4 types of friendships:
- Acquaintances - Peers you see often but do not necessarily share personal information with
- Casual - Share some information but very cautiously
- Agenic - Develop strong bonds and share common goals, like winning games or pulling off a theatrical performance
- True - Express real emotions, trust and relate openly with each other, are supportive and empathic, forgive, are reliable, and want the best for each other (O'Grady)
- ask questions like, "How was your weekend?" or "Did you enjoy the movie you went to see last night?" Not only do they ask questions showing interest, they genuinely care to hear the answers.
- smile and laugh when they are around each other. True friends do not cause unnecessary stress and drama, nor do they drain a friend's batteries with their negativity.
- appreciate having other friend groups. Possessiveness can be a sign of an abusive relationship.
- give each other space. Sure, they might prefer being around each other but when they are not, they do not incessantly text, call, and check up on each other. They do not try to make others feel guilty.
- notice a struggling friend and help find the right support. Friends know when the support needed is beyond their capabilities.
- share interests and encourage each other to try healthy, new activities. If the new activity doesn't go well, they are the first to congratulate a friend for taking a risk. True friends do not pressure each other to take unhealthy risks.
- don't seek information so they can share the information with others. People who gossip are lacking maturity and trust me, this maturity to keep information confidential does not necessarily come with age. When someone gossips a great deal, they are proving incapable of keeping people's private information confidential. If someone gossips about others incessantly, don't think they will treat you differently.
- are aware when a friend is not balanced. "Hey, you look like you haven't slept in three days, do you need to talk? I'm worried about you?"
- allow each other to express their uniqueness. Better yet, they encourage each other to show their true colors.
- pick each other up during tough times.
- treat other friend groups with respect. They don't bully others because they are secure with their self and in their own group.
- understand that people make mistakes, learn from them, apologize, and move on.
At times you might find that a friendship has taken a turn and maybe your other friends or your family suggest that you need to re-evaluate the relationship. Something in your gut probably tells you they are right but it's not always easy to end a friendship. The video by Watchwellcast gives pointers for how you can spot and end a toxic friendship.
Before considering dating, I would start by saying that I think you should check that you are:
- able to manage strong friendships.
- confident and assertive.
- involved in many activities you enjoy.
- able to communicate clearly and effectively.
- clear in what you want in a dating relationship.
Keep it simple
If you do decide as an older student to get more serious, I like to look at Sternberg Triangles as means of teaching you to figure out what you want in a loving relationship and how to set boundaries.
Intimacy - feeling of closeness, affection, warmth, familiarity, close attachment
Passion - powerful feeling of sexual attraction, intense desire
Commitment- dedicated, devoted, loyal
If we look at consumate love, you can see this type of couple would have intimacy, commitment, and passion; whereas, couples with infatuation only have passion. Spend some time looking at each type of relationship. Do you recognize each type of couple in the people you know?
The clip below is one that many of us adore. Ellie and Carl started out as good friends and their relationship grew into consumate love. Notice, though, that when they hit hard times, often the passion was likely missing but the commitment and intimacy never wavered. At those times, they had companionate love.
The idea here is not to judge relationships but more to help you understand that at different points of people's lives, different relationships might be more appealing. Maybe someone who was married ten years and is getting a divorce does not want a commitment but wants passion and intimacy. You might hear a university aged student say she doesn't want commitment or intimacy but wants passion. Again, some cultures would see the value in each type of relationship while others would not. Some insist on nonlove until marriage; you know your values.
In a relationship, it's important to set clear boundaries with the person you like. Here is where communication and assertiveness come into play. For example, "We're in 8th grade so I want you to know that I'm happy to hang out in groups and hold your hand but that's as far as this is going to go." An older student might say, "I'm very clear in where I want to go in my future so I need you to understand that at this point I'm not interested in a sexual relationship." Or, "I know you want to take the next step but I need time to think about that. Please don't pressure me about this until I have time to make a good decision for me." Perhaps another example, "I can't believe you asked me to send you a sext. I find that very disrespectful so don't ask me again." Something tells me this fifth grader, Zoe, has the assertive communication piece in place.
Resources you, your parents, and teachers should explore
Quizzes on healthy relationships, being a good partner, knowing if abusers can change, and helping the abused
John Hopkins - The Teen Years Explained (excellent guide for young adults, parents, and teachers)
Educator toolkits for helping middle school and high school teens establish healthy relationships
Parent tips for when teens should date
Relationships 101 - basics for dating relationships
Helping a child with a toxic friendships
Social media and teen relationships by Pew Research Center - US based data but good info
Leitch, Heather, and Monica 9. “Teens & the Relationship ABCs.” Sutter Health, 2015, http://www.pamf.org/teen/abc/types/friends.html. Accessed 11 Sept. 2016.
O’Grady PhD, Patty. “Friendship: The Key to Happiness.” Psychology Today, Psychology Today, 1991, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positive-psychology-in-the-classroom/201210/friendship-the-key-happiness. Accessed 11 Sept. 2016.
Sternberg Triangle Theory of Love. Looking at intimacy, passion, and commitment in relationships. 3 Jan. 2009, http://www.drgaramoni.com/blog_living_your_whole_life_well_files/triangle.gif. Accessed 28 Oct. 2016.
watchwellcast. “Toxic People: How to End a Bad Relationship.” YouTube, 4 May 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPwck0EQkgs. Accessed 11 Sept. 2016.
xXJEashXx, pixar. “Favorite Pixar’s up Scene Ever - Ellie and Carl’s Relationship Through Time, Sad Scene.”YouTube, 22 Mar. 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2bk_9T482g. Accessed 30 Oct. 2016.