This article is written by Charmaine Roth and is taken from the upcoming Great Health Guide (May 2016 – issue 11).
Relationships: Healthy Friendships written by Charmaine Roth
Life is transitional. We change and mature as we navigate different stages of our lives. Not only do we change but the people that we are in relationships with also change. Friendships fulfil needs – so as our needs change so do our friendships. For example, a school friend shares each day with you – you have lots in common and so much to talk about. However, once you leave school, friends go on different paths, what you have in common changes and in many cases diminishes.
We all have expectations of friendships and very often it is our circumstances that change rather than these expectations. It is the commonality of experience that provides a good basis for friendship. Friendships also require the investment of time. The younger we are the more time we have to invest and it is easier to make friends. As we get older we become time poor due to demands of partners, families and work – friendships can often take a back seat. However, good friendships can be supportive, uplifting, rewarding and motivating and good for one’s health.
So the question is – What makes a good friendship? Research has shown that close friendship requires the following components:
How many times do we start up a conversation with someone who we meet at the gym, who we meet at the school gate or the local park? We tend to gravitate towards those that we sense have the same values, have the same needs and more often than not, are at the same stage of life, for example parenthood. This stage is the beginning of a friendship where we begin to get to know another person.
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2. Self – disclosure:
This is where the friendship moves into a different phase – one where we consider trusting the other. These are the friends that we speak to about things that are important to us, our struggles and issues that we face. Trust is a very important component of friendship. Sometimes we judge poorly and our trust is violated, or our ‘secrets’ aren’t kept. These are intimate relationships that have the ability to hurt us emotionally.
Friendship is not a one-way street. How many times have we had the experience of telling our friends our intimate details, without ever really knowing much about the other person? How many times do we find ourselves giving so much only to receive little in return? This is not an equal friendship. Friendship is where the two parties know each other. Friendships are positive and rewarding – if you share the same values around friendship, reciprocity will be a natural part of the process.
Like any relationship, friendships take work. Contact is important, phone calls are
important, seeing each other is important, sharing highs and lows in life are important. In our time poor world, friendships can sometimes be a low priority after the demands of a partner, children and extended family. As we progress through life, we tend to make friends who can be incorporated into our busy worlds – for example workplace friendships, school mum’s friendships and even friends made through the commonality of sickness.
As stated earlier, life is transitional and so are friendships. Julie Beck (The Atlantic, Oct 2015) describes three types of friendship we have through our lives. The first is active friends – those who are currently in our lives, those who are a part of our lives, who we are in touch with regularly, those to whom we look to for support. Then there are dormant friends, these are people with whom you share a history, those that you are not in regular contact with yet you would be happy to catch up with if the opportunity arose. Finally, there are the commemorative friends – those you don’t expect to see or even to hear from, yet these friends were important to you at an earlier stage in your life.
We invest large amounts of time and energy into our friendships – make sure your friendships provide you with equality, support, motivation, rewards and are positive to your own growth and development.
Author of this article:
Charmaine Roth is an experienced Counsellor & Psychotherapist practicing in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Charmaine specialises in relationships. Further information, can be obtained from her website or on Facebook.
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