I am so, so sorry for the delay in blog posts; I have been super busy with school work and also to be totally real, I haven’t felt mentally well enough to write a blog post that promotes well-being, when I wasn’t feeling it myself. Anyway, I will hopefully try to post at least once per fortnight but I can’t 100% say that I will stick to it, but for now I will posting more regularly, now that I am on my Easter break.
Okay, so to begin with, I just want to say that I am not an expert on friendships, I literally am still struggling in a lot of my friendships but if I was to choose my friends again, I now know what I would’ve done differently.
For me, when I think of a ‘friend’, the key words that come to mind are loyal, supportive, kind, protective, loving etc, so if I have a friend that doesn’t have at least one of these qualities, I will start to question what sort of relationship we have. Although friends are subjective to each individual person (e.g. someone may want a friend who goes out with them whereas others may want a friend who will stay in and watch TV), there is one aspect that should be universal and that is ‘togetherness’.
Let me explain…
If you have a person in your life that is so distant from you, that you can barely hold a singular conversation, are they really a friend? Or you might have ‘a friend’ in your life but are they there for you? Do you turn to them for advice? Do they bring out the better side of you? Do you feel as if you’re equal to them? Those questions were, I guess, a way in which I would question myself to see if the people who I were spending time with were truly my friends.
Friendships have always been hard for me; I don’t know why as I have always tried to be a friend who was loyal, supportive,kind and yet it seemed as if people didn’t care about the qualities that I possessed. Although that probably wasn’t the case, that’s how it would come across to me; I am sure some of you reading have also struggled with self-esteem issues as I do. I knew that if people didn’t ‘require’ those qualities in a friendship that they weren’t the friends for me. I challenge you to look at your friendships and see if the people in your life have the qualities you want. Of course nobody can possess everything you may want in a friendship, but if you’re someone who wants a loving and empathic friend and yet you have an independent/ strong willed friend – I am not sure it’s the best match.
You may think, ‘wow Emily is so right but I can’t just end a friendship that I have had for a while now for no particular reason’ and you’re definitely right. I am by no means telling you to cut ties with all your friends; instead, as the title says, I want to help ‘guide’ your friendships.
It can be hard to tell a friend that there are obstacles in your friendship but I am going to explain some of the ways in which you can approach it. I like to use the example of a burning building. So as a person living in this building, you’re aware a fire has started (i.e. you’re aware there is a problem in the friendship) but you have no idea how to avoid it. The worst part is that you’re so far up in the building it’s become a harder struggle to get out (i.e. the friendship has delayed the problems for so long it’s harder to get out/ resolve). You tell yourself that there are only two options, (1) that you can run as fast as you can and hope that you will get out or (2) that you will be rescued if you stay where you are. Well, there’s actually a third option, that you knock on all the doors next to you and check if they’re okay and then decide upon the approach you want to take in getting out (i.e. that you don’t try and solve the friendship alone, instead work together to find a solution to the problem as there is always a mutual understanding needed). If you didn’t understand the example, the meaning behind is basically to tell your friend how you’ve been feeling, even if you’ve delayed it for so long, the friend will understand. Let me tell you a little story, I have a friend who doesn’t particularly understand when I tell her our friendship has been struggling. I was in the position where I started to list everything that was wrong about the friendship, and then I decided that generally there was a problem that needed to be addressed if our friendship was going to continue. So, I approached the situation in the worst way possible and started listing everything, via text of how I was feeling in our friendship, to which, as you can expect, I didn’t receive the nicest of responses. However I did feel comfortable knowing that I had told her. Let me just tell you that this is not a good example; however, instead I included this example to show that you have to talk together mutually to address the issue. Although after a few weeks, we did meet up and kind of talk about it, you have to realise that if someone isn’t willing to hear your side of the story or isn’t interested in making the friendship work, then these are the sorts of people that you probably shouldn’t have in your life.
As I am someone who struggles with anxiety (as you know), friendships are a huge aspect in my life, In the sense that I need people who are going to accept what I am going through or are going to reassure me if I am feeling mentally unwell. This is why when I have struggled in a friendship, it has affected me massively. A key phrase that my mum and several other people have told me is ‘only have friends that are going to lift you up, not down’. If you have a friend who isn’t treating you right, then personally I would say the only way in which you can guide this friendship is by either explaining to them how you feel or by saying ‘goodbye’ to the friendship altogether. The reason I say this, is because at the end of the day you can’t change who people are. Trust me, you don’t know how many times I could’ve wished a friend of mine had just one additional characteristic but what I tell myself is that, if that person was specifically created by God to be that person and their qualities don’t match with mine then it’s not meant to be, and that’s okay because I know I will find likeminded people in the future. An example is that I really wanted one of my friends to be empathetic and although they may have had other wonderful qualities, the quality that is key for me in a friendship is empathy, so I knew that God purposefully didn’t want me to continue that friendship.
