Boundaries are a crucial part of any relationship, whether it be your spouse, your children, your family, and even your friends.
Having personal boundaries is important because they set expectations to the world of how you want to be treated. Setting boundaries ensures that relationships are mutually respectful, appropriate, and caring.
When your boundaries are disregarded or overstepped, you can end up feeling hurt, disrespected, and used.
In the hierarchy of your relationships, friendships tend to shift toward the bottom – especially when you are a parent with a family to take care of. This doesn’t mean that friends are not important but when it comes to the people you fight to keep in your life, your family tends to come first.
Does that mean you should ditch every friend that doesn’t serve your life in a positive way? Absolutely not! You can easily maintain healthy friendships by establishing your boundaries.
Establishing personal boundaries will help you filter through those worth keeping in your life and those you can do without.
Just remember that while you are creating boundaries within your friendships, your friends are within their rights to do the same. True friendship involves mutual respect and understanding for everybody’s boundaries.
Ready to learn more about the boundaries you should establish to maintain healthy friendships? Keep reading!
6 Healthy Boundaries for Healthy Friendships
Being a parent can be an isolating experience, so it’s important to nurture healthy friendships in your life.
To make sure you are not taken advantage of and that you are treated the way you want to be treated, consider establishing these boundaries:
Have you ever had a friend that only contacted you when they needed something? Many friendships suffer from what is called the “non-reciprocal-benefits” issue when efforts, support and favors are only contributed from one side of the friendship.
Friendships do not have be based on a perfect 50/50 give-and-take, what you give and take in a friendship should balance over time. In fact, it should be so naturally balanced that there is no need to keep tabs.
If you have a friend that seems to always take, be straightforward and honest with them. Tell them that you care about them but that you only seem to hear from them when they want something. Add that, if they want to maintain the friendship, your interactions have to also involve wanting to spend time together.
Everyone has a certain friend they can absolutely bare their soul to while having other friends that they only share the minimum with. This is perfectly natural and okay!
But when you have friends who try to pry and find out more information about your life than you’re willing to share, this can put a strain on the friendship. Just keep in mind that boundaries are a two-way street – you can’t expect your friends to mind their own business if you can’t mind yours.
If you’re dealing with a prying friend, just thank them for asking about your life but express that you would rather not discuss it with anyone at the moment.
3. Values and Beliefs
What often attracts people into friendship is not what they have in common, but the ways in which they are different. However, it’s important to mutually respect those differences.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to religion and politics, you may come across a friend who feels it is their mission to convince or convert you. This can place a lot of undue pressure on a friendship and make you feel more like a “project” than a friend.
If this is the case, simply let your friend know how much you appreciate and respect their values and beliefs but that you expect the same from them.
4. Emotional Investment
How often have you been a shoulder to cry on only to bring those emotions home with you? While it’s important to sympathize and support your friends, you don’t want to end up burdening their struggles and bringing them into your own life.
Sometimes this boundary has more to do with what you are willing to accept from yourself than how you are being treated. Remember that, while you can empathize and show care for your friends, you can’t let your emotional state rely on your friend’s emotional state.
When it comes to friendships, try to keep your personal identity and well-being separate from those of your friend and focus on your own emotional needs.
5. Toxicity and Negative Energy
Personally, as a parent, I have a strict “no whackadoo” policy in my life. As soon as someone brings in any toxicity and negativity that affects the life of me or my child, they are gone.
If you have a variety of friends, you can easily identify which ones enhance your life and which ones do not. Then there are the ones who make your life a little bit worse.
They may compete with you, pick fights with you, or flood your life with their own personal drama. No matter how hard you try to instill your positivity in their life, they remain a toxic friend.
Sometimes it’s easier to cut these people out of your life than establish a boundary with them, but an honest conversation may be all it takes to turn things around.
Be straightforward when you tell these friends that their attitudes are negatively impacting your life and, while you care about them and don’t want to lose them as a friend, you have to put your own emotional and mental well-being first.
6. Saying “No”
For some reason, it can be harder saying “no” to a friend than to anyone else. Perhaps we feel that we need to be “people-pleasers” in order to maintain friendships.
But we really don’t. Although being flexible, adaptable, and agreeable in a friendship is perfectly healthy, being a push-over and burning yourself is not. While your friend may be innocently asking for you to help them or hang out beyond what you can reasonably handle, the more you push yourself, the more frustrated and resentful you will be.
You need to define your boundaries and priorities and know when to decline. This means knowing what you need to do in your own life and how much you can handle.
Saying “no” will not end a healthy friendship – good friends will understand! However, if you do have a friend that tries to manipulate or guilt you into saying “yes” then this is a red flag.
Breaking Up With a Friend
Not all friendships are destined to last forever and you may find yourself in a situation where it’s time to break up with a friend.
Always start with establishing your boundaries. Sometimes doing so will actually strengthen your friendship but, in some cases, it may just unveil the truth that it was never a good friendship to begin with.
If a friend continually disrespects your boundaries, then it’s time to let that friendship go.
Do you have some friendship boundaries you stick to? How do they work for you? Let us know in the comments!