Sometimes friendships are for life, starting in childhood and growing over decades. Other times, friendships are situational, lasting only through certain points or places in our lives. No matter what dynamic you are a part of, it is important to avoid the little things that ruin the friendship. Often, simple fixes can save friendships before it is too late, but sometimes the underlying problem is not recognized in time. If you find yourself wondering why your friendships do not last, consider if you are guilty of any of the following.
Friendships Can Be Ruined By Talking Too Much
We love our friends, and the closer we are to them the more we need them in our lives. But like anything, too much of a good thing can become bad for us quickly. Some friendships naturally keep in constant communication, where both parties frequently check in with one another every day. However, if you are trying to establish a relationship where visiting, calling, texting, social media, emailing, and video chatting are a daily revolving door, it might be time to take a step back.
Everyone needs their personal space, no matter how loyal the friendship is. If you are the initiator of this type of relationship, it is likely you are preventing your friend from enjoying or focusing on the other commitments in their life. Someone on the receiving end of this type of intense friendship can experience burn out and annoyance quickly. Maintaining boundaries when it comes to communication with a friend, no matter how close you are, is vital. The bond should feel supportive and open without the obligation for contact every moment of the day.
Not Talking Enough
Just like too much communication can harm our relationships, too little of it works against us too. A friendship needs reasonable interaction because, without it, there is no possible way for you or your friend to learn about one another. If you are not getting to know each other on a deeper level, meeting each other's needs is nearly impossible because those needs are not being voiced.
Spending quality time together in adult friendships is difficult. With the demands of a career, family, and personal obligations ever-present, friendship often becomes something that gets last-minute attention. If you feel you are too busy for your friends or find yourself often thinking about how long it has been since you last contacted them, it is time to see where you can restructure your time and attention before your friends start to slip away.
Friendships Can Also Be Ruined By Forgetting Empathy
In friendship, it is important to distinguish between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with someone else's situation. Sympathy is the simple act of feeling sorry for someone (and no one wants to feel like others feel sorry for them). While you will not always know what is going on in your friend's life or how a certain situation is affecting them, you should always be able to put yourself in their shoes and be part of their support system.
A friendship that lacks empathy can quickly become a toxic friendship. Toxic friendships have no balance between individuals, allow negative criticism for one another's choices, and can even make people feel as if they are walking on eggshells when they are together.
Sometimes it is difficult to point out a toxic friendship. If you are guilty of behaviors like rudely joking about your friend's clothing or relationships or frequently disapproving of their personal or professional choices, you might be laying the foundation for a toxic relationship. Not being able to discern how your behavior affects the feelings of your friend or being unable to see why they feel the way they do in certain situations might mean you need some help with empathy.
Voicing Controversial Ideas Too Often
It is 100% possible to have a relationship with someone you have very little in common with whether that be due to cultural upbringing, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic status. The one time you may struggle maintaining a polar-opposite friendship is when moral values come into play.
For example, if you think vaccinating your children is wrong and detrimental to the health of all children, you will likely have a hard time making a good friend of someone who openly argues otherwise. While you may get along on the outside, hints of underlying criticism may fester at the core of the relationship making it difficult to see eye-to-eye or support one another day-to-day.
That being said, you should never feel required to silence your ideas just because your friend may not agree with you. There are many options available for you if sharing your ideas openly is important to you. You can either agree that the topic is off-limits in your friendship or supplement the need for support in that area by making new friends or acquaintances who share your beliefs.
Lacking Appreciation Or Balance
Friendships need a certain level of appreciation to survive, just like any relationship. If you are constantly asking your friend for favors, yet never seem gracious or available when they need help, you can bet the friendship likely will not last.
People like knowing that they're needed, but they also need to feel that their presence in someone else's life means something too. While it is not necessary to keep a running count of who has done what for who, you do need fairly equal balance in the relationship when it comes to giving and receiving.
