Featured Image: @margoandme
Article By: Simone Torn
Everyone knows that you should never rely on other people in order to determine your own happiness. We hear this all the time in regards to our romantic relationships. We hear that although your significant other should provide you with care and love and support, it is not their sole responsibility to make you the happiest woman in the world.
The only person who is truly capable of providing you with a sense of well-being is yourself, and yadda yadda yadda, we’ve heard it all before…But what about our friends? Can we turn to our friends when we are looking for a sense of contentment for the world around us? After all, isn’t the whole point of friendship for the other person to bestow our world with more vibrancy and excitement?
Well …Yes and no.
Let me explain myself further.
Relying on Your Friends to “Color Up The Grey”
Let’s say you are in a situation where the only activity you care to do throughout the day is hibernating underneath your bed sheets. You have no desire to interact with the world around you. You are numb, you are depressed, and you feel as though you now see the universe through a fading gray lens.
So what do you do in this situation? You turn to your friends. They will be there to “color up the gray” so to speak. They’ll animate you back to life and help you see the world in vibrant shades once again. They will make you laugh and smile and forget all about how dejected you’ve previously felt. They will stoke the fire back inside of you and bring your spirit back to life.
In this case, if you are able to find friends who can provide you with these things, you are in luck and you have found yourself a true set of friends. The type of friends who don’t help you out of obligation but out of pure desire. They want you to be the happiest version of yourself, and they will do whatever it takes to make sure you get to that state of mind. But what happens if you start to get used to relying on these friends as your one true source of happiness? What if our relationships with our pals go from healthy and reliable to needy and codependent?
Codependency in Friendships is Real
It seems weird talking about codependency and neediness when it comes to friendships. As stated before, these are issues we usually consider when discussing romantic relationships. But codependency within friendships? Is that even possible?
Why of course it is. Relying on anyone to make you feel stabilized and put together is when the relationship begins to take a sharp turn and becomes unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong here, it is necessary to have friendships that are able to help you get back on your feet when you’re at your lowest point. It is so important to turn to the people you love when you are in a time of need.
Your Friends Are Not Your Therapist
Yet it is important to keep in mind that your friends are not your therapists. Your friends are not your emotional caretakers. They are people too, they also get sad, confused, and lonely. They also need someone to turn to. Your friends are human beings who rely on you just as much as you rely on them.
If the majority of the relationship is you pouring your problems onto them while they offer you an empathetic ear than you have gone from a friendship to a therapist/client relationship. This is why it is so important to find a sense of balance within your friendship where you allow them to have a voice, one that isn’t constantly spouting out advice in order to babysit your wants and needs.
I think it’s safe to say that as good as our intentions may have been, we have all at some point or another relied on someone who wasn’t our therapist or social worker to offer us contentment. I know I have.
Friendships Need to Be 50/50
I have also been on the receiving end, where I started to feel like a relationship coach rather than a friend to one of my old roommates. On the outside, it looked like a great friendship. We would be caught spending an endless amount of time together, chatting away in frozen yogurt shops or cuddling in my dorm room together as I’d wipe away her tears. But when taking a closer look, it could be seen that the whole relationship we shared was dedicated to me helping her out through her dating struggles- because it was basically the only thing we’d ever discuss together.
It became clear over time that whenever she’d knock on my door, it was never to see how I was doing. It was never to discuss mundane topics that friends discuss just for the sake of being in each others company. I began to realize over time that I wasn’t an individual person to her that she simply enjoyed being around, I was a dating advice guru, an emotional laborer, a therapist. I was the person who she could vent to just so she could discuss her own issues.
Why so-and-so wasn’t texting her back or why her tinder date was secretly in love with her etc. etc. etc. As she began to go on and on about these men in her life, I slowly tuned everything out and began to feel used, isolated, and lonely. When was she going to ask me about my life? Did she care at all about my emotional state? If she did, I thought, she would have asked. In a way, after coming to that realization, I felt as though I had lost a friend.
Do I think her intentions were malicious and manipulative? Not in the slightest. I still love this girl to pieces and care about her well-being, but over time I had to distance myself in order to gain friendships where I felt as though my feelings were just as important and significant as there’s. Just like relationships, friendships need to be 50/50 in order to be healthy. If your friends are going to be there for you in the midst of your darkest time of need, then you are going to need to be there for them all the same.
Of course, life sometimes offers us exceptions where we need to focus on a friend’s need more than they need to focus on ours. Say your friend is going through a rough patch or they recently lost a loved one. In these cases, it makes sense that you would be there for them and provide them with more than they will be able at that time to provide for you. This is fine, as long as it doesn’t stay consistent throughout the entirety of the friendship.
Find A Balance
The whole key is to find a sense of balance where both of your needs are getting met all the same. Be sure every so often to ask your friends how they’re doing if you feel as though you’ve been venting endlessly to them and vise versa. Making a mutual effort in order to provide happiness and fulfillment is exactly what friendships are for. It just has to be an equal effort in order for it to last and to make sure that you both get the most out of the relationship.