Not to be too preachy, but sometimes God doesn’t give us friendships that we ‘want’ because he has someone better in store. I believe he speaks through our friendship to tell us if we should or shouldn’t stay friends with them. If you have a friend who is nothing like you but you still want to keep the friendship, sadly I would say that God is telling you that that person probably isn’t right for you.
The way in which I see it, is that we should all create a list of maybe three to five points of what you require in a friendship, e.g. you want a friend who has humour or maybe someone who likes the same music as you; I guess I would say treat your friendships like a boyfriend or a girlfriend because they are technically the same. You wouldn’t date someone who wasn’t nice to you or didn’t have a similar outlook on life, imagine your friendships like that; only have a friend if you know they will treat you the same way a boyfriend or girlfriend will. Although there are key differences, of course like intimacy and dates etc., but friendships should have the same approach, that we will only take time to go on a ‘date’ with someone if you believe they will be a blessing to your life.
I think a lot of us have got caught up on the idea of quantity over quality but personally I think the best way to guide our friendships is to have less. By no means am I saying if you have lots of friends, that’s bad, because I’m not but if it is getting to the point where you’ve got too many friends which means you can’t give time to them all, there’s the problem. However, if you’re someone who distributes their time and attention to every friend, despite having quite a lot then you’re the someone I am talking about. This is because friendships should be most often about equality meaning that the time you give someone should equally be given to another friend. However it could be that this is the reverse for you; it could be that you only have one main friend and they’re the one who has loads of friends and they’re not mutual to you both so it’s hard as you might not be given the same amount of time that another one of their friends has. Let me tell you this was me and should I say, still is. The hardest issue in this is that you might be giving more time and attention to the friendship than they are and therefore, as I mentioned earlier, is this healthy? The issue is ‘no’ but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. It’s so easy to just give up but it’s important to know that just talking through issues you have with this friend is so important. Even if your friendships aren’t struggling, just talk to them and ask them what your friendship means to them and also there is no harm in getting reassurance just to know that you have similar values for your relationship.
One thing that it is worth knowing though, and it is something that I have learnt through going through manyyyy friendships, is there is no point in trying to save friendships that are clearly toxic. Of course it is hard to know when a friendship is entirely toxic but even if you’re getting warning signs, it is worth addressing them, which is why I have listed what a toxic friendship means and what the signs are, that I have personally discovered from my own experiences and also from internet research.
From my own experience: Personally I would say that a toxic friendship is generally where one person is taking control of everything and not having the other friend’s best interests at heart. A toxic friendship is very often where you won’t care about what’s going on in each other’s life. I like to use the analogy ‘if I was to disappear, which friends would look for me and worry about what has happened to me, and which friends wouldn’t think twice about it’. This initially sounds horrible and you might believe that all of your friends will look for you, which is great but you also need to be aware that you probably will come across someone who is only in the friendship for their own self. I will tell you that one of the most visible warning signs is people not caring about you enough to cancel their plans, e.g. in one of my most recent friendships I’d had a terrible week and had been feeling very anxious so I asked to meet up and they instead went out. Now, I’m not trying to say that if one of your friends does this, that it is toxic but like I said, you have to address if the friendship is being dominated by them or if it is equal. If a friend cancels on you a few times but you have a balanced relationship, then this a small aspect that can be resolved. Think of it like taking your driving test; some mistakes you make are called minors, these don’t affect your pass rate unless you make 15 minors; in this case you will fail. When I looked on Google it said this phrase ‘Minor: Not potentially dangerous, but if you make the same fault throughout your test it could become a serious fault.’ I just thought that this was such a great way to describe a friendship as they won’t initially seem dangerous and probably wouldn’t affect you or the other individual in the friendship but if particular issues continue to be at the centre of your friendship all the time, this is where it may lead to a toxic friendship. However although Minors may gradually become dangerous if done several times, it is worth knowing that there is time to improve it. You wouldn’t be sitting your driving test unless you were confident, so why are friendships any different. Treat your friendships like this, in order to progress you need to be aware of where the fault line is; you need to work on these struggles; then and only then you should take your driving test. So, if you want your friendships to develop and strengthen, you need to be aware of all the areas that may be failing and be open to the idea that these need to be resolved because if you push them aside and continue to ‘drive’ despite being aware of the failures in the friendship, it is here where the friendship will be harder to save. However there Is also a definite test failure in a driving test called a Major (also I think this information is true but I’m not 100% sure as I haven’t taken my driving test yet so don’t judge me!), this is an action that a person will take; this will likely be serious or dangerous, that will cause an accident. In terms of a friendship, this is something that may only happen once and yet it will have a massive impact on you and others. Get the picture?
Toxic friendships to me are ones where a person will do something and that will that will have an immediate action; it can’t be changed, i.e. like the car example. If you’re in a friendship where they put in you in situations that you’re not comfortable with or that they only care about one aspect of your life then I would personally see this as a toxic relationship. Also additionally if you’re putting way toooo much energy into a friendship, this is another sign something may be wrong. However I am sure that you may not fully believe what I say and that’s fine, so I have taken an abstract of an article that explains what a toxic friendship is and what some of the signs are.
