Types of Relationships: Healthy Friendships
Hello, and welcome to my blog space! If you are wondering what it is exactly that you have stumbled across, then I’d be happy to break it down for you.
First of all, my name is Calye Bowen, and I’m a licensed professional counselor candidate (LPC-C) at Journey Counseling Center, PLLC in Edmond, OK. We like to call it Journey for short! Anyway, Journey just started a brand new video blog series in which my colleague, Kensley Merry, LPC, and I will be covering different topics, such as anxiety, depression, body image, and relationships, and so much more! The first topic was chosen via a small social media poll on Facebook and Instagram, which is Types of Relationships.
Great! What does that mean?
Basically, that is a pretty big topic to tackle, so we are breaking it down into different sub-types, such as friendships, professional (working/business) relationships, familial relationships, and, of course, romantic relationships, just to name a few, and allllll that those entail. Okay, so maybe not all per say, but as much as we can cover in short video sessions. This blog will run directly parallel to these video blogs (vlogs) that we will be posting. So, first up on the docket for the Relationships series is friendships.
But before we dive into the content, there is a disclaimer, and it is this:
In no way does this blog or even our videos serve as an equivalent to therapy. Kensley and I are simply discussing the qualities and characteristics of what make up healthy relationships versus unhealthy ones. Of course, not all real-life relationships will fall cleanly and neatly into these two categories. We are all human, and as humans, we are imperfect. With those imperfections or unhealthy leanings in relationships, there is no single, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Therapy is dynamic, tailored to each person in their pursuit of specific goals. So, if you want to learn more about how to have or maintain healthy friendships, reach out to us. Our certified counselors will be happy to help you reach whatever goals you want to pursue.
Did You Know?
*So, now that the disclaimer is behind us, let’s dive in with a fun fact! Did you know that people with close friends actually recover more quickly from illness?
What about this one?
*Did you know that you actually sleep more soundly at night and are more rested when you have close friends?
Clearly, the presence of close friendships affects so much more of our lives than it appears on the surface!
All the Feels
Now, you might be wondering about the qualities of healthy relationships. What makes a relationships healthy versus toxic? I’m so glad you asked!
A great hallmark of a healthy friendship is how you feel when you are with/after being with the person. If your overall experience is positive, that’s typically a good sign. For instance, during and after spending time with this person you might feel happy or encouraged. Some other examples might be feeling:
· A sense of camaraderie
· A sense of belonging/closeness
You Have Fun Together
Additionally, you enjoy spending time with them. With these friends you can metaphorically let your hair down and have a good, fun time without having to worry about being rejected. You feel understood, safe, and secure in the friendship. It’s essentially a judgement-free zone. These friends ultimately provide you with a space of comfort where you truly can feel like yourself. Vulnerability is a frightening thing, but if you are vulnerable and open in genuine, safe spaces, such as healthy friendships, that builds trust and closeness while making your relationship and connection even stronger. It allows you to be mutually real and honest, being accepted for who you are, flaws and all!
Loyalty is important as well. In a solid, healthy relationship, you know that your friend has your back. If your friend overhears someone dragging you down or talking badly about you, they will be the first to call them out and defend you. They will often speak highly of you to others as well, and will go out of their way to give you the benefit of the doubt, even if your actions might not make sense to them. It is in these situations that open communication is so essential (see section below, “Good Communication”).
It’s a Two-Way Street
Another important marker of a healthy friendship is that there is a give and take to the relationship. Or in other words, it does not always center on just one person and what they want or whatever crisis they might be experiencing.
Now, here is where another disclaimer comes in, right? Life happens, so everyone is going to go through some difficult times. That is fully expected, as is venting to and seeking support from your closest friends. Being there for one another is so important. In fact, that is a big indicator of a healthy friendship: they are there for you in the tough times and vice versa.
But the difference between natural, healthy friendships and those that might not be can be the frequency and level of the crises and how they are discussed. For instance, if your best friend constantly has something devastating happening to them every, single day and insists that you discuss their problems constantly while never allowing you to share what you are experiencing, then, that may not be the healthiest dynamic. Again, there should be an equal balance, the give and take, and mutual support.
Furthermore, both people in the friendship must be equally committed to giving the relationship time and attention. So what does this look like? Essentially, this is making time for one another—time to talk and time to do things together. Now, this looks different for every friendship, but the big thing is being sure not to neglect the friendship.
Additionally, there is a mutual respect for one another and the growth and change that each of us goes through. Everyone changes at some point in life. In fact, it is healthy to change. It’s part of life. The key to maintaining relationships as you grow and change is growing together and accepting one another as you change.
It is expected for there to be ebbs and flows in any relationship. There may be periods where you are inseparable, and there may be times when you have not been as close as you once were. This is only natural. There are different stages of growth for relationships, especially as they mature into adult friendships. In fact, these changes and periods of growth are to be celebrated. And in a healthy friendship, each person is accepting of and comfortable with the growth and change the other makes. In fact, they are excited for you, celebrating with you, encouraging you, and motivating you as you develop healthier habits in pursuit of your individual goals.
