Tag Archives: friendship

Et Tu, Friend?

How to Survive a Friendship Breakup

Surviving the loss of a friend can be even more painful than a romantic breakup. In the mental health profession, a friendship rupture or rift is a frequent reason why people may seek support.

It is possible to heal from the loss; as you work through the pain, you’ll eventually become stronger. Your pain is real. Give yourself the space and time you need, just like you would with a romantic breakup or any other significant loss. A broken friendship may include a lack of trust, lack of communication, feeling disconnected, unresolved conflict, ongoing hurtful behavior, having nothing in common, financial discrepancies, splitting a friend group, possessions left behind, and/or one person taking all the responsibility for the friendship.

What Causes a Friendship Breakup?
We’ve all heard that friendships are like seasons: they come and go at different phases in your life. While that might seem comforting, it denies friendship’s much more complex nature. If you’ve gone through a friendship breakup, you know it hurts more than the inevitable passing of the seasons. You may feel broadsided by the loss, even if it has been culminating over months or even years. But why do friendships end?

Some of the reasons include:

    • Change of interests and values (moving, getting married, political views, having children, religious views)
    • Misunderstandings
    • Breach of trust
    • When one person feels unsupported
    • Feeling used financially or emotionally
    • Clashes with the partner of a friend
    • Attraction to the partner of a friend
    • Abusive behavior
    • Not making time for the relationship
    • Psychological disorders left untreated

Is it a Breakup or a Break?
You may face self-doubt about moving on from your friend, so take time to determine whether this is the right decision. Sometimes, you can save a friendship by investing more in the relationship. But, there has to be a balance between fighting for the people we care about and not tolerating harmful behavior.

You can (and should) be a friend’s support system, but it can cross a line when you become their therapist, bank account, or punching bag. The friendship might shift when one or the other person becomes more “successful.” If your friend is actively present when they need you, but fades away when you are no longer required, it was not a reciprocal relationship to begin with. Your friend might have secret resentments or perceive you as privileged or spoiled.

You’re the one who has to decide to move on or remain in the friendship, but here are some questions to consider:

  • Has there been a betrayal? If so, has my friend made any attempt to make it right?
  • Is this just a misunderstanding?
  • Have I taken steps to talk about how I feel with my friend?
  • Is my friend toxic?
  • Does my friend repeatedly poke at my vulnerabilities and guise it as teasing or joking?
  • Are they taking any steps to become a healthier person?
  • Is my friend repeatedly hurting me even though I’ve talked to them about their behavior?
  • Do I feel judged or belittled by my friend?
  • Does my friend hold me back or help me become a better person?
  • Does my friend say nasty things about me behind my back?
  • Is this disagreement something we can overcome, or will it only cause more harm in the long run?

Prioritize Your Mental Health
Moving on from someone causing you mental and emotional harm is OK. Studies have shown that social relationships can either sabotage or support behavior change. When you begin to experience personal growth, it can be frightening and even threatening to the people around you. Your personal growth and your friend’s inability to grow with you may have triggered the friendship breakup. If that’s the case, I applaud you for your bravery and the growth you are pursuing. A friend will be there for you in good times and bad.
Related post: When Your Friends Are Successful

Where Possible, Seek Resolution
Many people express confusion about a friendship breakup, not understanding why it happened or feeling they never got to say what they needed to. I call the friendship breakup, with ghosting, the “living death”. You don’t know what happened but they’re still out in the world. You may even cross paths with them. We are creatures that crave meaning and explanation. Ghosting is often a reprehensible act.
Related post: Ghosting and Mental Health

When possible, talking to your friend can be a healthy way to promote understanding, express how you were hurt, and even apologize. Remember, your goal isn’t to launch a personal attack on them or be defensive. Make sure you can speak calmly and, if possible, wish them well at the end of the conversation. At some point you genuinely cared for each other and that’s to be honored. If they aren’t open to talking, or it doesn’t feel appropriate or safe to you, try writing out what you’d like to say. Expressing your thoughts on paper or email facilitates a better understanding of what happened. Even if you don’t understand “why,” expressing your emotions in writing can restore a sense of control over a situation where you may have felt helpless.
Related post: Restorative Writing and Mental Health

Reasons you may be struggling to move on:

  • You felt silenced by the friendship and haven’t had a chance to express how you feel.
  • You have experienced abandonment in the past, and losing this friend has brought up those feelings of abandonment.
  • You’re still waiting for them to come back.
  • You feel guilty, and you’re carrying the blame for the friendship ending.
  • The betrayal has so many layers you don’t know how to unpack it.
  • You have so many happy memories of the friendship that it’s bewildering to let it all go.
  • You have so much shared history that you struggle to get the needed space.

