August 6th marks National Friendship Day – a day to celebrate all the amazing friends in your life. A friend is an ally; someone who makes your life better just by being in it. They’re the peanut butter to your jelly; the fries to your burger. They’re the follows you accept on your Finstagram.
But not all friendships are created equal. While we’d love to think that all friendships are healthy, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, friends act in unhealthy ways. Instead of making you feel amazing and uplifted, they may do something that makes you feel small or insecure. It’s important to talk about healthy and unhealthy friendships for many reasons – one big one being that unhealthy dating relationship behaviors are first learned at the friendship level. Think about it – a controlling partner in a romantic relationship was likely jealous and possessive toward their friends before they acted this way toward their SO. Understanding what goes into a healthy friendship, and what unhealthy things to look out for, will not only mean that you have healthier friendships in your life, but will also help everyone set the groundwork for romantic relationships later in life. So, in honor of National Friendship Day, here are six ways to tell if your friendship is healthy.
1. They respect your opinions, even when they’re different from yours.
Some people may think having a good friendship means you agree on absolutely everything – but that is not always the case! It’s natural to have disagreements or a difference of opinions in any kind of relationship. What makes the distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy friendship is how you handle those differences. Do you feel like you can be honest with your friend and speak your mind? Or do you feel that you can’t share your true feelings in fear that they’ll get mad or call you stupid? When you disagree in a healthy friendship, it doesn’t turn into a shouting match and start a drama overload. Healthy friendships are about respecting one other’s opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.
2. You can have other friends without them getting jealous or possessive.
A good friend will understand that they’re not your ONLY friend. They won’t hold you back from making new friends or get mad/upset if you hang out with other people too. They also don’t pull the hot and cold trick – you know, the one where one minute they’re your best friend and the next they’re super flaky or distant because they’re mad you’re spending time with other friends.
3. The friendship isn’t only on their terms – you have an equal say in things.
In a healthy friendship, you and your friend both call the shots. It’s not like they’re the ring leader and you’re the follower. You feel like decisions about where you sit at lunch, what you do over the weekend, and what activities or clubs you join are made by you just as much by them. There’s a balance of give and take; you don’t always have to sacrifice so that they can get their way in every situation.
4. They’re there for you when you need them.
They’re supportive and believe in you when it comes to following your passions. A good friend is someone you can rely on in tough times and will stick up for you even if you can’t stick up for yourself. They’re loyal and trustworthy, keeping secrets between just the two of you. They don’t go behind your back to talk to or flirt with your crush, or sabotage your reputation by telling everyone about that time you did something really embarrassing.
5. They’re not competitive with you.
A good friend will be equally happy if you score that winning goal in the big soccer game or will be the first to give you a high five when you rock your exam (vs. put you down by calling you a “teacher’s pet”). In a healthy friendship, looking out for one another never crosses the line to put-downs, jealousy and competitiveness. They want what’s best for you and it doesn’t feel like they’re always trying to one-up you. They’re excited for your wins, and genuinely want to see you happy!
6. They accept you for who you are and you can always be honest with them.
A good friend is someone you can be yourself around without feeling judged or like you need to hide aspects of your life from them. They bring out that funny side of you that not everyone gets to see. They’d never criticize you or make fun of your family. They don’t peer pressure you to do things you’re not comfortable with, or single you out for not doing what they want.
Everyone deserves a healthy friendship. If you feel like a friendship is full of ups and downs and constant drama, take time to think about it. If you feel comfortable and know your friend won’t lash out, you can try to approach them about any unhealthy behaviors you’ve seen, or talk to someone you trust about the situation. The bottom line is, our friendships should make our lives better, not worse, and we can all do our part in supporting our friends in a healthy way!