One of the biggest tell-tail signs that you’re in a bad relationship is when you start losing your friends, and particularly friends you value. Generally by the time this starts happening, you’ve been with the person for long enough that you have developed serious feelings for them, and sometimes these friends come second to your heart.
I have been in this situation. I’ve watched many close friendships fade over the years because of my stubborn choice in partner. And only for a month or two after the friendship ending for the relationship to break up … and it feels, like agony! It feels like losing two really big parts of yourself only to gain nothing. It’s even happened to my close girlfriends who are people I aspire to be like, who sit across from me in cafes and tell me they have lived through the pain of losing friends for a relationship that hasn’t worked out anyway.
But what if your partner isn’t bad for you at all? What if the things you were telling your friends was just to clear your mind from it, get their opinions in that moment and to help you strengthen your relationship with more ideas?
Everyone has their own methods and solutions for resolving this predicament.
“If they’re good friends, they would stand by no matter what.” “If you valued the friendship, you’d prioritise your friendships.” You kind of hear it all, people are very opinionated about where they stand … but it’s never fifty/fifty. It seems difficult in these situations that you can have it all. But you can!
So the question isn’t, ‘How do you juggle your friendships with a toxic relationship’ because the relationship may not be toxic – you may just be venting to your friends some pain stemming from the relationship, but for the most part it is good. It’s difficult from a friend’s point of view not to judge, particularly when they care for you. Let’s face it, that’s what good friends do!
So how do you keep your friends?
1. Talk about your relationship with balance
If you truly care for your partner, talk about them to your friends with love. Tell stories in the most factual but balanced way you can. Try to see both sides. Where something happens that you really can’t process, understand your friends may also struggle to process it and either speak about it with your partner or seek outside support.
2. Praise your relationship
If you’re ever going to practise gratitude in your life, my greatest suggestion (unless you’re in an abusive relationship, in which case, seek help and please don’t take on this advice) is to practise gratitude in your relationship. Often people pick apart the person they love and everything they do for them: it’s not Hollywood, just be happy! Same with your friendships. I try to make everyone of significance to me know how important they are to me as often as I can. You never know when something may happen to you and you may not be able to tell them how they’ve positively impacted you anymore.
3. Catch up with your friends
It’s easy to get caught up with your close friend, working a lot and your partner who you want to spend every moment with, but it’s important to remember the little guys! You know who I’m talking about, these are the friends who have been there unconditionally for you and supported you and are available to catch up and come to your birthday parties … but they’re not your BEST friend. You need to make time for these people and still demonstrate their importance in your life or you will lose them.
4. Act with love
Keep your head on your shoulders and always act with love: towards your friends and partner. Where a problem arises, act with compassion – always try to see things from the other person’s perspective and try to demonstrate understanding. You will still do what you do, but it’s ok to communicate that you hear people. If you value your friends AND your love, you need to act with the same love and compassion toward both.
5. NEVER choose
Even if a friend throws down their sword and demands you make a choice, I still think you’re safer remaining on the fence. If you make a choice, they’ll forever remember it. Whereas, it’s often these friends that demand a decision who turn around and apologise … if they never do, then let them go. It’s easier to accept someone back in your life and have them WANT to come back at times when you haven’t antagonized the situation.
6. Continue to focus on the positive
Remember, people like positive people, and they like people who focus on the positives. So no matter what’s going on between your partner and your friends, try to rise above it and continue to be positive and to choose to see things positively! When sharing something bad that’s come up in the relationship, or something that has hurt you, express that this doesn’t occur all the time and that you just want their opinion to help you decide your next steps. Make the distinction very clearly that you’re not looking for a solution, you’re looking for an opinion which will help you find the solution.
Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Bob Kerrey (1943)
The kindness of strangers has the power to improve our wellbeing and increase our feelings of happiness more than our normal friendship circle. How do I figure this? Imagine you have been hurt or let down by someone you trusted and thought you knew. You’re just looking to vent and for someone to listen to your story.
