7 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Friendships, According To An Expert
As Meredith Gray would put it, my best friend is my person — and the idea of unknowingly sabotaging a friendship is pretty much unthinkable. After all, my best friend is the one who makes me laugh harder than anyone on the planet, the one who is always, always there for me when I need to vent about a bad day or cry about an asshole ex boyfriend, and the one who remembers to bring toothpaste and shampoo when we go on vacation together. I love her to death, and don't know what I would do without her. Plus, she's the one who buys the toilet paper for our apartment.
As it turns out, I'm not unique in my feelings about how important my bestie is to me. Women are actually wired to need friendship, and there are emotional and, believe it or not, physical, benefits to having close female friends. A landmark UCLA study about the importance of friendship among women proved that women are "genetically hard-wired for friendship in large part due to the oxytocin released into their bloodstream, combined with the female reproductive hormones." Another study on the effects of friendship among breast cancer patients showed that those patients who surrounded themselves with friends during their illnesses survived far longer than those who tried to go it alone. The moral of the story? We need friends for our happiness and our health.
Unfortunately, though, making and keeping friends is not so easy — especially as an adult. No matter how stable or long-lasting a relationship is, there are certain behaviors that can cause them to fall apart. Here are seven things you may be doing to sabotage your friendships, and how to fix them, because you need a good friend in your life.
1. Not Talking About Your Problems
The biggest way we're sabotaging our friendships? By not talking about what's wrong with them in the first place. When something happens between two female friends, there's a tendency to just ignore it and pretend it never happened. Dr. Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. and author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends, says in a phone interview with Bustle that this happens because "they maybe are too scared to bring it up or they think it's not worth it... then someone's holding a grudge about something, but they don't do anything initiative about it so they continue to get more and more resentful... and it just starts to get worse over time because then there's tension and discomfort and awkwardness because you're not communicating about what's going on."
If something happens, just talk about it and move on. For the sake of your friendship, don't let it fester— you'll only end up making things worse.
2. Unrealistic or Inequitable Expectations
I'm a needy friend. It's something that, as an adult, I have realized about myself and am trying to work on, but it's a pattern that's come in the way of some of my most important relationships. Identifying what you need for yourself in a friendship is important, and it's even more important to make these needs known so that you aren't disappointed when your expectations aren't met.
"It's always ideal the closer the expectations can be... ideally in a relationship, the give and the take is more equitable, and in terms of what you're getting you feel like that is good for you," Dr. Bonior says.
Address what you want and ask for it — both you and your friend will be happy, in the end, that you did.
3. Letting Your Feelings About Yourself Get In The Way of Your Relationship
When we feel crappy about ourselves, our friendships tend to suffer.
"When we ourselves are feeling stressed, not taking care of ourselves physically, not feeling in a good place with either our jobs, how we're eating or romantic relationships, and we're not feeling good enough about ourselves, we're more likely to lash out and not treat our friends so well," says Dr. Bonoir. "A lot of times you'll start to see some conflict when someone's not really happy with where they are in their own lives."
Instead of taking out your feelings of insecurity on someone who loves you, talk about them. Any true friend will want to help you through it, and will offer you an ear to listen and a fun distraction from your worries. A shopping trip? A fun night spent dancing to Beyoncé? Pizza and Netflix? The options are pretty much endless when you have an awesome friend in your life.
4. Being Jealous
The most common times for friendships to suffer is during big life transitions, such as when one friend gets engaged or gets an important new job, because "even if you aren't doing anything wrong, it's just that much harder to feel connected when suddenly you're going through an entirely new life experience that the other person doesn't share with you," says Dr. Bonior. As circumstances shift, theres a tendency for the green eyed monster to rear its ugly head.The best way to handle situations like these is with straight up honesty.
Dr. Bonior advises saying something along the lines of, "I really am happy for you, truly, but I think you should know that I am in a place right now where I am feeling frustrated in my own relationship so sometimes it's hard for me to express my excitement for your because of that. I'm sorry if you're expecting more from me, and I'm going to try but I want to let you know where I am right now."
Phrasing it this way allows you to be respectful and honest because you're addressing your own feelings instead of pinning the problems in the relationship on something your friend has done.
5. Not Making Time For Each Other
As adults, our lives are far, far more complicated than they were in high school or college. Between work and all of our other real world responsibilities, the sad truth is we just don't have as many hours in the day to dedicate to maintaining our friendships. The solution? Make making time a priority. If a friend suddenly doesn't have time to hang out, be ready to have an honest conversation.
Dr. Bonior suggests saying something along the lines of, "It's unrealistic that we're going out three times a week now, but I don't want to lose you. I really miss you, what will work for you?"
For the friendship to work, you need to be honest about what you need from one another and be willing to put in the effort to make sure those needs are met. If Taylor Swift and her #girlgang can do it, you can, too.
6. Letting A Romantic Relationship Get In The Way
By the time you've hit your mid-twenties, the chances are you've seen it at least once: One of your friends gets into a new relationship and suddenly disappears off the face of the planet. As frustrating, and at times hurtful, as it is, it happens. When someone enters into a relationship, they need to figure out a way to split their time between their friends and their new significant other. Realistically, things do change. Someone with a significant other doesn't have as much time to spend with their friends as they did when they were single, and it only gets more difficult when a couple moves in together.
"If you're on the receiving end of this change," says Dr. Bonior, "and your friend isn't available for you anymore, you have to acknowledge that that is normal. It's not necessarily meaning that the friend is doing anything wrong that they can no longer spend Friday AND Saturday night with you anymore."
Have an open conversation that outlines clear boundaries of how to maintain the friendship — for example, commit to Sunday brunch or Tuesday night drinks every week — and commit yourselves to keeping the plans.
When this New Yorker piece about trying to make plans with friends came out in January, 2015, I was genuinely embarrassed about how similar the parodied scenario was to my own text conversations. According to Dr. Bonior, between texting, social media, and the current culture of communication in general, bailing on friends in 2015 is more or less effortless.
"There's ease in which you can flake out... Theres no immediate guilt because you're not looking the person in the face, and you aren't usually having to hear their voice," she says. Not following through on plans, though, (which, as it seems, we have all been guilty of at some point), is a surefire way to show a friend that you simply don't care enough to make the effort to see them.
Make a deal with yourself: If you really need to cancel on a friend, call them — don't text or email. It's the polite thing to do, and will make you reconsider whether or not it's absolutely necessary. And, as a public service announcement: Let's all agree to stop making plans we don't intend to keep. It's a waste of time for everyone involved.