A good friendship can give us so much: fun, kindness, companionship, confidence and self -worth to name a few things. An unhealthy friendship can take away all those things. But how often do we hear talk of what actually makes a good friendship?

Qualities such as mutual-respect, genuine care, the giving of time, interest and investment in one another’s well-being are key elements within any relationship – romantic or otherwise, and we shouldn’t expect any less from our friendships too.

In my therapy room, I often see the pain of broken friendships: someone feels let down, maybe betrayed, or abandoned. Yet it can often feel hard to get validation for these emotions – after all it is “just a friendship”. Why do we relegate the worth of friendships? Relationships are hard – and that includes friendships. How many of us remember learning how to have and maintain a healthy friendship? How many of us have stumbled our way into better friendships through painful experiences? How many of us are still putting up with friendships that don’t work for us as we feel that’s all there is and that perhaps that’s all we feel we deserve?

As a relationally-trained counsellor, I’m aware that often, the way we relate to others is a reflection of how our primary caregivers related to us. For instance, if we were abandoned by a parent (this felt abandonment may be emotional as well as physical), we may express this fear of abandonment in other significant relationships such as friendships. We may tolerate disrespectful behaviour from a friend as we struggle to feel worthwhile. Alternatively, we might feel lonely in our relationships as we struggle to be close with people who care for us – for fear of the pain that typically comes with loss. Another example is when we have come to believe that confrontation is bad due to the way our parent responded to any disagreement or challenge – perhaps with external aggression or “the silent treatment”. In these situations, we may find it hard to share our less positive feelings and try to “people please” to the extent that our own needs become unheard and unmet.

When we explore such painful feelings in therapy, it can help us to be more conscious of the emotions and thoughts behind our actions, enabling us to find some resolution and go on to have healthier friendships – with others and with ourselves.


Image Credit
By Ian Schneider Licensed under Creative Commons 0.