2020 was challenging for a lot of us, in a lot of ways. Maybe there was a moment you lost your temper. Maybe you sent a heated email from the home office, criticized a friend’s pandemic precautions, or beat yourself up over another day spent struggling to keep your head above water. Maybe there was a moment you wish you would have been a better partner, colleague, friend or version of yourself.
Maybe there have been a lot of those moments.
Psychologists aren’t surprised. Some people have spent way more time than usual with their partners, family or housemates this year — and some people have spent a lot more time than usual with only themselves and their own thoughts and feelings, Dr. Kruti Patel, a licensed clinical psychologist in Austin, Texas, told TODAY. “2020 may have been very eye-opening.”
If this past year has prompted you to want to get better in terms of how you show up in your relationships with those you care about, you’re not alone. Relationships (either with others or the one you have with yourself) are some of the most common reasons people come to therapy, Patel said.
The good news: It’s something you can work on and get better at. Here’s some expert advice of steps you can start taking right now to do just that.
Health & Wellness 7 self-care tips for coping with ‘crisis fatigue’
Your relationship with yourself is foundational. Don’t neglect it
Your relationship with yourself — how you speak to yourself, how you listen to your emotions and how you respond to your needs — is the base that any other relationship you have builds upon, Patel explained. “If you’re not responding to your needs, it will also impact your health and overall wellbeing,” she said.
If, for example, you’re taking on too much and you don’t listen to your need to slow down and rest, you’re going to start to feel overwhelmed. You may find yourself burning out. You may get sick. You’re also going to bring all of that weariness, stress and burden to the table when it comes to a tough conversation with a friend or a disagreement with a partner.
To improve your relationship with yourself:
- Tune into your own thoughts and feelings regularly, Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, a psychotherapist and assistant professor of social work at Utah Valley University, told TODAY. Start by making a point to stop at least once a day to ask yourself: “How am I feeling?”
- Treat yourself with kindness and compassion when it comes to listening to your emotions and responding to your needs, Hanks said. Talk to yourself about your own worries, fears and concerns the same way you would talk to a friend, she said. “We often tell ourselves things in our own head that we would never say out loud to someone else.”
- Make time for self-care, Kelly Nguyen, a San Francisco-based marriage and family therapist, told TODAY. Remember, self-care includes all of the things that help you meet your personal needs.
TMRW x TODAY 2 couples share how the pandemic has impacted their relationships
For couples, communication and respect breed strong partnerships
A healthy relationship with a partner doesn’t mean that you agree 100% of the time. It’s about respecting one another and being able to communicate in healthy ways to work through disagreements, handle conflict and navigate tough times, Patel said. Being in a healthy relationship means you feel emotionally safe to let your partner know when you’re struggling or upset, she added.
Research published by the University of Georgia investigated how the pandemic is affecting romantic relationships. They found that people who reported having a partner who understands, validates and cares for them were less likely to be as negatively impacted by stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic (like social isolation, financial strain and stress) compared with people in relationships who felt less connected to their partners in this way.
To work on your relationship with your partner:
- Turn toward one another when you’re upset or you’re in disagreement, Hanks said. Talk about it. Work together to solve the problem by coming to a consensus that you’re both OK with.
- But give one another space when you need it. Our pre-pandemic routines likely included more time physically apart from our partners, Nguyen said, “we used to go to work or school; meet up with friends.” That time and space gives us the opportunity to take care of our individual needs. Now, it might mean going for a walk or finding some time to yourself for a hobby or an activity you like to do.
- Be intimate — both physically and emotionally, Hanks said. When you’re emotionally intimate, you feel safe opening up and being vulnerable with your partner when it comes to talking about emotions and needs. You can get better at this by listening to your partner — and acknowledging, respecting and caring about what he or she says, according to Hanks.
TMRW x TODAY Why you should be checking in on your ‘strong’ friends
To stay close with friends and family outside your household, put in the effort
All relationships require time, energy and attention, including those with friends and family members you don’t live with. Maybe that time and attention had been a little easier before the pandemic when you could meet up for dinner regularly or do an activity together you both enjoyed. Now it’s important to find new ways to stay connected (phone calls, emails, letters, video calls) to maintain contact and closeness, Hanks said.