How to start:

  • Get a piece of paper and write at the top, “What do I need to let go?”
  • Sit quietly and listen to your intuition to determine what may keep you from moving on.
  • If you aren’t sure, start writing and let your thoughts flow unhindered.
  • As you write, look for what blocks you from moving on.
  • Once you know what that is, explore what you need for resolution.
  • Healing happens in layers, so don’t be discouraged if you identify multiple things.
  • Choose one thing that resonates most strongly and work through that.
  • As time passes, continue to work through the different areas of pain. there is no timeline.

Often, current pain is complicated because it connects to past pain. If you discover the connections to past pain, embrace this as an opportunity for growth. Healing takes time; it is a process. So be gentle with yourself. Permit yourself whatever you need to heal, and don’t push yourself to move on before you are ready. Mourning has no checklist.

Give Yourself the Gift of Forgiveness
Amazingly, forgiveness protects health even in high-stress situations. One study showed the longitudinal impact of forgiveness on stress levels. Another study showed that self-forgiveness increases physical and mental health. Forgiveness is about taking a step forward to healing and moving on.

What Forgiveness Is NOT:

      • Weakness
      • Blind trust
      • Letting the other person get away with wrongdoing
      • Restoration of a relationship
      • Being in close contact with a person who abused you
      • A denial of justice
      • Saying what the other person did was OK or right

Forgiveness takes time and is more of a lifestyle than a one-off event. As you seek to move on from your friendship breakup, you won’t feel (or heal) all the feelings at once.

Part of the pain of losing a friendship is you are losing the possibility for the future. In a few months or years, you may hear your friend is married, moved away, is having a baby, wrote a book, or just got a promotion. Because of the pervasiveness of social media, you might even observe your friend having fun with others. In loving relationships where it is an expectation to share these life events, watching from the sidelines can be incredibly painful. It’s important to forgive and be kind to yourself as new pain surfaces. It can come and go.

Validate Your Emotions
A breakup is a feeling of rejection at the heart of a friendship. Whichever side you are on, there will be a sense that someone you were once so close to no longer values you as a person. One study found that feelings of rejection directly impact self-perception by creating feelings of hurt, loneliness, jealousy, guilt, shame, anxiety, embarrassment, sadness, doubt, and anger.

Society expects you to experience these emotions when you suffer a loss or a romantic breakup. There isn’t always the same understanding for a friendship breakup. So if your social circle isn’t supportive of what you are going through, you have to learn to understand and validate your own emotions. If it feels unbearable, talk to a therapist.

Don’t Let It Follow You
We find it painful and upsetting to see a friend move on because, the truth is, we haven’t. We want to believe we matter enough that they will experience the same amount of pain as we are experiencing. When they seem happy and unaffected, it can feel like we didn’t ever matter to them. Holding on to feelings of injustice may cause the friendship breakup to drag you down and spill over into other areas of your life.

So, ironically, one of the keys to moving on is… moving on. Ultimately you’ll have to let go of the need to know they cared. Instead of holding the pain close, release all of your expectations and disappointments. You’re not letting go of all the good things you shared. Instead, you are letting go of the need for them in your life. There is life apart from this other person. While they may have shaped a part of who you are or been with you through difficult and painful times, you are still a person, and you can recover from this.

Rebuild Your Ability to Trust
You may not notice this immediately, but over time, you may discover your friendship or the friendship breakup has impacted how you view others. Any time there is vulnerability and emotional intimacy, you enter into a relationship of trust. Whether that trust is intentional or not, it impacts your ability to trust others. If you are hesitant to get close to new people or withhold and withdraw from other relationships, it could be because of your friendship breakup.

