Do friendships have a shelf life like clothing that begins to get threadbare? Yes, according to a survey conducted by journalist Kelly Valen for her book entitled “The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.” Valen took a very careful look at female friendships by interviewing over a 1,000 women about their friendships over time.
The survey revealed that while over 75 percent of the women reported being delighted with their female friendships, more than 60 percent said that some hurt them so badly that they became reluctant to trust other women. And if that figure doesn’t concern you, about 85 percent of women reported suffering terribly due to these friendships. Yikes! Not good at all — especially since friendships are supposed to be sources of joy, comfort, support and sustenance.
We can all relate to female friendships that seem to go awry, so it’s important to know how to cultivate healthy ones — a sisterhood! Here are some tips on how to do just that, as well as how to recognize a toxic friendship.
1. Implement a ‘no gossiping’ rule. Set the stage for a healthy friendship from the beginning by implementing a ‘no gossiping’ rule. Friends who gossip about others will gossip about each other, and who wants that?
2. Engage in reciprocity. Take turns listening to and supporting each other. No one wants a friend who depletes us. Set the tone for an upbeat relationship by sharing sources of joy and laughter, as well as disappointment. And be each other’s biggest cheerleaders! We all need a fan club.
3. Be inclusive. Be inclusive and expect your friend to be as well. This translates into accepting each other’s friends, and not intentionally and maliciously excluding them.
4. Assess your relationship. Every now and then, you need to take the temperature of your relationship. If things continue to feel warm and fuzzy, then rock on —but if a friendship just isn’t feeling right anymore then it time to move on, especially if it’s a toxic friendship.
If you have a friend who likes to compete with you rather than share your joys (e.g. you tell her about something that makes you happy and you hear that pregnant pause), then she’ll end up making you feel deflated. Any good friend should be able to find it in her heart to be happy for you. Here are some other signs that you may be dealing with a toxic friendship:
- She’s possessive. Toxic friends tend to be both possessive of you and jealous of your other interests and friends. They may, of course, not start out this way but may gradually develop this cloying style.
- She uses you. These draining friends may become exploitative. They may constantly ask you for favors and assume that they’re entitled to do so even if it means intruding upon the quality of your own life.
- She makes you miserable. I mentioned above that healthy friendships should be characterized primarily by joy. Well, toxic friendships may start that way, but they can become sources of misery, particularly when your friend devalues you subtly or overtly either privately or publicly.
- She lies to you. If your friend begins to lie to you, and the friendship is less than honest, then it’s clearly arrived at the toxic friendship stage.
Sadly, we sometimes have to clean house to preserve our best energy. If problems with a friend can’t be worked out, and the friendship has more characteristics of a toxic rather than healthy friendship, then it’s time to phase it out. By all means, try to do that as graciously as possible because burning bridges never leads to anything good, and you may still be traveling in the same friendship circles.
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