Friendships come in all shapes and sizes – strong, selfless, real. But like any relationship, it can’t last long if there’s no equality in it. It is understandable that one of the participants in a relationship can tolerate, pity and condescend to the other. But there is nothing good in that, such an approach will not bring happiness to anyone.
At the same time we all know very well that friendship is built for support and trust. Everyone needs a close person with whom one can share innermost things, problems and successes. But there are some people who go too far in their need for support. These people come not just for advice, but for full psychotherapy sessions. True, while usually such sessions are paid for by professionals, in the case of friendship it is all limited to verbal gratitude.
Meanwhile, the person, who, regardless of his desire, was put in the role of the psychotherapist may not realize how much effort he has to give. In such cases, it starts with awareness and then moves on to building boundaries. This is what we are going to talk about now.
Remember that you are not your friend’s therapist
In fact, not only close friends, but also colleagues and acquaintances that you often meet can sign up to be your patients. Firstly, this should flatter you – it turns out you are a good listener. Secondly, if you feel uncomfortable this should be addressed early on. Be that as it may, friends are much harder to say no to than colleagues. After all, there is usually no distance or subordination in friendship.
Plus, it’s complicated by the fact that we’ve begun to live in a time when it’s right to talk openly about our emotions, feelings and thoughts. You’ve probably heard time and again that it’s time for men to stop holding back tears and start sharing their experiences (including failures).
That’s all well and good, but not everyone is capable of accepting such information from another. It can be psychologically difficult. Not everyone has the mental resources to do this.
How do you set boundaries then?
In fact, there is nothing difficult about setting boundaries. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to say no, but you will feel much better afterwards.
Tell your friend there are limits.
If you don’t tell your friend that his complaints about his personal life and career are difficult for you, he may never find out. At times like these, he’s more concerned about his own problems than how you’re feeling. Try to define your boundaries and be a little more firm. It may seem difficult at first, but it’s a lot easier the first time.
Encourage him or her to reach out to a competent person.
Let your friend know that you don’t have a lot of competence to advise him or her properly. It may not only be unhelpful, it may even be destructive. Also, let him know that you don’t want to take responsibility for his decisions. He needs to take responsibility for his life, not look for those to whom this can be delegated.
Naturally, such thoughts should be communicated sensitively so as not to spoil the relationship. Remember that you are doing this not only to save yourself from discomfort but also to help your loved one.
Be prepared to cut back on communication
If your friend continues to overstep your boundaries despite diplomatic requests to the contrary, try shortening your communication. Some people are capable of draining you, like the energy vampire on What We Do in the Shadows. We understand that getting rid of them is difficult, miserable, uncomfortable. But you should be well aware that such communication will simply interfere with your normal existence. Give priority to yourself, to your mental and physical health. And advise your friend, as we said before, to see a specialist if he or she feels the need for psychotherapy.