Friendships – Healthy or Unhealthy?

Having a sanguine temperament, I do not lack in friends. Actually, I have tons of friends! I am glad I have so many friends. I enjoy getting to meet people and once I meet them, it is not long, till we feel like we have known each other for a long time. But as Monk would say, “This is a blessing and a curse.” I have had to learn how to determine if my friendships are healthy or unhealthy.

It is great to be able to talk to people and feel comfortable around them. It is wonderful to meet people and for them to feel comfortable sharing their life or burdens with you.  People with my personality are easily approached and I have been told that we have a very warm and welcoming atmosphere around us that just draws people to us. No, I am not bragging as you will see in a moment the down side to this! It is just the personality God gave to me, and as I am getting older (and hopefully a little wiser) I have learned a few things about the pros and cons of my personality.

I am a non-curable people person. I love people – all kinds of people – and I think they know it. I love special needs people. I love eccentric people. I love the common sense or no non-sense people. I love out-spoken, mouthy people. I love the lady who will say whatever she thinks – even if it is about you putting on some weight! I love the grouch and find complete satisfaction in finally being sweet enough until he can’t help but smile. And even though I don’t like the negative trouble makers, I find a love for them that is really rooted in pity because they only make others miserable because they have absolutely no love for themselves in their hearts.  All of these people need so much love! I am happy that God gave me the personality and heart to love them. Having said all that, and being a big proponent of loving others, there are some lessons I have learned am learning that are helping me in how to love people and how to truly be their friend.

If you have a personality like mine, if you are a people person (which typically means people pleaser), if you have many friends, if you are easily approached and people are drawn to you, then you will recognize some of these friendship personalities that I will define. A friend is very easily defined. They are someone who will meet you, enjoy you, talk with you, and then you can go awhile and when you are able to talk again, you can just pick up where you left off and keep right on going. No stress. No drama. No hard feelings. Just plain sweetness. These friends are awesome! Then there are those that you do call friends but they just stress you out! As much as you want to be a friend to them, you secretly dread the time you are together because of their actions and emotions. There are also certain types of people that attach themselves to you and call you their friend that are not at all healthy relationships.

Unhealthy Friend #1 – Possessive

Many people, who need and desire your friendship, do so because they have no other friends. That may be because of a life circumstance, but most of the time that is because they are not good friends. They are possessive and easily offended. They would read this sentence and already be upset that I was talking about them. They wear their feelings on their shirt sleeves and no matter how hard you try you will always fall short of meeting their expectations of you. If you call them, that annoys them if it was the wrong time. If you don’t call them, that annoys them because you never think of them. They are so easily offended, you begin to dread to see them or be around them because you can never predict their mood and if you will be in the dog-house by the time it is all over.

Solution:

Just be sweet. Show the love of Christ but do NOT enter into their drama. If you can tell they are in a “mood” ignore them. To try and ask what is wrong, is exactly the attention they are seeking. Do not help them hurt themselves any longer. They are responsible for their moods and their friendships. We cannot treat them ugly because that is not Christian. Be very nice to them and wish them a wonderful morning or a good day. If they try to talk about something negative change the mood. Do not defend yourself in any way because you have done nothing wrong. They are just trying to pass their own deficiencies onto you so that they can feel better. Just because they say something is true, does not make it true. Be true to yourself and to Christ, but do not wallow in that pit with them. Do not allow them to possess you. You set up the times that you are available and do not change it just to pacify them. They must learn that life does not revolve about their wants and needs only. Relationships involve two people agreeing together on the best course of action. They cannot possess or control you.

Unhealthy Friend #2 – Jealous

This person wants you as their friend, but they really do not want you to have any other friends. They not only want time with you, they want you to have no time with anyone else.  They have already decided how you must treat them and act towards them, or you will pay. They will stalk your life analyzing how you have time for others but never time for them. They will pout when you talk to other people. They will whine or suggest ways that you could spend more time with them. They will gladly let you sacrifice time with your family so that you will have more time with them. If you try to do a group effort, they will pull out of it because they will feel that if they do not get you all alone, then you will not get them at all. This is a form of punishment for you to make you feel bad for planning something where others are involved. They will pout many times because they want to let you know how hurt they are at you. As they are pouting, they have a very strong desire for you to ask what is wrong so that they can let you know.

Solution:

Be their friend but hold your guns on the terms. Do not allow them to hold you hostage. This is very hard for my personality because we don’t want to make anyone upset. But, this kind of “friend” will always be upset about something unless they are your only friend. If you plan an activity with friends and they back out then continue with your planned activity. Do not allow yourself to get upset about this because you will be playing right into their hand. This will not help you and it will not help them either. They must learn that sharing should have been learned in preschool and if they missed that lesson, then they will have to learn it now.  When they are in a moody or pouty time, do not ask them what is wrong. Wait until they are in a happier moment and then show an interest in their life. If they get your attention when they are pouting, they will always use that tactic on you.

Unhealthy Friend #3 – Domineering

This person dominates when everyone else is around. They will talk the most, the loudest, pick the best, and you will be pressured to do what they want to do. There is not much of a group thing going on when they are around. They will dominate the group and seem to think or care very little about what others may think or want. They will be rude, they will interrupt, they will invite maybe one person and exclude another to their face, they will plan your next vacation, they will tell you how you should do something in your own home and if you even start to disagree, they make you feel like you are about an inch tall. They are typically used to getting their own way and it flows right over into their friendships. They will have it their way or no way. They give a lot of pressure to get their way and most people just go along because they don’t want to be the one to rock their boat. If you try to speak up for the rest of the group, you will probably end up embarrassed by the loud reaction you will get. This person really hurts a lot of people’s feelings and most of the time doesn’t even realize it because they never stop long enough to even think about anyone else.

