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"Women seem to be both hardwired and socialized to be nurturing," says Sandy Sheehy, author of Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendship (William Morrow).The upshot is that many of us get stuck in draining relationships.She acted as if I belonged to her and became resentful when I socialized with other people. When I tried to talk to her about it I got nowhere, so I wrote her an e-mail explaining that I just couldn't be friends with her anymore." Anne was predictably enraged and fired off a response accusing Nancy of being selfish and uncaring.

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But lately I'm aware that whenever Sarah calls I feel a tightness in my chest and, more often than not (thanks to caller ID), I don't pick up the phone.When Carolyn asked her why, Ruth said she thought it best not to respond because she hated the work."It was obvious that she hated me for getting a one-woman show before she did, but she couldn't admit it," Carolyn says.We became inseparable and, at one point, I secretly tried to find out if it was possible to be adopted by your best friend's family if your own parents were still alive.It wasn't until college and postcollegiate life on opposite sides of the country that we drifted apart."Once you're aware of that, without being cruel or feeling guilt-ridden, you can begin to let go of relationships that no longer nourish your most authentic self." Occasionally, though, a friend all but forces a clean break.

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