Friendship is not about how long you’ve known the person. It’s about those who have been a constant in your life. It’s about those who were there for you in good and bad times and about the ones who remain true to you behind your back. Friendship is loyalty and honesty, even when you don’t want to hear the truth. That’s real friendship.
In my early 20s I had a couple of friends who were always around when they’d break up with their boyfriends or when something rough was going on in their lives. But as soon as there was a new love interest or things would improve in their lives, they’d grow distant again.
I wouldn’t hear from them unless I’d call to check up on them, and I did this for quite a few years.
I’m sure some of you have had a friend like this at one point or another. You know, that friend who only comes around when they’re feeling lonely or when things aren’t going so well for them.
Years later, I realized I was giving more to the relationship than I was receiving and it was kind of hard to accept that because I felt that my friends had taken a advantage of my willingness to always be there for them.
The day I decided to start setting my worth was when one of my two friends called me after almost a year of no communication. She sounded excited to speak to me and just as I’d expected, she was going through a break up and wanted to talk to me about it.
She had asked to meet up and I declined. I remember telling her that I wasn’t a seasonal friend for her convenient times and I expressed how hurt I was that she hadn’t taken the time to call to simply check up on me or to ask to spend time together without any of her drama attached to it.
What made me arrive at this point was life experience. By then I had joined the military and I had married. My husband had seen my dedication to these two friends every time they’d call. He was actually the first one to point out that I was allowing them to take me for granted.
I had also seen the way other people’s friendships were and their dynamics were different than what I was experiencing. So, I suppose you can say I learned from them. I had realized that while I was taught from childhood to be good to others, to be selfless and to serve, I had allowed myself to take it too far
I also realized that not having enough examples of healthy friendships allows young people to have a narrow view of what friendships should be like.
After looking back, I realized how lucky I was because I discovered how these relationships were affecting my life and that in a way, I was facilitating my friends’ behavior by harboring them during difficult times instead of allowing them to figure out their issues on their own.
So, if you find yourself being in the same situation here are a few tips that helped me:
- Know your self worth. I know that you’re supposed to be humble and not think too highly of yourself, but guess what? In this case, you need to pump yourself up. You need to know your worth. You are NOT a seasonal friend or a Rent-A-Friend. Friends are either going to be a constant in your life, or not. And if they’re not, it’s probably best to cut them loose now. Your friends need to know that you value yourself just as much as you value your friends.
- Don’t be afraid to be honest. The thing about friendships is that the relationship has to help both of you grow. If a friend is afraid to give constructive criticism, that friend is not going to help you grow. You might also want to do a self-assessment in case the reason your friends won’t give you constructive criticism is because you react defensively. You’ve got to allow yourself to be in tune with your self-awareness. I realize not everyone is good at reading other people’s reactions, but if you start to carefully observe people and listen to the tone in their voice, their facial expressions and other body language, you’ll be able to tell a lot about yourself as well as your friends. Going back to basics-just be honest.
- Don’t make them codependent. When a friend constantly asks for advice and won’t make a move unless you tell them how to proceed, they might be dependent on you. And if you feel the need to always help them instead of letting them figure it out on their own, you might be codependent; you might be at fault for taking advantage of that person always needing you to come save them or give them the answer. That’s not healthy for either one of you and this behavior can lead to low self-esteem and self-doubt.
- Make each other better. A relationship can be many things, but one of the most important aspects of a friendship is making each other a better version of themselves. It’s exciting when two people can dream and achieve their goals as their friendship blossoms. It not only gives each person a sense that they’re not alone, but they learn to support one another and they learn from each other’s experiences. They also form a special bond that wouldn’t exist if one individual were to achieve all the success and the other wouldn’t. It helps build a sense of teamwork even when the goals might not be the same for each person.
- Positive reinforcement. When two friends give each other constant, genuine, positive reinforcement, the relationship is solidified with trust. Good friends help each other improve their weak areas without fear of judgement. This goes back to making each other better. If friends can’t find a way to give positive reinforcement and only notice the areas of weakness, then maybe that friend is not a good one to keep around. Real friends always help you be your best!
- Trust. If you find yourself purposely omitting certain things from your friend due to fear of judgement or because you feel that he/she won’t care about your concerns, then that should be a red flag that this relationship isn’t a positive one in your life. Unfortunately, some “friends” use private information to judge others or to gossip with others, often times looking for validation by others. When starting new friendships, a good strategy you could try is to gradually share pieces of intimate information about yourself until you’ve learned if you can really trust the person with your information.
- Acquaintance v. Friend. During childhood, it’s normal for children to call almost any kid they meet and like their “friend” because they’re learning to assimilate with others and they’re figuring out how relationships work. However, as adults, calling someone you don’t really know a “friend” or sharing personal information with an acquaintance can turn disastrous. This is a matter of taking time to get to know people and learning to be a good observer.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you, your kids or anyone who may need to review their friendships. There are so many people out there who hang on to people they call friends but are more toxic in their lives than not.
So, it is my hope that you are able to let go of the people in your lives who are not helping you be your best and that you realize how valuable and wonderful of a friend you are to the right people.