This is a sentence I hear myself saying quite a lot during therapy sessions. It is also something I have reflected on myself. Friendships are complex and it would take more than just one BLOG to really understand the individual dynamics of any relationship. However, this topic has been popping up a lot so I wanted to give it some time in the hope that it offered support.
A healthy friendship is like a two-way street. Sometimes you need to call on your friends for help and sometimes they will call on you. It's not always balanced; life isn't like that however there should always be some 'give and take'.
I speak to a lot of people who believe they should be giving all the time in friendships and feel the burden of guilt when they can't. When we delve a little deeper it seems that the giving in certain relationships had become one sided. Maybe it had become a habit for one person to always make contact; for one person to always provide support during difficult times. Maybe it was time to be honest with their friend and explain how they had been feeling; sometimes people don't realise that there is an issue. Maybe they are being taken for granted. Maybe there is a need for something that the other person cannot give (they may not be as emotional or empathic). Maybe this was an unbalanced friendship and they needed to assess their own limits in the friendship. The reasons could be many and varied.
Knowing something doesn't feel quite right is when you should stop to consider the effect it might be having on you. When a friendship is unbalanced it can leave you feeling hurt, confused, angry, defensive, anxious.... many unhelpful emotions. It can also leave you questioning yourself (as with some of the people I have been supporting).
In an unbalanced friendship, the communication, time, and effort needed to sustain the connection typically falls to one person. In a healthy friendship, both people are getting something. It might not be the same thing, but it is some-thing. A great relationship is symbiotic: it benefits both friends.
Do you have unbalanced friendships that cause you to feel down, anxious, confused? Is it time for you to set limits for yourself? Look at the friendships you have in your life and assess the balance. Maybe it is time to move an unbalanced friendship outside of your personal sphere (just take a step back) so that your expectations aren't that high of them. Or, maybe you are reading this and it has triggered something inside you which says 'I've not actually been available to my friend lately, I'll give them a call'.
You are allowed to take care of yourself. You are allowed to say no (or even 'not at the moment, however how about next week). You are allowed to expect some emotional support back if you have invested your time and love into a friendship.
Much Love Jo xxxx