Hey FFFN family! Let’s talk about friendship. As we move through life, there are many things we cannot control or change. We can’t change our genetic make-up or our biology, we can’t control what’s going in the world around us. What we can control however, is who our friends are. And this can make our lives so much more enriched, meaningful and enjoyable.

So, why are friends so important? There are several reasons really, but two that predominantly stand out. Firstly, friendships make life more beautiful. We can share joyous, momentous and memorable experiences and events with those we love and care about which can make them all the more meaningful. Secondly, we can also share challenges and difficulties and lean on friends for support, advice and compassion, which can make these harder times more bearable.

Genuine and meaningful friendships can help boost happiness and reduce stress, can increase a sense of belonging and purpose and improve self-confidence and self-worth. Humans are inherently social creatures who thrive on sharing with others they care about, be it their own experiences or that of their nearest and dearest. A true friend is someone trusted and with whom a deep level of understanding and respect is fostered.

There are things we do need to consider in our friendships to determine whether they are well balanced, healthy relationships that are worth investing in. There are pretty clear signs to determine whether or not a friendship is robust or toxic, albeit the latter may not seem especially obvious at the time. We also need to understand and accept that not all friendships are destined to last forever, even if they don’t end due to conflict or confrontation.

In my life, I’ve had many friendships that have been circumstantial based on commonalities during a particular period that then fizzled out once different paths were taken. There were no faults, no confrontations and no conflicts. When my children were little, I built a small network of friends who lived in my local area whose kids attended the same kinder and primary school as mine. This was great at the time. Although we all came from very different walks of life, the common ground of having young families meant that we could all get together and have adult catch ups while the kids played together. We were all going through the motions of playdates, sleepovers, birthday parties and school concerts and revelling in the development and growth of our young children. As time went on and our kids developed different interests and forged friendships that were independent of those cultivated by their parents at younger ages, some of the friendships I made also disintegrated. Whilst there was no particular “falling out”, distance grew and eventually the regular contact stopped. I was totally ok with that.

I’ve also experienced a toxic friendship in my adult life, that ended up being quite impactful and subsequently ended abruptly, with a great deal of sadness and resentment. It was a relationship that was forged quickly and we became very close in a short timeframe. The intensity of the friendship meant that we spent A LOT of time together in the early days, but this level of interaction was unsustainable once the novelty wore off. True colours began to shine through, and they weren’t all that bright or appealing. I distinctly recall the rose-coloured glasses coming off when I started having feelings of fleeting irritation at certain comments and expectations. I tried to quash the resentment that was building and the frustration I was experiencing silently. As time progressed, my intuition told me that things were a little amiss. I was feeling like the friendship was off balance. Expectations were placed on me to do things at my friend’s convenience, even if they didn’t suit me. Social events and activities were always planned to appease their desires without consideration of others.

They expected to take priority in my life over and above everyone else. And henceforth came the concerns from other friends. I had three close, long-standing friends who confronted me with their observations. They all felt I was being manipulated and influenced by this new friend. My time and energy were being monopolised and I was focused solely on this person and not nurturing other important relationships. Of course, at the time I dismissed their concerns and refused to consider the fact that they were reaching out because they cared and not because they were jealous or trying to sabotage my amazing new friendship.

Hindsight allowed me to recognise that these concerns were valid and warranted. I got so caught up in a whirlwind relationship with a fun, charismatic friend who shared lots in common with me that I neglected to see the ultimate control they had. So, after some soul searching and deciding to bite the bullet, I confronted this friend in the hopes that if the relationship was robust, things would be ok. As you would have guessed it, it wasn’t and they weren’t. I was not received well. Accusations flew, blame was pointed, anger built, tears were shed and just like that, the friendship was over.

I was very angry at the time. Angry with this person for not receiving my concerns and feedback with any degree of ownership or acknowledgement, and also angry with myself for investing so much into this relationship that it took my focus away from other important people in my life. Fortunately for me, the friends who initially expressed their concerns stood by me and supported me after the chapter closed and there was no collateral damage. It took a little while, but I was eventually able to reframe my thoughts and be thankful for the good times I did share with this friend and let go of the resentment. I couldn’t change the past, I could only learn from it.

My belief about friendship is that it should always focus on quality not quantity. Your measure of worth isn’t determined by how many followers you have on Instagram or friends you have on Facebook or how many phone numbers you have stored in your phone. You have to wonder to yourself, in a time of need, who would you want in your corner? In a time of triumph, who would you want to call to share the news? Conversely, if someone else needed a true friend in good or bad times, would they call me?

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have one very special best friend, the first one who always fills these criteria for me, and I for her. We have known each other since we were five years old (I’m 40 now). Over the last 35 years, we have had periods of closeness and distance depending on life stages. I had my children in my very early 20’s while she was studying full-time at university. She had her children in her mid-30’s while I was developing my own career. We have been through times of celebration, happiness and hilarity and also times of grief, sadness, fear and despair. We have had our fair share of tiffs and as we’ve phrased it “bones to pick” with each other over the decades, but I am absolutely 100% confident that our friendship will last our lifetimes.

The bottom line regarding friendship is this: if it feels good, it is good and if it feels wrong, it’s time to re-evaluate. Friends enrich our lives and we enrich theirs too. And we all have one thing in common – we are all proud to be Far From Fkn Normal!!

Certain topics discussed in FFFN’s blogs include content relating to mental health, suicide and other triggers. If you are experiencing any mental health concerns, please contact your GP or nearest healthcare facility. In the event of an emergency, please call 000. For community support, please reach out to Lifeline, Beyond Blue or other credible mental health organisations. FFFN do not provide any professional mental health or medical advice and/or treatment.