Friendships and maintaining those relationships as an adult is hard isn’t it? You’re not at school any more when, by default, you meet every day in the canteen and gossip over who got fingered behind the bike sheds and which teacher you fancied.
In college and university, some of you will experience drinking and living away from home for the first time. This bonds you together and gives you common ground to base relationships on. But how do you make sure your adult friendships are good for you?
I can categorically say I have no friends from school and college left any more. Sometimes I get sad thinking those are life long friendships that should’ve lasted forever.
Sometimes I feel down that I’ll never be invited on Hen dos or made a bridesmaid with people because we’ve been so close for years. But most of the time it’s fine because I appreciate that as people grow and change, so do their relationships.
The friendships I made in my twenties with university buddies and work colleagues are the ones that have stood the test of time. But I like to think that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to meet people who I connect with beyond our common ground. I like to think we’ve maintained our relationships because they are mutually beneficial and we genuinely enjoy each other’s companies.
See adult friendships are vital. Especially for someone like me who has no close family (other than my twin who is my world – even if I can’t bear her sometimes). Because they become your source of reassurance, confidantes, drinking buddies and rocks.
Without friendships, adulthood can be a pretty lonely place. Your mates understand your love woes, career aspirations, life worries and individuality. As a younger person, friendships could’ve been made or broken over whether you liked the Backstreet Boys or not whereas your adult mates are more appreciative of your nuances.
But adult friendships can also be toxic and detrimental to your mental health and once you’ve realised this, you need to eliminate them.
By the time you’ve reached adulthood, everyone has gathered some amount of emotional baggage. Some people are great at handling their business and not taking it out on others. Others however find this tricky and tend to take it out on those closest to them – which can often be their mates. If this is a give and take situation then great but if you’re always on the butt of your friend’s anger – it can be damaging.
Most of the time, your mates are happy to provide an ear and help you work out your issues which is great. If you have friends like these you need to treasure them and never take them for granted.
Friendships that are toxic will be noticeable in that being around that friend, or talking to them, feels more draining than uplifting. Maybe they put you down with a backhanded compliment. Perhaps they patronise your successes. They may even downplay your thoughts, emotions and achievements. Or they may only contact you when they want something from you.
You may be able to tell an adult toxic friendship in that there’s only one adult in the friendship. The other person chooses to act more like a child. Either they talk about you behind your back, exclude you from social situations or do things with the aim of trying to make you jealous.
These toxic friends are also noticeable in that your conversations are always one sided. You’re always championing them. Listening to their problems. Doing them favours. Checking in on them. Building them up. But the sentiment is rarely returned.
These friendships are hard to cut ties with. No one has done anything explicitly awful (other than drain away every ounce of your being) so you don’t feel like you can cut them off but for your own sake – you need to.
An old Will and Grace episode gave a great analogy about how each relationship has the roles of a ‘Gardener’ and a ‘Rose’ where one person does the work and plugs away to help the other thrive and shine. However, in any good relationship, both parties have equal turns at being the ‘Gardener’ and the ‘Rose’.
But if you feel like you’re the one being the adult, putting the effort in and cheerleading them to receive barely anything in return? It’s time to do some weeding.
And to my uni friends, ‘work’ friends (who are actual couldn’t-live-without-them friends), housemate and internet friends who are there for me at any time of any day and have become my family in the absent of my own. I’ll always come and plant your bushes.
Once you’re better at eliminating toxic friendships – you might want to look at upping your dating standards.