We all long to have friendships. However, oftentimes we settle for unhealthy relationships. It might be because that is all we have ever known. Or we are so attached to our relationships, we are even willing to settle for dysfunctional ones. Whatever the reason, the questions begs to be asked – what does a healthy Friendship look like?
Before we dive into what a healthy friendship looks like, let’s revisit two facts to encourage us:
60% of us don’t have the friendships we desire.1 So if we feel like our friendships aren’t great, don’t be discouraged, we are in the majority.
Friendships are built based upon patterns.1 The good news is our friendships may stink, but our friends don’t. Every friendship, even unhealthy ones, are repairable. We just need to change are unhealthy patterns.
There are 3 components to every healthy friendship:1
A healthy friendship contains all 3.1 So let’s discuss each of these in a little more detail.
It takes time to establish meaningful friendships. The more regularly we meet with someone the easier it is to deepen a friendship. We can’t meet someone and instantly declare them a best friend. It takes 200 hours to achieve best friend level friendships.1
Consistency is why we tend to make friends based upon our routines. Going to the gym regularly. A mom’s group. A Bible study. The more consistently we are around the same people the easier it is to create meaningful and healthy friendships.
This reminds me of another statistic that is worth mentioning here – every 7 years half of our friends change.2 When I first read this statistic I found it fascinating, because being married close to 20 years now I remember in the early years hearing about couples divorcing around the 7 year mark. “The 7 year itch,” I heard it called.
I don’t know if there is a connection, but I can’t help but think it makes sense that both statistics reflect shifts in seasons of life. 7 years ago I was in a completely different season of life. I had 3 kids under 5. 1 in diapers and breastfeeding. 1 in preschool. 1 in kindergarten. Our daily routines were completely different. And so were our friends.
While some friendships endure the test of time, many are built as a byproduct of circumstances and routines. We befriend a fellow preschool mom whose child is friends with our own. The kids graduate from preschool, go to different grade schools, and don’t hang out as much.
It’s not that they don’t like each other any more. It is simply that their paths don’t cross without an intentional effort and the business of life can often push these relationships to the side. Thus we naturally this shift in half our relationships every 7 years.
This doesn’t mean we are a bad friend or people don’t like us. It simply means we are in a new season. And this new season along with our new routines are making space for new and different friendships.
How do we feel leaving a friendship? We should leave feeling good. Encouraged. Uplifted. Affirmed about who we are and what we are doing in the world.1
We should not leaved feeling burdened, bummed out, discouraged, depressed, or deflated. If we do these are red flags the friendship is unhealthy.
Friendship requires vulnerability. Being open and honest is an essential mark of a healthy friendship. This can’t be one sided either.
Vulnerability needs to be mutual. Friendship is not therapy. We aren’t in the relationship to only spill our guts or exclusively listen as the other person shares. Both parties share and are interested in what is going on in the other person’s life too.
Now that we know the three components of healthy relationships, we should take a minute to evaluate our friendships:
- Name our closest friends
- For each friend, determine if the friendship has consistency, vulnerability, and/or positivity.
- For any friendship that is lacking in one or more of these areas, come up with a plan to intentionally work to improve that area.
Consistency – if a relationship lacks consistency, decide upon a consistent time or place to connect with your friend.
Positivity – if a relationship is lacking in positivity, discuss this goal with your friend. Explain you want both of you to leave your time together affirmed. Then lead by example and intentionally make an effort to affirm your friend
Vulnerability – if a relationship is lacking in vulnerability the best way to change this is to be vulnerable. Go first. Don’t spill your life story, but share a little. I heard Shasta Nelson describe it this way –
Don’t be an entree. Be an appetizer. Give them just a taste and leave them wanting more.1
May we be encouraged by our honest assessment of our friendships and have the courage and freedom to make tweaks where needed. May we settle for nothing less than healthy friendships, because life is too short and you are too amazing to settle for less.
1 Why Tho Podcast. “Surviving Summer: Frientimacy.” July 14, 2022
2 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/20/nyregion/loneliness-epidemic.html Leland, John. “How Loneliness is Damaging our Health.” New York Times. April 2022