Women's Friendships: How We Connect

Excerpted from I Know Just What You Mean: The Power of Friendship in Women's Lives

Friendship matters to women. It matters a lot. Women today -- with lives often in transition -- depend on friends more than ever. Many who once believed family was the center of life now know that friends may be the difference between a lonely life and a lively one.

You might say we've been writing this book for twenty-six years. Maybe it's the logical outcome for two writing friends. It amazes us now to look back and see what we've been building: the story of our friendship is the story of our divorces, our children, careers, loves, losses, remarriages. We rarely made a move without each other's opinion or listening ear.… We moved from youth through middle age with the requisite accumulation of both wisdom and caution that -- when shared -- made each of us stronger than we would have been alone.

When we asked women how they defined what a close friend is, they leaped past the adjectives to describe the impact: being known and accepted, understood to the core, trust and loyalty you can count on, having someone on your side. Having someone to share worries and secrets as well as the good stuff of life. Someone who needs you in return.

Somewhere in the meaning of the word ''trust'' is the assumption that a friend has your best interest at heart. Friends can be the collaborators, the instigators who make change possible. They are often the ones who urge us to take a leap, who jump with us or help us scramble back up the other side.

Talk is at the very heart of women's friendship, the core of the way women connect. It's the given, the absolute assumption of friendship. It can be serious or funny, painful or exuberant, intense or joyous. But at the heart of the connections made is one sentence that women repeat over and over: ''I know just what you mean.''

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