Setting Boundaries with Friends: How To Draw The Line and Set Healthy Boundaries In Friendships

August 26, 2020

Save you Tiffany!!!

Those words continued to ring in my ears days after my friend sent them to me in a text. I felt like I was drowning and didn’t quite know how to be there for my friends while going through so much myself.

It seems like we’ve all been having to deal with some pretty heavy stuff and COVID-19 definitely didn’t lighten our load. I do sometimes grieve the way my friendships looked pre-COVID, but I feel a lot more sane with the way they are now.

I didn’t realize how thin I used to stretch myself…until I broke. I couldn’t continue doing life and friendships the way I’ve always done them.

I felt confused and helpless, so I reached out to a friend and she reminded me to “Save Tiffany”. These simple words helped me to see myself as a priority. I no longer beat myself up when I can’t immediately respond to a text or phone call. I also find that I actually enjoy not talking on the phone as much.

Since I thought this was a really good topic, and didn’t want to just give you my thoughts on it, I decided to solicit the advice of a mental health therapist whom I trust.

Kristina Brewton, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), was kind enough to offer some advice she uses in her own personal life, as well as, advice she would give to a client on how to set healthy boundaries in friendships.

Let’s read what she has to say:

Setting Boundaries With Friends:

As a therapist, I have to be intentional about removing my therapeutic hat for the day and just being a friend. Yes, even as a therapist, it can be just too much. I am a human first. I want to be able to clock out and engage in self care too.

I’ve learned that I have to set boundaries not only for myself; but for the sake of a healthy and happy friendship.

When friends come to me with their problems, I listen and I give them advice if they request it. Here’s a few boundaries that I’ve found to work best for me over the years.

1. Know when your friend’s problems are just too much for you and express it sooner than later.

“I would love to try to help you with this but perhaps getting a personal professional counselor can help you to sort through all of these things better. As your friend, I feel like I can sometimes be biased. After all, you’re like a sister to me and I am ready to go in on anyone who is trying or has hurt you.”

2. Don’t be afraid to be open and be honest when it’s just too much for you.

When you begin to notice things shifting in your friendship, have an open conversation with your friends about what you’ve noticed (facts) and how you feel about about the noted changes.

Maybe the friendship can be revived by a simple conversation. If not, do not be afraid to set boundaries. You’ll save yourself from much heartache in the long haul. It’s okay to end friendships…even if you’ve known them all of your life.

When a friendship seems to be coming to a seasonal end, don’t try to extend the life of it. You will only become more angry, depressed and depleted. A healthy one sided relationship simply does not exist. If you’re the one always reaching out, giving, and investing but you’re feeling like you’re the one in the deficit, let it go.

Take the friendship for what it was and what is now. Ask yourself what is the take away? What did I learn? How is this experience going to make me better and not bitter?

3. Set limits on how much personal information is shared.

Be aware that if your friend overshares or shares something on a specific topic doesn’t mean you have to. Both parties need to respect what each person decides on sharing.

It does not make that person less of a friend if he or she elects not to share certain aspects of their life. I find saying something like, “Thank you for asking, but I would rather not talk about that right now.”

4. Learn to say no when needed.

This is especially important with friends who only call when they’re in dire need of emotional or financial support. There’s a laundry list of ways to say it but here’s a few.

  • “I’m honored that you asked me, but I can’t.”
  • “Sounds wonderful, but I can’t commit.”
  • “No, I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do.”
  • “I can’t give you an answer right now.”

5. Express needs and wants. You are your biggest advocate!

No one knows what you need and want more than you. The last thing you want is someone trying to figure out what it is that you want and need. When your needs aren’t met, you become upset or feel not supported.

I’ve seen an array of friendships and some don’t require much, whereas some friends want and need certain things in order to function effectively. Sometimes your friend(s) may not be able to meet those needs and desires.

In the end, you get to decide what you do and do not accept in your friendships. I think above all, communication is very important.

Kristina Brewton is a wife, mother of twin girls, poet and Licensed Professional Counselor.

In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, crafting, volunteering and enjoying comedy.


Kristina Brewton can be reached via email at kristinabrewton@gmailcom

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