Close friendships are great; they tick all the boxes! These are the friends we can talk to about anything, and tell us the way it is. You know the type; we share our joys, tell them our woes, they listen, then say what we need to hear, maybe give us encouragement, perhaps a hug. They ‘get’ us, and have our best interests at heart. Close friends can be guaranteed to be there when we need them most; we’d take a bullet for each other we are that close. No other types of friendships compare – think casual friend, or friendly acquaintance. Close friendships are most satisfying by far, so we should aim to make all our friendships close, right? Actually, that strategy can work against us and see our lives, and relationships, become an emotionally painful mess. There are times when we should not try to be close friends at all. Here are four instances – among many – we would do well to consider.
1. Opposite Sex – Not Your Partner
It’s the typical ‘coffee machine liaison’. We catch up around the coffee machine at work, chat, share what we did on the weekend, maybe share our troubles as well. We can even do it over the net; share our heart with a man or woman of the opposite sex. It feels great, after all we don’t chat with our partner much anymore – we are too busy. But the more we share our heart with someone of the opposite sex the less we need to share it with our partner, making our relationship friendship less close; tearing it apart. If you value your relationship – and its friendship – work to make your relationship friendship even closer instead.
2. Opposite Sex – You Have No Partner
What’s the harm? Your best friend is of the opposite sex and you know they could never be your partner – there just isn’t any chemistry, none, zip! But they are great company. This isn’t an affair, no partner gets hurt, so surely that means it’s ok? Problem is whilst you meet each other’s friendship needs you prevent any real relationship material getting a look in. Like it or not your close friendship with that other guy or girl is virtually guaranteed to get in the way of the next romance, it will prevent it properly developing – your opposite sex friend will be meeting friendship needs only your partner should meet. If you want that dream, intimate, stable, satisfying relationship then better to keep your close friendships to the same sex, until the ‘right’ person comes along – save the best for them.
3. The Incompatibles
There is no point in trying to be close friends with people we just aren’t compatible with. This isn’t about liking different colours, it’s about us not agreeing with how the other person abuses or disregards people, that they take recreational drugs we find abhorrent, that we hate the way they lie and cheat. Being close friends should never compromise our integrity, it should give us validation for who we are, and bring out the best in each of us. It’s not worth our energy trying to be close friends with people who make us feel worse about our self.
4. Your Therapist
Mental illness is on the rise and therapy/counselling works. But therapists can’t stay objective and help you very well if they have too much skin in the game. I have many clients tell me things they would never tell their best friends and they’ve mentioned the discussions helped them to clarify their thoughts in a way they otherwise never could. Don’t try to make your therapist a close friend, reserve that for others you can get to know and better share your life with. Develop a few close friendships and you’ll need to see your therapist less.
All friendships are worthwhile; they are an enriching part of the human experience. Some friendships we should always strive to be close, such as in relationships, among family, and with a few good girlfriends or mates. Some should never be close at all – we should keep them at arm’s length.
Time to focus on, and revel in, the close friendships that bring out our best!