Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life. It is a satisfying relationship shared by two people who care about each other, trust each other, and only want the best for each other. A good friendship is honest, loyal, and truthful; good friends understand and accept each other like no one else can.
A healthy friendship makes both parties feel good. It is positive, supportive, and comforting whether times are good or bad. Friends see each other at the best and worst of times, and despite everything, the relationship remains uplifting and fun. Friends make us laugh, make us feel good about ourselves; enhance our life experience.
Sometimes an initially healthy and energizing friendship becomes heavy and oppressive; the needed balance begins to tip in one direction and is never balanced again. Being together is no longer fun; almost every encounter turns downright depressing. But your friend was there for you in the past and you feel compelled to be there for him or her now. The problem is, it seems like your debt will never be paid off.
If you are wondering whether or not you are burdened with an emotionally needy friend, consider the following questions:
1. Despite all your help, does your friend always seem unhappy?
2. Are you helping your friend more than your friend is helping you?
3. Does your friend dominate all phone calls or interactions when talking about his problems?
4. Does your friend show little or no interest in your life or your problems?
5. Does your friend make the same mistakes over and over or choose one destructive relationship after another?
6. Does your friend feel better after jumping on you and leaving you feeling worse?
7. Do you wish you could avoid contact with your friend?
8. Do you feel trapped in friendship?
9. Do you fear every encounter with your friend, or does each encounter leave you drained and exhausted?
You are probably a good listener and want to be a good friend; you want to support whatever your friend is going through. That is understandable. But be clear about what it means to be a good friend and what it means to be supportive.
A healthy friendship is reciprocal and balanced; It requires the same amount of give and take, time and effort. Good friends act as sounding boards for one another: problems come and go; they are not absorbed. A friendship is not a therapist / patient relationship.
The exchange of support in a healthy friendship should lead to personal growth, not emotional dependency. Supporting a friend means giving a helping hand, not a helping hand. A good friend will appreciate your kind and generous efforts, will not take advantage of them, and will become dependent on you. A good friend respects you, he doesn’t want to be a burden to you.
Why do you allow yourself to remain in an unhealthy friendship? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you need or like to feel needed?
2. Do you see yourself as the glue that holds people together?
3. Is a friend in need better than no friend?
4. Is it fun to be with your friend from time to time, so you justify him or her being a disappointment the other 90% of the time?
5. Do you think other people’s problems are more important than your own?
6. Do you take on other people’s problems so that you don’t focus on your own?
7. Do you feel unworthy of having healthy relationships?
8. Do you feel guilty when you say no?
9. Do you have trouble defining and protecting your personal boundaries?
If your friend has been in need for a significant amount of time and imbalance has become the pattern in your relationship, it will be very difficult to change the nature of your friendship.
Your friend may have chased away all other friends and you may be the only person still out there, but that’s not your problem: people have to learn to stand up for themselves. You should never do for others what they are capable of doing for themselves. We should want to make our friends stronger and more self-reliant, not weaker and more dependent. Sometimes that requires tough love.
There are ways to deal with a friend in need. Here are some suggestions:
1. Be honest. Tell your friend what is bothering you and how it is affecting you. Explain that you can no longer play that role.
2. Change the nature of your relationship. Set limits and know when to say no.
3. Plan nice things to do with your friend to change your focus. When the fun is over, your time together should end. Don’t let every friendly interaction end with you listening to their problems.
4. Suggest that the person find other friends, join clubs, or volunteer to ease the pressure on you. It is unreasonable for friends to expect you to be the only one.
5. Tell your friend that he should focus on taking care of his own needs and / or the needs of his family.
6. Take a break from friendship. You deserve a break and you deserve to enjoy your life.
7. Stay busy. Fill your schedule with plans, commitments, and time with other friends.
8. Step away from the friendship by spending less and less time with the person.
9. Recommend that your friend seek professional therapy. If you are already seeing a therapist and not improving, insist that your friend find another.
10. Recommend that the person consult a doctor who can make a proper evaluation and, if necessary, prescribe medications for anxiety or depression.
11. If you’ve tried everything and nothing works, it’s time to say goodbye to your friendship.
If you are in an unbalanced relationship with a friend in need, there is no better time than the present to remedy the situation. Both will benefit from your efforts. If you have a pattern of attracting and perpetuating these types of friendships, it’s time to look inward and find out why these types of friendships are acceptable to you. It is not healthy behavior and often indicates a bigger problem.