Friendships can be just as powerful and life-changing as any other relationship. Having good friends that support, uplift, and respect you can enrich your life in many ways. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that individuals with strong social relationships “tend to be more satisfied and happier with their lives." Because friendships can be such an essential part of our lives, it's important to understand what healthy boundaries in friendships look like.
Healthy boundaries can help ensure that your friendship stays balanced and fulfilling on all sides. Even if your friendship is incredibly strong, a lack of boundaries could lead to eventual resentment or a falling out.
Although a lack of boundaries is typically discussed in regards to a romantic relationship, the same warning signs can also apply to friendships. Some signs that your friendship may not have boundaries include:
You are constantly their "therapist":
When spending time with your friend, you might find that you are continually listening to their problems and their problems only. You might provide advice, support, and comfort but not receive it in return when talking about your own issues.
You can't have other friends:
It is okay to have one friend, but if that friend gets angry or passive-aggressive when you spend time with other friends, it could be a sign that your friendship doesn't have healthy boundaries.
You are in constant communication:
While staying in contact can signify that you enjoy spending time with your friend, needing to be in contact 24/7 with hardly any breaks to the point where you neglect other responsibilities is not healthy.
Intimate information is shared between you:
If you are in a romantic relationship, sharing private information about your intimate life without your partner's consent can be a big boundary crossing in both your relationship and friendship.
You can set boundaries in a casual conversation to ensure that you and your friends are not contributing to a potentially unhealthy situation.
You don't have to undergo an uncomfortable or forced conversation in order to set boundaries with friends. Just taking a moment to discuss various situations with your friend you feel could benefit from boundaries can be beneficial. You can also set boundaries as new situations arise.
To set boundaries, you first have to decide what boundaries are important to you. Some questions to ask yourself that might help you know which boundaries you want to set include:
Do you want an equal give and take when it comes to venting in your friendship?
Do you want time to recharge away from your friend/constant communication?
Do you want to stop sharing information about your intimate romantic relationship?
Do you want to be treated with respect and stop name-calling or insults, even if they're playful?
Do you want to stop lending money to your friends?
If you answer yes to any of these or similar questions, you can then take time to practice what you would like to say the next time one of these situations arises.
For example, if you have a friend who continuously vents their problems to you but never returns the favor, you can try setting a boundary by saying something such as, “Hey, I've noticed that when you start to talk about these issues, I end up feeling drained. It would mean a lot if you also listened to my problems when I have them to make things more equal." Setting expectations and boundaries can help clear communication between you and your friend to avoid hurt feelings and unnecessary conflict.
On the other hand, a friend may come up to you and establish boundaries. At first, these newly set boundaries might make you feel hurt, misunderstood, or defensive. You might not understand why they felt they needed to set boundaries in the first place, especially if you are such good friends. However, boundaries can help strengthen your friendship. Accepting your friend's set boundaries with grace and understanding can help your friendship grow in healthier ways.
Signs Your Friendship Is Healthy
There are some easy ways to tell if your friendship is healthy or not. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look at how you feel when around your friend. There's a good chance your friendship is healthy if you feel:
Happy around your friend
Excited to see them
Relaxed in their presence
Added value to your life from knowing them
Refreshed after being with them
Conversely, if you feel drained and exhausted after spending time with your friend and dread hanging out with them, it might be a sign that your friendship could benefit from healthy boundaries.
Having good friends that support and uplift you can bring so much value into your life. Friendships can be just as important and influential as romantic relationships. Like romantic relationships, many friendships can benefit from having boundaries. Setting boundaries casually can help you avoid feeling exhausted. They can also help both sides prevent resentment as time passes. Ultimately, boundaries can be a great way to ensure that your friendship stays healthy and happy over time. At SokyaHealth, our licensed therapists understand how meaningful friendships can be, even if they are complicated. We know that setting boundaries can be frustrating and uncomfortable, especially if you are scared of losing your friend. Our therapists can help you navigate complex friendships and offer compassionate guidance as you work towards setting healthy boundaries with your friends so that you can find greater happiness and fulfillment. Call SokyaHealth at (877) 840-6956 for more information on our services.