Invest in Positive Relationships
As you move through the grieving process, there will come a time when it’s essential to begin making new friendships; intentionally investing in creating positive and healthy attachments. As you’ve worked through the steps of moving on, you’ve likely identified some of your own unhealthy behaviors. Take what you’ve learned from this last friendship to prepare you to be a better friend and to set good boundaries so you don’t accept harmful behavior from others. One patient said to me, everything I learned in my last relationship will make me a better person in the next. Friendships teach us a lot.

Form New Habits & Make New Memories
Sometimes, friendships can cause a narrowing of activities and even personality. Whether they were actively holding you back or your friendship allowed you both to become too comfortable or complacent, now is the chance to recognize your potential and expand your horizons. Instead of constantly reflecting on the things you did together, work to build new memories and experiences.

Related post:  On Friendship Pain

Love for Friends, a Tribute on Valentine’s Day

Women are frequently taught to compete with each other, to view others as rivals in the challenge for ‘finite’ resources like men’s attention, work opportunities, and seats at the metaphorical table.

‘Philia’ is a great love that develops over a deep, long-lasting friendship. In classical philosophy, it is noted to be as powerful as Eros (romantic love), Agape (selfless/sacrificial love), Pragma (dutiful love), and Storge (love for family).

Female friendships are essential to our health and they can even help us live longer lives. Platonic closeness gives us a healthy, stress-busting boost of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin—all vital to emotional wellbeing and physical longevity. Now more than ever, the intimacy we share with friends helps us avoid feelings of isolation, increases our sense of belonging, and helps us cope with the world around us. Friends wipe our tears, make us try the scary things, scrape us off the floor, tuck us in when we are absolutely done, check on us, make us laugh raucously, show up.

Notable aspects of female friendship have been explored by writers, poets, artists, and psychologists.

Soi Patano
The early 20th century Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote with eloquence tinged with jealousy, about the friendship between his wife and her best friend, the activist, Amala Das, sprawled together on a divan,  deep in conversation, their affection and respect for each other completely transparent. He desired to have the intimate and heartfelt conversations that came so naturally to the friends.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, upperclass Hindu women formalized the friendship ritual (known as Soi Patano, in Bengali). They gave each other small gifts, came up with personal nicknames, had inside jokes, turned to each other for advice, wrote each other letters, and became each other’s confidantes. In a largely patriarchal society, this was a space that was safe, intimate, and private.

Modern Friendship-Courtship
Memes, text messages, girls’ night out, shared interests, new interests, advice, laughter, the shoulder to cry on; friendship is an immortal tradition. From book clubs to women’s encounter groups, women have gravitated to sharing their experiences with other women, with the concomitant closeness, conflict, grief, and loss. As couples therapists, we do more and more ‘friendship therapy’. Friendship ruptures and breakups can be incredibly painful, sometimes more than romantic ones. Interestingly, clinical psychology research shows that like romantic relationships, platonic friendships start with chemistry; an attraction and interest in getting to know a future friend.

Shine Theory
The psychologists Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman coined the phrase ‘Shine Theory.’ It states that by consciously investing our full selves into our friendships, we can become allies instead of competitors. And when we encourage our friends to be their best selves, we also encourage ourselves. When we cultivate relationships based on mutual and unwavering support, we create the perfect conditions for long-lasting and deepening friendships. Instead of having feelings of rivalry, mindfully surrounding yourself with compassionate, creative, talented, stylish, successful friends, makes everyone better. Shine theory: when your friend shines, you shine.

Golden Girls
Friendship, across the lifespan: the concept of seniors moving in together and intentionally sharing a home has become known as the “Golden Girls” trend — named for the popular ‘80s sitcom in which four older, single women lived together, and it’s been gaining popularity among retired women. Older, single adults interested in aging in place and preempting isolation are embracing the trend of moving into homes together. In turn, they share companionship, household duties, resources, and financial responsibilities. While there are certainly pitfalls to be considered, it’s notable that there has been an exponential growth in this lifestyle for senior women.

There is another type of love described in classical Greek philosophy: Philautia. Self love and self esteem. No doubt, strong friendships contribute.

Dedicated to my friends, with gratitude.
Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤️🌹

Good morning, good night: The Power of Reaching Out

We underestimate how much the simplest text or call means to our friends, family members, and colleagues. As a society, we tend to place greater emphasis on romantic connections in our lives. Texting a dating partner or spouse is frequently seen as de rigueur. However, friends often get us through the hard times and these relationships are also ones that should be nurtured and regarded as something significant and special. According to a recent study (published by the American Psychological Association, 2022) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, check-ins from friends are greatly important.

If we learned anything during the pandemic, it was that friendships are just like relationships in that they take work: it’s important to check in, to engage with one another, to see how the other is doing on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, new research suggests that such texts, phones and emails aren’t just necessary to sustaining a good friendship, but are also beneficial for mental health. Surprisingly, they can be brief but powerful. Casually, quickly, and regularly checking in with the people in our lives is one of the easiest, but highest-impact actions we can take.

Researchers asked study participants to check in with others in just to say hello or “catch up,” — a text, a brief call, a voicemail, or short email, and then directed both sides of the interaction to rate how meaningful it was. Those who reached out routinely underestimated how much their small act meant to the recipient. The researchers also found that the impact of the message increased with how surprising the check-in was. People we haven’t spoken to in a while apparently appreciate hearing from us.

If it’s not something you use regularly, here are some strategies to consider when checking in with someone:
-Greet them to acknowledge the day: How did you sleep, what does your day look like, what are you looking forward to this week?
-Ask open-ended questions: So, what’s new with you? How have you taken care of yourself today? If you know they have things they are struggling with: Is there anything I can do to help support you?
-Wait and listen for the answer: You don’t need to have answers or solutions to problems.

Sometimes, just having someone available who is earnestly listening is enough to make a person feel cared for and supported. It is good for the mental health of both the recipient and the giver. The ‘Hey, good morning, how are you?’ can literally improve someone’s day.
Also see The Ingredients of Friendship.

Centering Friendship and Mental Health

Traditionally, the premise that partners are prioritized over friends has been the theme of many a movie, blog, and book. Recently, the idea that friendships may transcend and certainly equal romantic or marital relationships has received research attention in the psychology literature.

Some intriguing conclusions from these studies:

1. A substitution for assisted-living or elder care may be group communal living for friends who support each other as they age. Addressing and communicating the strengths and needs of each person entering such an agreement as an intentional living community is of course crucial, but it’s a fascinating premise. Early studies show a higher level of social support, mental engagement, decreased depression, and reduced perception of physical pain. Read: Goodbye Nursing Homes, New Trend is Senior Co-Housing With Friends.

2. Replacing the traditional model of a marital/monogamous/romantic relationship by centering friendships as equally or more important as a priority also shows indicators of positive adjustment and mental health. Read: What If Friendship, Not Marriage, Was At The Center of Life?

3. The literature on loss shows that friendship break-ups are as painful as loss of an intimate partner. The emotional impact of friendship is unequivocal.

4. The responsibilities of child rearing, housework, and the burdens and joys of everyday life can be successfully split among a community of friends, rather than a nuclear family.  It may indeed take a village.  Read more: The Ingredients of Friendship.

 

A delicious evening.

We walked along the water in Georgetown after scrumptious seafood, to an antique teak park bench, where I had last hidden a journal in the disguised drawer compartment underneath, waterside. Many have written in it over the years. I returned to it several times and added more entries. I took it home once to add more pages. But for the most part, over the years it remained hidden, waiting for the observant soul who sat on the bench, and felt the compartment below.

On this day, the Secret Compartment was intact, but empty. I was not surprised, but disappointed. She said start another one, and see what happens.

Friends help you reset. ❤️

Mental distress and social exclusion

Her: I usually feel excluded at work; with colleagues, meetings, or in conversations. I’m invisible: I don’t matter.f
Him: One of my best friends recently started dating somebody. I’m happy for her, but she has no time to chat or hang out. I feel like I don’t matter.
Them: My partner has a new job. Everything is about their work. I feel like I don’t matter.

Humans are “herd animals.” We all want to feel included. As much as we will hear “don’t care about what other people think,” “do your own thing,” that’s not how we’re built.

Belonging and ‘fitting in’ are core needs. Long-term social exclusion can lead to emotional distress and a host of mental health problems. One study even found that social exclusion can lead to impaired self-regulation, meaning that people may struggle to make healthy decisions for themselves when they are being socially excluded. For example, if you are feeling alone, you might eat that quart of ice cream or finish that bottle of wine. In contrast, people who are in close, caring, and secure relationships and friendships show elevated levels of oxytocin, which is the love/bonding hormone that keeps us ‘on course’, even at the cellular/neural level.

