Do you have a friend that you share absolutely everything with? Do you ever feel a little smothered by a friend that you talk to several times a day, every day?
Sometimes I think that we have as much of a romantic idea of what friendship should be like as we do the ideal man. While friendship is as much a foundation to the human condition as monogamy, one can be as impermanent as the other. But for some reason, we often hold having a best friend for life in higher regard than choosing to divorce a spouse. Why is that?
My definition of true friendship (and, for that matter, of a good foundation for a romantic relationship) is shared core values and a deep sense of trust. We get together with people who believe what we believe, as Simon Sinek says. In today’s world where most of us carry a device in our purse or pocket that has us linked with people all over the globe, we have the privilege of choosing our tribe from the whole world not just our tiny village.
Friendship and Codependency
The problem sometimes arises when we are so desperate for the company of another human being that we will compromise on those core values and beliefs. Friendships then turn into a desperate attempt at filling a void instead of a purposeful coming together of conscious people.
You know that kind of friendship. The one when you are going through a rough patch and just want to be able to complain all day long and have a caring ear that says: “Yes, they done you wrong.” The friendship where you invite someone, anyone, over to avoid being alone on a Saturday night. The one where you over-give just to impress them, and then feel resentful because they don’t reciprocate. We all have those kinds of friendships every once in a while.
Not only is the key to a healthy friendship to have a clear definition of your own and of your friend’s values and beliefs in order to have a foundation of trust, but the other key is also to have healthy boundaries that come with mutual respect. All too often an unhealthy friendship born out of loneliness or desperation can turn into a codependent dance—when you need your friends to need you and vice versa. When your lack of self-worth and self-respect makes you feel that you are only worthy when you are rescuing someone else.
Embrace the Gift of Being You
When I faced life’s challenges with my children (one struggled with mental health and addiction and another later came out as transgender) I suddenly had to reevaluate all my friendships. Who could I trust? Who was there because they wanted to be my savior? Who remained because they shared my core values?
If you are reading this because you somehow feel lost inside a friendship or longing for more true friends, my best advice to you is to be sure of who you are deep down inside and embrace the gift of being you. Find someone who accepts you for who you truly are, and don’t hang on to a friendship that is not serving you out of a sense of false loyalty and codependence. You deserve to be happy and you will find the right friend.
I leave you with this clip from Oprah and Brene Brown’s Life Class where they discuss trust and when to be vulnerable with a friend.
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