By Marie Bradby

A healthy relationship is where there’s equal give and take on both sides, where both people are getting what they need out of the relationship, therapist Jenny Townsend, LCSW, says. There is such a deep connection between the two people, that when you have a conversation you are able to say, ‘Me too. Yeah, I get that.’

A friend listens to and identifies with you, considers your feelings when they give you feedback, and can be depended on during difficult times.

In a good relationship, you can be yourself with that person. They accept you for who you are. You are validated.

There are different levels of trust in a relationship — who you can trust the most and who you can trust the least. Keep everybody where they belong in that hierarchy.

Do your friends make you feel good?
Good friendships keep you from feeling alone, depressed, and isolated, she says. You will feel better physically and have a boost in mood. Friends also keep you accountable and help expand your interests.

If you have friends you can be yourself with, share with, and trust, it will help you express your feelings. People need objective, nonjudgmental feedback, a safe place where they can say the things they want to say.

Why you should keep old friendships?
Childhood friends are a connection to you at a time when you were developing, before you became the adult you are now. They know you on a different level than a new friend can know you. This is someone who knows you within and without; someone to remind you, ‘Hey, this is where you came from.’

Childhood friends can act as a memory keeper, Jenny says. A woman, who had lost both her parents and many family members, felt good reminiscing with her childhood friend who knew her parents and siblings. Her husband didn’t know her parents, but she could talk with her friend about their shared experience.

We can get busy doing boring adult things, but old friends bring out a more fun-loving, child-like side in us. Old friends, like the memory keeper, know things about us that we forget. They are a reminder: ‘You have this other aspect to your personality, too, that I love.’ When friends have gone through bad things together, that’s something you can talk about and say, ‘I get it. Me, too.’ They know you know what you are talking about, and they give you the space to express that.

Photo By RawPixel

What are the signs that you are in a bad friendship?
Jenny says she’s always telling people what Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

When someone is asking you to give, give, give, that’s toxic, she says. In a healthy relationship, there is equal time of give and take. A person who takes and takes is going to show you in the beginning of the friendship who they are. They are really saying, ‘I don’t have time to give to a friendship right now. I am too busy with my schedule.’ If they truly want to be in a relationship with you, they will make time.

You always want to be friends with somebody who loves you for who you are and does not expect you to change at all. If someone expects you to change, that’s problematic.

How to let go of toxic friendships
It boils down to being honest with yourself, Jenny explains. Don’t blame yourself for the other person’s behavior or feel bad about letting go of that friend. Give yourself permission to let go. Think: ‘This is self-care for me. I need healthy boundaries between me and this person. There is no respect for me and my friendship.’

A friend who calls and talks on and on and never asks you anything about your day is taking advantage. If someone keeps taking, you need to stop giving.

You could use the direct route to let go of the relationship. You could say: ‘When you do this, it makes me feel used or taken advantage of. I can’t do this anymore.’ That way, you stop doing your end of the dysfunctional agreement.

For an indirect approach: Change the subject when you talk to them, don’t be available when they call every time, put in healthy boundaries every time you are around them. If it’s not working for you, then you have to stop doing your side.

Do what you need to do to self-preserve, Jenny says. It’s OK to do that for yourself. Some friendships are meant to last, and some are meant to go. If both of you aren’t going in the same direction any more, it’s okay to part ways for now.

What is one of the best things a friend has done for you? We’d love to know!