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Women who can't manage weekly or even monthly get-togethers can still find ways to nurture their friendships. Jane Chittick, 52, gathers with six of her childhood friends once a year for an all-girl slumber-party weekend. The tradition, in its 15th year, started in 1988 at a high school reunion when Chittick invited her friends to stay at her mother's Morton, Ill., house during the event. After a night of talking and laughing, the group decided to meet at a different location every summer. During the rest of the year, the women, who live across the country and in Canada, keep up with one another via e-mail and the occasional phone call, but the annual getaway, free of husbands and kids, provides a treasured way to recharge their friendships. "When we get back together every year, it's like the time that's passed didn't even happen. You just pick up where you were, and there's no gap," says Chittick. "The connection is just there."
Karyn Munsie, 37, of Sydney, says she feels the same way when she gets together with her friends Sandra Page-Cook, 36, of New York City and Suzanne Skyvara, 36, of San Anselmo, Calif. The three, who met 13 years ago when they all worked in Australia, gather once a year in a different location around the world. Although scheduling, funds and time zones--Munsie is waking up when Page-Cook is just going to sleep--are obstacles, the women say their friendship is important enough to make the trips a priority. Says Skyvara: "You can talk to another woman in a way that you could never talk to your husband or your boyfriend. Most men will try to solve a problem, whereas women will just sympathize with you. I'd say our friendships are not only supportive but nurturing too." The women have already planned their next trip--a vacation to the Italian coast--in 2004.
Even though the emotional benefit of spending time with a friend is indisputable, some women can't shake the guilty feeling that whatever extra hours they have should be devoted to their families. But UCLA's Taylor insists that such interludes are essential. "Women especially need to understand that making time for friendship isn't a self-indulgent activity," she says. "It's an important aspect of the resources that they bring to the stressful times in their lives. Holding out for that friendship time is a very important thing to do."