Friends can be one of our strongest support systems. In some cases, friends may even be as close as family. Friends can offer a shoulder to cry on, or words of inspiring wisdom to help us get back on our feet. However, not all friendships are equal. While there are those that allow us to grow and flourish there are others that may be hindering our personal development. Such relationships are toxic and usually lead to more problems than solutions for all those involved. Because of this, it is usually a good idea to take a look at those closest to us and the relationships in our lives and determine which are truly helping us, and which are causing unnecessary pain.
Quality over Quantity – A Lesson in Friendship
Good friendships are ones that are authentic and true. Good friends provide us with intimacy, allowing us to feel free to be ourselves. In a good friendship, we feel as though we are understood, accepted, and appreciated. Through these relationships we feel validated and we know that we are cared for, regardless of what each day may bring. Overall, our friendships can have a strong impact on our well-being, as many previous studies have shown. However, on the other hand, negative personal relationships can cause interpersonal distress. This is one of the biggest reasons that many individuals seek help from a therapist or counselor in the first place. The therapist, then, provides healing through empathetic support and guidance in a trusting relationship. The same relationship the client is lacking with friends.
The Consequences of Bad Friendships
Bad friendships lack genuine caring and can lead to the development of various mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. They can also lead to a lack of confidence in other relationships, thereby resulting in less trust and more conflict. Individuals who have had bad experiences in friendships have been shown to have difficulty establishing and maintaining intimacy or communicating how they feel effectively. Perhaps in their bad friendships, they were frequently shut out or silenced when they tried expressing themselves. This can lead to a residual silence which carries over into other interpersonal connections.
When we come out of a bad relationship, including friendships, we might feel less responsive or willing to talk things through, regardless of their importance to ourselves or those close to us. We may also feel as though our thoughts and opinions don’t matter or that we shouldn’t trouble anyone else. However, expressing oneself is a necessary and healthy part of any relationship, this includes when we’re experiencing negative emotions, so long as we’re not attempting to take those feelings out on others in a destructive manner.
Signs to Look for in Good Friendships
When determining whether or not a friendship is actually good or healthy, there are several questions that come to mind. Below are a list of key characteristics we should be on the lookout for when deciding whether our friendships are actually having a positive impact on our lives, or are causing unwarranted pain and stress.
1. Are They Genuine?
The first and arguably one of the most important things to look out for when it comes to friendships are whether or not the individuals whom we call friends are actually genuine. Friends do not frequently lie to one another. A good, healthy friendship is founded upon openness, honesty, and authenticity. Good friends also make one another a priority rather than a back-up plan. If we feel as though we aren’t valued by certain friends, then it is likely time to seek new friendships that give us the respect and appreciation we truly deserve.
2. Do They Value Me?
Building off of the previous question, good friends make their friends feel valued. In any good relationship, we are loved for who we are, not who we are wanted to be. This goes for friendships as well. Good friends love and respect their friends for their true selves, not some idealized image or desired outcome.
3. Are They Interested?
Yet another highly important question to consider is whether or not one’s friends actually care. True friends are interested in our happiness and success. They want to celebrate with us when things go well, and support us when they don’t. Bad friends, on the other hand, don’t seem to care either way. They also have a tendency to put their perspective above anyone else’s, and are more likely to try to make us see things their way than listen to our own point-of-view.
Can Therapy Help with Friendships?
Therapy can be a good way to regain a sense of trust and support that may be lacking in our personal relationships, but it cannot fix those relationships single-handedly. While our therapist can help guide us on how to communicate effectively with those closest to us, we must ultimately decide on the course of action that will be of the greatest benefit. In some cases, this might mean ending a friendship where we aren’t being valued or respected. Our therapist can help us through this difficult decision-making process and provide the empathetic understanding needed to overcome any personal struggle.
To talk with a Boca Raton therapist about improving friendships and other relationships, call our office to schedule an appointment @ 800-378-9354.