Friendship is an amazing addition to your life. Having someone there to talk to, to support you, and to be there, is priceless, especially if you’ve learned how to set boundaries with friends. Some friends can be a lot to handle. Even though you have history and can’t picture your life without them, friends can exhaust you.
It sounds bad, but just like any other relationship, friendships require boundaries to be healthy. Having a friend who is too involved with your life can feel suffocating. An overly needy friend can feel exhausting. And having a friend who is always there for you sounds great but can be way too much.
We all need our space, privacy, and sanity. But setting boundaries with friends that are overbearing can be intimidating. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or mess up your friendship, but you must set boundaries to keep them in your life.
[Read: How to set personal boundaries and guide others to respect it]
Why friendships need boundaries
Some people may believe that friendships are the relationships in life that don’t need work. You always hear about romantic and familial relationships needing work, but friendships may need the most work of all sometimes. Friendships don’t just survive and thrive on their own. They need effort, communication, and honesty too.
There are so many expectations with friends, but they are often nonverbal. You expect your friends to come to your parties. You expect them to be there for a break up. You expect them to celebrate with you or mourn with you. [Read: The good and bad kind of friends of convenience]
But, what about other priorities? Should your friends expect you to put them before your partner, family, children? Should they expect you to skip work to take them out after a bad date? Where is the line? Often there isn’t a boundary in place until one of these situations come up. You may have never told your friends what you’re willing to do and what you aren’t. Without those boundaries, things go haywire fast!
Think about your last roommate. If you don’t set boundaries or expectations for chores, visitors, and noise, how would you cohabitate happily? The same goes for friendships.
If you assume you and your friends are on the same page when you’re not, it can lead to resentment, miscommunication, and even end friendships. All that is required is some open and honest communication. It seems silly not to set boundaries with friends, right? [Read: What makes someone a clingy friend and how to help them change]
How to set boundaries with friends
Whether new friends or old, knowing how to set boundaries with friends can seem jarring. How do you bring it up? You don’t want to take your friend off guard or insult them, but you need boundaries. They probably need boundaries too and haven’t been able to bring it up with you either. And if you keep avoiding this conversation, it can lead to an even worse effect.
When boundaries aren’t set between friends, resentment grows, plans get canceled, and you drift apart. That can be a major loss that is entirely avoidable. If you haven’t found the right moment to bring up boundaries with friends, just bite the bullet. Next time you’re chatting over coffee or wine, let them know you want to talk about something. Be bold and upfront. Let them react however they will. [Read: What makes someone a friend? How to enrich your life and build real friendships]
Share how you appreciate their friendship and love having them as a friend, but you’re worried if things don’t change your friendship will suffer. Don’t blame them or accuse them of any behavior even if you feel they’ve been overbearing or annoying.
[Read: How to have a difficult conversation without losing your nerve]
Make the boundaries a two-way street. Share what you expect of them but also what you expect from yourself. Ask what they can expect from you. Make sure your friend knows you want to be on the same page to avoid misunderstandings.
They may get upset, but that’s okay. Let them be upset. If they didn’t expect this and thought everything was great, they could be surprised. Let them process what you’re saying before getting into details. And don’t talk down to them. This is your friend. They deserve respect just as you deserve privacy. Boundaries in a friendship will benefit everyone.
What boundaries should you set with friends?
Depending on your friendship, the boundaries what you set with friends may vary. Some may be about calling after a certain time when it isn’t urgent, others could be about popping by, or guilting you into something.
Just like relationships, friendships can become codependent and dysfunctional. They can take more than they give and cause more harm than good. But, with the proper boundaries that same friendship could flourish. If you know a friendship in your life needs to change but aren’t sure how to set these boundaries, these five tips are a good place to start.
[Read: Why your codependent friendship is more unhealthy than you think]
#1 Balance. A friendship should be mutual. You should both give and take. Of course, people go through bad times and may need more support. It should be given back when the time comes. It isn’t about owing each other but about both feeling like you are giving and receiving support.
#2 Respect. Respect is a major boundary lacking in friendships. Respecting each other’s time, energy, and effort is so important to maintaining a quality friendship. If your friend doesn’t respect your job, your relationships outside of that friendship, and your time than they don’t respect you. [Read: 15 signs you have shitty friends and it’s time to get some new ones]
#3 Privacy. It’s assumed friends tell each other everything, but it just isn’t the case. True friends respect each other’s privacy and comfort zones. Your friend may feel great telling you about their sex life, but if that is private and personal for you, they shouldn’t make you feel guilty for keeping your lips sealed.
Friends share and support each other, but they don’t need to share every detail about their lives.
#4 Space. Even if you once lived with a friend, if they invite themselves into your current place where you live alone or with a partner, it probably feels over the line to you. To them, it may seem normal and comfortable. This must be discussed. If your friend is invading your space, you will eventually be fed up to the point that the friendship sours.
If you can talk it out when it first starts bothering you, the friendship can actually grow from that honesty. [Read: How to say no – Stop pleasing people and feel awesome instead]
#5 Differences. Whether you differ in politics, religion, or anything else, it is important to appreciate those differences and not judge each other for them. Maybe your friend is more educated than you, but you shouldn’t view them as stuck up just as they shouldn’t view you as simple-minded.
These differences are what make a friendship so deep and meaningful. They shouldn’t be a means to judge or insult one another. Friends can happily live different lives and share their time together without it coming between them. These differences enhance your friendship and perspective, not damage it.
[Read: How to set boundaries in your life for a happier, fuller life]
It can be scary to learn how to set boundaries with friends, but in the long run, it will only bring you closer together. Start with a conversation, you’ll feel a lot closer with the right boundaries.
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