To bolster connection with friends and family:
- Pay attention to and remember the details, Hanks said. It demonstrates that you care about that person’s life, she added.
- Just reach out. Don’t take it as a personal attack or slight if someone hasn’t been in touch; you have no idea what they’re going through, Patel said. Don’t overthink reaching out to friends and family you want to stay close with. “A lot of us are craving more connection than ever this year,” Patel said.
- Be consistent. Repeated and regular contact is how you stay up-to-date on what’s going on with people, Hanks said. It builds closeness.
Mar 29, 2018 · 3 min read
I have a friend who wants to go out to the clubs and pesters me often about going with him. He’s at a place in his life where those things are attractive to him since he recently got divorced. But that isn’t me. It’s not who I am.
If I was 20 years younger, then I might go. But I do n ’t like to do those things now, so I say no every time. I have no problem going for a beer occasionally, hanging out together at one another’s house or going for a run, but the clubs are not me.
So if I gave in, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors. I would be miserable the whole time and ready to go home as soon as I got there. If I gave in, I wouldn’t be myself. I would cater to his needs, not mine.
I’ve struggled most of my life with trying to be who I wanted and I’ve always tried to please others or not do anything to be judged harshly. And most of the time I would end up giving in.
I also followed society’s expectations and lived life like everyone else. But doing that made me unhappy and I realized I’ve been living a life not true to myself. And it’s taken me four and a half decades to finally realize it. I’m hoping you will realize it sooner than I have.
But I have decided I can no longer NOT be myself. Because I’ve never been happy living how others wanted me to.
All of us have looked at others and wished we could be like them. We wished we could have what they have.
But you can’t be someone else. You are you. You are unique and have your own talents and experiences. You can use those talents and experiences to get what you want, but you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself to do so.
Many of us also act like someone we are not. Whether you did it to impress a love interest, your boss, or someone else, we have all not been ourselves because we believed it would get us what we wanted.
But when you are not yourself, you change. You change who you are and what you are about. You change your thoughts and beliefs and you become someone who tries to please others instead of pleasing yourself. You become someone else instead of being yourself.
Being yourself does not mean you are selfish and it doesn’t mean you don’t care about others. Being yourself means you like who you are. Being yourself means living life how you want to live it, regardless of other people’s opinions. And it means you respect yourself.
Don’t worry about what others think. You can’t control them or their thoughts .
If you like who you are, then that is all that matters. Don’t allow others to change who you are. You are being judged regardless of what you do, so being yourself makes happiness easier to obtain.
Live life on your terms, not someone else’s.
Being yourself is important because you will not be happy otherwise. Empower and love yourself.
Unless you can be a unicorn. Then be a unicorn.
by TheCarousel 15/01/2021, 5:22 pm
A best friend is someone you can trust with your secrets; they are your shoulder to lean on in tough times, and cheer squad to celebrate the good times. In these strange times, where we often find ourselves separated from our circle of friends and/or loved ones, learning how to be your own best friend is super important. Learning how to be alone and happy is vital.
However, learning to be your own best friend takes practice. It means you must rely on yourself, as the only person for your own comfort, when you need advice, support, or encouragement.
Being your own best friend is the best gift that you can give yourself. Here, five tips to help you out.
1. Start a new relationship with yourself
Sit down in the comfiest space you have, put pen to paper and list all of the things that you love about yourself.
Discover the true authentic person that you are. Pen to paper always works when it’s time to figure things out. You might surprise yourself with thoughts that pop to mind and the things that you discover about yourself, when you let your mind do all the work.
2. Try new things with your best friend (AKA YOU)
Pretend to be a tourist in your local area. Visit the shops, galleries and museums. Hike around a national park near your home. Source out self-awareness or self-empowering workshops, art classes, yoga retreats, any of these will help you realise the true unique person that you are. Being alone and happy is actually a ‘thing’!
Exploring your own neighbourhood through the eyes of a tourist, or joining a local yoga retreat are great methods of self empowerment.
