A good girlfriend is just as (more?) important as a loving partner. There. I’ve said it. Because a good female friendships is an exceptionally valuable thing. A woman you can count on to be there, no matter what the circumstance, to laugh or cry with, to talk or be silent with. A confidant, a counselor: they’re essential to a happy life.

In the friendship department, I consider myself to be hugely lucky. My two most-valued friendships are with extraordinary women who aren’t just my friends. I’ve loved them longer than I’ve loved my husband. They’ve been there through the best and worst times of my life.

These women have saved my sanity more times than I care to admit.

The power and importance of the close female friendship is examined in this wonderful story, What Women Find In Friends That They May Not Get From Love, by Rebecca Traister, which appeared in The New York Times. It details one woman’s journey through life, with her best friend at her side. Through jobs, boyfriend and changes of states, they had the kind of relationship that’s above that which a man can provide.

Some of the best bits…

Girlfriends: not a new concept

Female friendship has been the bedrock of women’s lives for as long as there have been women. In earlier eras, when there was less chance that a marriage, entered often for economic reasons, would provide emotional or intellectual succor, female friends offered intimate ballast.

Women supporting women is powerful

Unlike my few youthful romances, which had mostly depleted me, my female friendships were replenishing, and their salubrious effect expanded into other layers of my life: They made things I yearned for, like better work, fairer remuneration, increased self-assurance and even just fun, seem more attainable. Female friendship was not a consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with one another are not settling. In fact, they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital that is lacking in their romantic entanglements, and thus setting their standards healthily higher.

Female friendships are precious, but not necessarily easy…

We have no good blueprint for how to integrate the contemporary intimacies of female friendship and of marriage into one life. In this one small (but not insignificant) way, I think, 19th-century women were lucky, with their largely unsatisfying marriages and segregation into a subjugated and repressed gender caste. They had it easier on this one front: They could maintain an allegiance to their female friends, because there was a much smaller chance that their husbands were going to play a competitively absorbing role in their emotional and intellectual lives.