We receive a lot of ideas about relationships that may not be healthy for us. Movies, advertising, books and even other people give us messages about how relationships should be. Friendships in particular usually aren’t featured in nuanced conversation in the mainstream. And what is talked about is often outdated, harmful or just plain wrong. We need to be constantly talking about relationships with our children, especially as they reach adolescence and friendships become more complex. So, what are the myths around friendship that we need to challenge with our young people?
Myth: The more friends you have, the better
Fact: Friendship isn’t a numbers game. It also doesn’t mean you’re a better person or more likeable if you have lots of friends. Some people may be happier with a wide network of friends, while others will be happier with a small close circle or even just one or two. When it comes to friendship, for most people the rule for happiness is quality over quantity. Whatever works for you.
Myth: You should have a ‘best friend’
Fact: Friendship isn’t about weighing up some friendships against or over others. People will offer you different things and different kinds of friendship. And the closeness you share with different people will wax and wane over time. This is all normal. Plus, being or having a ‘best friend’ can come with a lot of pressure – and who wants that?
Myth: Men and women can’t be friends
Fact: Of course, men and women can be platonic friends. This myth often stems from another myth that all men want sex all the time (untrue, duh). Take a look around at the people you know, do any of them have platonic friends of the opposite sex? Besides, even if there is some level of attraction from one or both parties at some point, that doesn’t immediately cancel out the friendship and its importance. Surely, we don’t want to dismiss having friendships with roughly 50% of the population because of this outdated idea.
Myth: Friendship is forever
Fact: It’s not often that a friendship lasts a lifetime. Some people will only be in your life for a few years, or a summer, or even an afternoon. People change, lives change. People drift apart. On an odd occasion, a friendship may end with a falling out. It doesn’t mean these aren’t or weren’t real friendships or that they’re not valuable. They offered us what we needed at the time, including an opportunity to learn and grow.
Myth: Good friends talk to and see each other all the time
Fact: There’s no rule about how often friends should see or speak to each other. For some people, it might be every day. For others, it could be once every few months. Neither is a ‘better’ or ‘truer’ friendship. If you have a friend who is pressuring you to be in constant contact, gently let them know that this isn’t the friendship model that works for you – but it doesn’t mean you care about them any less.
Myth: True friends will never let you down
Fact: We don’t expect our romantic relationships to be perfect, so why do we so often expect this of our friendships? All humans are complex and flawed. We all have moments where we don’t behave as well as we should, and we need to have compassion for when others might not always meet our every expectation. That being said, if a friend is constantly letting you down – they may not be worth investing time into.
Myth: Real friendship is effortless
Fact: You know the saying, ‘relationships take work’? The same can be said of friendships. Keeping up a friendship shouldn’t be a chore, but it’s important to show friends that you value them. It doesn’t need to be a lot, just things like making an effort to organise plans, not flaking on plans once they’re made, offering extra support when they’re going through a tough time, and remembering birthdays.