3. Take yourself out on a date.
This can be scary but at the same time, fun. Most of us honestly believe that we must rely on the company of others to bring us joy and fun, but to reiterate – being alone and happy is not only possible, it can be joyous. Be comfortable to book a table for one person at a restaurant or café, have a picnic on your own, go to the movies, whatever you believe is the perfect date for your best friend!
Learn to enjoy your own company, and your own thoughts.
4. Treat yourself
The list is endless when it comes to treating yourself, and as your own best friend, you should do this frequently. Do whatever you think is the best for you at the time. Some ideas include;
- Ice Cream
- Manicure and Pedicure
- Hairdresser appointment
- Do absolutely nothing!
5. Speak Kindly To Yourself
Kind self-talk starts when you decide that you are the most important person in your life and you are perfect just the way you are, right at this very moment. Compliment yourself the same way you would for someone else. You deserve it.
Your best friend is the person you see in the mirror every day. Treat your best friend with the love, respect, and honour that they deserve.
The Carousel would like to thank Trudy Vains for her article.
About Trudy Vains
Trudy Vains is an Author, Yoga Teacher, and Spine Fusion Warrior.
Trudy’s book “Fused” provides inspiration and reassurance to those facing spine surgery, as well as many examples of the importance of a positive mindset in overcoming challenges.
Please take out a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
- First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.
- Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.
- Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
- Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?
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Kristin Neff is Co-Founder of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
Who is your best friend? If the name that just popped into your head was anything other than “me,” you’re missing out! Ok, I know that it’s popular to say that you should “be your own best friend,” but, what does this really mean? More importantly, how can we go about building stronger, more loving relationships with ourselves?
Let’s take a look at what best friends really are and how we can apply this to building our self-esteem and sense of purpose in the world.
Best Friends Know Each Other Well
Most people think that they know themselves well by the time they reach their 50th birthday. But, do they really? How many people have really taken the time to write down and analyze their thoughts on a regular basis? How many people have embraced meditation as a way to learn more about themselves? Have you?
Best friends are able to predict each other’s moods because they know each other so well. As your own best friend, you can do the same. The more you invest in getting to know yourself, the better you will be able to deal with anything that life throws your way.
Best Friends Love Each Other Unconditionally
Many baby boomers I know find it much easier to forgive others than to forgive themselves. By the time we turn 50, we have our share of emotional scars. In order to be our own best friend, we need to learn to love ourselves unconditionally. We need to accept the fact that we are complex — we are neither entirely good nor completely bad.
Ironically, only forgiveness can give us the strength to right our wrongs and move on with our lives. So, be your own best friend. Love yourself unconditionally.
Best Friends Respect Each Other Enough to Be Honest
Best friends may love each other unconditionally, but, this doesn’t mean that they shy away from the truth. Best friends are honest with us when no-one else can be. They are the first ones to tell us when we’ve gained a little weight, even if they do so with a smile on their face. They are the ones that pull us aside at a party and tell us that we’ve had a little bit too much to drink. They are willing to call us our when we are being stubborn.
The older you get, the easier it is to get set in your ways. Being your own best friend means staying honest with yourself. Don’t be the kind of friend who sugarcoats the truth. Question yourself. Be honest with yourself. Force yourself to be the best person that you can be.
Best Friends Have Fun Together
Best friends are honest, but, they aren’t always serious. If you see a pair of women giggling uncontrollably at the movie theatre, chances are they’re best friends. Don’t let yourself get old in mind and spirit. Be your own best friend and learn to have fun by yourself.
Are there passions that you have always wanted to explore? Are there places that you want to travel to? Don’t wait for someone else to follow your dreams. Get out there and start experiencing everything that the world has to offer.
Best Friends Bring Out the Best in Each Other
Best friends are not just “good together” — they are good “for each other.” They know just how far they can push each other. They have an intuitive sense of each other’s potential. If you want to be your own best friend, learn to recognize the potential in yourself. Once you see what you can become, don’t let yourself off the hook. Be your own cheerleader and coach. Be your own biggest fan. In doing so, you will become your own best friend.
