Friends Should Have Your Back

Q. I’m friends with a group of girls who used to hate me in high school because of the male attention I used to get. After high school we all ended up going to the same university and got to know each other and became close. However, I always get the feeling that these people enjoy it when something bad is happening in my life or like it when my plans don’t succeed. I confide in them and I always feel like I’m telling them too much. Aren’t friends suppose to feel comfortable and relaxed each other? One even told people I don’t know something that happened to me. Is it safe to surround myself with such energies? I’m trying to distance myself and now I feel like I have no friends at all.

A. Of course you should feel relaxed around your friends. You need at least one friend who you can be totally comfortable being yourself around in your twenties. There are enough negative or doubtful voices in our own heads, you don’t need friends that add any noise! It probably is time to find some new friends if you feel these women are holding your past against you. And it’s not hard to do. You will make new friends your whole life.

But take a look at yourself too and how you relate to your friends. Do you seek the attention of guys over girls? The only reason I ask is because of the comment about all the male attention you got in high school. It’s how you handled the attention that might have impacted how your friends related to you. Don’t linger on the past but do learn from it. No one likes a friend who is boastful or always seeking attention. I’m not saying you do…it’s just a word of caution given the topic at hand. Like many other things in life, when it comes to friendship,  do onto others.

“Cherish your friendships. Your female friends will be there forever. Be proactive in keeping in touch. Don’t just assume it will happen. Your friends will have your back. It’s knowing that early on…if a friend has your back. Do they care more about the friendship than if they are the center of attention or if a guy likes you?” — 40-something, working woman, friend, Los Angeles, CA

That said there are plenty of “mean girls” out there. This woman learned that when a friend of five years tried to sabotage her relationship with her now husband. Look out for signs that someone who is unhappy doesn’t want you to be happy.

A piece of advice that I would give to younger women is just recognize your true blue friends and realize there are “frenemies” out there. Hopefully most of your friends are totally rooting for you but sometimes they aren’t. I had a friend who I realized, as I was dating my now husband, didn’t want it to work out for me. She’d gone through a very, very bad break-up and she wasn’t happy for me.  She not only said things to make me doubt my relationship she said things to other people to create a rift. Looking back I realize the signs were there that she was a little off and wasn’t really on my side. She wasn’t the type of person that would root for anyone. If you have a toxic friend like that, they could really sabotage your life. It was a big learning experience for me. It was really traumatic. I think just try to surround yourself with people who think you are the greatest. You shouldn’t be paranoid but keep tuned into inklings that someone doesn’t have your best interests at heart…and you should go with your gut’. – 40-something, working mom, wife, friend, New York City

Let’s face it, at some point we’ve all had mixed feelings for a friend’s success if it hits a sore spot for us. There is a little voice in our head that says…’why can’t it work like that for me?’ But true friends don’t act on that voice. It quickly gets quieted by a genuine sense of joy for our friend. A friend who can’t be happy for you is not happy with herself…but that doesn’t mean you have to stay friends with, especially if the relationship is bringing you down more than it’s building you up. This woman regrets she went with the more superficial friends in her 20s and lost contact with the people who actually made her feel better, not worse, about herself:

“I had a lot of women in my life that were great party friends but they weren’t good friends. If there was a decision to be made between a guy or me…or making themselves look better to someone by badmouthing me they would do it. It all stemmed from insecurity. Yet I didn’t hang out with some of the women who had been really, really amazing friends to me because we had different interests at that time. I kick myself for not investing in those friendships. Maybe I would’ve focused on things that were better for me if I had spent more time with people that made me feel better about myself.” –– 40-something, working mom, wife, friend, Hermosa Beach, CA

So… how do you know if a friend “has your back”. This woman has the 2am call test:

“Evaluate and determine the ones who mean what they say and say what they mean. The ones that are truly there for you and not just the friend of the moment, convenience or proximity. The ones that overcome the issues to be there are the keepers. Not the popular ones. The ones who will answer your phone call at 2 in the morning when you are having whatever crisis. Will they care enough to talk to you.” – 40-something

You don’t need to stay friends with these women simply out of loyalty. You can slowly let them fade out and find new friends. Distancing yourself is fine.

“I have friends that I have decided I don’t want in my life. Not many, but I have divorced myself from certain people.  Not in any big dramatic way but just distancing myself when I realize that somebody is not healthy for me. That doesn’t mean that they are an awful person. They might be healthy for other people.  But you have to realize who is good for you because you only have so much time in a day and in a year to spend with the people that are important to you. If you are spending your time with people that you feel have bad energy and are not good for you, what’s the point?” — 40-something, wife, working woman, friend, San Francisco, CA

And finding new friends isn’t so hard….

You can meet new friends. I am surprised I met a lot of new friends everywhere all the time. Again if you open yourself up to the opportunity of it.” – 40-something, wife, mom, friend, NYC

So yes. Look around you. It’s not hard to find new friends. Look to volunteer groups, young professional clubs, meet-ups ( What are you interested in? It’s easier t meet people when you share the same interests. Take a class in something. Strike up conversations with people at the gym if you work out. Look to your local bookstore for possible book clubs to join. You just have to put yourself out there. And don’t always expect someone to provide the invite. Today with email and texting, it’s easier than ever just to invite someone to do something. It’s okay if they say no.

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