The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We may struggle to know what ‘love’ is. And love is difficult to define, whether you come to this conclusion from looking at the philosophy of love or merely by listening to Haddaway’s 90s classic What is love(a brilliant song, btw).
We may never know exactly what love is, but a misconception we often have is that love has to be related to a romantic relationship. I think we often forget how platonic relationships can also teach us a lot about what love is and what it can mean to us.
Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love has recently become particularly popular, due in part to a TikTok trend and the recent BBC series adaptation, for demonstrating how female friendships can teach us so much about love and can rival romantic relationships in this sense.
There’s something inherently powerful about female friendships. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that they’re objectively the best platonic relationship out there. But, at least in my own personal experience, they are. They bring so much joy to my life and are genuinely such a pure form of love and type of relationship.
Inspired by Alderton’s book, I wanted to compile a list of things I’ve learned about love from my own female friendships. So here goes …
1. Love is an act of uplifting each other
One power which female friendships have is they almost always have this inherent dedication to making sure the other is uplifted. There’s a lot wrong with our world, and many odds are stacked against women, but a kind of silver lining in all of this, if you can even call it that, is our genuine desire to uplift one another.
The female friendships I have in my life have helped me deal with my own personal insecurities. A slightly silly one, because I don’t really know if I want to outpour my deepest insecurities with you just yet, is that I’m not a particularly huge fan of my nose. Even with insecurities I would label silly, my friends have been amazing at reassuring me and making me feel worthy and uplifted.
Whenever I have turned to my friends for advice, they have often taken time to uplift me and make me feel worthy and loved. This is something I really hope to be able to return the favour for. And I don’t think the impact this can have on your mood should be underappreciated.
The beauty of this kind of relationship and the genuine desire to uplift one another is remarkable. I think that’s really what love is all about. And I believe this is true for any other type of relationship too. I really believe that one of the fundamental aspects of loving anyone, a significant other, friend or family member, is the desire to want the best for them and want to uplift them when they’re weary and beaten down.
Love, if anything, should be expressed selflessly. It’s about helping people stay afloat when they’re struggling. And this is true in any instance, not just when it comes to female friendships.
2. Love is an act of supporting each other
I guess this one links to the above, but I think it’s worth noting that sometimes female friendships or any relationship for that matter, will need to help the other cope in situations where they can’t always be immediately uplifted. Sometimes your friend may be facing a long-term problem instead. Still, I feel as though female friends tend to be pretty good (generally speaking) at supporting each other through emotional difficulty, personal trauma, stress, difficult periods, etc. We also have a lot of shared frustration, which we may need support navigating because of the state of the world and the ways it keeps knocking us down.
There’s an emotional dimension to female friendships, generally speaking. This likely has to do with how women generally thrive on having close relationships and emotional support from their loved ones. This makes it easier for us to share our problems and feelings with each other and seek support. Spending time with ‘girlfriends’ is often very emotionally rewarding and can genuinely help someone who needs support.
When I’ve struggled with my well-being in the past, though it’s not my friends’ job at all to solve my problems or therapise me, female friendships have really helped me cope. When I was recently struggling with heartbreak, my friends helped me get through (after a two-hour crying sesh at Varsity, RIP my dignity) by telling me everything they love about me and encouraging a spontaneous girls’ night afterwards.
I often feel that a lot of what I struggle with is often what my friends struggle with too. There are so many issues women face that really help bond us, and the support we can provide each other is incomparable. Whether it’s making you breakfast in bed, taking you out to enjoy karaoke (I think this one really depends on the person in question as I’m horrendous at karaoke, haha) to take your mind off things or taking you out for coffee for a deep chat, there’s always a way they come to support you when you need in whatever way they can. And often, a lot of what you’re dealing with is a shared experience in some capacity.
I really do think that supporting the person you love is the ultimate demonstration of your love for them. However, this might be because my love language is quality time and acts of service. I genuinely believe that this is true for any relationship, romantic or otherwise. You and the person in question should genuinely want to support each other through the good, the bad and the ugly. Because ultimately, that’s what demonstrates the depth of your care for one another. And, at the end of the day, what’s more, loving than that?
3. Love is about acceptance of each other’s flaws
I think this is really worth saying, and often, it may involve the acceptance of flaws that may not even be obvious to us. Friends constantly accept you and your quirks, but sometimes they’ll have to put up with your flaws. And you’ll have to do the same for them, too, at least if you want the friendship to work. Even though these flaws exist, they continue to love, support and accept you, and you continue to love, support and accept them.