What does it mean to you to “be your own best friend?” Do you think that you understand yourself well? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.
Here are a few more Boomerly articles to inspire you to get more from life after 50:
How to Decide If Someone Is Really a Friend
Why is it so hard to determine if someone is really a friend? On the surface, friendship should be easy. If someone behaves in a positive manner towards you, it should mean they consider you a friend. If they are snarky or mean, they aren’t a friend. With some friends, the boundaries are clearly defined. (Here’s more about the definition of friendship.)
But there are friendships that confuse us. On the surface, we can hang out with someone and have a great time, but still question their friendship. If you’re feeling this way about a person in your life, ask yourself these questions.
Is My Friend Negative With Me During Certain Situations
This question can help you decide if the person in your life only acts badly during certain times. For example, if your friend is snarky with you when you’re doing well, perhaps they’re jealous of you. This would explain their behavior.
Or maybe the opposite is true. When you’re doing poorly your friend is sweet and caring, but when things get back to normal they behave differently. If you can isolate a certain circumstance, it will help you to approach your friend about why they’re acting like they are.
Has my friend always been up and down with me?
If your friend’s negativity is new, think about the things in each of your lives that could have contributed to their behavior. Generally, a change of any kind (even a positive one) can bring out a change in behavior.
For example, if your friend suddenly gets a new job and is doing well, he or she may be feeling stressed out at their new level of responsibility and as a result they treat you badly. It isn’t right, but it’s one explanation.
If your friend has always been hard to predict, this might just mean that’s the way they are. You can decide if you want to accept that or move on from the friendship.
Has my friend burned me in the past?
If your friend has gossiped about you, shared a secret, betrayed you, or in some other way shattered your trust, you could be feeling fearful that it will happen again. This will cause you to look for negative things that could tip you off to your friend’s disloyalty.
Trust takes years to build and only moments to crush, so if your friend has burned you in the past, you’ll naturally wonder if they are really your friend or not. However, if you’ve decided to forgive your friend for their past mistakes, you owe it to the friendship to not hold onto a mental list of wrongs.
Have I heard negative things about myself from people my friend knows?
If you’re hearing gossip about yourself that could have only originated from your friend, it’s time to pay attention. Someone that acts nice to your face but spreads rumors, twisted truths, or even secrets you’ve shared is not to be trusted.
In this case, you might need some time away from the friendship to determine if they are really a friend. You could also try asking a trusted mutual friend if they can give you some perspective, but be cautious here. Don’t try to start gossip about your friend just because they gossiped about you. Consult a third party only if you feel it will give you insight into your suspicions.
Why do I believe my friend won’t be there for me?
If you have a feeling deep down that your friend will bail on you when you need them most, think about why exactly you feel this way. Does your friend have a habit of being wishy washy when it comes to commitments? Do you feel that deep down they aren’t really happy for you?
If your friend can’t commit to coming to big events or giving you their support, let them know that this is really important to you and you hope they can be there to share the moment with you. But trust your gut. Don’t rely on them alone if you really need help. Invite friends who you are sure about to support you, and your friend can either give you a pleasant surprise by being there when you need them or they will show you once and for all that you can’t trust them. Either way, you’ll have your answer, but your other friends will be there to soften the blow if it turns negative.
Will taking a step back from this person give me perspective?
Your first instinct may be to end a friendship that you feel is negative, but a step back will help you to get greater clarity. For a short period of time:
- Spend less time with your friend
- Mentally decide not to share details of your life with them
- Observe your friend’s behavior with other people
Reflect on things you’ve noticed or thoughts that have occurred when you take this step back. How did you feel when you got some distance from your friend? Do you still feel that ending the friendship is the right move or is there a way you can have this person in your life in some capacity while still protecting your emotions?
Whatever you decide, make your decision without regret. Know that whatever you choose may be difficult at first, but that you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people who care about you.
The first time we met up, I found Anna sweet.
Pretty and stylish, she’d seemed unsure of herself when she approached me at preschool and asked if our kids could meet for a playdate. I was pregnant with my second child and eager to get out while my husband worked long hours. I happily agreed.
