The word “friend” is commonly used – perhaps, too commonly. It is one of those words that says everything and can say nothing. I’ve heard people call someone a “friend” when they just met that person the day before. Also, I’ve heard someone who a person has been sleeping with for six years described as a “friend”. So what describes a genuine friend? True friendships are important for your mental health.
Men and women have different kinds of friendships for the most part. The following is a look at women’s friendships as portrayed by Susan Shapiro Barash in the book TOXIC FRIENDS: THE ANTIDOTE FOR WOMEN STUCK IN COMPLICATED FRIENDSHIPS. Ms. Shapiro Barash purports to assist women in describing what kind of friends they have and which ones are worth keeping. She says that some types come at too high a price. A sampling of her types and the descriptors follow.
- Leader of the pack: It’s all on her terms.
Does this friend feel more powerful to you than other friends? Would you go to extremes to stay in her good graces? Do you depend on her plans for your social life? Have you always been attracted to friends who call all the shots?
2. Doormat: She pays the price.
Does your friend soothe you when you are down? Does she avoid any drama or tension? Does she seem to have little identity or her own? Do you wonder if she ever tires of her “poor me” mode? Does she sympathize with your problems and always take your side?
Does she make herself available when no one else would? Is she unable to face it when a friend is contentious?
Is she overly interested in your life style or status? Does she work the crowd attaching herself to your friends? Does she slide herself into your life? Is she nosy and intrusive? Do you feel slightly uncomfortable confiding in her for fear it might come back and haunt you.
Other types listed are Misery lover (she wants to feel your pain); Frenemy (she is after something); Trophy (what can she gain from you).
6. Authentic: Does she empathize? Can you count on her in any circumstance? Does she know her bounds?
Ladies (and men who are minding their lady’s business), have you recognized more clearly your types of friends? Do you need to do any weeding out or distancing? Further efforts needed to develop a better friend? Are you fortunate to have, and to be, an authentic friend?
May I suggest this exercise as a way of clarifying how close each “friend” is to you. Draw a series of concentric circles starting with a small one in the middle. Each circle is a boundary moving out from the small one. The small one represents a vulnerable you. Put your best friend closest to the small circle and then put in other friends going outward based on how close they are to you emotionally. “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
I hope this examination illuminates better for you who your friends are and give you further direction for the enhancement of healthy friendships.
A final thought: “If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone” (Maxwell Maltz)
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates