Friendships are underrated.
People often put more stake in romantic relationships, but they are not inherently more valuable than friendships are.
Your friends can also be the people who pick you up when you’re down, tell you the truth when no one else will, support your ambitions, laugh with you, forgive your mistakes, and warn you before you make one.
However, friendships can be challenging to navigate. People have different—and sometimes unfair—expectations of what they want from their friends.
Sometimes friendships can be draining and outright toxic. How can you have healthy friendships where both of you mutually benefit?
The truth is that many people seek any kind of relationship in order to receive something. They want someone who will make them feel fulfilled, whose company they enjoy, and someone who they can share their problems with.
People don’t seek to give as often as they should.
Instead of thinking how much a person has to give you, think of all the ways you can give to them—and if they reciprocate in close to equal measure, then the friendship is healthy. Here are a few tips for cultivating better friendships:
Give more than you get
Or at least, try to—hopefully your friend will meet you halfway, but entering a relationship expecting to receive as much as you get will result in you keeping score, and your friendship will suffer for it.
Did you water their plants while they were out of town one weekend, but they couldn’t pet-sit for you while you were gone the next? That’s okay; hopefully, they’ll be there for you when you really need them.
Of course, it’s best to sever friendships that are taxing. It is often true that the more love you put into a person, the more you invest in them, the more they will return.
This will be the case with mature, self-aware people who know how to value you as a companion, but for your own sake, do not exhaust yourself investing into a person who only takes.
You can give them multiple opportunities to learn and grow first—they will thank you for it—but if they are chronically selfish and refuse to learn from their mistakes, you can direct your attention elsewhere.
Initiate getting together
Do you know what’s frustrating?
When you enjoy someone’s company, so you make plans to get together with them. They clearly enjoy yours as well and almost always take you up on it—but they are hardly ever the first to reach out. This can be draining; you want to hang out, but you don’t want to be the one who is always making plans.
Don’t be the person on the other side of this scenario. If someone invites you somewhere, go out of your way to make plans the next time.
Doing so demonstrates that you are an active friend, not a reactionary one who takes advantage of your pal’s social skills. Let them know how much you enjoy spending time with them by making a point to make it happen.
Confide in them
Do you want your friend to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with you? If so, then be the braver person and open up first.
Don’t be the friend that hoards secrets because you think they’re juicy—you need to be vulnerable in return (only if you trust them with your feelings as well, of course.
Start by exchanging small things, and then build on them when you both prove yourselves trustworthy). If you are struggling and don’t currently have a friend who can empathize with you at the moment, you can find a safe place to talk online.
Don’t make it about romance or sex
This tip applies especially to male and female friendships. Many male-to-male friendships are, unfortunately, not that deep—they can have fun with one another, but are afraid to open up and be vulnerable because they think emotional intimacy is reserved for romantic partnerships.
When a man in such a friendship meets a woman who does everything a friend is supposed to do—listens, comforts, and supports—he sometimes mistakes friendship for potential romance (or if he does the same for her, he does so because he thinks there will be a sexual reward).
Understandably, the woman feels disappointed and even betrayed because she thought the man was interested her on a friendship level as well, but he becomes angry and maybe even violent when she rejects his sexual or romantic advances.
Men, if a woman enjoys your company, don’t assume she’s into you that way. If you want to have healthy friendships with both men and women, familiarize yourself with what good friends are supposed to do for one another, and don’t assume there is anything inherently sexual about opening up to someone. It’s healthy to talk to your friends.
Friends can play vital roles in our lives, but cultivating healthy relationships necessitates work and self-awareness. A good friend to you will never judge you, instruct you how to feel or think, or shrug you off.
Instead, they will express genuine interest in your life and accept you for who you are—and it is crucial that you do the same.