Friendship, or the family you choose

Friendships are a beautiful thing. Through them, we can experience a sense of safety, emotional reciprocity, and receive support for our ideas, dreams, and accomplishments. When we surround ourselves with the right people, we feel supported, fulfilled, and nourished. Our friends can be part of our support system: the people we go to in order to share our thoughts, desires, struggles, and hard times. When there are health and longevity in the friendship, those friends can even become part of our chosen family.

Friendships aren’t without conflict and miscommunication, though. This is normal in friendships and, when resolved in a conscious and healthy way, can be corrective experiences and can even enhance the relationship. However, there comes a time in our lives when friendships (yes, including longterm ones) end up draining us more than they nurture us, cause us significant stress, and may have a negative impact on our mental health.

With those friendships, it is OK to set boundaries and even OK to call it quits. Staying friends with someone only because there is history or because you feel guilty for leaving them is a recipe for burnout and resentment. Here are some signs that indicate it might be time to end a friendship:

– They compete with you on various aspects in life and struggle to be happy for you.
It manifests itself as always trying to “one-up” you; you may be sharing your own accomplishments, which then results in them bragging about something they have done, a sign of their inability to sit with your personal successes. They may put you down in front of others and fail to provide genuine and authentic support when you are doing well.

Another sign is constant criticism that might be subtle. For example, when you are wearing your favorite outfit, instead of giving you a compliment, they might say, it looks like you spilled something on your sleeve. 

– They only call or ask to hang out when they need something.
When a friend only reaches out because they need something; maybe they need to borrow something or maybe they need someone to vent to—then this is a big sign that the friendship is one-sided and can leave you feeling exhausted, drained, and irritable. Furthermore, you might notice that your efforts are not returned, and these friends may be less available when you are in need. In healthy friendships, there is a sense of emotional reciprocity that includes checking in on each other’s emotional well-being.

– They disrespect you or violate your boundaries.
Our boundaries are what keep us safe, and they are what help to sustain our emotional and mental health. Boundaries can be physical, mental, financial, and emotional. An unhealthy friend may violate those boundaries by putting you down, betraying your trust, talking negatively about you to others, taking advantage of you, or being dishonest.

– Your personal growth is negatively affected by the friendship.
As we grow and evolve, our interests, values, morals, and ethics do too. The people we were in the past are often not the people we are now, and sometimes, this means letting go of friends who support the older narrative of who we once were and not who we are now. These are the friends who don’t support or reinforce your goals. It’s time to choose a friend circle that supports your growth and fosters the best version of you.

– The conversations feel forced.
Do you feel like you have nothing to talk about? Emotional reciprocity and mutual conversation are part of the foundation of a healthy friendship. When you find that you no longer have things in common and are no longer interested in the conversation, this is a sign that the people in the friendship may have outgrown each other.

– You feel exhausted after hanging out with them.
After a conversation with a true friend, you should feel energized. Feeling drained is a clear sign that the friendship is no longer healthy. Just because you are friends with someone does not mean that they are entitled to your emotional labor.

– They are jealous or controlling.
These friends feel entitled to your time. They become upset when you don’t call or text them back right away and may even demand that you explain to them why you were unable to answer right away. These friends may also become jealous when you do things with other people, or if they feel that you are getting closer to someone else. In healthy friendships, we allow others to have their own personal space, and we do not take things personally when friends don’t respond right away. We also understand that people have their own lives and do not emotionally punish our friends when they don’t reply to our messages right away. Healthy friendships maintain their independence and experience a sense of trust.

Ultimately, friendships should be about feeling joyful to be with somebody. It is important to strive for friendships that leave us feeling heard, respected, appreciated, safe, and loved.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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