Our 90 minutes at the playground flew by. We bonded over a shared love of reading and exercise, and as we walked to our cars post-playdate, we promised to get together again soon. I thought it was adorable how, 20 seconds after she’d left the parking lot, she turned her car around, drove back to me, and asked if I wanted to go for coffee in a few days. Sure, I said.
“She likes me,” I thought. “This was nice.”
It was less nice 30 minutes later when she texted to set up our coffee date, 35 minutes later when she texted again to say she hoped she wasn’t overbearing, and 37 minutes later when she called, just to be sure.
She was, to quote Vince Vaughn, a stage-five clinger. Still, willfully I ignored the early warning signs.
Like so many young mothers, I felt isolated in my new role. I worked from home, which meant no social outlets at my job, and we had recently moved. I didn’t know anyone in the new neighborhood.
I was desperate to connect, hoping to find someone who understood me as well as the once-dear college and high school friends I now rarely saw. And so, I kept hanging out with Anna.
At first, things went okay. We got together regularly for several months, at which point I began meeting other new moms at my son’s preschool. I joined a playgroup. Anna was not in it, which seemed to annoy her, but hey, we weren’t exclusive. or so I thought.
That’s when Anna turned possessive and morphed into a full-blown friend stalker. She’d text me repeatedly until I replied. She’d call to ask why I wasn’t replying right away (“I have a job, remember?”).
I’ll be honest: I was never completely myself with Anna. I held back because I wasn’t comfortable around her. She was very religious and I worried my dark humor might offend her.
I’m quiet, so at first, I let her handle the talking. That became problematic, because, well, that makes for a one-sided relationship. When I eventually tried to share that I suffered a miscarriage and that I was a mess, Anna talked over my feeble attempts at unloading.
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Instead, she’d call me to ramble about problems small (“I didn’t get my workout in today”) and big (“I don’t love my husband”). Granted, that latter one was heavy stuff, and Anna needed someone to confide in, which I later realized explained her clinginess.
But I’d known her less than six months. I wasn’t ready to be her confessor and I certainly wasn’t ready to hold her hand when she began an ill-fated affair, which sparked even more texts, calls, and sobs. I was utterly overwhelmed by this person who gave zero damns about my time or my miscarriage.
Like many women, I have trouble setting boundaries. I worry about coming off as mean when I say “no.” I realized that, to extricate myself from Anna, I would have to get over that and confront her friend stalking head-on.
I stopped returning her texts. I stopped answering the phone when she called. I kept our interactions at school perfunctory. I’m not proud of it, but I even snuck out the back door at a birthday party for a mutual friend’s kid when she arrived to avoid explaining why I hadn’t returned any of her 18 texts that day (it was 10 AM).
Eventually, Anna noticed my retreat. She asked me about it at preschool drop-off not long after the party. Finally, I was honest.
I told her she was smothering me. I told her I needed space. I did not claim “It’s not you, it’s me,” but it felt a lot like a breakup anyway.
And she answered, “OK. But I really need to talk to you about what [man she was having the affair with] did last night. Can we go for coffee?”
It took months to get my point across. Eventually, Anna began sending me nasty notes on Facebook about betrayal.
So I blocked her.
That was kind of mean, I admit, but I was at my wit’s end.
It’s been a few years since we spoke. Anna finally let go after the Facebook block and I rarely see her anymore. I found a tight circle of friends who I allow to see the real me. I understand my friendship with Anna failed as much because of me, and my inability to open up, as because of her.
In truth, I would relive my odd friend stalker experience all over again to realize what true friendship is — and, even more importantly, what it is not.
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If someone you love is hurting themselves through self-harm, you may feel at a loss. Maybe they haven’t told you, but you’ve noticed it on your own, so you’re wondering if you should confront them—and how. Or maybe they have opened up to you, but you’re still unsure of the right way to help.
