We talk to neuropsychologist Dr Hannah Korrell, author of How to Break Up With Friends, about the friendship lessons we can let go and hold on to in 2021.
1. Friendships can be just as toxic as romantic relationships. “We are far better at recognising the impact of unhealthy romantic relationships, and the relationship we have with ourselves in terms of self-care. But the impact of toxic friends on mental health is new territory,” says Korrell.
This appreciation goes hand in hand with appreciating the benefit of friends on mental health.
“Fundamentally, this may be because society has unconsciously placed ‘friends’ lower on the hierarchy of ‘relationships’ than that had with a partner, family member and with yourself. But that does not mean friendship has less of an impact on our mental health, and at times, it may even had more of an impact that other relationships!”
2. It’s normal for your friendships to change over time. Friends can actually move the levels of ‘closeness’ they have as time goes by and we move from different life stages, explains Korrell.
“It is very normal for people to move in and out of our inner circles as we go through different life stages – closer when our worlds become more similar, and further apart as they become more different.”
3. The fear of being alone may be keeping you tied to bad friends. “This fear of ending up with ‘no friends’ is so very common. And not many people realise just how common that fear actually is,” explains Korrell.
However, this fear of having ‘no friends’ or ‘being alone’ may in fact be keeping you tied to people who treat you badly.
“Consider this, if someone is never there for you when you need them, never calling, never reciprocating, and can even be mean or bullying to you, well, they not much of a friend to begin with anyway, are they? The value that we place on ourselves is the value others will place on us – because we won’t settle for anything less.”
4. Respect goes both ways. The golden rule of friendship: respect. This means having respect for yourself and your friends.
“Having true respect means acting integrity and grace,” says Korrell. “For friends, this means reciprocal trust, support, affection and respect. And for yourself, this means not settling for less than you deserve in return.”