Whether its middle school, high school, or adulthood, no one at any age likes peer pressure. It is extremely easy to ruin the friendship when obligation or coercion is an element in your relationship. You should never make your friend feel like they must do something, think something, or be something that they are not, even if you firmly believe it is for their own good.
Too much pressure from one party can quickly turn into an abusive friendship. Abusive friendships are sometimes hard to spot, but in general, one that involves anxiety, control, forced responsibility or violence is a major red flag. Remember, not everyone is comfortable turning down a friend or saying "no" outright, so do not always assume your friend is completely onboard with everything you bring to them. If you sense any hesitancy in your friendship, it is time to evaluate the comfort level of both parties.
Hiding From One Another
If it seems like the friendship only survives through text or social media that is a sure sign things may easily crumble. Quality friendships need some form of personal interaction to grow.
Face-to-face interaction allows us to communicate verbally as well as non-verbally, build trust and clarify any confusion in a situation immediately.
Spending long amounts of time face to face is not realistic for all friendships, especially if two people live far apart from one another. However, alternative types of communication like video chat can help you meet the interpersonal needs of your relationship.
Stepping Over Social Media Boundaries
Speaking of social media, a relationship can easily be ruined by it when not used wisely. There are many examples of overstepping boundaries on social media. Maybe you tag your friend in pictures or comments that make them feel uncomfortable, or perhaps you flood their inbox with game requests.
While social media is often used for entertainment purposes, some individuals heavily rely on it for their career, keeping in touch with family members, or communicating with others who share their interests or beliefs. Painting your friend in a negative light or as part of any stereotype on social media based on your interactions may impact how others in their lives view them.
Just because behavior or attitude is okay between the two of you, it does not mean your friend is comfortable with everyone seeing that side of them. Violating boundaries on social media is a quick way to ruin a friendship, so always err on the side of caution and do not post a comment or advertise anything personal without your friend's consent.
Knowing It All
A successful friendship requires both parties to feel as if they hold equal positions in the relationship. There is a difference between sharing knowledge and advice with your friend and overwhelming them with it. Just because you are an expert on a subject or have a solid opinion about something, it does not mean your friend is willing or interested in learning everything you know.
Often, over-sharing something you feel compelled to communicate can look very similar to criticism at your friend's lack of knowledge in the subject area or may appear as a critique of their behaviors or ideas that go against your information. As a general rule of thumb, unsolicited advice or "teaching" in friendship is rocky territory. As long as the safety of your friend is not in jeopardy, it is probably best to wait until they come to you looking for knowledge or help.
Each friendship is different, and only you can determine where the boundaries lie in your relationship. As long as both parties in the friendship work to achieve balance, respect one another, and focus on what they do have in common, the bond will likely last. The right amount of communication is essential to all relationships, including those we have with our friends, so if you're concerned you might be doing something that is ruining your friendship, simply ask your friend before it is too late.
For additional support in knowing how to maintain friendships, you might want to seek an in-person or online counselor. They can help teach you the skills needed to improve friendships and how to identify toxic ones.
How BetterHelp Can Help You
If talking to a counselor is something you’re interested in but don’t have the time, you can reach out to BetterHelp today. You can meet with counselors wherever you feel most comfortable, whether that be your home or in your car or anywhere else, and at a time that best fits you. Our counselors can assist you in making the changes you need for lasting friendships. Below are a couple of counselor reviews from people experiencing similar issues.
“Crystal is the best counselor with understanding, good listener, no judgment, and very patient with me. Since the first session I started with my problems all over the place she helps me find myself get back on my feet, gain back my self-esteem and guide me through to what first priority for myself should be. All practices she gave me helps me handle my anxiety and panic attacks, helps me handle with toxic relationship in the time I need it most. I'm so grateful for that.”
“As someone who struggles with openness and sharing, I appreciate Rachael's style of actively listening and engaging in active two-way discussions to keep me engaged. I feel safe talking to her and feel she has sought to understand my struggles with empathy. I have not trusted any other counselor in the same way.”