Friendships exemplified on favorite television shows cause me to wonder just how realistic they are. Those on Friends and Sex and the City offer up the kinds of friendships I know I yearn for: They last for years, they make it through thick and thin, they see one another on a regular if not daily basis and the characters are honest with one another, even when it means saying something the other person doesn't want to hear. In a way, I feel like these portrayals create the illusion of a Prince Charming of friendships.
Close friendships take tremendous work, dedication, and effort from all parties involved. Similar to romantic relationships, when we let our own issues and baggage get muddled into the picture, our friendships can become strained and suffer as a result. No one is perfect, and although there are certain traits we look for in a friend, there are definitely dynamics that can be very detrimental:
1. Jealousy: It is natural for every one of us to be envious at one time or another. Maybe we're envious of a friend's job … of their marital relationship … of their ability to have children when we cannot … but, when that envy turns into something that looks more like resentment or jealousy … that is when we have a problem. If your friend can't let go of their own hang-ups in order to be happy for you when you have something positive happen in your life, it may be a sign that their hang-ups are stronger than your friendship.
2. Destructive Feedback and Communication: Although honesty is important in a relationship, if it comes in the form of belittling us or hurting us, then it becomes very ugly. Communicating with one another honestly and openly must be done with respect, love, and sensitivity. If you find that your friend consistently gives you feedback that leaves you feeling bad about yourself, they may be suffering from their own insecurities and as a result, are tearing you down to make themselves feel better.
3. Selfishness: There will inevitably be times when your friend's needs are more important than yours and vice verse, however, if your friendship is ALWAYS about your friend and their needs, it is unhealthy. Ultimately, friendship should be about mutual give and take, and support.
4. Lack of Reciprocation: Are you always the one reaching out to your friend? Are you always the one to initiate time together? Granted, some people are not good at initiating and need to be "pulled" along, but if this happens ALL the time, it can start to wear thin and make you feel that you're not a real priority to your friend.
5. Incessant Negativity: Misery loves company and when things are bad, we love to have others in the trenches with us. If complaining and negativity is the only way you and your friend can relate, however, you may be creating a very unhealthy foundation for your friendship. Friendships should have positive forces in work and ideally, should bring out the best in each of you.
6. Judgment: Judgment can eat away at your spirit, your self-confidence, and your trust in one another. Your friend should be able to accept your decisions, views, or needs and shouldn't impose their views and perceptions as the only "right" way. Friends should let you be true to yourself. Each of you are individuals and although you may be friends, what might be right for your friend may not be right for you.
If you are experiencing any of these behaviors or traits in your friendship, try to speak to your friend about your concerns openly and honestly. If you can discuss the issue together and work to finds way to repair any possible damage, your friendship may in fact be stronger for it.
Have you experienced any of these issues in one of your close friendships? How did you handle the situation?
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