Self-harm is typically best understood as an unhealthy coping mechanism for emotional suffering, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). Often, people self-harm to release intense feelings they don’t have the tools to express any other way, NAMI says. Other possible reasons for self-harm include trying to break through emotional numbness, avoiding distressing memories, signaling a need for help, punishing themselves, or needing to exert a sense of control, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Given that every self-harm scenario (and friendship) is a little different, it’s hard to issue one-size-fits-all advice. A lot of how you handle this will depend on the specific situation. Mental health experts do still have some suggestions for how you may and may not want to approach this conversation.
Before you say anything, choose a good time for both of you.
“You want to strike while the iron is cold,” Elaina Zendegui, Psy.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. That means not jumping on your friend right after they walk in the door from their exhausting job or on a day when they’re clearly in a bad mood.
You also want to be aware of where you’re at so you can be as supportive as possible. “Make sure you actually are in a space to talk about it in a calm way, because it can be really upsetting,” Zendegui says.
While your first instinct may be to respond to your friend’s self-harm confirmation or details with shock, horror, or sadness, do your best to remain nonjudgmental and nonreactive (or at least, not over-reactive), psychologist Joan Freeman, M.A., founder of suicide and self-harm intervention nonprofit centers Pieta House in Ireland and Solace House in New York City, tells SELF.
Here are suggestions for what to say:
If your friend has not told you that they are self-harming but you have reason to believe they are, open with something simple and straightforward. “Describe what you’ve noticed and what makes you think there’s a problem, express your concern, and ask them directly,” Zendegui says.
You may be nervous to ask specifically if they’re hurting themselves. You can try a more open-ended question to see if they volunteer the information, like “What’s going on?”
While it’s possible that your friend will lie or evade the question, giving someone the space to talk about their self-harm can be the first step in their recovery, Pamela Cantor, M.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist in private practice in Massachusetts and former president of the American Association of Suicidology, tells SELF. “It may release what may have been a frightening secret,” Dr. Cantor says.
Meghan S., 29, who self-harmed for about two years while she was in college, tells SELF that “it was actually kind of a relief” when a close friend asked if she was hurting herself. “I think part of me wanted someone to ask if I was OK,” she says.
“You can validate that the pain they’re feeling is real without validating the [self-harm] itself,” Zendegui says. As an alternative, you can try something like, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I can tell you’re having a really hard time right now.”
Then invite them to talk about what’s causing their pain, Dr. Cantor says. Listen until they’re done sharing—don’t jump in to offer advice or try to relate it to your own experiences.
If your friend has signaled that they’re open to talking, it’s OK to ask more questions to try to better understand what they’re going through, Zendegui says.
Focus your questions on the emotional triggers preceding the self-harm and the effects following it. “You want to identify the feelings happening around the action, not judge the action itself,” Freeman says.
Questions like, “Have you noticed what kind of feelings lead to the impulse to hurt yourself?”, “How do you feel afterward?”, and “How long does the relief last?” are generally appropriate, Dr. Cantor says. Not only are you learning more about your friend’s experience, but you’re also giving them a chance to talk through the process in a way they may have not before.
You can also try something like, “Have you thought about talking to someone?”
Self-harm is a complex issue that often comes with other behavioral and mental health problems like dangerous substance use and depression, according to NAMI. Stopping the behavior and learning new coping mechanisms usually requires the help of a mental health professional, so your priority should be to guide your friend to a clinician.
“Once you listen and offer support and caring, the best way to help is to get your friend to a responsible professional,” Dr. Cantor says. Doing this can also help set boundaries between you and your friend, which can be important if you’re feeling overwhelmed, Zendegui says.
Let’s say your friend seems resistant to therapy, though. Try mentioning people in your life or your friend’s life who have gone to therapy (as long as those people are open about it so that you’re not invading their privacy). You can say something like, “I know therapy was really helpful for so-and-so when they were having a hard time,” Zendegui says.
Since the idea of indefinite therapy can be intimidating, you can also try what Zendegui calls the “foot-in-the-door” technique and propose that your friend just calls somebody to see what they can offer or tries an initial consult. They don’t need to commit for life, just to that first step.
If your friend seems daunted at the prospect of finding an affordable therapist they can trust, you can help them with these tips. Just don’t ignore your own mental and emotional capacity in the process.
