Friendships Between Women vs Men: What’s Different and Why?

One of the most gratifying outcomes we see on our AdventureWomen trips is the incredible friendships which are formed between our women travelers. Complete strangers morph into new friends sharing common interests, passions, and goals and excited to learn from each other and share with each other.

Adventurous women traveling in Iceland in 2019.

One question we’ve heard women debate over the years is are the friendships between women any different from those formed between men?

Is it true, for example, that women tend to share more internal emotional connections, feelings and reactions while men tend to share more external, activity or transactional (activity-based) connections? We decided to dive into the research among psychologists and sociologists to find out!

Marital and Family Therapist and PhD, Tara Bates-Dufour describes 5 ways in which male and female friendships differ:

  • Women are more demanding when it comes to friendships. Females seek a strong emotional attachment with the women (and men) they choose as friends. Women also require more frequent contact with someone they consider to be a friend. Male-to-male friendships tend to be more casual than female-female friendships. Many men will consider someone a friend even if they do not maintain or stay in constant contact.
  • Men are happy trading off, reciprocating favors with one another, working on projects together and hanging out in a group of acquaintances, “the more the merrier’ while women typically prefer to go out with one or two close friends.
  • Male-to-male friendships tend to be “side-to-side”, fostered and maintained through shared activity while female-to- female friendships are more frequently “face-to-face” and are fueled by investment in the friendship and by more communication, personal connection and mutual support.
  • Men are more likely to use humor to taunt a friend, viewing this as innocent fun whereas women are more likely to refrain from taunting and poking fun at someone else out of a fear that this might hurt their friend’s feelings.
  • Male-to-male friendships are less fragile than women-to-women friendships. Men are more likely to remain friends after an argument or a fight whereas women are not.

Another research study using samples of men and women in New Zealand and the U.S. has pointed to one reason that these patterns may have evolved. This study shows that men, in contrast to women, derive more emotional support and therapeutic value from their opposite-sex relationships than from their same-sex friendships.

AdventureWomen guests kayaking in Croatia in 2019.

Other studies show that formation of friendships in children are heavily influenced by parental patterns of behavior. And still other evidence points to complicating factors associated with how men tend to form friendships as boys and adolescents versus as adults. Boys often choose many casual friends based on common sports or games while most of their few, strong relationships are based on shared, deep secrets. Because of this, it can be harder for them if they lose these close friendships, fearing that their secrets will be revealed. Boys can also be more afraid of a friend’s betrayal than girls because it is so hard for them to make new, strong friendships. When boys grow up and become adults, their casual friendships become less important and research shows that these connections are often lost to time.

We find these insights fascinating.  What do you think? Are friendships between women fundamentally just different than those between men? Is this another case of “Mars vs Venus”? Tell us your thoughts Adventure Women!

Adventure women traveling in Japan 2018