From our earliest childhood friendships to new ones we make and build daily, our friends will always have an impact on our life. As high schoolers and adolescents, we are going through a crucial stage of growth as we find and develop ourselves as people. This not only affects us but can indirectly affect the friendships we have or how we view our friendships. Ask any senior if the friends and friend group they have now are the same as the friend group they had their freshman year and I guarantee most of the time the answer is no.
Hearing this as an underclassmen who still has a few more years ago I know this can initially sound disheartening in that you have friends that you are afraid of losing and even as a senior I can relate to the feeling of possibly losing connections with friends I care deeply about due to us all going our separate ways for college. However, what I have learned in the past couple of years is that even though you as a person are going to change and shape your own identity, if you and the other person in the relationship truly care about the relationship, you will want to keep it going.
Having someone to talk to about what you are going through even having someone to just simply be around and have fun is vital to an important and healthy life. In the same way, you are growing and changing as a person, the friends you have and the type of friends you have will change as you learn more about what you want in a friendship and what is important to you.
In the rush of life, we sometimes rarely take the time to reflect on our friendships and in dangerous situations we can be in unhealthy friendships without knowing it, but before we get into unhealthy friendships it is important to know some of the signs of a healthy and growing relationship. As a side note, it is also important to know that there is no such thing as a perfect friendship in that in all friendships both healthy and unhealthy signs exist. Before assessing whether or not your friendships are at a healthy or unhealthy point, it is valuable to first know what your goal is in the relationship and to know what the needs of your friends are and how it functions. Having a goal for your friend does not mean what you can get out of the other person, but simply means why you are friends and where, if you do see it, going in the future. After doing a bit of research into the different signs of both healthy and unhealthy friendships, and how to fix an unhealthy relationship, this is what I was able to find.
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
The core foundations of a healthy relationship are support, trust, and honesty. It is important to have friends in your life that you can trust and be open with about anything in life you are going through. You must support them, in the same way, that they support you, meaning that there is an equal effort on both sides of the friendship to care for one another. (Degges-White)
Respect is also another important factor in friendship. In any friendship or relationship, it is important to have boundaries for what makes you feel safe and if your boundaries are not respected they often will be broken (MyDomaine). In friendship, it is also important to respect your feelings so that you can know what your boundaries are and then communicate what you need (DDSafety). Respect also can be crucial in a friendship lasting through conflict. While a common misconception is that friends will never disagree or fight, arguing is normal in healthy friendships in that both sides of the friendship are willing, to be honest with each other, respect the other opinion, and know that they are not trying to hurt each other. (MyDomaine).
Listening is important to maintaining a growing relationship in that in our lives we often forget what others are going and it is easy to focus on ourselves. Having a balance of sharing and listening is important to keep the relationship from becoming one-sided or making one person feel like because their issues and feelings are never discussed, they don’t matter. You will know you are in a healthy friendship when you leave a conversation or interaction feeling loved, known, and most importantly heard (Degges-White).
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Comparing both the healthy and unhealthy signs of friendship, you will notice that the unhealthy signs of a relationship are often the direct opposite of the signs of a healthy relationship. These can include not feeling loved in the relationship, the friendship becoming one-sided, and more (DDSafety).
One of the most visible signs of an unhealthy relationship is if judgment is present. While it is important to be honest and open with your friends, it is important not to fall into judgment. Being someone’s friend does not mean that you have to like or agree with all of the choices they might make, but it is important to assume the best for your friend and give them the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming the worst. In worst cases, it can even be better to end the relationship than to stay in a relationship where you are constantly being shamed and made fun of for your decisions.
Forgiveness is important in a relationship in that disagreements are healthy and normal. It is important to know that when you expect more from the other individual than yourself in the conflict or in general, it often will not last through conflict. (Degges-White) If you have forgiven someone talked about the issue and they make no change or little effort to change as well as not wanting to listen to you, it is important to realize that this will likely happen in future conflicts or result in the conflict never really being solved (Ledford).
Other things that you can read more about in the articles below include things that friends should not do to each other such as shutting you out, gossiping about you, only hanging out when convenient, discouraging you from your goals, or starting drama. (Picard)
How to Fix an Unhealthy Relationship
If you find yourself in an unhealthy friendship, don’t worry or stress. If you and the other individual in the friendship truly care about the friendship, you both will be willing to do what you need to maintain the relationship. However, if you are willing and the other individual is not, sometimes that can be an indication that while the friendship is important to you, it may not be to the other person and that it can be hurting you pouring your time and energy into a friendship that means little to the other person.
When discussing conflict or giving advice it is important to first ask permission. Giving unsolicited advice can be dangerous in friendship and asking shows that you respect the boundaries of the other individual and care about how they feel. With this, it is also important to ask about the needs of the other person and be willing to do what they might need at that moment.
It is also important to be vocal with your own needs and express what you might need moving forward in the friendship. We often assume that our friends can tell what we need and that they should act, but in the same way, we get caught up in our own lives and struggles, others are often going through the same (Booth).
If nothing seems to be working, creating distance can be important for your mental health. If you are leaving a friendship feeling drained, worse about yourself, or not loved, those are crucial signs that you are in an unhealthy friendship and if your efforts to fix it are in vain, you might have to limit the time you are with that person.
When a friendship does not work out and the harsh reality is that at some point you are going to lose a friend, it is important to realize that there is no “villain” in the situation and that you both simply changed and grew apart. Looking back on a broken friendship, it is important to take what you have learned and apply it to your other friendships rather than letting situations repeat themselves over and over again (Ledford).
As always, before rushing to over-analyze all your relationships and friendships it is important to realize that all friendships are different and work in their unique ways. If you are only looking for what is wrong with your relationships, you will often compromise what you discover to meet what you are looking for. To end, while friendships come and go, it is important to take the time to reflect on the relationships you have with your friends and sometimes that might mean leaving some behind which is a normal part of life and growth.
Below is more information on the different signs of healthiness and unhealthiness in a friendship, so I hope after reading this you can learn a few new things about your friendships.
Booth, Janice Holly. “10 Ways to Keep Your Friendships Healthy and Happy.” Connect2Affect, AARP Foundation, https://connect2affect.org/resources/10-ways-keep-friendships-healthy-happy/.
Degges-White, Suzanne. “6 Rules for Healthy Friendships.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 24 Sept. 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201809/6-rules-healthy-friendships.
“Healthy vs. Unhealthy Friendships and Relationships.” Healthy vs. Unhealthy Friendships and Relationships | DDS SafetyNet, California Department of Developmental Services, 2 July 2014, https://www.ddssafety.net/everyday-life/community/healthy-vs-unhealthy-friendships-and-relationships.
“If You and Your Friends Do These 6 Things, You’ll Be Together for Life.” Mydomaine, MyDomaine, 1 Apr. 2019, https://www.mydomaine.com/signs-of-healthy-friendships-1385360.
Ledford, Becki. “How to Know If You’re in an Unhealthy Friendship – and How to Get out of It.” TheList.com, The List, 9 Feb. 2017, https://www.thelist.com/40945/know-youre-unhealthy-friendship-get/.
Picard, Caroline. “20 Things True Friends Don’t Do.” Good Housekeeping, Good Housekeeping, 21 Mar. 2018, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/g4383/bad-friend-signs.
Photo Credit: Rohan Gangopadhyay on Unsplash (Background)