Self-Care Includes Cleaning Up Your Friendships

January 2nd, 2021

Identify the Vampires Among Your Friends and Make Changes

When it comes to friendship, a few good sayings have come up over the years that have been said in different ways by different people:

         “You can choose your friends but not your family”

         “Friends are the family we choose”

These quotes imply that we have a choice in who we spend time and surround ourselves with. Unlike family, where genetics or lineage trump choice.

This is great news because it means we can choose the people we call friends and what those friendships are like. However, while we have choice, some friendships leave us feeling drained, frustrated or annoyed. It’s time to assess these relationships more critically to ensure there are positives to be had from them to balance out the negatives.

There are three types of friendships:

1. Easy Peasy – low maintenance friends where things are easy, relaxed and balanced

2. Worth the Effort – medium maintenance friends where things take a little more time and emotional energy but it is balanced evenly and enjoyable

3. Energy/Time/Emotion Vampire – high maintenance friends where every interaction needs excessive time, communication and emotional sacrifice

What criteria should be used to determine which friends are more likely to bring us value and be easy peasy as opposed to vampires? It’s good to start with important basics like values, morals and principles. What beliefs and standards do you want in your friends? Here are a number of factors someone may find important.

 Comfort Equality Excitement

 Family Freedom Inner Harmony

 Independence Pleasure Creativity

 Routine Self-Respect Personal Faith

 Sense of Accomplishment Social Status True Friendship

 Wisdom National Security World Peace

 Group Loyalty Material Success Wealth

 Progress Tradition Love

 Health Justice Happiness

 Education Beauty Power

 Patriotism Climate Other __________

The hope is your check marks came easily because the things you look for in a friend are likely to align with your own beliefs, values, principles and priorities. This assessment makes friendship selection easier, but not all friends you have will fit your desired parameters. This is often due to the “when,” or the timing of friendships. Here are some points in life when you may have made new friends:

         – childhood                            – time of life (family, health, etc.)

         – school                                 – work

         – common group                    – accidental/coincidence

         – activities/sports                   – weird time and location

         – interests/volunteer work      – relationships/marriage

Long term friendships may span many of the above times and situations as the friendship has progressed and evolved. Timing, however, like common beliefs or values doesn’t necessarily ensure a positive friendship. It is just one aspect to refer to. You also want to reflect on each of your friendships to consider the flow of the relationship itself. This will overlap the easy peasy/worth the effort/vampire points above and may include:

         – enjoyable and fun

         – balanced and fair

         – supportive and relaxing

         – healthy and good communication

         – good amount of time together and connecting

An easy way to determine if the current state of a friendship is beneficial is to rate each aspect above from 0 – 10 (0 being not good and 10 being great). Think about a specific friend and assign a number to each bullet.

These five numbers will offer a very quick snap shot of the state of your friendship. Repeat the process for all friendships you’re curious about. If you are honest, the numbers won’t lie. Low numbers indicate where a friendship is adding more stress than enjoyment and a change might be needed. High numbers reflect strong points and an overall good friendship.

If the numbers are dire and a high level of stress is present, then the following reactions may come to mind when contacted by the problematic friend:       

         – I will just take a social media break from this friend

         – I will let the call go to voice mail and call back later

         – I don’t have the energy to spend time together

         – I will respond to that text/message tomorrow

– I am having a good day and don’t want it to turn negative with this friend’s stress or drama

         – I feel like I always have to fix this friend’s problems

This level of avoidance, type of thinking and response is reflective of a “trying,” or non-beneficial friendship.

Part of self-care is looking at friendships and determining which ones need to stay, go or be fixed. Let’s state the obvious:

– It is hard to stay positive and upbeat with a vampire who sucks the life and energy out of you

– It is hard to have energy left after an interaction when a friendship is more work than enjoyment, or only one way

– It is hard to clear and calm your mind when friendship challenges are prominent

It is always good practice to respectfully share your thoughts and ask for what you want in a friendship. Speak up and tell a friend what’s not working. If they are a good and true friend, positive changes will occur and the friendship can shift to be better and more valuable to you both. If the relationship is more trouble than it’s worth, then allow them to move along to others who might fit better. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is necessary for your own health and wellness.

Friendship is an integral part of our health and well being. Take care of you first by surrounding yourself with friends who are fun and a fit for you but are also your best supporters, cheerleaders and shoulders to lean on so that you have the energy to provide the same in return.

Pam Paquet
M.Ed., CCC
Pam Paquet & Associates Therapy & Coaching
#202 - 45744 Gaetz Street, Chilliwack, V2R 3P1

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