Friendships Take Work Too
There are many areas of our lives that we’d like to improve in or be better at. Maybe you want to be a better student – you decide to study harder, take assignments more seriously, and be present at lectures (not just physically but mentally by listening more). If you truly want to make changes in your life, you put the work in and make an effort. After all the hard work, you hopefully receive better grades and feel more confident as a student. Similarly, we also need to make an effort when we want to improve the relationships in our lives.
If you’ve ever been in a rocky relationship, you know that work needs to happen in order to save the relationship or make it stronger. Many people put a lot of effort into their romantic relationships but don’t do the same with their friendships. Why is this so? I think more people should value their friendships, in general. There are actually a lot of benefits to having good friendships, especially for women, that you may not even know about.
The Benefits of Friendship
Research shows that good-quality friendships are linked to overall life satisfaction. Professor William Chopik told AARP that the longer friendships last, the stronger and better the bond between those people usually is. A Healthline article reported that friendships between women help boost serotonin (the happy hormone) and oxytocin (the love hormone). Dr. Kristen Fuller shares that women act as “emotional support systems” for one another.
As you can see, friendships benefit people’s well-being greatly. Sometimes, these relationships are at the center of people’s lives, even coming before the romantic relationships in their lives. If you watched Sex and the City, you could see this idea exemplified through the group of four women. When Carrie cried over not having a soulmate, Charlotte looked at each woman, smiled, and suggested, “Maybe we could be each other’s soul mates. And then we could let men be just these great nice guys to have fun with.” A sense of relief washed over the group, knowing that they had each other to lean on no matter what life threw their way.
Each woman in that show brought something unique and essential to the group – Charlotte was the idealistic romantic, Miranda was the reliable realist, Samantha was a carefree and confident spirit, and Carrie was the insightful creative.
This friend group went through many highs and lows together – marriages, divorces, pregnancies, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses, etc. Sex and the City spotlighted the importance of strong friendships, especially in your 30s and beyond. Having this support, whether you have a big group or just one good friend, makes life a little less lonely and a lot happier.
Good friendships are essential to nurture. There may be some moments in your friendship where you wish you may have acted better or done things differently. We all are human, and we make mistakes! It is important to forgive ourselves and change behaviours we would like to improve. These changes will improve not only the relationships we have with others but also the relationship we have with ourselves.
I think we all can benefit from having strong friendships in our lives – we maintain these friendships by being good friends to the people we love! Here are five tips I have for being a better, more supportive friend!
How to Be a Better Friend
1. Be Empathetic & Take Accountability
In disagreements, it can be challenging to take accountability for where we went wrong. We all have a sense of pride, and sometimes this pride prevents us from admitting where we messed up. For example, you may have hurt your friend’s feelings. You feel like you did nothing wrong, but your friend is still upset. Sometimes, even if we don’t think we messed up, it is important to be empathetic and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
When we do this, it helps us understand their perspective more and look at the situation in an alternate way. You may be able to recognize why your actions were hurtful, and even if you didn’t mean to, you could apologize for causing them pain. Sometimes we get so focused on being right in a situation that we lose sight of what is really important in our lives – letting the people we love know we care about them.
2. Support One Another
As mentioned before, friendships are vital support systems. Be a supportive friend in good times and bad. Being a supportive friend means celebrating your friend’s wins and cheering their victories on. There may be times when you feel a bit jealous or insecure when the people around you are succeeding – you look down on your life and may wish you had what they had. We all get jealous sometimes – it is important to deal with our feelings and comfort ourselves, but make sure we are not projecting our feelings onto others. Be happy for your friends – when you love someone, you want what’s best for them.
Being a supportive friend also means being there when times are rough. Make your friends know you are there to listen to their concerns, allow them to vent, be a shoulder to cry on, and back them up when they feel alone.
3. Respect Boundaries
I have an article that talks about ways to set boundaries. Boundaries are important to set and keep, but they are also important to respect. Respecting other people’s boundaries means listening to their concerns, honoring their comfort levels, and not pushing/manipulating them to do things for your benefit.
For example, let’s say that your friend struggles with social anxiety. They might struggle with doing things that you may find to be “not a big deal.” Try to be respectful of their limits and their feelings. This person should consider your friendship a safe place to find comfort and love.
4. Have New Experiences Together
As in a romantic relationship, it’s crucial to continue furthering your experiences and memories with someone. Sometimes relationships feel stagnant because you stop gaining new experiences with each other.
Keep having fun and creating moments with this person that you will laugh about one day when you are old and grey. Go on adventures, have movie nights, try new places to eat – just do whatever makes you both feel happy to be with each other!
5. Embrace Your Loved One’s Loved Ones
There is a reason why you love your best friend (why else would they be your BFF?). The people in your friend’s life probably feel the same way you do about them. A great way to support your friend is by embracing the other important people in their lives – this means being open and warm to their other friends and family members.
Some people get a little territorial with their friends and don’t allow themselves to get to know the other people in their life. If you find yourself doing this, try to open up more. It is nice to know that a friend you love cares about the other people you also love.
I hope these tips can help you become a better friend! Always remember that you deserve friends who would do the same for you. Don’t settle for a friend who brings you down, isn’t there for you, never makes time for you, or just doesn’t show they care—wishing you all happy and healthy friendships in your lives!
About the Author
Jackie Caputo is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides therapy in Woodland Hills, CA. She also provides online therapy in California to individuals throughout the state.