Fact, Not Fiction: Friendships Matter

thI moved fifteen times in the first twenty years of marriage. Developing meaningful relationships was difficult during those nomadic years. With each move, I ached for intimate friendships—actually, one good friend would have been great. After six months or so, I’d stagger into depression. Horrible, shame-filled thoughts raced through my head. “There must be something wrong with me.” “I’m obviously not worthy of friendship.” “Why does having a friend matter so much; I have Jesus, shouldn’t he be enough?” And I did have Jesus, but I wanted a friend to talk to and pray with when I didn’t know what to do about my kids or when I couldn’t understand the anger and grief oozing from my pores. I wanted someone to KNOW my heart, and I knew that friendships affected me deep inside. At last, science has confirmed what my heart sensed. A study at UCLA echoed for me what I instinctively knew: healthy relationships with other women matter significantly.

When faced with stress, humans have a fight or flight response; however, an additional rush of chemicals and hormones (oxytocin) pours into a woman’s system. As it is released, these hormones increase the desire to tend and protect children and be around other women for comfort and support. Seriously! The researchers called this response “tend and befriend.” When women begin to “tend and befriend,” more oxytocin is released—creating a calming effect on the body and mind. This is how we are made. There is nothing weird about longing to have meaningful female friendships. It’s a safety net for our children and us.

More than that, women with multiple friends and types of female relationships seem to live longer, are healthier, and have fewer illnesses. Researchers conjecture that this may be one of the primary reasons women live longer than men—the oxytocin produced by relationships calms the affects of stressors, and that impacts our bodies long-term.

One of the ironies is that when we are overwhelmed, depressed, or in a trial, we often do the opposite of tending and befriending—we isolate and flee. Evil tempts us to avoid what God designed and urges us to nurse our wounds in a vacuum. At least that’s how it works for me.

I’m not a “science-first” kind of girl, but this research explains biologically why I enjoy the company of women. It helps explain the loosening of tight muscles and joy I can experience when I share my sorrows with another woman.

As I waited for deep relationships to form, the ache of loneliness was bitter. However, I saw Romans 8:28 at work. In my solitude, I developed an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer and the word. As I pushed myself to initiate relationships with others, I became more hospitable and developed compassion for others. And Jesus was and is faithful, and he was present with me, even though it didn’t always FEEL that way. The Lord is near to all who call upon him (Psalm 145:18a). (NASB)

From Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a and12b we read, Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (NIV)

Relationships matter, especially to women, and we are stronger together than we are alone. Fact! Not fiction.

For the complete report on the study and scientific research, copy and paste this website information into your search bar.

http://taylorlab.psych.ucla.edu/2000_Biobehavioral%20responses%20to%20stress%20in%20females_tend-and-befriend.pdf

For a summary of the article, copy and paste this website. http://robotics.usc.edu/~agents/miscellaneous/resources/data/UCLA_Study_On_Friendship_Among_Women.pdf

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