Beware the friend that takes advantage of you

Now, I’m pretty lucky in this respect, because I can spot subterfuge a mile off in a relationship, but it’s really difficult to track sometimes. 

It’s hard to think that our friends might not always have our best interests at heart. Or that they might be using us for something else. Our connections. Status. Money. Or even as an emotional download. None of the above are healthy.

But it’s so important to have fulfilling friendships.

Don’t use the threat of toxicity ward you away from genuine connections. That way they win. 

You know what the greatest compliment on earth is in this day and age, in 2019?

It’s not ‘you look hot in that dress’, or ‘nice indoor plants’, or even ‘love your artisanal collection of stationary’. No, the greatest compliment is always received when you’re at your best friend’s house having dinner with their family on a Tuesday night in summer. It’s when her mother announces that you are now part of the family. It also means that you technically have to do the dishes once a week now, but you don’t care about that just at the minute.

This is a very loaded moment.

Arguably, this is the first time that the relationships you have been forming outside of your family for the first time are actually coming to fruition. And they are working. These bonds, they’re being validated. Basically, before I start getting too nostalgic here, the confirmation that your best friend’s family loves you is one of the best things on the planet. If I could bottle that feeling and keep it forever, I would. Don’t try me.

It’s a very similar feeling to when you’re told that ‘my parents would love you’, or ‘mum asked about your dissertation the other day, she hopes it’s going well’. These small gestures of affection that reveal how much you play in your friends’ minds – and even in their family! One of my closest friends surprised me the other day for my birthday when her mother was revealed to have sent up a card as well as her own present.

I was closer to tears, no word of a lie. 

As such, the only thing that can truly rival this feeling is in the initial confirmation that you and your best friend are in fact, best friends. Oh yes, there comes a point in any good relationship worth it’s salt that you have … the talk. Who are we? What are we to each other? Commitment?

With best friends, this starts out by sending each other a few memes with the words ‘best friends’ in it. For example, the classic templates include: ‘tag your best friend ….’ Or ‘you know you’re best friends when…’ in comparison with what a mere ‘friend’ may offer. This then is recognised as a gesture of testing the waters of friendship, and double checking that the other person is also on board. There’s nothing more awkward than having an unrequited best friend. You know, when they are your best friend but you aren’t theirs… that hurts, man.

Emotional distance > physical distance

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, we’re going to spill some tea on relationships. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of guru with a roster of fulfilling, amicably concluded relationships to draw on. However, I am something of an expert of what not to. As such, I’ve found that the golden rule (as is the case in platonic friendships and filial relationship) is emotional honesty.

I’m not saying that we need to bear our soul every second of the day. You shouldn’t have to release your every thought to your Person to feel like you’re communicating, either. But there’s a happy middle ground somewhere between those spectrums.

More still, in comparison with those in long-distance relationships, individuals who have unwittingly become part of an emotionally-distant relationship suffer more. This is because people in long distance relationships still have communication, which is gold dust for relationships. It’s precisely because they know they’re apart that they have to prioritise each other.

They have to make time.

Indeed, as the distance amplifies silences and makes any dissatisfaction reverberate all the more intensely, it’s really important to communicate when need aren’t being met. If one party feels neglected, in a long distance relationship, there’s only one way to resolve that: tell your partner. Therefore, even with physical barriers, emotive, empathetic communication is a great, if not, the only true tool to negotiate these long absences. 

However, if you have become acclimatized to an emotionally distant, neglectful, abusive or apathetic relationship, there is no quick fix. This is because you feel trapped; trapped in your insecurities or concerns about the other person, and yet unable to communicate that. This is either because you feel that your concerns wouldn’t be taken seriously, or you’re just simply not comfortable putting yourself out there and rendering your emotions open in an honest and exposing way. Frankly, making yourself vulnerable is super hard, even if it’s to friends you’ve known years, or your own family. So it’s no small feat. 

That said, it’s still possible. It’s worth trying.

You will find it awkward at first, to put your needs first, and state what you want or expect out of the relationship, and that’s natural. It’s weird to put yourself first publically, but we must all practice it more as a form of self care. We can so easily pretend that everything is okay and manageable and brush off our suffering as something that isn’t as valid or important as other forms of suffering.

We’re always the exception to ‘self-care’, and we have so much to relearn as a consequence. You have to be willing to fall flat on your face and get your heartbroken in a relationship, otherwise you will realise that you maybe aren’t using your heart all that much. By this,  I don’t mean that you need to throw yourself off emotional cliffs just for the sake of it.

I also don’t believe that suffering always has a ‘reason’ or ‘lesson’ to learn from: sometimes life sucks and isn’t fair.

However, you have to respect that your heart is foolish and doesn’t always know what it wants, but it does have needs.

You will always know if they are being met or not.