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, and to us. Our friends represent who we wish to become, who we identify with, and who we care about. It's very common, though, for us to get involved in friendships that are not beneficial or perhaps even healthy for us. Some people will call themselves your friend, but they can be detrimental to you. When you find the right friends, however, 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 when 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 themselves. They leave very little room for your needs. They may make you feel as though there is something wrong with you and suggest that you change who you are. They may make you feel like you're waiting for a ticking time-bomb to go off at any moment. These friendships sap away at your energy and emotions, 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 hang 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 going 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.
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, living in the moment rather than holding onto negativity or stressing about what could be. Some therapists even have therapy dogs available in their offices for their patients.
Animals can help ease emotions out of people, often without us even realizing it, making them exceptionally useful in therapy. Also, if playing with a therapy dog during a session, oftentimes the client’s guard will come down more easily. 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. Animals are oftentimes some of the purest friends we can have.
What Are Characteristics Of A Supportive Friend?
Usually, the most supportive friends are those that start in the casual friend category, and over time grows and deepens. 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 or hurt you. They are loyal and trustworthy. You will not need to question where you stand in your friendship with them, as they will remind you frequently with their actions just how important you are to them. A supportive friend is the most important kind of friend to go through life with. Whether you live together or are thousands of miles apart, a truly supportive friendship will feel secure and overall just good, with both of you knowing that you are appreciated, validated, and loved by the other whether you talk often or not.
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, or letting you know if they don’t agree with what you’re doing. But, they will also do their best to 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’re just genuine.
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 whom you know. Write down co-workers, fellow churchgoers, moms of your children's friends, neighbors, schoolmates, etc. Then, sort them out.
Are there any who 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 whom you have done something socially with. Have you gone to a work happy hour? Has there been a parents’ 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, and that means something. Those whom you have hung out with the outside of the aforementioned activities (whatever they may be in your case) can be considered casual friends. Those whom 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! It might feel strange at first, but some of the best friendships can feel a little awkward at the beginning!
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 so many people in this world, and though it can seem daunting, there is greater potential than ever with technology to be able to rekindle old friendships and create new ones. Consider reaching out to an online therapist, such as those available here at BetterHelp. At BetterHelp, thousands of licensed online therapists are available to speak with. They may not be a friend per se, but they are supportive and can help you navigate into supportive friendships and maintain the ones that you have (but may have lost sight of).
Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy in treating a plethora of conditions, including anxiety and depression – both things that you may experience if you don’t feel as though you have a supportive friend system. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Zurich found online therapy to be more effective than in-person therapy; 57% of online clients continued making significant progress even three months after treatment ended, as opposed to only 42% using traditional therapy.
Since they are online, our therapists are highly accessible, with many working outside of conventional working hours and offering a variety of session times. Additionally, sessions are fully customizable and can be conducted via phone call, instant messaging/texting within the app, video chat, or live voice recording. Instant messaging in the app affords the ability to respond to your therapist as you have time, whether during a scheduled session time or not. They can make suggestions on how to get out of toxic friendships that you are in and how to replace them with more supportive and trustworthy friendships.
Continue reading to find reviews of some of our board-certified therapists from people seeking help with relationships and support.
“She is a fantastic therapist. Really easy to talk to, empathetic, supportive. She is a great listener, and gave me good insights and tools to get through the rough times. I am grateful for her help and would recommend to others. Thank you!”
“I've been talking with Rebecca since February and she has helped me immensely! A lot has changed in my life and she's helped me create a positive mindset and space to navigate the changes and pursue the type of life and relationships I want. Along with this, she's provided me with resources I can use outside our sessions.”
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, it can be hard, but is nonetheless 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 your own success, happiness, and self-realization. You will have the peace of mind that if you take a risk in life and you fail, your friends will not laugh at you or criticize 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 onto 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 them in return.