The Importance of Healthy Friendships

By Cheryl Czuba – Retired Extension Educator Community Development, Families

Why are friendships important and how does this fit into sustainable living? Throughout life we have opportunities to develop friendships. In a healthy friendship each person works to meet the other’s needs and supports one another’s growth and development as unique individuals. We also need to be a good friend to ourselves by accepting ourselves as we are, by caring about our own feelings and emotions, and strengthening our own self-esteem. Make the choice to improve your friendships for a sustainably happier, healthier life.

Sustainable Living Includes Healthy Friendships

We all need friends. Friends are people we trust, and share both joys and concerns. Friends care about and support each other, of course, but what makes someone a true friend, and why is it so beneficial to have friends?

  • Why do we need friends and why do they need us?
    • Friends help us to know and understand our own thoughts and feelings. They help us learn about ourselves as we express ourselves.
    • Friends help us accept ourselves as people and increase our self-esteem. Friends can make us feel important and worthwhile. A friend will listen to us, respect our ideas and include us in activities.
    • Friends help us understand how another person feels. Friends will tell us if we are acting inappropriately with other people and how our behavior and actions can hurt others.
    • Friends help us improve communication skills such as listening and having lively conversations.
    • Friends spend time together.
    • Friends help us learn to cooperate with others by sharing ideas and working together.
    • Friends fill a need for companionship and closeness. Most of us need human companionship.
    • Friends help us cope when we find ourselves in difficult situations. Friends will be there for you and you will be there for your friends. There are times when you rather talk to your friends than your own parents or relatives.
    • Friends are loyal to each other. Loyalty is what helps friends to trust each other, to share their feelings, thoughts, ideas, or even their most private events.
  • What are qualities of a healthy friendship?
    In a healthy friendship each person works to meet the other’s needs and support each other’s growth. The friendship is based on love, not power.

    • Sharing similar or compatible goals in life.
    • Using effective communication skills.
    • Trying to resolve conflict.
    • Respecting each other’s differences.
    • Trusting and supporting each other.
  • Ending friendships
    Friendships can end for a number of reasons. Sometimes the circumstances in people’s lives change. They may move away, increased time commitments with work or family don’t allow time to maintain the friendship, or interests change so there is no longer a basis for shared conversation or activity.Sometimes friends have a disagreement or one person has betrayed another. It is important to try and resolve differences and deal with conflict before deciding to end the relationship. This can be done in many ways: agree to disagree or just turn the other cheek. Sometimes it’s helpful to take some time away so that each person can cool down and deal with the situation more calmly. Another possibility is to invite a third person to listen and help negotiate a solution. If compromise or consensus cannot be reached, especially if this happened on several occasions, it might be time to end the relationship. We must realize however, that we do not have the power to change another person.
  • When to end unhealthy friendships
    A friendship must end when one person is out to get what he/she wants at the expense of the other. In many cases, unhealthy friendships are also abusive relationships. Here are some signs of an unhealthy friendship.

    • Use of anger or emotional abuse.
    • Humiliation to the other person.
    • Domination to the other person.
    • Use of intimidation.
    • Possessiveness.
    • Minimize or blame to the other person.
    • Use of threats.
    • Use of sexual coercion.
    • Physically abuse the other person.
    • Isolate or exclude the other person.
    • Use money to control the other person.

It is important not to stay in an unhealthy abusive relationship. If we are in an abusive relationship we need to be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves why we are staying in it. What are we getting out of it? If we feel uncomfortable or fearful about leaving an unhealthy relationship, we can get some help from a counselor, a clergy person or call United Way’s 2-1-1 Hot Line for a list of resources.

Throughout life we have opportunities to develop friendships. In a healthy friendship each person works to meet each other’s needs and supports each other’s growth and development as unique individuals. Make the choice to improve your friendships for a happier, healthier life.