So it’s completely normal and understandable that you might feel rejected if you feel left out of plans or your friend group or people you care about are having fun without you.

If you feel left out regularly, there are some things you can do to deal with these feelings. We all get left out and ignored sometimes (no one can be liked by everyone), but we can learn to surround ourselves with people who truly want us around. In addition, we can learn to manage our feelings better, so we don’t feel as bad in the times we will be left out.

Accept your emotions
A lot of our hurt comes from trying to deny, suppress, or run away from our feelings. Giving space for our feelings can paradoxically make them more manageable. Accepting your emotions doesn’t mean that you have to love your current situation as it. You can still try to change and improve the things that are bothering you in life.

What does accepting emotions look like in practice? Let’s say you’re feeling left out of family gatherings or friends who are spending time together. Accepting your feelings means saying to yourself: “right now, I’m feeling rejected, and that’s tough. There is nothing wrong with how I feel. I can be still be kind to myself.” Self-compassion is not static; you may have a wave of hurt that takes you by surprise. Contrary to popular belief, self-actualization or Nirvana are not phases that are permanent; you have to soothe yourself as the feelings come.

Make sure you haven’t misread the situation
Sometimes we assume that we have been purposefully left out or rejected, but that isn’t always the case. It’s worth examining the situation and how we feel about it. Note that examining your emotions doesn’t mean shaming yourself for them. Your hurt feelings are still valid even if you misread the situation. Shaming yourself isn’t going to help.

Let’s say that you hear of two friends hanging out together on a day you were free. You may feel hurt and sad because they didn’t ask if you want to join them. Feelings of envy, jealousy, inadequacy, and shame may creep up. Thoughts like, “I guess we’re not so close after all” may fill your mind.

Ensure that you’re making yourself available
How do you deal with the feeling of being left out? Some people share their feelings, while others may pull away in an attempt to protect themselves.

It may come out of a fear of “burdening others” with your needs or presence. Or perhaps it’s a deep fear of abandonment or rejection.

Some people “test” their friends by not responding to their texts for a while. They wait to see if their friends check up on them and “prove that they care.”

The worst communication is tit for tat: they did not respond to me, so I’m not going to text them. They did not invite me so I’m not going to invite them. They don’t care about my feelings, so I’m going to show them I don’t care.

Bottom line is that you do care. You can learn how to make your overall communication appear more friendly and approachable. Just reply to messages and calls. Let people know you appreciate them. Give and receive compliments with grace. These actions send the message that you’re available for new connections.

Check if your expectations are realistic
People have different expectations from friendships and romantic relationships. Some people need a lot of time together, while others want to have a lot of alone time. While some people prefer to have two or three close friends they do most things with, others prefer to have many friends, contacts, followers, and acquaintances.

As we get older, our friendships change as well. As people become parents, they spend more time with their children and expanded families. When they meet up, they cannot be as spontaneous as their friends with no kids. They have to be back home by a certain time to say goodnight to the kids or send the babysitter away. Sometimes they’ll need to bring their children with them and prefer to go to kid-friendly places. This also relates to people who have companion animals who require attention. If they are rushing home to take care of their furry companion, it’s a responsibility that needs to be respected.

We also tend to get busier as we get older. Obligations such as work, juggling work, family both young and old, self-care, and keeping up the house take more of our time. Our interests change as well. You may have had friends you bonded with over late nights, meaning of life conversations, and barhopping, who may no longer have those interests or ability.

In some of these cases, friendships can adapt and grow. You may not see a friend for several months as they adjust to a new job, relationship, or parenthood, and you may hear from them again when things have settled down. Another friend may have moved away but reconnects. With virtual communication and travel, distance is not what it used to be.

Enjoy time spent alone
You’ll feel left out more if you’re not enjoying the time you spend by yourself. Learn how to be. Eat the delicious food, drink the delicious libations, watch your favorite show, read the book that you’ve been saving, light your favorite candle. Just as you nurture people you love, spoil the one who is with you the most.

