Is Your Friendship Healthy?
Ten signs your bond is strong.
Posted April 12, 2019 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
We don’t learn enough about healthy relationships. Even when we do, the lessons often fall within the realm of romantic or familial bonds. Like any other relationship, friendships are essential and can range from abusive to healthy as well. Friends can be a wonderful source of happiness, love, and support. Unfortunately, sometimes a person you may be quick to call a friend doesn’t actually meet the characteristics of a healthy connection, and may actually be a toxic influence.
Adult friendships can be a bit more complicated than checking the boxes of whether your childhood friend asked you to have a playdate, share a snack, or attend their birthday party. So how can we decipher if our friendships are healthy? While friendships are influenced by the individuality of the people involved, there are key areas that you can look for. Check for the ten signs below to help you gauge the health of your bond.
1. You want to share.
When your friendship is healthy, you feel the urge to share. From the good to the bad, the little things to the big moments, you are eager to connect and foster your bond. It doesn’t have to be news of a big milestone, it can be as simple as a seemingly innocuous meme. The impulse to share with a friend prompts positive sentiments, and you may hope to spark the same for your friend. You may not find yourself hesitant or second-guessing if it’s worthwhile to share. This may be due to a combination of known similar interests, an established sense of acceptance, and a sense of mutual understanding. Therefore, you feel confident that your sharing is well-received, as opposed to interpreted as an irritation or inconvenience. In addition, your sharing is met with a nod of appreciation and is often reciprocated. On the other hand, a sign of an unhealthy connection could be your instinct to hold back. You may be unwilling to share because of past instances in your friendship in which you tried to share, but were met with a lack of warmth, interest, loyalty.
2. You seek their help.
We all need help from time to time. When you’re in need, do you turn to your friend for assistance? It requires vulnerability to admit that we need help. The mere task of opening up to admit that you are in need is a sign of a healthy friendship. You are willing to open up to your friend, as you are not worried about being judged, confronted, disregarded, or shut down.
On top of this, seeking support takes courage. Doing so shows that your friendship feels safe. Since seeking help can be a private matter, your willingness to ask for assistance is representative of the trust established in your bond. If your friendship is unhealthy, you may not even open up to your friend, because you do not trust that they will be compassionate and helpful regardless of your needs.
3. You feel connected.
Although it may be hard to put into words, a sign of a healthy relationship is the feeling that your friend gets you. When you’re on a similar wavelength, you feel understood. You don’t have to do much to explain yourself, and even when you have to, your friend just gets it. Sometimes this comes from the existence of similar interests, values, experiences, and personality traits, but while these factors help, they are not necessarily required to feel connected. In a healthy relationship, your friend does not have to be your clone to understand you. Even when your differences are highlighted, compassion, respect, and empathy can help you to feel understood and are crucial in a healthy friendship.
4. You enjoy your time together.
In a healthy friendship, you look forward to sharing quality time. Whether it is a rare reunion or a repeated get together, you are eager to see one another. You don’t question why you’re investing your time, feel conflicted about deciding to meet, or fear what will happen when you reunite. When together, you feel comfortable. You are not vigilant about every word you say or move you make, and neither is your friend. The time you spend is positive and leaves you feeling grateful for the opportunity to be together. Your days are brighter because of the time you share, and you may even leave replenished, positive, and enthusiastic about getting together again. On the other hand, in an unhealthy relationship, you feel dread when you anticipate getting together and may leave feeling even worse than when you arrived.
5. You think about them fondly.
When the thought of your friend is prompted, your immediate response can be telling. Do you find yourself remarking on the qualities you appreciate about your friend or do you find yourself experiencing a rush of unpleasant feelings? In a healthy relationship, the mere notion of your friend can evoke positive sentiments. Maybe your instant reaction is the thought of your fun recent get-together or even just gratitude for the bond you share. It does not mean that your friend is without faults, and your relationship is perfect; it simply means that a healthy relationship paves the way for healthy thoughts and feelings as well.
6. You feel supported.
A true friend knows when you need help. Sometimes they may be attuned to your needs and may know before you’re even able to consciously recognize them for yourself. Other times they may be unaware, but you simply asking for help prompts them into compassionate action, as they genuinely wish to help you. Healthy friendships can be a great buffer to provide us with positivity and encouragement in the times in which we may feel low and may not believe in ourselves. They remind you about your strengths in the times that you forget. In an unhealthy friendship, the sense of support may be deficient or nonexistent.
7. You have good memories.
In a healthy relationship, you have a history of good memories. It’s not to say that you never endured bad times, but the positive moments easily outweigh the negative moments. In an unhealthy friendship, it can be difficult to recall a happy time. Even if you do, it may be overshadowed by the number and intensity of bad times that you are easily able to recall. In a severe situation, a genuinely positive memory may be difficult to recall altogether.
8. You invest.
Healthy friendships are not fostered by accident; it takes intentional effort to develop a strong bond. When your relationship is healthy, you are happy to invest your resources. You make time in your busy schedule, you’re there to support them when you’re exhausted, and you trust that you wouldn’t need to monitor interest if you loaned them money. In an unhealthy relationship, you may be wearier with your investments. Lack of trust, accountability, respect, and security may cause you to be more hesitant with how and when you invest in your friendship.
9. You feel respected.
In a healthy friendship, you don’t need to have the same values, beliefs, goals, and lifestyles. While these aspects may make a bond easier, what’s more important is that mutual respect exists regardless of your similarities or differences. Your friend is aware of your hopes, needs, and boundaries, and whether or not they agree, they honor your worth and bond by respecting them. While disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, abusive exchanges are not. In a healthy friendship, even if you have contrasting views you are still able to be kind, considerate, and compassionate as you disagree.
10. You can be yourself.
A gift of a healthy friendship is the ability to be your authentic self without the fear that you will be judged. A good friend accepts you as you are and wants you to be genuine. Mutual understanding allows you to feel comfortable and to let your guard down. You don’t second-guess asking them to spend time together, sending your double text, or confessing a deep, dark secret as your authenticity is met with trust and safety. In an unhealthy relationship, being yourself could cause you to feel exposed, judged, or even attacked. You may not only maintain your defenses, but you may create additional protections. From this, a surface-level friendship is maintained, and the disclosure needed to delve deeper is impossible.
These ten signs are intended to be a starting point in your assessment process. While these elements may be key in a strong bond, relationships may vary. If a characteristic does not apply, it does not mean your friendship is flawed, but it may be an area in which growth is possible. Remember: It takes two. If a box is left unchecked, it could be the nature of the dynamic, but it could also be an opportunity to self-reflect to consider how you affect the relationship.
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