These friends will also hold you accountable to pursuing your goals and commitments as they genuinely love you and want to see you succeed. Even if their life is in a different, or even in a not so great place, they are happy to see you doing well. They are supportive rather than overly competitive. They want the best for you and will do what they can to help you succeed. Your victory is their victory.
So let’s talk about boundaries. There’s a plethora of specific boundaries that we could discuss (Can you say future vlog/blog series?), but for the sake of brevity, we will stick to the general points in regards to boundaries.
First of all, it is healthy and natural for you to have more than one close friendship, regardless of whether or not you and your friend are the tightest BFFs in history. There are times when it can be highly beneficial to discuss your life with and spend time with other people without it negatively impacting your other healthy friendships. (A good rule of thumb is that you might not want to sink all of your stress and venting into one, sole person, as they are not often equipped to deal with constant crisis and will inevitably burn out.)
In fact, in a healthy friendship, those other relationships can be encouraged, and you can even support one another in pursuing additional friendships without feeling threatened and/or jealous. This can also apply to certain hobbies or interests that extend beyond your friendship. Maybe your best friend loves to watch horror movies, and you are not into that. But maybe they have another friend that enjoys the same hobby. The healthy thing to do would be to encourage one another to spend time with those people. They don’t have to be a replacement for your friendship. Rather, they can be seen as a supplement. You cannot meet all of your friends’ needs, and they cannot meet all of yours. And that’s okay! Similarly, in a healthy relationship each of you has an understanding and respect for one another’s boundaries.
How you communicate with one another is vital as well. In a healthy, two-way friendship, you are able to discuss things, including the status of your friendship. You are able to air any grievances you might have about the relationship and/or one another. You must be able to discuss any conflict that arises, because, let’s face it, we’re human.
So the truth is that there will be conflict in every relationship. That doesn’t make it toxic or bad. That just means that we are flawed people doing the best that we can. Learning how to resolve conflict is essential to fostering relationships of any kind. This may not always be an easy thing and might in fact be quite awkward at times. That’s okay!
Discomfort feels bad, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Conflict is navigated through good communication, owning mistakes on both ends, apologizing as needed, forgiving one another, moving forward without holding grudges, and practice, practice, practice! It takes time and effort on both parts to get through tough times.
Is your head spinning yet from all of this info? That makes sense! So let’s look at the big picture:
One of the biggest takeaways from this post is that we can always bank on the fact that any and all healthy relationships are two-way streets. There is a give and take that is so essential for the relationships to develop and thrive, growing as each of us grows and develops. And let’s not forget that we can learn from one another! Everyone has something they can teach that they have learned through their life experiences. What you are good at might not be what I am good at and vice versa. We can always be complements of one another, investing in each other, and bearing with one another as we become more complete and whole people.
So just because there are problems in your friendship or you spot anything on this list that reminds you of your own relationships, that does not automatically make it a toxic one.
Don’t panic and run off to sound the alarm! You may not necessarily need to go out and kick this friend to the curb! It may just mean that the friendships needs some work, some effort from both sides. And remember, all relationships require effort and work to make them thrive!
On the other hand, while reading this post you may have realized that you might be missing some of these qualities or skills. That’s okay, too! That does not necessarily make you a bad friend. It may just mean that you might benefit from learning how to communicate and be there for your friend in a balanced way.
Being good at relationships is a skill. For some people, this skill is second-nature. For others, not so much. The good news is that just like any other skill, you can develop this and grow stronger in your communication, conflict resolution, and in creating and maintaining stable, healthy relationships.
If this sounds like something you want to develop and build upon, I would highly recommend getting plugged in with a counselor in your area. I am accepting new clients at this time, and would be happy to sit down and talk with you some time! So please reach out. We love getting the opportunity to help you become the person you want to be!
For more information, check out our first vlog in the Relationships Series, “Healthy Friendships” with Kensley Merry, LPC and me, Calye Bowen, LPC-C here.
Thanks for stopping by!
Calye Bowen is a graduate of Southern Nazarene University where she received a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Calye has worked with clients facing various mental health concerns and has experience in outpatient therapy as well as in working with college students at Oklahoma Christian University and families in the Primary Care Clinic at the OU Children’s Hospital. She works with teenage and adult clients experiencing stress or anxiety and depression due to numerous difficulties, which can impact daily living, ranging from work, interpersonal relationships, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, and to other various responsibilities. Calye also practices both premarital and couples’ counseling. With an emphasis on the therapeutic relationship and examining patterns of interaction, Calye strives to provide each client with a safe space in which to explore the problems they are facing in order to help them ease the weight and pressure of their experiences, ultimately achieving healing and restoration.
Calye Bowen, LPC-C
Journey Counseling Center, PLLC
2801 E Memorial Dr., Ste. 104
Edmond, OK 73013
*Fun Fact References
Bowen, K. Health Psychology, November 2014. Centola, D. Science, December 2, 2011. Christakis, N. New England Journal of Medicine, February 16, 2010. Fowler, J. BMJ, December 2008.O’Reilly, P. Social Science & Medicine, 1989. Holt-Lunstad, J. PloS Medicine, July 2010. Holwerda, T. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, published online December 2012. Kurina, L. Sleep, November 2011. Moak, Z. Journal of Public Health, June 2010. Teo, A. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, October 2015.