Remind yourself of your amazing qualities
When we feel left out, we might come up with all sorts of stories about ourselves. You might start thinking: No one invites me because they don’t like me. I’m boring and needy. If I were fun to be around, I’d have more friends. Then, we start to believe ourselves. We feel that we don’t have anything to offer others, affecting how we interact with people, leading to a vicious cycle. Try to make a list of your positive qualities and remind yourself of them often. You can use daily affirmations or put post it notes on your laptop or mirror. Let yourself celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Give yourself a mental high five when you try something new, pay off a bill, or go for a run.

Meet new people
How do you know if you have flaky or toxic friends? If you find yourself extending yourself to others, with your time, energy, finances, and interest, and not receiving the same effort back, it may be time to make new friends.

A friendship that leaves you feeling consistently feeling left out and rejected may be doing more harm than good.

A good friendship should feel overall balanced and reciprocal. There are often periods in a long friendship where one person is busier than the other or needs more support. That’s normal and something you can work through together. But if you feel like you’re the only one giving in in your relationships, you may consider taking a step back.

Talk to a therapist
If you find yourself feeling left out frequently, there may be something deeper going on. It may be that you’re misreading situations and feel left out even around people who enjoy your company and want to include you.

Or you may be struggling to recognize when someone wants to be your friend, leading you to choose unhealthy friendships or put yourself in situations where you will be hurt.
In either case, you may benefit from working one-on-one with someone who can help you identify where you’re stuck. Together, you can come up with solutions on how to remove these blocks and make changes in your social interactions.

Honest communication; or how to express your needs. 
When bringing up sensitive topics, it’s always best to focus on “I” statements. Talk more about how you felt than what the other person did, so it does not come out as an attack. When people feel attacked, they are likely to respond defensively, and the conversation can turn into a conflict rather than coming up with solutions.

For example, if you want to share that you feel left out, avoid saying things like:
“You’ve been ignoring me.”
“I’m always calling you, but you never call me.”
“If you cared about me, you’d have made time for me.”

Be open and honest about your feelings, but don’t expect your friend or partner to “fix” them for you. Listen to what they have to say and try to come up with a solution together.
Takeaway: Being kind to ourselves sets the standard for what kind of behavior we accept from other people. This does not minimize normal human feelings of pain, loss, abandonment, jealousy, even anger.

All lost relationships hurt badly. The one you have with yourself is your constant.

On friendship pain

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a friend’s taking advantage of you, or if you are just being overly sensitive. However, there are some infallible signs to be on the lookout for that will give you answers.

Here are 8 signs that you’re being taken advantage of in a friendship.

1. They don’t listen to you, but always expect you to listen to them.
If your friend expects you to listen to them vent for 20 minutes straight, then they should let you vent to them, too. If you always provide a shoulder to cry on, but they dismiss you or don’t give you their full attention when you have a problem or are feeling down, that’s not a true friendship.

2. They only want to hang out when it’s convenient for them.
If they want your entire schedule to revolve around their appointments or commitments, something is wrong. When making plans in healthy friendships, you should both discuss your schedules and compromise to figure out what dates, activities, and times work best.

3. They’re constantly asking you to do favors for them.
If your friend is sending you out on errands as if you’re suddenly their Personal Assistant, it’s time to reassess the relationship. Sure, friends with healthy relationships will do favors for one another, but if it’s one sided and the person is constantly asking you to go out of your way for them, they’re taking advantage of you.

4. They only reach out when they need help.
This is one of the surefire easiest ways to spot whether someone is taking advantage of you. Does it seem like your friend only hits you up when they need something? It may feel like they’re always needing your help, whether it’s borrowing money, career advice, or “brain picking” with nothing to offer in return, or a place to crash when they’re in town (but they never talk to you regularly throughout the year).

5. They are always making you pay for things.
It’s pretty common for a friend to offer to foot the bill once in a while, and it’s expected that the other friend will get the bill the next time, right? If you notice your friend is conveniently always “missing” when the check comes, they never offer to pay for anything, they’re just taking your money, and it’s definitely time to have a serious talk with them.

6. They’re using you to get ahead.
The sad truth is that a lot of people will use others just to get ahead in life, whether that means to gain popularity in a certain social circle or in a work environment. You don’t have to be rich and famous for people to try to use you and your friendship to their advantage. Manipulative people will keep “friends” just so they can step on you to climb on up to the top.