In fact, with female friendships, I feel as though we often have conversations, or at least this has been my experience with female friendships, about what we perceive to be our own flaws. I think a lot of this involves us trying to find our feet in this world. We’re bound to pick up some less than desirable habits and make mistakes along the way. Even though sometimes we may act out of line and mess up, you can count on the validation from your friendships to show you that you are still loved regardless.
The truth is, no one loves absolutely everything about the person they love. There will always be things you perceive as their flaws and vice versa. Perhaps they’re too stubborn, too honest, too careless or insensitive sometimes. The truth is, you likely embody just as many flaws yourself. Even though no one should put up with being mistreated, part of loving someone is embracing them fully. You embrace both the good and the slightly less-than-good.
A person is never going to be perfect, but, that doesn’t mean they’re unlovable. And the same applies to you. Love’s ultimately acceptance of flaws on both ends, and this can really be used in any relationship where a kind of love is involved.
4. Love is about learning from each other
You can truly learn so much from your friends about them and yourself. Learning from how the other lives their life, how they look at the world, their goals, their wants, their needs and how to care for a friend well.
My female friendships have taught me so much; here are some of the things they’ve taught me.
- I’ve recently acquired a lot of travel knowledge from my closest friend (mostly because we’re planning a post-university trip to Australia).
- I’ve learnt how to deal with anxiety better from my female friendships.
- I’ve learnt to view the world from an array of different perspectives.
- I’ve learnt how to support and care for them as nuanced individuals.
- I’ve learnt from what they want to achieve in life, and this has inspired me to follow my own dreams.
- I’ve learnt to be more confident in myself and my abilities from them.
- I’ve learnt to be grateful for what I have based on the things they’ve shared with me.
This is so true of any relationship where you care or love someone. If you learn from and with one another, it makes your relationship all the more beautiful. You develop into better people and will be more likely to find common growth. Learning from each other helps relationships maintain healthily and demonstrates your appreciation for the other person. In fact, sharing what you’ve learned from each other is a really special thing to do and a great expression of your love.
I’ve also learnt so much from my female friendships about how women exist in the world. I’ve learnt about the various difficulties we face and how ultimately, that bonds us together. In particular, my friends and I have recently learned about how women’s health issues, such as gaslighting, often aren’t taken very seriously and the serious implications that they can have on our lives.
Often women are pitted against each other. We’ve seen it time and time again. It feels as though the world can’t celebrate women without bringing another woman down. What springs to my mind is the recent Hailey vs Selena ordeal. I think it’s really telling that the world finds so much entertainment in pitting these female celebrities against each other and trashing one to praise the other. Regardless of whether you take a side in all of this or not, you have to admit it’s a little tiring witnessing the world pitting female celebrities against each other and ruthlessly tearing one down to praise the other time and time again.
Because of this tendency to tear women down, I think celebrating how we can learn from our female friendships is super important. There’s no need to pit women against each other. Each of us is special, and each of us deserves to be celebrated. I think there’s so much we can learn from each other instead of making out that every woman is in competition with each other. At least, this is what I’ve gathered from the female friendships in my life.
5. Love is about accepting each other’s growth
This is a big one. When you love someone, you should want the best for them. If they grow and change, part of loving them is understanding and accepting this change to be true. You’ve got to accept that they don’t stay the same forever, encourage change and their dreams, watch them learn from you and develop, and watch them succeed and sometimes fail.
Because I’m at such a formative part of my life, I feel like my friends are watching me grow, and I’m watching them grow at almost an accelerated rate. The transition from school to university meant I witnessed how my friends from school grew. And right now, it feels as though my university friends are constantly growing. I think there’s so much beauty in really embracing your friend’s growth and encouraging them to grow.
For the most part, my female friendships have been central to pursuing my goals and dreams and have really encouraged me to grow. At such an uncertain period in my life, having that kind of reassurance and support is beyond lovely. And I hope more than anything that I provide them with the same. Part of loving your friends is accepting they will move forward and change. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you at all; if anything, it means the contrary. If your friends value your friendship enough to continue to uphold it even in light of all the changes occurring, it means they truly do appreciate your friendship. You should want more than anything for your friends to be content and happy. And often, this means supporting their dreams and desire to grow and change.
I think this is so true of any kind of healthy relationship. Part of loving someone is loving them even when they grow and change as people. Their happiness should be a priority in the friendship, as much as yours should be. When you love someone, you should love them wholly; part of that is embracing the fact that you will grow as people. It’s only natural for this growth to happen. Though it may seem scary, strong relationships can endure this growth. It just requires optimism and communication. I really do think that growth should be seen as exciting as opposed to challenging. And the greatest way you can show your love for someone is to embrace their change and their dreams, as you would with your own.