Friendship & Boundaries

Cousins (1966) by Bridget Bate Tichenor

I used to believe that being a good friend meant saying yes to everything. I would stay on the phone for hours and agree to all social requests unthinkingly. No wonder I often felt conflicted about my friends — guilty over the friends I was letting down, disappointed in the friends who were letting me down.

Until you learn how to say no to friends (instead of lying, avoiding them, or giving them way too much even when you’re running on empty), it’s hard to enjoy your connection. This is why the idea of “toxic” friends (which I wrote about in today’s Ask Polly) often rubs me the wrong way. Taking too much and giving too much are both ways of hiding in plain sight, playing a role instead of genuinely showing up.

The pandemic has forced most of us to audit our friendships. This topic is GIGANTIC but I just want to start by saying FRIENDSHIP IS HARD. Most of us don’t know how to draw firm boundaries, ask for what we need, or manage conflict honestly. It’s a mess. So leap in with whatever you’ve got!