If you’re ashamed to tell people about the friendship, that’s an important sign that shows you don’t feel proud of it
elationships are such a big part of our lives and represent so much of who we are, how we feel, and the quality of the life we live. I’m so impressed with Devoiry’s story, and I’m sure it caused many of you to reflect on the friendships in your own lives. Thanks for inviting me to weigh in on some of the questions it brought up.
How can I differentiate between a regular BFF and an unhealthy friendship?
Healthy friendships enhance life and add joy to it. Healthy friends are sensitive to our needs, feel for us in our hard times, and are happy for us and with us during the good times. We part from our friends, or get off the phone with them, feeling better about ourselves and our situation. Friends encourage us to grow, and ideally, they don’t get jealous of any new friends we make. Good friends are supportive of one another and spend time both talking and listening in a balanced way.
Unhealthy friendships, on the other hand, very often leave us feeling bad about ourselves and the relationship. We come away from unhealthy friends feeling drained, and we often dread seeing them again. They’re not sensitive to our needs and don’t allow for changes. They have unrealistic expectations of us — like demanding we spend endless amounts of time with them, even if it means giving up on our other friends, interests, sleep, and family time. I remember feeling so depleted by a certain friendship that by the time I was ready to move on, I didn’t just need better boundaries, I needed barbed wire!
What are some warning signs that a particular friendship should not be pursued?
Unhealthy friends are possessive. They don’t like seeing us with other friends. They usually lack empathy and understanding, making things “all about them.” At their worst, unhealthy friends can become aggressive and insulting. You feel like you can never do enough for them, never get it right, never totally meet their needs. And you can’t. Because they are very needy and make you feel guilty so that you keep on trying to do more with them and for them. You end up feeling badly about yourself, and your life is definitely not better when they’re a part of it. If you’re ashamed to tell people about the friendship, that’s an important sign that shows you don’t feel proud of it. Deep down, you know it’s not okay.
This doesn’t mean that these friends are bad people. It may just mean that they’re too much for you. Years ago, I learned from a very wise mentor of mine that the way people make us feel gives us information about the way they feel inside. An unhealthy friendship makes you feel all sorts of difficult feelings: guilty, incompetent, confused, unhappy, hopeless, insecure… so you can imagine the pain of the person you’re dealing with. It’s hard to build a real relationship with someone who is in that difficult of a place. It’s not that you’re not doing enough, it’s that it feels like too much because it is too much.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 772)