7. They don’t show interest in your personal life.
Friends care about their friends. Think about it — you want to know how your friends are doing, right? You care about your friends’ well being, how they’re doing, and you’re curious about their daily life. If your friend never asks how you’re doing, doesn’t show interest in your life, and only wants to talk about themselves, you are less than significant.

8. They are not happy for you.
You may have had a major win at work, lost weight, had a great date, or accomplished a personal goal. If they don’t take the time to appreciate your victory, they brush it off or minimize it, or switch the subject to their own life, you do not have a real friend.

Don’t let your “friends” take advantage of you, your kindness, or your time. Your true friends will never want to take too much from you or be manipulative. They genuinely desire your company, through good and bad times. They don’t forget about you when things are going well for them. if you feel like somebody’s taking advantage of you — they are.
Also see Friendships Are Good For Your (Mental and Physical) Health.

On Friendship and Mental Health

Connecting with true friends is one of the best things we can do for our health and happiness. The research unequivocally shows that having true friendships is good for our medical and mental health, decreases stress, helps manage depressive and anxious symptoms, and contributes to overall life satisfaction. Friends help us live longer: Seniors with a strong connection to a network of social support live longer and healthier lives.

Like any powerful relationship, friendships can hurt and harm.

Transactional friendships
Some people are friends with you because of what you can do for them. Red flags include friends who repeatedly try to sell you something, ask to borrow money, ask your help to buy things or services, or keep tabs on favors. These friends routinely cross the line between friendship and business. Unlike business, friendships can emotionally hurt you, because what you regarded as care or love was actually convenience.

Narcissus friendships
This friendship works great, initially, because you have a common factor: you both adore the narcissist. As long as you are both on the same page, aligned on the superiority of one, you get along well.

When needs become mutual, the relationship breaks down. The relationship might also be more subtle — they may love you back when you consistently admire them, and they validate you with heart emojis. In return you get a shot to your self-esteem.

Mutually unhealthy friendships
In 2007, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the spread of obesity through a “deeply interconnected social network” of more than 12,000 people, underscoring that social ties link to health behavior. Healthy (or unhealthy) habits can circulate within any friend group, too. For instance, unhealthy psychological habits like a tendency to put each other down, self criticize or denigrate, or to complain constantly can spread from friend to friend. Over-eating, substance abuse, and even overworking can become an acceptable and approved part of a friend group.

Emotional labor friendships
This is where you do all the emotional work — talking them down, shoring them up: “Of course you’re amazing. Sure, let’s talk about all the ways you rock. Again. Tell me about your terrible week.“ If you’re doing all the work in the relationship, you’re an employee, not a friend. Of course, over time the balance will shift back and forth — you will inevitably have a major life crisis at the same time your friend gets a promotion or falls in true love, but good friends are there to share in your successes and your struggles. You should feel sure in your friendship; winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call.

Historical friendships
Historical friends are those who have stayed in our lives as we’ve grown up, for whatever reason. They are not necessarily the closest friends we have, but they have stood the test of time. These are the friends we usually meet in school. We bond with them and the bond may fade but never disappear. We may meet up with these friends only once in awhile, but when we do, we fall back into the rhythms of the relationship in no time at all. Then after the meeting we all go ou own way until our paths cross again. But historical friends make up a piece of our identity. Lifestyles, interests, and values may have drifted apart, but it’s OK to hold them in your heart without having to force time together.

True friendships
Your “friends of the heart” are the people you can call at two in the morning when you have a problem. They listen to you, give you their full attention, and are on your side no matter what. They know everything, or almost everything, about your life. With them, you feel confident and don’t need to hide your true self because the foundation of your friendship is acceptance.

They make time to be with you. You may disagree, even argue, but neither one of you exits the relationship. They tell you when you have messed up, and pull you up at the same time. Research on friendship indicates that most people generally only have between four and six ‘true’ friends, because friendship requires dedicated commitment, time, communication, and growth.Our brains are only dedicated to a special few people.

