The Importance Of Having Supportive Friendships
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated March 19, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Avia James
The relationships that we have in our lives help to form who we are as a person; who we surround ourselves with speaks mountains about us. Our friends represent who we wish to become, who we identify with and who we care about. It's very common that we do get involved in friendships that are not beneficial to us. Some people will call themselves your friend, but they can be detrimental to you. But, when you find the right friends, the tried and true friends, it just feels right. They are there for you to lean on and vice versa. True, supportive friends become family. These friendships just feel right and take very little effort to uphold.
What Is A Toxic Friendship?
There are times where it is important for friends to go their separate ways; however, there are also times that friendships become so consuming that they begin to affect our lives negatively. These friendships are referred to as toxic friendships. In toxic friendships, this friend turns all of the time and attention to him or her. They leave very little room for your needs. They make you feel as though there is something wrong with you and suggest that you change who you are. They make you feel like you're waiting for a ticking time-bomb to go off at any moment. These friendships suck the life out of you, and it is important to get out of them as soon as you can. It will not be easy, but with the support of other friends, family or a therapist, it can be made easier.
What Is A Casual Friendship?
Those friends that you see from time-to-time or randomly are what you would call casual friends. You don't have dinner with them every Friday night or chat with them on the phone on a daily basis, but they are a group of people you like to have out with now and then. They are fun, and you always have a good time when you are with them. Though, you may not rely on them for life's tribulations if your conversations have always revolved around having fun and not gone too deep. These friends are healthy and important to have. You know that when you go out with them, you're going to have a good time and you will not be stressed. They are the complete opposite of a toxic friendship.
What About Animal Friendships?
Another set of friendships that are very healthy are those with our furry friends. Animals are therapeutic creatures. They love us unconditionally, no matter what we have said or have done. They are loyal and always there when we need them. They are always ready for a nice cuddle and are great listeners. Some therapists even have therapy dogs available in their offices for their patients.
The animals help the emotions come out in people. Also, if playing with the dog and talking, their guard will come down easier. With their guard down, they can better open up about the issues at hand. Many pets have therapeutic benefits, such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, etc. If it a creature that you can hold and love, it can provide benefit to you. These furry friends are some of the most loyal friends you will ever come across.
What Are Characteristics Of A Supportive Friend?
Usually, the most supportive friends are those that start in that casual friend category. A supportive friend is someone who understands who you are and what you need. You will quickly learn that they will be with you through thick and thin. You both will go through some tough times and some very good times. However, a simple thing such as a fight isn't going to hold you two back from a healthy friendship. Instead, you two will learn and grow from your fight and come out stronger from it. Even in your worst of days, a supportive friend will be there for you.
They may not always agree with your decisions or opinions, but they care deeply for you. They will stand up for you to anyone that may try to cross you. They are loyal and trustworthy. You will not need to question where you stand in their friendship, as they will remind you daily with their actions how important you are to them. A supportive friend is the most important kind of friend to go along. They just got your back no matter what situation you're about to walk into.
Why Is A Supportive Friend So Important?
Many times, in life, we feel as though we can get through a stressful situation if only we had someone to go through that with. A supportive friend is always there for you and is willing to walk through that burning building along with you. This isn't to say that they are going to follow you wherever you go blindly. They can, and will, help you by identifying the pros and cons of a decision you're about to make. But, they will also stand by you after you make whichever decision it is that you make. They are not judgmental, and they do not have an ulterior motive in showing that they care for you. They just genuinely do.
What if I Have No Friends?
Sometimes it is hard to identify who our true friends are, especially when we are going through stressful situations. It is easy to feel alone in a very big world if you cannot identify another person to help go through this with. However, to start, sit down and write down people that you know. Write down co-workers, fellow churchgoers, moms of your children's friends, neighbors, schoolmates, etc. Then, sort them out.
Are there any ones that are toxic to be around? We all know the gossip mom on the ballfield or the troublemaker at work, cross them out. You do not want to draw toxic energy into your life. Then, think of anyone that you have done something socially with. Have you gone to a work happy hour? Has there been a parent's sports night? Do you attend a church group? Cross out everyone else on the list, if you have not talked with them outside of the assigned activity that you know them from.
Then, try to think of who you have divulged some personal information to. In speaking about yourself or your family, you have obviously felt comfortable enough with them to do so. Those that you have hung out with the outside of the activity can be considered casual friends. Those that you began speaking about your personal life with are potentials to become supportive friends. You can build upon those budding friendships by fostering them. Like plants, friendships need to be watered. You can do this by reaching out to the person, seeing how they are doing and finding out if they'd like to do something together. If it sounds a lot like dating, it sure is!
Nice Try But I'm All Alone
As much as it may feel that you are alone, no one is alone in this world. There are many people out there just waiting to have a friendship with someone like you. Consider reaching out to an online therapist, such as those available here at BetterHelp. At BetterHelp, hundreds of licensed online therapists are available to speak. Now, they are not your friend, but they are supportive. They can help you to navigate these friendships that you have and that you potentially can have.
Since they are online, the therapists are available through a private chat system. You then can write back to them at your convenience. They can make suggestions on how to get out of toxic friendships that you are in and how to obtain more supportive and trustworthy friendships in their place.
Supportive Relationships Are Key To Your Health
Let's be real; friendships are just another form of a relationship. You have relationships with so many different kinds of people in your life, such as your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss and your friends. The list can go on and on. If any of those key people in your life are toxic, as in they drain the life out of you, it is hard but important to remove them so that you may live a happy and healthy life. This is how you filter out those friendships. Surrounding yourself with supportive and caring people will foster success in you. You will have the peace of mind that if you take a risk in life and you fail, that your friends will not laugh at you, but rather pick you up and help you to get ready to try again.
They will be your biggest cheerleaders and your biggest fans. They will stand by you through thick and thin and be the strongest support system that you possibly can have. Hang on to those supportive ones, and be sure to return the favor to them. As important as having supportive friends are to one's success and overall health, so is being a supportive friend to those around them.