We have been discussing what healthy relationships look like this week. I am so excited to talk about friendships. Why? Because I have been on both sides of the coin, healthy and unhealthy, and can understand what the difference is from experience. I get so excited now to talk about it because of how wonderful it feels to be in true, interdependent friendships. Below are what friendships look like in each stage:
Enmeshed: As Teri mentioned previously, most relationships start out this way and friendships are not excluded. How many of us have used the saying, "My new best friend (or BFF!)"? A lot of us feel very excited when we meet someone new and connect. We enjoy hanging out, chatting, and being there for each other. This is all normal until you start feeling smothered by the person. Or if neither of you feel smothered but only start exclusively hanging out, excluding other important people in your life. Sometimes your friend, or you, may feel jealous when the other hangs out with someone else. This is all unhealthy. Friends need to allow their friends to have other people in their life and be happy for them. If the relationship is enmeshed, it can feel "wrong" to have other friends.
This can look like many different things but I will give you a couple of examples. If conflict isn't resolved and is swept under the rug, that is cut off. If one friend feels smothered and instead of talking about it just quits taking phone calls or answering emails, that is cut off. Another way seen in Codependents of cutting off is feeling unhappy in the relationship but silently continuing the friendship to not hurt the other person. So they are miserable around the person but don't talk to them about it. This keeps them emotionally distant and cut off.
This is where friends understand each of them have strengths and weaknesses and are human but can live with each other's humanness. Each friend feels heard in the relationship. Each friend gives and takes, so neither feels the life is being sucked out of them or that they are the ones always taking. The friendship takes time for work (listening, feedback, life's trials) and for play (hanging out, laughing, doing fun things together). It's never too heavy for too long or too playful when it needs to be serious. When conflict arises, it is dealt with and resolved. Interdependence feels like a comfortable, warm, yet really fashionable sweater on a cold day!
If you have an interdependent friendship, thank God everyday for it! If you don't, ask yourself what kind of a friend are you to people? Do you give and take ? Do you have fun and deal with life? If not, take some time to evaluate how you might be a better friend. Tomorrow Joleen will discuss what healthy and unhealthy family relationships look like.
Written by Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.