“How do I know if I’m in an unhealthy friendship?”
—Emily, Winter Park, Florida
To find the answer to your question, it might be helpful to ask, “What is a healthy friendship?” I believe that meaningful friendships include the following elements:
- Open communication: Friends are honest with each other in their communication. In a healthy friendship, you know where you stand with your friend, and you’re both able to comfortably express your thoughts and feelings—including when you might disagree.
- Trust: Friends are able to be themselves with each other, and trust that anything shared will be kept private. Inherent in trust is the ability and willingness to take risks and be vulnerable with each other.
- Balance: Friends each feel valued and understood. There’s a sense of give and take between you. You enjoy time together and also appreciate the time you spend apart. You respect each other’s boundaries, and see the value in also developing other friendships.
- Nourishment: Friends find special ways to honor and nurture their friendship. You also encourage each other to challenge yourselves to grow as individuals, and celebrate new milestones and accomplishments in each other’s lives with enthusiasm and grace.
Healthy friendships have the potential to bring all kinds of good into your life, such as enhancing your sense of belonging, connection, and purpose. Having healthy friendships may also help reduce stress, reinforce your coping skills, and increase your overall happiness and self-worth.
Of course, no friendship is perfect, and there may be times when a healthy dose of forgiveness is needed as a relationship goes through challenges and growth. If one is causing you a lot of stress or making you feel badly about yourself, it may be time to evaluate its importance in your life. Sometimes friendships end, and that’s okay.
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
—Bernard Meltzer, radio host