Even Facebook and Google+ know there is a difference between “close friends” and everyone else: acquaintances, frenemies, and someone you interned with last summer. During your time at Carolina you’ll probably have every type of “friend” imaginable.
Healthy friendships can make you happier and feel supported as you make your way through life. In healthy friendships both parties support each other during difficult times, look out for each other, listen, do not pass judgment, and make each other laugh.
Sometimes it may seem like your relationships with others are healthy when they really are not. Therefore, sometimes it is important to assess the relationships in your life.
Here are a few types of “friendships” you may encounter that could potentially be unhealthy and some tips on dealing with them:
The Party Foul: This is a friend that you go out with, but who actually doesn’t have your best interests in mind. For example, this person doesn’t step up and watch your drink or step in when someone starts to harass you. This person may also have a tendency to encourage you to drink more or more often than you planned to. While this person may be the life of the party, if they exhibit any of these behaviors, then they are actually jeopardizing your safety when you need someone you can trust by your side.
How to deal: If this type of person is in your life, try talking to them about their behavior at parties and any changes you think they could make to help you feel safer going out with them. If their behavior does not change or they are not willing to listen, consider finding new people to party with. Go here for more about having a safe and healthy social life or participate in a One Act training session (and take your party buddy with you!).
The Stresser: Everyone stresses about grades, papers, and due dates because doing your best academically is important. However, when a person says that they want to study with you, but then just overshares their stress rather than reviewing the course material, they are probably just increasing your stress level and distracting you.
How to deal: If The Stresser does not tone it down after you tell them that they are stressing you out; think about distancing yourself from them in academic contexts. For example, if they approach you in Davis tell them that you are sorry they are stressed but you have a big deadline looming and you need to get back to work, but that you would be happy to meet up with them after you turn in your paper or take your test.
The Competitor: This person gets competitive with you regarding everything from leadership positions to physical fitness to Twitter follower numbers. Being around this type of person could be motivating, but is often just stressful.
How to deal: Just be happy for this person and tell them that you are. Also, share your successes with them, don’t be shy! Hopefully they will be happy for you. If this person is making you feel bad for not being what they think is a superstar, make a list of all the things YOU HAVE accomplished. If these accomplishments align with YOUR goals, then there is no need to worry about what they are doing.
The Friend With Benefits: This is a person with whom you are having causal sexual encounters. You think to yourself any variation of the following: “It is not serious, but it could be. I’m just not sure right now. It is just fun, no big deal.” While having a FWB can be fun and your emotions about it may in flux, the relationship may carry some unwanted health consequences.
How to deal: To make sure that the situation does not get out of control, get tested regularly for STDs and have safer sex by using barrier protection methods correctly with each encounter (more info on the many aspects of safer sex here). Also, talk with your FWB about your limits. Just because you did something with them once does not mean you have to do it with them again or go any further. Your consent is needed every time. Testing, protection, and confidential advice on sexual health are available at Campus Health.
You don’t need to aggressively delete people from your life if a few aspects of the relationship are not perfect. However, if you identify a relationship that is consistently unhealthy take the time to talk with that person. Friendships can look different to different people, and your friend may not realize the negative effect they are having on you. A quick talk and a few changes may drastically improve the friendship.
If you think you need help navigating friendship choices or relationships with others make an appointment with a CWS counselor by calling (919) 966-3658 or just walk in anytime Monday through Friday between 9:00am – 12:00pm and 1:00pm – 4:00pm.
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