Sarah Riccio

A life without friendship is pretty tough to imagine. Where would we be without the kind of genuine, unconditional love that comes from true friendship? Let's banish the thought and pay homage to platonic love in this article that's all about friendship!

Keep reading to learn the traits of true friendship, why platonic intimacy is important, how to identify toxic friendship, and more. 

Why Is Friendship So Important?

Let's start with the basics: what is friendship and why is it so important to the human experience? Well, a true friend is essentially a platonic life partner. The loving bond between friends is just as sacred and enriching as a romantic relationship between lovers. But beyond that, studies show that friendships can have a pretty big impact on your health and wellbeing. 

Whether you have one true blue friend or dozens of besties, the presence of friendship in one's life has proven time and again to boost happiness, reduce stress, improve self-confidence, promote healthy lifestyle choices, and a host of other great benefits. 

Let's look at some more example of why friendship relationships are so important:

  • A sense of purpose. Being a friend to somebody can instill a feeling of belong to a community, which can give you a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose in life is a great defense against depression, and feelings of loneliness. 
  • Feeling supported. When you're dealing with life's hard moments, there's nothing like the support of a friend. A true friend has your back when you're going through difficult times like divorce or breakups, death and dying, or just a run-of-the-mill bad day. 
  • Physical health. As I mentioned, the presence of friendship in one's life has been shown to produce positive health benefits such as blood pressure regulation, coping skills, and even longer lifespans. 
  • Mental health. The mind and body are linked, meaning the wellbeing of one affects the wellbeing of the other. In this case, friendship boosts physical and mental health simultaneously! Feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger can all be made a bit easier with the support of friends. 

Now that we've got an idea of why friendship is so important, let's talk about the signs of true friendship.

What Makes A True Friend?

The truth is, friends come and go. But a real, true, best friend can last a lifetime! So, how do you spot the difference between a fair-weather friend and the real deal? Let's take a look below. 

  • Makes you feel good. Simply put, real friends should make you feel good! Sure, you'll disagree and quarrel now and then. But at the end of the day, you can count on your friend to lift your spirits and make you feel happy. 
  • Knows the real you. There's no need to put on airs for a true friend! They know the real you, and accept you for exactly who you are. 
  • Inspires you. A true friend encourages you to be your best self, and inspires you to go after the things you want in life. Basically, they want you to succeed just as much as you do!
  • Is honest and trustworthy. You know how the line from Golden Girls goes: "... you're a pal and a confidant." I think we can all agree that the confidant part of friendship is key. If you can't confide in your friend, that's a bad sign. 
  • Apologizes. To be a true friend, you must learn the art of apologizing when you're wrong. It may take some time — and you might not always be ready to say "sorry" right away — but being vulnerable enough to admit fault is essential to true friendship.
  • Wants to grow with you. To nurture a healthy friendship, you must both acknowledge that people change over time, and that could very well affect your relationship. That's why it's important to check in with each other, and embrace positive change in your friend.

Signs of a Toxic Friendship (And the Best Way to End It)

We've seen a few key qualities to look for in a friendship... but what about traits to avoid? Sometimes we can get trapped in a friendship that's gone bad, or walk into a toxic situation that was never good to begin with!

Let's talk about ways to identify a toxic friendship, and how to remove yourself from it. 

  • You don't look forward to meeting them. You know that slight feeling of dread that forms in a pit in your stomach right before you're about to do something you don't enjoy? Yeah — you should never feel that way about hanging out with your friend. If you notice that you're actually feeling more worse-ness than wellness when you're with your friend, or you're frequently looking for a way out of your plans together, it's time to examine the relationship.
  • You can't do anything without each other. On the other hand, spending too much time with each other can be unhealthy and form a toxic codependence. If you find that you and one particular friend have isolated yourselves from the rest of your friends and family, that's a red flag. If your friend insists that all decisions you make be run by them beforehand, that's a big red flag. 
  • They don't bring out the best in you. Like I mentioned above, a friend should inspire you to be your best self. If you find that your friend encourages you to act in ways that make you feel bad about yourself, they might be a toxic influence in your life.
  • They constantly compete with you. A little friendly competition is great when everyone is on board, but a true friend doesn't constantly invite comparison between your achievements or success. If your buddy is always trying to compete with you — even over the smallest things — it's time to have a serious chat, or potentially cut them from your life.
  • They don't listen, but expect you to. That whole Golden Girls confidant thing works both ways! If you always listen attentively when your friend needs to confide in you, but they do not reciprocate the same courtesy, you might want to call them out. A good friend must be a good listener, because a good friend cares.

So... What's the Best Way to End a Toxic friendship?

If you've come to the conclusion that you're in a toxic friendship, here are some ways to respectfully end the relationship.

  • Make it about your needs, not their wrongs. When you're breaking up with your bestie, try to use "I" statements, and avoid accusatory language. For example, "I don't feel supported enough in this friendship" is preferable to saying, "You don't know how to support a friend." Focus on what's good for yourself, not what will hurt others. 
  • Acknowledge the good stuff. There's nothing wrong with letting your person know the parts of the relationship that you enjoyed. Feel free to thank them for playing a role in your life! Just because the friendship isn't going to work out, doesn't mean the whole thing was a waste of time. 
  • Don't fight. There's a good chance that too much bickering is one of the reasons you're ending your toxic friendship, so why bother fighting now that it's over? When you're having the chat with your friend and deciding to go your separate ways, try to keep cool heads and avoid yelling if you can.