Several times a week I hear from
patients that they are upset and disturbed by the behavior of a friend. Usually a story unfolds about a friend who
used them, abused them, and used them as back up. One of the first things we do in therapy is
define what is meant by a friendship. In
a true friendship, each person is there for the other in crisis or need, and
the relationship does not become the crisis.
However, many people will call others “friend” based on a history of
knowing the other person. For example,
having gone to school together, living in the same neighborhood for many years,
or knowing each other because the two families have been friends. A relationship based on history is not
necessarily a friendship, but simply a long-term relationship. Have you ever had a “friend” who would cancel
plans with you because something better came up, and you were not included in
those new plans? How about the “friend”
who borrows money or items, never returns them, but gets upset if you ask about
a return? The friend who stole your
boyfriend or girlfriend may have done you a favor by stealing the relationship
(which couldn't have been so great or it would not have been stolen), but a
real friend would never even entertain such a thought. In a real friendship, you respect each
other’s boundaries and have each other’s back.
If you are in a relationship in which you repeatedly suffer and feel
taken advantage of or abused, IT IS NOT A FRIENDSHIP! You need boundaries that do not allow other
people to use and abuse you. You can
still be a good person and protect yourself, surround yourself with healthy
people who respect you and eliminate unhealthy people from your life, stand up
for yourself, and even say “no”. Ask
yourself what you are getting out of this so called friendship. In a true friendship, both people should feel
they are getting something special from the association. Respect yourself and walk away from
relationships that are one-sided and abusive so you will have the mental energy
to develop healthier relationships with other potential friends.
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