I’ve often looked at friendships portrayed on some of my favorite television shows and wondered how realistic they are. For instance, the friendships on Friends, Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother and a new favorite, Cougar Town, exemplify the types of friendships many of us yearn for: They last for years, they make it through thick and thin, they see one another on a regular if not daily basis and the characters are honest with one another, even when it means saying something the other person doesn’t want to hear. I might be off the mark here, but these portrayals seem to create the illusion of a Prince Charming of friendships: Do they really exist? Are they even realistic?
Very close friendships take tremendous work, dedication and effort from all parties involved. They require mentally healthy participants who WANT to put in the effort and are equally invested in the friendship’s success. Similar to romantic relationships, when we let our own issues and baggage get muddled into the picture, our friendships inevitably become strained or weakened and suffer as a result. No one is perfect, and although there are certain traits that are good to look for in a friend, there are definitely dynamics that can be very detrimental. Here are six things that can have real negative impact to friendships:
Jealousy: It is natural for every one of us, at one point or another, to be envious. Maybe we are envious of a friend’s job…or of their marital relationship…or of their ability to have children when we can not…but, when that envy turns into something deeper…something that looks more like resentment or jealousy…that is when a real problem begins. If your friend can’t let go of their own hang-ups in order to be happy for you when you have something positive happen in your life, it may be a sign that their hang-ups are stronger than your friendship.
Destructive Feedback and Communication: There are times when we all need some honesty…but when that honesty comes in the form of belittling us or hurting us, the honesty turns into something very ugly. Communicating with one another honestly and openly is very important to a true friendship…but it must be done with respect, love and sensitivity. I like to call this constructive feedback…with the operating word being “constructive.” If you find that your friend consistently gives you feedback that leaves you feeling bad about yourself, they may be suffering from their own insecurities and as a result, are tearing you down to make themselves feel better. Regardless, it isn’t healthy and is far from constructive or helpful.
Selfishness: There will inevitably be times when your friend’s needs are more important than yours and vice verse, however, if your friendship is ALWAYS about your friend and their needs, it is very lopsided. Although there will be ebbs and flows, ultimately, friendship should be about mutual give and take, and support .
Lack of Reciprocation: Are you always the one reaching out to your friend? Are you always the one to initiate time together? Granted, some people are not good at initiating and need to be “pulled” along, but if this happens ALL the time, it can start to wear thin. Moreover, it can make you feel that your not a real priority to your friend.
Incessant Negativity: Let’s face it, misery loves company and when things are bad, we love to have others in the trenches with us. If, however, complaining and negativity is the ONLY way you and your friend can relate…you may be creating a very unhealthy foundation for your friendship. Friendships should have positive forces in work and ideally, should bring out the best in each of you.
Judgment: Judgment in a friendship can eat away at your spirit, your self-confidence and your trust in one another. If your friend can’t accept your decisions, views or needs and instead imposes their views and perceptions as the only “right” way of doing things, they aren’t allowing you to be true to yourself. Each of you are individuals and although you may be friends, what might be right for your friend may not be right for you.
If you are experiencing any of these behaviors or traits in your friendship, it may not mean the friendship is completely doomed. Try to speak to your friend about your concerns openly and honestly. If you can discuss the issue together and work to finds way to repair any possible damage, your friendship may in fact be stronger for it.
Have you experienced any of these issues in one of your close friendships? How did you handle the situation?