“How to have a successful long-term relationship”
That’s a phrase I’m sure we’ve all typed into Google in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to solve all of our hearts’ problems with the click of a button.
Unfortunately, a quirky list of tips doesn’t actually do a whole lot for your love life. Also, a lot of the time we get too caught up trying to find ‘the one’ that we dismiss some of the most important relationships in our lives – friendships.
For decades, society has debated what should be included in sex-ed classes – abstinence, sexual orientation, STIs – and yet, there has been little conversation on how to have and keep healthy relationships.
Maybe that’s why we don’t know how to spot the red flags of a bad friend, or how to keep the good ones around for the long haul. Or why you’d rather watch paint dry than spend an hour with your high school friends.
Growing up, friendship is mostly about convenience.
You form relationships with people based on age and proximity because how else do you make friends as a six-year-old? As you get older, more social opportunities present themselves (extracurriculars, mutual friends, new schools, jobs, etc.) but as we all know, quantity does not equal quality.
So how do you sift through all the phoneys, wannabes, and just straight up toxic people to find your true-blue BFFs? Here’s a little advice:
There’s a false assumption that in relationships we should all be “givers” not “takers,” which is not to say you should completely transform your friends into your own personal servants. Rather, in a healthy friendship, there should be balance – neither person should feel like they’re being taken for granted. Sometimes you will just need somebody to vent to, or maybe your friend will need a ride in the middle of the night. At the end of the day, you got each other and nobody is keeping score.
We also all love to idealize components of our lives, especially the people in it. A recent study at Colgate University found that people who feel they are over-idealized in relationships are more likely to become frustrated in friendships because they feel like their friends don’t truly know them, or that they have expectations for them that they’ll never be able to meet. The study also found that people who feel over idealized are less likely to make accommodations in a friendship because they feel like they have more power. In short, be honest with your friends, even if it means being realistic about their flaws. Nobody’s perfect and the sooner you come to that realization, the better communication your friendships will have.
Be Understanding… To a Point
“I’ve known him/her forever!” is a common reason we stay in toxic friendships, but just because you’ve listened to Nickleback for the last 10 years of your life, doesn’t mean they have to be your favourite band after they release 2 horrible albums. People change and more importantly, people are allowed to change your mind. Compassion in a friendship is important, but so is your happiness. If someone is tearing you down and making you feel like crawling into a hole more often than they’re making you smile, you don’t need that person in your life. End of story.
The main reason people have surface friendships that fizzle out is because they aren’t a hundred percent sure of who they are. When you’re figuring out your identity, you go through a lot of (semi-questionable) phases. During this, you’re going to attract people that match the persona you’re giving off. If you present a false, contrived image of yourself, you’re going to attract people that you might not actually want or need in your life. By being yourself, you’ll bring around way more friends that have the same values, interests, and priorities that you do – a surefire recipe for friendship foundation.