Also see:
Nine Reasons Why Cross-Cultural Friendships Are Great for Your Brain
The Ingredients of Friendship

The ingredients of friendship

Strong friendships are a critical aspect of most people’s emotional well-being. Psychology research indicates that close friendships are associated with greater happiness, self-esteem, goal orientation, and sense of purpose. These bonds are even associated with physical outcomes, such as lower blood pressure, decreased stress hormones, and a longer lifespan. [See Friendships Are Good For Your Mental (And Physical Health]

Friendships are a great way to learn our way in the world, explore, and find adventures, in the company of people who care about you.

Interestingly, a body of research has also found that friendships are initially formed when people find the other person to be attractive or engaging. Over time, as friendships grow, the estimation of a friend as attractive seems to also grow.

Friendship breakups can be as painful as romantic breakups, and leave us grieving, further adding to the importance of nurturing our friendships.

Dr. Degges-White, social scientist and researcher, at Southern Illinois University, has been studying friendship for many years. My review of her research has summarized the following defining characteristics of friendship.

-Friendships exist when pleasure is taken in the company of another.

-Friendship implies reciprocity and give-and-take. This is not in the sense of an immediate even exchange “economic model” of behavior, rather that support is expected to flow both ways in different forms, as needs arise for either party.

-Levels of friendship commitment vary over a lifetime, depending on the energy required by family, work, or other commitments. However, when crisis strikes, true friends can generally be counted on to offer support, regardless of inconvenience or challenges they may face to do so.

– Friendships are voluntary, and we recognize that our friends are also making a choice to engage in the relationship. The classic adage, friends are the family you choose, is supported by the research. 

– Importantly, friendships will flourish and maintain only if mutual respect exists between friends.

-Friendships may serve different needs over time.

Young adulthood: We enjoy sharing activities, interests, and create respite from our adulting responsibilities and pastimes. In sum, we enjoy having fun together.

Middle adulthood: We need friends who don’t waste our time, who challenge us to be better people, or to understand who we are without having to explain. We don’t have time to waste on superficial relationships that once might have claimed our energy.

Older adulthood: We need our friends as social supports. Our friendship circles shrink dramatically during the last stage of life and loneliness and depression can result from isolation. It’s essential that we stay involved in social support networks, either retirement communities, spiritual community (Sangha), or neighborhood groups.

Friendships are a huge part of our mental health resources.

Friendships are good for your mental (and physical) health

In neuropsychology, co-regulation is when you are in a close relationship, friendship or intimate, where your nervous systems actually attune to each other in ways that are soothing. Research shows that it has the effect of reducing anxiety and depression.

Co-regulation is usually applied in the context of overall emotion/affect. That The emotions of each individual within a dyad are constantly in flux. If emotion co-regulation is in effect, the result will be a decrease in overall emotional distress. A working definition of emotion co-regulation has been offered as “a bidirectional linkage of oscillating emotional channels during interactions between two people, which contributes to emotional stability for both.”

Although most of the co-regulation literature is based on parent and child relationships, there is an emerging body of research on adult relationships. Primarily, co-regulation in adult relationships is defined by reciprocity between two individuals, such that the responsibility to regulate the other is more or less equally split. Of course, the split may not be constant, but the fluctuation evens out over time. Second, research on adult co-regulation is more likely to incorporate physiological measures. For example, there is an increase in oxytocin, which is the bonding and comfort hormone, there is a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone. Most importantly,  co-regulation in caring adult relationships increases vagal tone.

The vagus nerve is one of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves within the sensory-somatic nervous system. The 10th cranial nerves called vagus are the main nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system originating at the brainstem in the medulla oblongata. They travel from behind your ears, down the sides of your neck, across the chest, and down through the abdomen. People who have low vagal tone often clench their jaw, have muscle aches and pains, and gastrointestinal distress.

This nerve is the sensory network that tells the brain what’s going on in our organs, most specially the digestive tract (stomach and intestines), lungs and heart, spleen, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in everything from talking to eye contact to facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands upon thousands of fibers, operating far below the level of our conscious mind. It plays a vital role in sustaining overall wellness. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed “fight-or-flight” adrenaline response to danger. People with higher vagal tone are able to soothe themselves more easily in situations of stress.

Love, laugh, hug. This seems a little “kumbaya” but if you hang out with people who fill you up with love, laughter, and kindness, it’s actually good for your mental and medical health.

Relationships matter.

Embolden Psychology
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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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