Solution:

This is a tricky one because you can never out do them. Not if you have any class and manners. This is the kind of person I would have very little to do with. If I have been with this person and they have been rude, I will always speak up for the quieter person. I would either make a joke to make a point or I would take it upon myself to say something positive or plan something positive with the one who had been intentionally excluded. I would also excuse myself from the “planner” and make my own plans with whoever had been snubbed. I am not at all for rude behavior, but this personality would get the sternest reaction from me if they try to invade my home or territory (such as my husband or children). They would quickly be put in their place and then after I was finished putting them in their place, I would continue to be friendly to let them know that I did love them, but that their behavior was absolutely unacceptable.

Unhealthy Friend #4 – Smothering

This type of person completely unloads on you every time you are together. They are very negative and whenever they get time with you, they will dump all of their problems on you. Don’t get me wrong, I think one of the sweet things about a close friend is that you are able to share your heart or what is burdening you. But I am talking about the kind of person who always lives in the cloud and never sees any sunshine. They are depressing, nobody likes them (according to them), their kids are brats, their husband is a loser and life is awful. This kind of person sucks the joy and life right out of a room and if you are around them to long, they will suck it out of you. My dad calls this kind of person an emotional leech. They are looking to you to be their source of happiness and strength.

Solution:

Let them go. They will drain you dry. You will never be able to give them what they need because they are looking in the wrong place. They need to find their happiness and emotional strength in Christ. When they can learn to do that, then they will have a source that will never tire of them. Do not buy into their drama. Do not. Turn them straight over to God’s Word. When they whine about their kids, remind them that God said they are a blessing. The child isn’t the problem – their attitude is. When they whine about their husband, remind them of his good qualities. They need to refocus. When they whine about their life, give them an example to remind them how good it is. Meet all of their negatives with a positive. They will get tired of that very quickly and since they are not getting their “fix” with you, they will find someone new to wallow in self-pity with.  Do not have long discussions. Sometimes that gives them the fix of attention they need to continue doing it. Just pat them on the back, tell them how good God is, and go on!

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My husband once told me some very wise advice. He said, “Honey, you are required to be friendly to everyone, but you do not have to make everyone your close friend.” We must make sure that the friends we get close to and spend time with our good for us physically – meaning that we enjoy our time with them, emotionally – meaning they don’t make me nervous or add stress to my life, and spiritually – meaning that they point me to the Lord and encourage my walk with Him.

The things I have shared with you are what I have learned (through the school of hard knocks I am afraid!) in the last several years. I have learned to be very selective in who I spend a lot of time with. Friendships do affect you. I want to make sure that my friendships affect me in a positive way. Thank God for healthy friendships and may God help me to be a healthy and true friend.

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For Better, For Worse

“For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…” These are words that my Valentine and I spoke to each other in a covenant to God on December 4, 1998. We meant them that day as much as our hearts could mean them. He was my prince who had made all my dreams come true and I was his princess. Our home was established that romantic evening and our desire to stay faithful to one another and to God was burning in our hearts.

Life started and moved on. God called him away from the financial industry into the ministry. Children came and we even located away from our families where God called us to serve. We have had our ups and downs as every couple has as life gives you new adjustments. Some things we handled properly and some things we did not. All of those times were stepping stones in the path of married life that you learn from. Through all of that, our desire to be committed to one another and to our Lord stayed true.

The biggest challenge of our marriage came in March of 2009 when I became paralyzed. We are so thankful that our marriage was strong when that trial came into our lives because if it wasn’t, I just don’t know what may have happened. Everything that had been established as the “Reagan Home” was completely turned upside down. Suddenly becoming childlike and needing assistance in simple things like dressing, bath rooming, bathing and putting your shoes on to the simplest forms of romance – like no longer being able to hold hands as you walk together became so confusing and redefined our ideas of what our relationship was. No one wants a marriage to seem like parenting where one constantly takes care of the needs of others. But such is a marriage many times when one becomes disabled.

There were a few times that we both would just sit and cry. We were frustrated trying to understand all of these new things. Selfishness reared its ugly head as Jimmy and I both were trying to get a grip around our new roles in life. We discovered that although I am the one that became paralyzed and people notice me because I am sitting in that wheelchair, the disability belongs to both of us. His life changed as drastically as mine. His role in our disability doesn’t involve sitting in a wheelchair, living every day with pain, and not physically being able to be involved in things you once loved. However, his day involves not only the demands of the ministry, but also one of helping me all day long. Our marriage developed a new psychological and emotional layer that we had never before had to deal with. We both learned that there were new ways to meet each other’s needs, physically and emotionally, and we chose to dwell on the joy of discovery instead of the disappointment and frustration of what we had lost.

I love my Jimmy. He is my “gem” – a rare jewel above and beyond those who boast of their manhood. You want a man? Here you go. My man washes all the dishes in this house – I physically cannot reach my sink. My man washes all the laundry. I can’t even reach the knobs. He washes and dries and brings them to me and I fold. The children put away. My man brings me a cup of tea every morning. My man helps me cook meals and put things in and out of the oven. My man loads and unloads a wheelchair in the sunshine, the rain and the freezing cold. I have a lot of trouble regulating my temperature now so my man will sweat so that I won’t be cold. My man will physically put me to bed when I am too tired to make the transfer. Although I have now learned to be independent and do almost everything, he will do things for me anyway just to make my life a little easier.

Why would my Valentine do these things – knowing that this is it? For good. Permanent. No getting over the flu here and being normal again. Why? Why would we fight so hard to not only survive in our marriage but to desire it to thrive? Because this is love. A giving of yourself unselfishly as Christ did for us. This is keeping a promise that we made to God and to each other 12 years ago. “For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”