Your friend might not be ready to jump into a lengthy conversation or agree to get help off the bat. Respect that, Zendegui says, and extend an open invitation to talk anytime. You can always gently bring it up again later. It might take weeks or months and multiple tries, Zendegui says. It’s also possible that your friend will never be ready to open up to you about this, she adds. While that may be frustrating and upsetting, you can’t force it.
In Meghan’s case, she appreciated her friend’s standing offer to revisit the subject at a later date. “I actually don’t think we ever really talked about it again,” she says. “But it was a relief telling someone and probably good for me to have to say [it] out loud.”
In a perfect world, the person you’re in love with would feel the same way. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Dealing with unrequited love can be really tough. But what do you do when you have unrequited feelings for a friend? According to experts, it may be tough at first. But it is possible to have a friendship with someone you have feelings for.
“The trickiest part of maintaining a friendship with someone you’re in love with is that it absolutely requires you to accept this person exactly as they are,” Dr. Mark Borg Jr, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. That means you have to accept this person as a friend who doesn’t feel the same way.
It may seem obvious. But due to the way people are wired, it’s a lot easier said than done. “Because of our own psychological defense system that serves to protect us from emotional pain and being overwhelmed by anxiety, it’s not always possible to know for sure that we accept the fact that this person doesn’t love us back,” Borg says.
According to Borg, time, a commitment to friendship, and a willingness to be honest with yourself, are “the necessary ingredients” to maintaining a friendship with someone you’re in love with.
So here’s what you should do if you have unrequited love for your friend, according to experts.
It can feel nearly impossible to be around a friend that you’re in love with. As Dr. Deidra A. Sorrell, licensed professional counselor who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle, “The only way to heal from this is old-fashioned time and distance.” If that means having to take a break from your mutual friend group in order to heal, you may need to do it. “Time with this person is like re-injuring a broken bone,” Sorrell says. “You won’t heal if you’re constantly around them.” It’s important to know that you can’t rush the healing process. Everyone does it at their own pace.
Loving someone who doesn’t feel the same can be emotionally exhausting. When you’re spending some time alone to heal, the main goal is to put yourself first. Practice self-care, and take the time to figure out what you really want in a partner. According to Sorrell, take inventory of all your strengths and weaknesses so you’re more focused on your needs when you meet someone new. Therapy or just talking to a close friend can also help you gain perspective on what you may need to do differently in the future.
“Unrequited love hurts, but time heals all wounds,” Grace Lee, dating coach and CEO of A Good First Date, tells Bustle. “Maybe even pursue some other relationships.” You don’t have to look for a serious relationship right away. But if you’re spending time away from your usual friend group, don’t be afraid to meet new people. It doesn’t have to be people you’re attracted to or romantically interested in вЂ”В you can aim to meet new friends. For instance, if you take a class, introduce yourself to the person next to you. Start conversations and make connections. Once you feel ready to go back to your old friend group, you can. According to Lee, you may want to start with a group hangout. “You’ll know right away if you can tolerate being around that person without feeling extreme pain,” she says.
You don’t ever need to write someone off completely. As Dr. Melanie Ross Mills, licensed clinical counselor who specializes in relationships and author, tells Bustle, you just need to put them in another category. “You can remain friends with them by moving them to a less personal category,” Mills says. “For example, in this case, put them in the Acquaintance Category. This allows you to still connect without expectations of becoming besties. It also gives both of you the option to become closer in the future.” When you do this, it’s important to let go of any feelings of hurt and bitterness. If you can’t, it may not be the right time to have a friendship.
When you have a strong connection with someone, it can be easy to fall in love with them. It’s natural to want to keep them in your life, even if they don’t feel the same way. But it can do a number on your self-esteem if you’re not careful. According to Kim Egel, licensed therapist who specializes in relationships, you have to be honest with yourself about whether maintaining a friendship is worth it. “If this begins to chip away at your sense of self-worth or makes you miserable, it’s just not worth it,” Egel says. “If you can still enjoy and gain from the friendship without negative feelings getting in the way, then sounds like it’s working for you for now. Just be mindful to stay honest with yourself and check in from time to time.”
