Friendships: what they mean and why they’re important

February 6, 2023

Collage created by Lola and Tulla with their own photographs. Notebook image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Lola Tulloch and Tulla Robinson explore their feelings about toxic friendships and what it means to have close friends

Confidants; supporters; defenders; motivators; companions; collaborators; energisers and thought provokers. Whoever they are, whatever they do, friends are important. So important in fact that, according to scientific reports in The Fader magazine, positive relationships can extend your life expectancy and reduce risk of heart problems.

Our best friends are supportive, kind, compassionate and caring.

It can sometimes be difficult to read another person when they’re troubled; emotions are complex. It helps to empathise, put yourself in your friends’ shoes, try to understand why they might have particular worries and concerns.

Doesn’t it feel good when a friend provides comfort, without you having to say much? I know when I’m feeling difficult emotions it’s not always easy to open up but the more I trust someone and feel safe, the easier I find it to talk. From past experience I know that my worries only get worse if I bottle them all up. Also, I think it helps others feel free to express their feelings when you open up.

It’s healthy to be transparent and authentic with your friends so they know the true you. Even letting them know you don’t feel good but you’re struggling to explain it right now is a great start.

The best friendships are healthy and rewarding relationships where you bring out the best in each other

Whenever a friend seems unhappy, it’s good to ask them why they feel sad, but you also need to give them space if they don’t want to talk. You can still be there for them but let them breathe. Let them talk in their own time. Having patience and the capacity to listen are great qualities and can bring relief to a friend in turmoil.

The best friendships are healthy and rewarding relationships. You not only bring out the best in each other, but you also enjoy spending time together and appreciating one another’s differences. When I’m with good friends I feel relaxed and comfortable and on an equal footing. When I come away, I feel energised and good about myself.

A while ago when I was really sad, three of my friends wrote me a letter. They each wrote a paragraph about how I made them feel comfortable and happy.

The letter made me realise how much my friends value me and take notice of the things I do. It made me feel loved. I think this was such a positive experience of friendship, through their caring and generous gestures I really started to feel happier.

However, it can be draining to be friends with someone who tries to control or manipulate you. At times like these it’s especially important to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships. If a friendship is unhealthy you might often feel sad, anxious or undermined in their company and be relieved once you’re away from them.

They tried to stop me making new friends and would get mad and jealous if I hung out with other people

I once had a friend who would always ask to go through my phone, and would make me promise that I was their #1 best friend. They would want to ‘phone swap’ so they could go through my messages.

They wanted to look through my personal things like my photos and my notes too. When I told them that I didn’t want to ‘phone swap’ they would get very annoyed at me.

It became clear that this friend had little respect for what I wanted and how I felt. They tried to stop me making new friends and would get mad and jealous if I hung out with other people. It started to dawn on me that this was a toxic and controlling friendship.

Luckily, I was able to drift away and started to surround myself with the people that I had a good time with and who really did care about me.

I think it’s good to remember, controlling people don’t have your best interests at heart. The relationship is based on their attempt to control you, not on mutual respect.

We have both been through toxic friendships and feel blessed right now to have each other and our other lovely friends. We encourage anyone who can relate to our encounters of negative friendships to make a stand and move away from these people. You can get more advice from Reachout.com here.

It’s good to be mindful of how people make you feel. It’s so worth working out what’s toxic and what’s not so you can move forward with awareness into romantic relationships where there could be even more at stake. You can get more advice here from the Your Best Friend #FriendsCanTell campaign.

Thanks to SafeLives, which is operating the Your Best Friend Fund, for making this fantastic #FriendsCanTell campaign possible.

Lola is brilliant at art and enjoys drawing the most. She spends her spare time dancing competitively. Lola loves reading romance novels as well as listening to bands like Oasis and Lovejoy.

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