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Friends? Will They Stand Their Ground? Will They Let You Down or Will They Fix Your Crown?

So recently, I learned about a new subset of therapy focused on “friendships.” I mean, we already have couples counseling, family counseling, group counseling and more. In fact, when I was working in the schools several years ago, I was even doing “co-parenting” counseling. But when I saw “Friendship counseling,” I was like “BOOM.” And, since “friendships” will be one of the chapters I cover in my new book (slated to come out in 2024), I was like – this is a perfect subset.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn and understand friendships, myself in friendships, and who my friends are…in friendship. Lots of work right! Reflection, insight, awareness, assessment, reconciliation, termination, more…and/or less. It’s far more than the way we set up our elementary school friendships. Those were centered on: Do you want to play hopscotch or climb the monkey bars? These are centered on: Have you done some of your internal processing work so you do not project your past trauma on me via the emotions of jealousy, envy, spite, or anger. In other words, have you done the work to protect me from the tough parts of you? Ha! Right!

So I am a friend that believes in “lift as you climb” and “everyone is in my close circle.” Well, that’s how I used to be…and I think I’m ok with not being like that anymore. But, there was a very tough and challenging period when I was forced to evolve and I grieved who I was not…any longer. I wanted to continue to be a friend that “gives all,” “pours all,” “helps all.” But then my cup started to get empty and many people were looking for me to continue to fill their cup even when they saw my capacity decreasing. And, get this. I was upset at them…but I realized that they were only doing what I allowed and reinforced. I mean, I was the one that was always pouring, always doing, always inviting, always…always-ing. So they got used to it and that became the dynamic of our friendship. No fault of their own…per say…and no fault of mine. None of it was intentional…it just happened. And, it happened because we all had needs. Some we were aware of (Questions like: What do you want or need in a friend?) and some we were not aware of (Subconscious or unconscious thoughts about what friends mean to us and where they fit in our lives or how they should or should not help us). But, just like intimate partner relationships – friendships have a point, purpose, and place. But, we don’t always know that…and we don’t always move like that. So, sometimes we end up holding on to a friendship too long, or cutting it off too soon, or just developing a series of intense and negative emotions that start to erode the quality of the friendship…and the quality of us.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the idea of “concentric circles” in friendship. My best friend and Onyx Therapy Group co-founder, Dr. Ayana Malone used to remind me that everyone doesn’t have to be close to be called a friend. Now, I used to be like – that’s nothing but her Scorpio energy piping up and making boundaries. But, I wasn’t ready for the message until years later when I realized that that indeed…everyone really doesn’t have to be close to be a friend AND I am not everyone’s only friend…so I can release myself of the pressure of “always-ing” because other people can and will step in to be there for my friends…and there are times when I need to just step in for myself and fill my own cup.

I know y’all are probably like – girl what are you talking about. And here it is: Be your own best friend. All the things you do for others, make sure you do them for yourself too. And realize that all friendships won’t look like mirroring-based reciprocity. Sometimes, your friends need you for something…and you want/need something totally different from them. And, that’s ok. For instance, in one of my friend groups, I’m the one that’s always talking about physical fitness and discipline, financial fortitude and budgeting, and mental health and awareness. But what I need from them may be a safe space to talk about raising my kids, or venting about certain coworkers at my university job, or simply lifting me up when I feel down. See, it’s not exactly the same…but it's something. And, I’ve even accepted that in some friendships, I may support them in 3 ways and they may support me in 1 way. Who knows. But it is for me to figure out. And, for you to figure out in your friends too.

If you are feeling taken advantage of, misunderstood, or dealing with old drama from the past, consider the roots of your feelings, talking to your friends, praying, manifesting, and going to therapy as soon as you see the issue arise. Don’t “wait it out,” fix it now.

And, also consider that, some friendships are for reasons, others are for seasons, and a few special ones are for a lifetime. However, you won’t know the difference if you rush to “let stuff go,” or “hold on to the past too tight.” Do the work, even in your friendships. You deserve the best.

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