friends.

Myth #2 - When it comes to friends, blood is thicker than water.

Many people say they don’t need friends because they have strong family ties – whether they’re with siblings, parents or spouses. “But friends can give us something that our families may not be able to, because our friends can look at us with eyes that aren't affected by the baggage of growing up in the same household,” says psychologist and friendship expert Andrea Bonior, PhD. “They may appreciate aspects of our personalities that our families have grown so accustomed to that they don't see. Even better, we have the freedom to choose our friends, and can aspire to pick people that are actively good choices for companionship, no matter what families we were born into,” she adds.

The reality: Family ties aren’t a substitute for the bonds of friendship.

Myth #3 – I’m the only one with no friends

Society often judges people, especially women, by their ability to make and keep friends. So while having no friends is a common situation, people are embarrassed to admit to friendlessness. As work colleagues talk about their busy social calendars, the friendless often shrink back. This myth can be self-perpetuating, however, because feeling deficient or undeserving of friends tends to erode an individual’s self-confidence.

The reality: Friendlessness and loneliness are common in our society. Having no friends may be situational (e.g., lack of opportunity), a consequence of temperament (e.g., being extremely shy or introverted) or a mix of the two.

Myth #4 - Friends always see things the same way.

If you think that friends do or should always see things the same way, you are likely to be disappointed. Moreover, you may give up on a worthwhile friendship rather than resolve conflicts, which are normal in any relationship. “One of the biggest cognitive benefits of friendship is being exposed to perspectives that are different than our own,” says Dr. Bonior, author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing and Keeping Up with Your Friend. “The reason that friends can help us grow so much is that they often shake up our thinking, or get us out of a behavioral rut,” she adds, “from urging us to see a certain film to giving us an opinion that comes from a life lived differently than our own, friends are often a breath of fresh air that expands and enriches our perspective of the world.“

The reality: Good friends don’t always see eye to eye so they need to communicate and resolve little problems before they fester into big ones.

Myth #5 - Friendships are forever.

“A friendship, at its heart, is two people's connection at a certain point in time,” says Dr. Bonior. “Sometimes, this time lasts for years or even decades. But other times, a friendship may be much briefer — especially if it is cut short by life transitions such as job changes or relocations, or even if it just naturally comes to a close as people's lives change more subtly. But just because a friendship doesn't last forever doesn't mean it isn't meaningful.” She adds: “The joy and growth you experience from that connection is something that you can carry with you, and that may permanently (if subtly) change you.”

The reality: “Just because a friendship wasn't able to be sustained doesn't mean the friendship was flawed or invalid,” says Dr. Bonior.

*Dr. Bonior is also author of the recently released book: Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World.

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Journalist Irene S. Levine leads a bifurcated life as a relationship expert and travel writer.