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What if Your Best Friends Are Your Worst Enemies?

In our February issue, Lori Gottlieb -- author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough -- provoked hundreds of furious e-mails from you by suggesting that women are too picky. Now she argues that female friendships are a sham.

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She suggests that we instead offer feedback the way she learned to at Harvard Business School. "Start positive, and then move on to something constructive," says Greenwald. "So when Elizabeth's friend says, 'Do you think it's because I'm fat?' Elizabeth might respond, 'I think you're one of the warmest women I know, but I also think men can be superficial and might not get to know you. If you're interested in getting in shape, it might attract more men. How can I help you do this?'" This way you enable her goal and not her self-deception. Or, as Michael Broder, Ph.D., Philadelphia-based psychologist and author of Can Your Relationship Be Saved?, puts it, "Instead of keeping your friends in fantasyland, help them cope with reality. That's true friendship."

But sometimes honesty is trumped by a stronger, more insidious — if subconscious — urge: the singleton's need for safety in numbers. "Many women are trying to justify why they're unattached," says Greenwald. "If one of us succumbs to happiness over the ideal height or salary or advanced degree, it makes the rest of us question whether we're doing the right thing."

I recently asked a friend to tell me what she honestly thought about that guy who wasn't responding to my e-mails. Turns out I'm not too intimidating, and he wasn't playing hard to get, or secretly gay. He was looking for someone younger, she said — as he'd hinted on two dates — because he wanted children of his own. If I wanted to have more success as a 40-ish mother of a 4-year-old, she went on, I should go after men in their 40s. I realized she was right. I saved myself a lot of angst and moved on, using the great gift my generous, supportive, true-blue friend had given me: a healthy dose of reality.

Lori Gottlieb is a contributor to Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times. She lives in Los Angeles.

Originally published June 2, 2010

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