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Meaningful friendships are a fundamental human need, creating a sense of belonging and purpose, and now research says that friendships improve our physical and mental health.
Beyond Blue says, “People with positive social connections report better quality of life and satisfaction with their life, are less likely to suffer from dementia, have less trouble sleeping, and have a stronger immune system than those who don’t have these social connections.”
A recent study found that friendships, over family ties, resulted in better health and happiness, and people whose friendships were toxic were more likely to have chronic illnesses.
So how do you know if your relationships are healthy? Read on for the six questions to ask yourself when it comes to your closest friendships.
1. Are you honest with each other?
In her article for Psychology Today, Dr Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist says a solid friendship is built on honesty and trust.
She explains that true friends ask the tough questions, which in turn helps you to know yourself better.
However, she notes that it isn’t about being judgemental or cynical, but rather doing the right thing for your friend, over being right.
2. When you argue, how long before you make up?
Dr Firestone says that it is normal for friends to argue or for mistakes to be made.
A true friendship, however, is characterised by both parties owning up to their mistakes and apologising for them, dropping their egos and ensuring the problem doesn’t fester.
3. Do you just ‘get’ each other?
Another key aspect to a friendship, according to Dr Firestone, is mutual understanding and appreciating each other for who they are. For example, one of you might appreciate a quick text saying you are thinking of them during a rough time, while the other might prefer a long catch up to talk it out.
Appreciating each other’s differences means that you can be there for each other in a way that matters to that friend.
4. Do you compete with their other friends (or do they compete with yours)?
If you answered ‘maybe’ or ‘yes’, this is a potential red flag, according to Dr Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist, and Dr Sharon Livingston, a psychologist, who outline the elements of a toxic friendship in their article for Psychology Today
A sense of security in a friendship is important and you shouldn’t feel the need to be ‘number one’.
5. Is your friendship equal?
Dr Heitler and Dr Livingston say that inequity in a relationship could lead to signs that it’s a toxic one.
Who organises catch ups? Are you always expected to reach out, or does your friend chase you down incessantly? Neither scenarios are healthy.
When you talk, is the conversation always about them and never about you? Sure, there might be times when the conversation is one-sided, particularly if your friend is going through a rough time, but overall, they should be just as interested in your life as you are in theirs.
6. Is your friend your rock?
Your friend should be someone you feel you can lean on when everything else is upside-down.
If you feel that you can never predict what mood your friend will be in, or how they’ll act towards you, Dr Heitler and Dr Livingston say that your friendship might be an emotional rollercoaster which can negatively impact your self-esteem and health. The exact opposite of what a friendship should do.