Are your friendships a positive influence in your life...or an energy-sucker?
The same principles about an unhealthy friendship apply to a marriage or other relationship. Luckily, there are counselors who specialize in relationships!
Signs that your friendship is not healthy:
- You feel worn-out or agitated after spending time with her (and sometimes you can't pinpoint why).
- You feel like you have something to prove to your friend, or like you need to impress them.
- When you're together, you don't have much to talk about except other people.
- You come home after hanging out with her and complain to your partner about things she said or did.
- Your friend is a "hot mess" or has a lot of drama that you always feel compelled to "help her" with.
And the final sign that your friendship is unhealthy:
If you notice her life is full of unhealthy relationships, you might be one of them!
I've got an unhealthy friendship. What should I do?
First of all, know this: Unhealthy friendships are normal. Everyone's got 'em.
Why? What makes our friendships unhealthy?
Our own co-dependent behavior patterns.
- We aren't comfortable saying No to people or disappointing them. If you're highly perceptive to others' needs, you're very vulnerable to this one.
- We all have distress patterns: the habits we fall into as coping mechanisms. We fall into them even when the stress is a pretty low-grade one, like social stress. My distress patterns are: oversharing about my life, and talking about things that suck (Ha).
- We want people to love and accept us. Sometimes our primal desire for belonging supercedes our rational thinking and our resolve to take good care of ourselves.
Any time a friendship makes you feel yucky, it's probably because of your own unhealthy relationship patterns.
For example: I have one friend with whom I've realized I always complain! I complain about my work, my family dynamics, and all my normal human drama when I'm with her.
I walked away from our last lunch date feeling drained and flustered. I asked myself "What was that? Why did I bitch the whole time? Now I'm in a bad mood...this is not how I want to feel!!"
My relationship pattern with this friend is that I dish, and she listens. Her role is to bring up all my hot button issues that I've confided to her in the past, and say, "So, how are things going with that?"
Even if I'm in a great mood that day and nothing is bothering me, I still feel compelled to "share" in response to her question so she doesn't feel rejected. (The empaths here will know what I'm sayin.' The struggle to meet imagined expectations is real.)
Of course, it's perfectly safe for me to say, "I'm feeling so much better about that!" and then change the subject. In some cases, I could be direct and say, "Eh, I don't want to talk about it."
In this friendship, it's important for me to remember I don't have to meet the expectation of "dishing" every time we hang out. Furthermore, I can recognize my distress pattern of oversharing and remember that I feel hungover and yucky after I do it.
How to Make Your Friendships Healthier
Signs that your friendship is unhealthy do not mean that you should dump your friend. Rather, this is an invitation to get out your notebook and do some internal work!
Your goal is to take better care of yourself in the friendship and respect your own boundaries more—to be more "you" in the friendship. With a pen and a piece of paper, ask yourself:
Who am I when I'm with this friend? Who do I have to be in order to feel "I belong" when I'm with this person?
Write down everything that's involved with this friendship, and you'll see some behaviors you want to keep. You may see others that feel like energy-suckers, or that aren't really in line with your values.
So, who are you in your friendships?
If "gossip" and "party girl" were personas you adopted in your 20's in order to feel like you belong, you're probably ready to shrug those off now. Or maybe you're the "yes girl" or "rescuer" and you're ready to devote more of your time and energy to your own family and personal projects.
In my friendship I mentioned above, I saw that one of my roles was "hot mess" and "person who needs advice."
Obviously, we're all a hot mess sometimes! But taking that on as my role in the friendship is something I definitely don't want to do. It's not how I see myself, and sliding into that role on a regular basis is not good for my self esteem.
Once you've figured out which behaviors or roles you no longer want to play out, how can you avoid them? Well, you need to think of substitute behaviors that are both respectful and honest.
Be specific about what your substitutes are going to be, so that you have a script ready for when you're about to fall in to your unhealthy pattern. I have a 2-step script for my hot mess over-share routine:
- Say, "I'm actually feeling a lot better about that since the last time we talked!"
- Change the subject to the book I'm reading or bring up an artist or business owner who is really inspiring me.
Are you ready to drop some of your unhealthy patterns in your friendships? What's that going to look like for you? What's holding you back? If you leave a comment, you are helping to lift up someone else who needs to read it!
In it with you,