Friends are one of life’s greatest joys. But you may find it hard to build strong friendships, or to know what to do when a friendship seems broken by fighting or disagreement. Don’t give up hope. We’ve helped many people grow and deepen their friendships, and find healing when a friendship goes wrong.
Why Can Friendship Be Difficult?
It’s frustrating and painful when it feels like we can’t make or keep friends. But why is friendship difficult, even if we aren’t being unkind? There are a few common threads we’ve noticed among friendship challenges:
- Traumatic or Abusive Relationships: If a previous friendship has become a toxic relationship, or if you have experienced physical or emotional abuse from people close to you, trusting new people enough to build a friendship may feel impossible.
- Sexual Intimacy: Having sex too early after meeting someone can confuse or heighten emotions, making communication far more complicated. Maybe you aren’t sure whether the intimacy will continue, or maybe you feel an inner struggle because you want to go back to being friends, but aren’t sure if you can.
- Mental Illness: Whether you have struggled with your mental health, or are trying to be supportive of a friend with depression or other mental illness, emotional imbalances can make friendships feel weak or fragile.
What Makes a Friendship Strong?
Most of us have some idea of what we look for in a friendship: shared interests or hobbies, spending quality time together, having ideas or beliefs in common, and so on. But there’s more to keeping a friendship strong when life gets tough than having common ground.
|Unhealthy Friendship||Healthy Friendship|
|You feel like you’re always giving and they’re always taking.||You take turns giving and receiving health, advice, and support.|
|Your friendship is characterized by mean jokes, mockery, or excessive sarcasm.||You respect and encourage one another.|
|You feel like you can’t ask for what you need without upsetting your friend.||You have healthy boundaries and can speak clearly about when you need help, space, or time to yourself.|
|Spending time with other people leads to jealousy and competition.||You are free to spend time with other friends whenever you choose.|
|You feel like you can’t be fully yourself.||You and your friends accept each other for who you are without pressure to change or hide parts of yourself.|
*Adapted from a blog by Dr. Jane Bluestein
Even a close friendship with a best friend can become unhealthy over time. If you see signs of bad health in any of your relationships, it’s time to learn more about where you’ve gone wrong and decide how you can rebuild a healthier friendship.
Getting Help to Rebuild Friendships
We all go through difficulties with our friends. Often the closer we are to someone, the more likely we are to let our guard down, which can cause us to say or do things we may regret. Rebuilding friendships starts with examining how you and your friends make one another feel. If your friendships are draining, taxing, or frustrating, it’s time to take a closer look at what you can change, as well as where you may need more support from your friends. If both people want the best for one another, a friendship can be rejuvenated with joy and gratitude. It’s just a matter of time.
You can find help strengthening friendships at TheHopeLine. Our mentors can offer suggestions via live chat or email support.