Friendships are at the core of our support and what enriches our lives in numerous ways. Our friends are the family members that we get to choose. A good friendship will be like iron sharpening iron and I recently saw a quote that said “You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with – choose carefully.” We are changed and help others change while investing in solid friendships.
Since friends have such personal access to us and our private thoughts, choosing wisely is critically important. We all have had a friendship or two (or more sometimes) when we wonder why we let a particular person close to us and ended up hurt in the relationship. It’s inevitable that we will have some friendships that turn badly and we have an opportunity to learn from the experience. As a counselor, I get to hear lots of stories of friendships done well and not so fabulous. I often write about toxic people and their influence in our lives because I truly believe that all personal growth is hindered (or completely ruined) by one of two things: 1) our own inner thought life and 2) the attitude of the people we surround ourselves with on a regular basis.
With that in mind, I’d like to share five of the more damaging friendship types that I have come across:
“My Life is Perfect”
This is the friend that always has to portray themselves, their families and their life in general as the personification of perfection. They may even go so far as to tell you outright that their lives are “perfect.” Their declaration of an ideal existence is often followed by you having shared a hard time, a struggle or a let down in life. This friend will comfort you in all your loserness (I am being sarcastic) and then immediately share a story about what a great promotion their husband just got making oodles of money or how one of their children made the most exclusive sports team in the community or some other version of success. These friends feel compelled to project an outward image that can not be true for anyone. Perfection isn’t reality. Having a life you love and appreciate is reality but these type of friends take it a step further. They don’t want you to see their flaws or if they do share some struggle, it will be something watered down and helps to maintain their self-image. The damaging aspects of having a friend such as this is that no matter how close we may think we are to this person, there is an invisible wall between us and them. True authentic relationships involve transparency and where transparency is lacking, friendship doesn’t really exist.
“Here Comes Trouble”
Watch your back. Better yet, watch your back, your front, your sides and every other entry into your life because this friend is looking for drama and has no trouble dragging you into a relational mess. The motivation for these trouble causing friends often varies but frequently I have seen that these folks want to alienate us from other people and do so by gossiping about this, that and the other in order to get us angry at the other person and are therefore more loyal or devoted to the trouble causing friend. Rather than just letting life sift itself out and letting people choose who they want to be friends with, the trouble starter passive aggressively tries to control the dynamics and trouble is the by product. Now some trouble causing friends are just bored in life and need a good fight to wake themselves up. The challenge to having a trouble causing friend is well, they cause trouble! They create hurt feelings and triangulate (therapy word for pitting people against one another) those around them and there is no harmony or peace when a trouble maker friend is in your life.
“I Am Always Right”
When a friend is always right, guess what? We are always wrong. We raise our kids wrong, we vacation in the wrong places, we make decisions about our careers wrong and on and on it goes. Their over inflated ego whispers to them they know best for themselves and us and if we would just listen to them, all would be well. The limitations to this type of friendship are endless because they don’t make room for our own thoughts, beliefs and hopes to come through. There is one way to do things correctly and that is their way. This friend might have the best intentions for us and truly want to help us become better parents but the problem is that we might not agree that they are the ideal parent and may want to do things our way. Gasp! Shocking huh? To this type of friend, our independent thoughts are annoying to them and if we dare express that we see things differently, the relationship will be strained because we have rejected their over-bearing ways in our life and that usually doesn’t sit well with an always right friend.
“Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”
Ah. The competitive friend. Gotta love them. Unlike the Always Right friend, the Competitive Friend wants us to live independently from them and give it our best shot, as long as they come out on top in every situation. Got a great promotion at work? They got a better one. Parenting your child in a way where they are thriving? Your competitive friend could do it better and has no problem telling you so. My personal favorite is when friends are not even parents yet and believe they could raise your kids better than you do. This friend can be a double-edged sword because they will encourage all kinds of personal growth in you and cheer you along but inevitably the competition you weren’t aware of between you starts to show and it’s damaging to the bond of friendship. It very difficult to do life in close proximity to someone who at the end of the day, just wants to be better than you are and has no issue with either aggressively or passive-aggressively letting you know.
What was that sound, you ask? That, my friend, was the sound of the bus running you over because your other “friend” threw you under it! This type of friend will have no problem scapegoating you when it’s convenient to their agenda. This friend might really like you and want to be your confidant but the moment that their neck is on the line or an offering to the volcano is needed, guess who is getting throw into the pit? You! They know the dynamics of the environment just enough to know exactly how to toss you under the bus in the most effortless and effective manner. The limitation to this friendship type is that what you thought was a nice connection was really a two sided coin; pleasant in one way and completely self-serving for the other person in another way. There is no trust in this type of friendship.
As you think over these five friendship types and the friends you currently have in your life, how are things measuring up? Did reading this list make you grateful for the wonderful and supportive friends you have or did you see someone you know in one or more of the five listed above? Whatever your current state of friendship may be, it’s important to remember that healthy people attract healthy people. So continue on your own journey of personal growth, whatever that may look like, and trust that the right friends will join you and enrich your life in amazing ways. If you already have a great group of supporters, go tell them you appreciate the goodness they bring to your life.