From the Staten Island Advance – on Friendship Circles

Published: May 26, 2010 | Last Updated: May 26, 2010 By | Reply Continue Reading

Fortify your Circle

By Elise McIntosh

May 25, 2010


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — If Carrie and Miranda didn’t exist, would
Charlotte and Samantha be BFFs? Probably not.

“Sex and the
City” fans eagerly awaiting the film’s sequel — in theaters Thursday —
know Charlotte, a softspoken romantic, likely wouldn’t be able to keep
up with the sexually provocative Samantha.

That’s the beauty of
group friendships: You connect with people you might not have otherwise.

West Brighton resident Lisa Colini-Grupico likens her
circle of friends — Brigid Finn of West Brighton, Linda Restaino of New
Dorp and Robin George of Ward Hill — to the women of SATC.

common interest in knitting is what drew them together at Mrs.
Colini-Grupico’s West Brighton shop, The Yarn Girl, where knitters
gather to craft and chat. But that’s where the similarities end.

all clearly different,” the proprietor said, noting their personalities
contrast each other nicely.

“I love the diversity that a group
friendship brings,” said Shasta Nelson, founder of, an online community that helps bridge female
friendships by matching groups of women in real life.

Nelson, a life coach in San Francisco, has weekly dinners with a mix of
women with diverse backgrounds. She says they get a lot out of the
experience as each opens up about her different place in life.

perk of a group friendship vs. one-on-one? You’re less vulnerable to
being abandoned.

Ms. Nelson refers to an early SATC episode in
which Carrie becomes preoccupied with Mr. Big and starts neglecting her
girlfriends. “The other three weren’t deprived of a friendship in the
meantime,” she said, since they had each other.


Many women crave the intimate connection the
characters of SATC have, the kind where they’re comfortable sharing
private details of their lives, said Dr. Irene S. Levine, a friendship
expert and author of “Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with
Your Best Friend” (Overlook)

But “it’s hard to maintain a
close-knit circle like the foxy women of SATC,” she added, observing
that life circumstances often get in the way,  including
responsibilities associated with a career, marriage and motherhood.

George, one of the knitters, admits family responsibilities have
affected how much time she has with another set of friends, Lori Treval
and Pam Peters, whom she’s known since childhood and used to see every
day. But, she said, “There’s nothing that could shake us apart.

all of our hearts, we know this is a little phase and we’ll be coming
back together,” she added, noting the three are planning a girls’
getaway as a way to reconnect.

It’s a cliché, Mrs. George says,
but the key to maintaining a tight friendship is to continue tending to
it like a garden: You have to plant the seed, water it and give it the
proper nutrients.

“Friendship,” she observed, “is an energy that
needs to be passed back and forth in order for it to be sustainable.”


Dr. Levine, a professor of
psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, said, “Women need
to create rituals to maintain strong bonds, whether it is a regular
girls’ night out when you meet after work or a weekend getaway that
allows you to get together for an intense period of time.

key,” she added, “is to schedule regular times on your calendar, in
whatever way works best for you.”

And while “it helps to
stay connected through text messages, Facebook and e-mail,” she said,
“there is no substitute for face-time, when you can relax and share with

Ms. Nelson stressed that meetings need to be
consistent and suggests weekly get-togethers. Otherwise, she said, too
much time passes in-between dates, especially when a friend can’t make


Have “circle
envy” and want to build a group friendship?

Dr. Levine
recommends first finding women with whom you can share some aspect of
your lives. You can start by getting involved in an organization or
cause tied to your interests.

Having lived in multiple
cities, Ms. Nelson is accustomed to making new friends. What works for
her is starting her own group activity.

She once started a book
club, inviting about eight female acquaintances to join. Since she felt
people don’t like to make commitments indefinitely, Ms. Nelson set a
time limit to the gatherings, from fall to December. After December
passed, many of the women wanted to continue, and the club evolved into
one with more socializing than reading.


There can be one downfall to female group friendships: When a
bunch of women get together, drama can ensue. (Think the “Real
Housewives” series.)

To avoid turmoil in a group, Dr. Levine
said friends must communicate openly and honestly. “Don’t let little
misunderstandings build up into big ones,” she warned.

You also
need to be flexible.

“Make allowances for their [your friends’]
imperfections just like you would want them to be forgiving to you,” she

With groups, there’s also the chance pairs within
the circle get closer than they do with others.

"That’s to be
expected,” Dr. Levine said.

These days, Mrs. Colinio-Grupico
says she’s grown closer to Mrs. Restaino, who visits The Yarn Girl more

“Depending on whatever else is going on in your
life,” Dr. Levine explained, “there may also be times when you feel more
or less connected to the group. 

“Friendships are dynamic
relationships and rarely stay the same,” she said.



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