I see a lot of teens, and it’s been VERY standard that we work on healthy relationship identification. While my adult clients tend to be less focused on friendships, I make sure to explore that with them as well. We’re a society that LOVES romantic love and we get so hyped up on those relationships specifically, but in my office, I really like to emphasize awareness of healthy friendships. It’s so easy to dismiss red flags when it’s a friend, but it really shouldn’t be.
Thinking back to when we were younger and life was a little easier, we can think of that one friend we could only take in doses, the friend that changed their personality based on who they’re around, the friend that talked bad about people behind their backs, or the friend that wasn’t a great influence but you loved them anyway. The signs of a healthy platonic friendship were a little bit easier to spot, and they were detrimental in a completely different way.
As adults, we’re stretched pretty thin. I thought that graduating and stepping into the adult world would make life easier. HA! I could manage some unhealthy friendships in my past (completely subconsciously) and simply implement some self-care to fill myself back up. Now, though, my time is so precious that I have to carefully consider where I place it. We definitely do not need friends who contribute to the chaos that comes with adulting.
We’re growing older and building our lives over here. If someone is a threat to that in any way, they aren’t worth our time because we simply don’t have it.
Here’s how to know if your friendship is slowly sucking the life force out of you –
- If it’s draining – If you feel like your friendship takes an enormous amount of energy, it probably isn’t good for you. We’re stretched so thin, and we need people that help us feel more full rather than more empty. We balance work, kids, spouses, family crises, financial concerns, self-care, and everything else that pops up. We can’t possibly pour our entire selves into a single friendship because we simply don’t have enough to give. Of course all relationships take work and effort, but they should also be relatively easy and natural.
- If it’s one-sided – One sided friendships can feel so defeating, yet they’re so common. If you feel like you’re the one carrying the relationship, it may be best to set it down. Someone once mentioned to me that in relationships, there’s a gardener and a flower. They take turns. If you’re always the gardener, you’re eventually going to run out of water.
- If it makes you feel like you’re a burden – When you’re concerned that you’re a bother to your friend because they take days to respond to you, it’s easy to feel anxious. A healthy friendship consists of communication. That communication may be to let you know that they can’t talk much, but communication, nonetheless. We don’t need to talk every day, week, or even month, but we can’t feel consistently ignored.
- If there isn’t trust – As we grow in life, our struggles, past and present, evolve with us. We need to be able to process these things with our friends, knowing that we won’t be judged, that it won’t be repeated, and that they have our best interest in mind. We have to know that they are truly on our side. When we build our lives up and up and up, the betrayals can be much bigger than they used to.
- If it hurts your self-esteem – I used to have a friend that would send me pictures of girls on Instagram and would ask me “why can’t we look like that” or “wow we should go on a diet and exercise together”. It killed my confidence. This same friend was overly competitive, making me feel like I needed to shrink myself down to fit into her world. If your friend isn’t 100% genuinely happy for you when you succeed, if they tear you down, or give you the impression that they’re somehow more deserving than you are, it is NOT healthy.
Prioritize yourself – it isn’t selfish. Re-evaluate your friendships. Do they still fit in to your adult life?