By Jessica Glynn, LMSW
Have you ever had a friend that loves to call you to gossip or speak poorly of others? If so, you may come to a point in your friendship when you ask yourself this question: if they are speaking this way about others, what are they saying about me? Or if they are lying and ditching other plans to hang out with you, how many times have they lied to you so that they can pursue a seemingly “better” plan for the evening or weekend?
I have recently seen a number of clients who are distressed about friendships that have been changing for the worst. Friendships are relationships that we value, so when friendships struggle with a disagreement, disappointment or inconsideration, it can affect us deeply. It is often during points of transition in our lives that we reflect on our friendships the most. Is your friend someone who is not only there for a great night out, but also during the difficult times? Alternatively, when you experience positive changes in your life, such as a progressive career change or a new romantic relationship, is that friend truly happy for you? Trust and reciprocity are two concepts to consider when deciding if a friend in your life is deserving of your time and energy.
Reciprocity - Does your friend put a similar amount of effort into maintaining the relationship as you do? If one person is always trying to make plans, and the other is not following through or canceling last minute, this can feel very hurtful. Typically, if a friend values your relationship, they will make time to keep the friendship going strong. All relationships require time and nurturance in order for them to be a positive support in our lives. If one person is consistently absent, then they should not expect their friend to wait around for when they are ready to put forth sporadic effort. Often, we mistake our longest friendships for healthy friendships, simply because we have known this person for a very long time. However, it may not necessarily matter how long you have known someone if they have been continually absent and unable to reciprocate the time and effort that you have put into the relationship.
Trust - Are you able to tell your friend personal issues or feelings and know that they will be held in confidence? If you notice that your conversations with them often tend to be about gossip, this may be a red flag. Not only could this be a sign of a jealous or competitive person, but it may also leave you questioning what they are saying about you to others. Trust is an important component of a friendship, and if it’s not there you may as well be telling your personal secrets to any passerby willing to listen. A friend that you can confide in will be one that will hold your personal conversation as privileged, even when they are angry with you or you have a disagreement.