Healthy Friendship Boundaries That Grow Relationships

Let’s burst a myth bubble about friends. If you’re over 50, you know that a BFF, best friends forever, is rare.

You may have a best friend, but if she was there at your birth, then your relationship is truly unique. (I’d guess you are twins.)

If you only acquired your “best friend forever” a few years ago, then she isn’t a BFF yet. You still have to walk through a few more “trials by fire” together before she can qualify as a BFF.

During different seasons of our lives we will see friends come and go—including close and intimate friends.

That’s the natural order of change.

Not exactly a fun-friend fact, but it is a reality.

In her book, Best Friends Forever, Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. states that most women believe that others have more friends than they do.

If this is you, take heart… your friends probably have fewer friends than you realize.

And for goodness sake, don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if you don’t always have a close circle of friends or a best friend.

That’s NOT abnormal!

Throughout our lives, friends have to be found and nurtured before they become close or intimate friends.

If we understand the different levels of friendship, and the boundaries that go with each, we are more likely to develop close friends.

Plus, we’ll be more comfortable when a close friend is no longer a close friend and not feel guilty about it!

It’s normal for relationships to move up and down these levels of friendship as we grow older.

So let’s take a look at them, shell we?

Levels of friendship and appropriate boundaries

Jesus knows each of us individually and intimately. However, when He walked on earth he was restricted in how many close friends He had.

If in His humanity, Jesus was limited in His friendships we shouldn’t be surprised if we are too!

The large group of 500 that were known to follow Jesus would be considered acquaintances.

Acquaintances: These are women you know slightly. With them you talk about events without sharing opinions or emotions. Talk about shopping, weather, your grandkids, or your latest vacation—“surface stuff.”

Those recognized as the “70” could be called His casual group of friends.

Your casual friends: These are women who share common interests with you and with whom you hang out with occasionally.

Talk about your opinions and thoughts about things, BUT don’t necessarily share your feelings and emotions.

Anytime you are talking with a casual friend, you are not obligated to respond at any depth with them. Most of us have many casual friends.

The twelve disciples, along with a few others such as Mary, Martha, and their brother, made up our Lord’s close circle of good friends.

Your good friends: These are the girlfriends who have moved beyond casual friendship in your life.

With them, you can mutually share your opinions, thoughts, AND feelings about things. They are usually women you feel emotionally safe with.

You will have a limited number of good friends, probably no more than ten or so.

His intimate circle of friends was only three—Peter, James, and John.

Your intimate friends: At this level, there is a mutual sharing of thoughts, feelings, fears, struggles, and dreams.

Most women can only sustain a few intimate friends because of all the time and history needed in this type of relationship. So don’t be surprised if you go for periods of time without an intimate friend.

His closest friend was John.

Your closest friend: This friend has the most intimate sharing of thoughts and feelings as well as everything shared at all the other levels. And honestly, your closest friend is often your spouse.

Of course, there should be an understanding with anyone who comes into your life that you reserve the right to hold them accountable for their choices and behavior that involve you.

Following are eight such healthy friendship boundaries:

8 healthy friendship boundaries

  • Communicate what works for you and what doesn’t. If your friend is a night owl and you’re not, let her know before you resent her late night phone calls.
  • Don’t allow your friendship to include gossip. It can come back to haunt you (Proverbs 16:28). Also … gossip doesn’t look good on you.
  • Guard your time, so your friendship doesn’t become imbalanced. Don’t allow one friendship to dominate your life (Proverbs 25:17). A friend is important but so is family, other friends, and your time alone with the Lord.
  • Offenses and misunderstandings will happen in any friendship. Discuss an offense first with the person who offended you (Proverbs 25:9). If you are always the one to apologize, consider re-evaluating the friendship.
  • Decide what your core values are and don’t allow them to be devalued. Break this boundary, and you become a people pleaser, which makes for a fake friendship.
  • Know what drains you and what gives you energy. Be truthful about these both to yourself and your friend. Faking that you enjoy something when you don’t isn’t fair to either of you.
  • Friendship is built on reciprocation. If you find that this is missing, graciously communicate your expectations in the relationship with your friend.
  • Say no to emotional manipulation, which usually shows up when a friend needs you more than she needs Jesus. Don’t buy into guilt trips. Gently point her to the Lord. Then take two steps back from the friendship.

Knowing what level you are at with a friend allows you to set appropriate boundaries either to limit the friendship or nurture it into becoming something deeper.

Are friendships a little clearer now? What do you need to work on to grow your circle of girlfriends? Let me know how you’re going to use the tips from this post to develop your friendships.

Hugs,

Susan

If you this helpful, you will enjoy How to Find New Friends When You’re Over 50.

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