According to Women’s health: ‘a toxic friendship “emotionally harms you, rather than helping you”, says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. She continues by saying ‘that you can tell a friend is toxic when they “cause stress and sadness or anxiety,” and “doesn’t help you be who you want to be.” And if all that weren’t enough, a toxic friendship can also drain you and make you doubt yourself.’ I have included some of the signs that they believe are toxic in a friendship.
You’re giving more than you’re getting.
If your friend always seems to need your help, but can’t return even the smallest favour, then chances are they’re toxic.
You dread checking your phone.
Technology has made it so easy to keep up with your friends—for better or, uh, worse. You’ll know it’s the second option “when the person calls or texts you [and] you feel a dread in the pit of your stomach instead of happiness,” says Squyres. A good friend shouldn’t make you freak out whenever your phone buzzes, so it’s probably time to hit that “Do Not Disturb” button.
You don’t enjoy spending time with them.
If you did a happy dance the last time they cancelled plans, it’s probably because you’re tired of putting in more work than the friendship is worth.
You don’t like yourself when you’re with them.
A toxic friend has a knack for spreading their toxicity to others, according to Bonior. “When you’re with that person, they bring out behaviours in you that aren’t your best,” she explains. Maybe you’re drinking too much, gossiping, or being passive-aggressive with them when you’re normally super-chill. Those are all signs, she says, of a toxic friendship.
You compete with them.
“… at the end of the day, you should still have good feelings toward your friend and want what’s best for them overall.” While it’s totally normal to feel jealous from time to time, if you feel like you’re in “a constant fight that you want to win over and over again,” that can be toxic.
You don’t think they have good intentions.
Even the best of friends are nowhere near perfect (obvs), but they always have good intentions. And that makes a big difference. “Whenever we make mistakes in a friendship, that’s when the intention really matters,” Bonior notes. While a good friend might accidentally hurt you when her intentions were good, “that’s a lot easier to forgive” than when a toxic friend intentionally hurts you.
You feel used.
One sign of a toxic friend, Lombardo says, is “manipulation or making you do things you don’t want to do.” Often, a friend can manipulate you into making an agreement that seems fair but really isn’t. According to Squyres, a toxic friend is “always insisting on splitting the check… when they spend a lot more” on food and drinks. You know it isn’t fair, but you go along with it to preserve the relationship.
However I have also included a slightly different view that you may understand more.
According to Fairy God Boss: ‘We tend to deny toxic relationships because most of us are exposed to so many of them, that habits of toxic relationships actually feel normal. But the fact is that they are most certainly not normal; they’re detrimental to our health and development as individuals’. They state seven obvious signs:
- They have crossed a major boundary for you, with no apologies.
- Instead of communicating that something is wrong, they make passive-aggressive comments.
- They are jealous of you/your other friendships.
- They insult you or are mean to you.
- They are passive aggressive toward you.
- They act jealous of you.
- You can’t seem to do anything right by them.
+ And eight subtle signs:
- They aren’t there to celebrate your success.
- They only care about themselves.
- They’re not interested in details of your life.
- They don’t share details of their life with you.
- Your mother doesn’t like them.
- They criticize you but not constructively.
- They don’t prioritize you.
- They keep score.
The article explains that ‘You don’t need toxic people or the negativity in your life. And a good friend wouldn’t be in a toxic relationship or any kind of unhealthy friendship with you. You do need to find yourself people who care and want to spend time with you, support you and lift you up.’
Unfortunately I am looking through some of those lists thinking I have probably been a bad friend/toxic friend but I am also looking through the list thinking that most of those signs have been true for most of my friends, which is sad because I didn’t realise that some of my friends were that bad to me. It’s true to say that a few of your friends probably possess one or two qualities but if your friendship has most of the problems listed, then this is a friendship that I would probably consider unhealthy, if not toxic; the reason being because there is clear difference between saving a friendship that is struggling compared to a friendship that is toxic. I would often get confused and tell myself that I should just save both types of friendships but sometimes the qualities of one person can’t be changed. However, even if you know there is no chance the friendship can’t be changed, still talk it through because you never know it might help in the future, with their other friendships as they can be aware of what they might be doing wrong.
I just want to end this blog post by saying we should only be giving time to the people who truly love us and care for us. At the end of the day, you’re special, there’s only one person just like you in the world so only give yourself the best, because you deserve it. If you are in a friendship that is struggling, my absolute best advice is just talk to them, explain how you feel and if they don’t want to work it out then don’t give them the satisfaction of putting all of your love into the relationship because there are people out there who would love to be friends with you and spend time with you. Also don’t be disheartened, maybe one friendship didn’t work out but that doesn’t mean all of your friendships will be the same, although it may be a ‘waiting period’ for you, the best is yet to come.