SURVIVE: Why Women Bully Friends

By Susan "Honey" Good

When I write about my husband Sheldon Good, I typically mention he is my best friend. He’s also my best girlfriend. While it may sound strange to call my very masculine husband my best girlfriend, I think I am savvy to realize and appreciate this gift. Sharing is caring and whether I am over the top elated or a little blue, he always has my best interests at heart. He is my sounding board and my comfort. (If you haven't "met" my husband Shelly, meet him here.)

A few days ago he looked up from his newspaper and asked, “What are you writing about today?” I replied, “Women who bully other women.”

While most men would go back to reading their paper, not my husband. He is a kibitzer and loves to give me advice. He quipped, “Don’t forget to tell your gals ‘people throw stones at fruit bearing trees.’” I smiled.

Girlfriends are a great source of joy in our lives. Most women are compassionate and have the desire to support and nurture one another... yours truly included. The female experience is a sisterhood because no one understands us better than us.

So what do you do when your emotional radar picks up on an unpleasant personality shift in a close friend? Out of nowhere, you are caught off guard when your girlfriend’s behavior takes on a bullying pattern, and she becomes mean-spirited.

You have two choices. You can either disassociate yourself from this woman because you don’t want to deal with the toxic behavior, or you can try and resolve this attitude change.

If you decide to stay in the relationship, it is important to understand the personality of an aggressive woman who uses bullying tactics. Here's what I know and what I've learned about women who bully others:

1.     Many women believe they would never bully a friend. Nothing could be further from the truth writes Cheryl Dellasega, author of Mean Girls Grow Up, and a women’s studies professor at Pennsylvania State University. She writes, “The adult aggressor even gets a little more polished and subtle as they get older.” Their goal? Power over you.

2.     Then there are women who feel invisible and choose to build themselves up by knocking others down. They will gossip and exclude you in order to demean you, especially if they know they can get away with it. Their issue? Insecurity.

3.     Remember, women do not use their fists, they use their mouths. Women are very verbal and verbal aggression is the quickest way to hurt you. Their plan of attack? Talking badly about you to others.

4.     “Female friendships are one of the greatest comforts and the greatest weapons,” writes Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. What's one of the greatest causes of bullying? The bully is jealous.

Power, jealousy, aggression and insecurity make a bully.

I think bullies attack women who radiate femininity. A truly feminine woman is loving. She embraces life, exudes warmth and her beauty shines from the inside out. She is a life force and this makes our bully friend feel threatened.

So, my dear readers, you have a choice: you can help your friend to feel more confident, and hopefully this will bring out a different side to her. However, more often than not, these type of women don’t want to change.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I thought I had a close friend. We laughed, shared stories and dined as couples. I loved to be in her company. Then, she began to threaten me, insult me, and make up lies. She even created a negative pet name for me. “How could this be,” I asked myself. “Why is my friend changing?"

One day, after this behavior had continued for a month, I was sitting on my window sill on a gorgeous day looking out at Lake Michigan, when I suddenly began to softly cry. My husband heard me, sat down next to me and asked, “Why are you crying?” I told him about this woman and he asked, “What are you going to do?”

I thought about my role in our relationship. Did I deserve her unkind, aggressive behavior? The answer was an immediate... no! I decided to terminate the friendship. My half-full cup was emptying swiftly and my life on the happy side of the street was being affected.

As I mentioned above, it is up to you to decide if you can help your so called friend ‘see the light.’ Each situation must be judged on its own merit.

My advice: Don’t let the situation go on any longer than it should. Don’t allow these types of women to disrespect you. Stand your ground, rather than shy away. Live on the happy side of the street with girlfriends who love you.