It’s tough to deal with unrequited love in general, but it’s even harder when it’s someone you’re friends with. The important thing here is to be honest with yourself. If it’s too hard to be around them, it’s OK to distance yourself for a bit. You may find that with time, a friendship with them can be possible.
Dr. Deidra A. Sorrell, licensed professional counselor, owner of Synergy Wellness Therapeutic Services
Grace Lee, dating coach and CEO of A Good First Date
Dr. Melanie Ross Mills, licensed clinical counselor, author of The Friendship Bond
A few years ago, one of my best friends from college broke up with me. “I think it might be healthier if we took a step back from constantly talking to each other,” she wrote in an email. “Maybe one day we’ll see eye to eye, but for now this feels unhealthy.”
The breakup wasn’t out of the blue. We lived in different cities and mostly spoke via Gchat, and in the last few months we had started bickering a lot. There were a number of reasons for the uptick in arguments, but the main one, really, was that at the time, I was depressed, she was coming out of a period of depression, and our differing emotional states made me toxic to her. I didn’t grasp that the unrelenting negativity manifesting from my depression was hurting her, and I sent her a defensive email in response. But looking back on it now, I get why she needed to take space and I respect her for asking for it, even if I still miss her sometimes.
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It’s tough to dump an old friend. “There is a reluctance to end longer term friendships, especially those formed in childhood,” says Jennifer Verdolin, an animal behavior expert and adjunct professor at Duke University. “Social animals, which we are, need and depend on social needs that extend beyond the immediate family. When you forge them, and they’re strong and they’re long, there’s a difficulty in letting them go.”
Some of that is because it takes a long time to build that kind of friendship, and since it’s harder to make friends as you get older, you might not be able replace your ex-buddy. And some of it is because when you say goodbye to someone, you say goodbye to a part of yourself, and it’s difficult to bury the version of you who used to love this person, even if you know you need the space.
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Still, friendships change as we age, and sometimes you find yourself in one that’s no longer serving either one or both of you. When that happens, you need to evaluate whether or not it’s time to cut the cord. Here’s how to do it. But first:
Pinpoint why you want to end the friendship
There are a number of reasons a friendship might go sour. An obvious one is when you find one friend is pulling far more of the relationship’s weight than the other. “Some warning signs would be persistent imbalances in terms of who is always having needs and who is always meeting those needs,” says Peg O’Connor, a Professor of Philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College who blogs for Psychology Today . Though friendships aren’t always 50/50, particularly during short periods when one friend needs more support than the other, “when there’s a persistent balance, when it’s always pretty much ‘70 percent my friend’s needs, 30 percent mine,’ then that’s a problem,” she said. Basically, if you find yourself being used in a friendship, it’s time to get out.
Sometimes, the soured relationship is due to more insidious behavior, like lying or backstabbing. And sometimes, the friendship just doesn’t make you the kind of person you want to be—politically, behaviorally, or otherwise. “What happens when you are putting to the side your needs or your wants, or you’re compromising your values or you’re going against your own beliefs?” O’Connor says. “That is fundamentally going to harm your moral character and at the end of the day, what you have is your moral character and you are responsible for it.”
So, if your friend is turning you into a mean gossip, or bringing you down, or stealing your boyfriends, or is just generally taking more out of you than you can handle, it might be worth cutting the cord. If so:
It’s fine to let new or distant friendships naturally fade out, but if you’re dumping a good friend, you owe them some warning and an explanation. “We’re uncomfortable with cutting out people from our lives, and sometimes that leads to not communicating at all, and completely ghosting,” Verdolin says. “Then, we have this weird inconsistency that creates a lot of stress and tension for both parties.”
Instead of disappearing, ask them to meet you for coffee, or call them on the phone, or, if you must, send them an email. The latter is least preferable, since it doesn’t give the dump-ee the opportunity to hear your cadence or to respond, but if it makes it easier for you to say what you need to, feel free to do your thing. Do note that if you are planning to do the break up in writing, don’t send anything angry or rash, and maybe give yourself an extra day to read it over with fresh eyes.
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