What makes someone a good friend? A good friend is reliable, trustworthy, and honest. They love you enough to be a listening ear, but care enough to call you out on unhealthy behaviors. They live life with you in community through the ups and downs. They’re present and show forgiveness and grace.
We all have those “friends”. You know what I mean. The friends who are flaky, unreliable, and unavailable. The one who commits to plans, but you know will probably back out last second. Maybe the friend is a surface-level friend, meaning that you only talk about the weather and your kids’ activities, but never anything deep. What about that friend that takes and takes, but never gives in return? Maybe your friend is critical and judgmental, and you don’t feel emotionally safe around them.
This week on the blog, I’m going to be discussing friendships. As we go through life, we go through different seasons. Sometimes we end up being the friend that won’t commit, isn’t emotionally available, or is too busy to make plans. If you find yourself in any of the following examples, you may want to re-evaluate your life, priorities, and friendships in order to be a better friend:
It’s amazing to see the shift that happens when your friends start to have children. Have you noticed this at all? Suddenly people stop responding to text messages and phone calls. They don’t appear to ever leave the kids at home, or have adult time anymore. It’s hard not to take it personally!
If you have kids, you may want to evaluate your time commitment to friendships. Are you returning your friends’ texts? Are you carving out time away from your kids to make plans with friends? Do you ever hire a babysitter to give yourself a break? It’s important that you allow yourself to be a human, and not just a parent. Have you recently neglected your friendships?
Busyness is a choice. If you find yourself not committing to time with friends because you are too busy, you may want to re-evaluate your time. Being intentional is an important part of maintaining a friendship with someone. If every night is booked on your calendar, you may want to take a good, long, hard look at what is taking up your time. If it is not bettering your life, you may want to eliminate it. Carve out time for your friendships, especially if they are good for your soul and well-being.
Being a homebody is not a bad thing, unless it makes you a recluse. Using it as an excuse not to hang out with friends is also a problem. I understand and endorse the need for people to recharge their batteries. We should allow ourselves to rest! Just make sure that you are not avoiding people or social situations just because staying at home is easier. After hanging out with friends, most people are glad they did it.
Money is obviously a huge reason why some people don’t do things socially. Just don’t let it ruin your friendships. There are plenty of free and low-cost things you can do with friends. Don’t allow money (or lack thereof) keep you from maintaining your friendships. Sometimes it’s just better to be upfront and honest with your friends, then it is for them to wonder if you’re avoiding them for a personal reason. If they’re a good friend, they will understand and support you.
Do you know what it feels like to be in a friendship with someone who is emotionally unavailable? You confide in them about something big in your life, and they can’t put their phone down. Maybe you ask for their advice, and they make it about them and their problems. It’s hard to be in this type of friendship!
If you find yourself distracted, make sure that you are giving your friends your full and undivided attention. Work to validate them and support them through tough times. Empathize with them and ask questions. Help them if you can. Make sure that your conversations are two-way and not “all about you”.
We are meant to be in community with each other. However, it can be hard to do that when you struggle to be vulnerable. We all have friends where we talk about surface-level things and don’t go deep. However, true community forms when we are able to share our life struggles with one another. Work to let your walls down with your friends. Open up to them and see what happens. You may find that your friendships strengthen and that you feel like you have true support. It’s important that others have the ability and chance to get to know the real “you”.
It is not fun to have a friend who criticizes or judges you. Eventually you stop opening up to them or sharing personal things with them. Make sure that you haven’t become this type of friend. When your friends share with you, make sure you are not harsh or critical. Even if you don’t agree with them, there are ways to bring this up without shaming them. Come at it from a place of care and compassion, not condemnation.
Takers versus Givers
This goes without saying, but it absolutely stinks to be in a friendship with someone who just takes and takes…and never gives. Friendships are all about give and take. Sometimes you need to be the giver, and sometimes your friend may need to be. If you find yourself always giving, you may want to re-evaluate the value this friend adds to your life. It may be important to set some boundaries in this friendship.
If you are always the taker, you probably need to change your approach to the friendship. Your friend deserves your support, listening ear, and encouragement. Make sure you are doing kind and thoughtful things for them, and not expecting them to always bend.
If you struggle with being a good friend or having healthy friendships, reach out for help! It is important to figure out why this may be, and work towards letting others in, setting healthy boundaries, and maintaining relationships. It’s never too late!
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.
Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.