First you talk to a friend, they listen, and offer you their opinion and give advice in an attempt to try to lift you back up. You can sense their empathy and genuine care in their response which makes you feel somewhat better and your day continues as normal.
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you’re talking to a complete stranger. You tell them your story and they listen. They then respond in a way that shows they identify or can relate to your situation, they offer you their opinion based on what they have heard and understood, and advise you accordingly. All of a sudden you feel less alone and your faith in humanity is restored and it’s like the sun has started shining through a grey sky – your day almost feels better, more fulfilled, than when you spoke to your friend. The happiness you feel as a result of the correspondence with the stranger barely compares to how you felt after communicating with your friend about the same issue.
This week Happinesss Weekly looks at why strangers can have a greater impact on your happiness than your friends.
Why strangers do it better
There are several reasons why strangers have the power to make us feel happier than our usual circle of friends – this could be why internet dating is becoming more popular and a more acceptable way of meeting someone and finding love. Here are some of the reasons why strangers can appeal to us more than our friends:
– Our expectations
The fact is we expect our friends to care about our wellbeing and therefore subconsciously depend on them to listen to us, side with us and support us unconditionally through all turbulence. It’s a part of friendship that almost all of us take for granted.
In the case of a complete stranger, we have no expectations. When a stranger is entirely removed from a situation and shows us kindness, we appreciate the time they take to actively listen to our story more than when our friends show us the same courtesy. Then if the stranger passes judgement that validates our feelings or actions, we start to feel better understood and less alone.
Although a stranger may have responded the same way as our friends, they exceed our expectations because we didn’t have any to begin with.
– The “stranger danger” belief
Strangers may also have an advantage over our friends because as children we were made acutely aware of “stranger danger”. These messages shaped our beliefs that strangers are a threat and potential danger.
Even now, despite statistics showing that someone we know who is a greater threat to us than a stranger, the media often highlight stories that demonstrate the opposite. When a stranger offers us kindness, our receptors instantly flick on warning us to be wary and we begin to question their motives and what could be in it for us.
It is when the kindness of a stranger is proven to be genuine and consequence-free, despite what we were programmed to understand, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
As adults, neglecting or rejecting the kindness of strangers can force us to be confined and limited, so if we challenge this “stranger danger” belief, it enables us to work together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.
– The selfish world we live in
Society often finds people first looking for the “what’s in it for me” before taking action in any situation. We all do it, whether it’s because we’re all time-poor in this fast-paced world or we’re simply becoming more selfish by the generation.
You may even notice that marketing campaigns are starting to lean towards commercial bribery as they become more aware that if they can’t convince the consumers that there’s something in it for them, it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone to take action, let alone convince people to try a new product.
We are starting to value time more than ever before which is why when a stranger takes a moment to act selflessly towards us it leaves us feeling good because they have given up time to be thoughtful.
– About the kindness movement
This theory that strangers can have a greater impact on us than our friends isn’t new. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward published in 2000, which was adapted into the film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in the same year, may have inspired the movement that encourages random acts of kindness towards strangers.
Whenever it began, adults are now being actively encouraged to be more mindful of each other and to demonstrate random acts of kindness where they can. The stigma associated with strangers being dangerous is deteriorating as more people embrace the “Pay it Forward” movement.
How you can make a positive difference to a stranger
The purpose of the following activities is to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return – It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no need to go above and beyond when you choose to demonstrate a random act of kindness for a stranger.
– Buy someone’s coffee in the coffee shop
– Help a student with their tuition
– Teach someone something new
– Volunteer for a charity
– Let someone in front of you in the grocery store line
– Hand-write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you
– Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter, be a referee for a job
– Work pro bono where your skills are needed
– Compliment a stranger
– Give up your seat when taking crowded public transport
– Listen to someone without interruption
– Greet someone in the elevator
– Hold the door open for someone
– Explain the Pay it Forward concept to someone
– Take part in Pay it Forward Day on 22 April. Find more information here.
For more ideas on how you can show kindness to others, follow the free Thrive Happiness Challenge application.