2014-07-03 / Relationships

A true friend is honest and rejoices in your successes

Although Jill was a fairly new friend, Nina couldn’t believe her good fortune to have met such an amazing person.

Nina loved that she could be totally herself, no matter the circumstances. Happy hours felt like their own version of “Sex and the City” — working sophisticates who enjoyed laughing, flirting and regaling each other with reports of their busy days and dates.

And, most importantly, Nina trusted Jill implicitly. Jill encouraged Nina to open up about her latest trials and tribulations. When Nina bemoaned the drudgery of her dead-end job and complained about the slim prospects in the dreary job market, Jill was quick to compliment her, boosting her spirits enormously. Nina was touched and flattered that Jill believed in her the way she did.

Nina discounted her first premonition that perhaps Jill did not have her best interests at heart. Nina had called excitedly to report a job prospect true — a decent salary and flexible hours that would allow her to occasionally work from home. Jill had been surprisingly discouraging, pointing out several negatives about the position and discrediting what Nina had thought might be great advantages. Jill had been so emphatic that Nina went against her better judgment — decliningd the offer.

Nina sensed some tension when ssJf she met Jeff and confided to Jill that she was starting to fall hard. Although Jill professed to be excited for her friend, she seemed less than thrilled. JJill had a way of subtly accentuating Jeff’s negatives, which provoked Nina to doubt her choice.

Nina sheepishly realized that Jill had been behind a number of her missteps. It was disheartening to recognize that Jill seemed to flourish when Nina was at her lowest, and unfortunately was not very gracious when Nina’s life had started to pick up.

It’s painful to accept that sometimes our “friends” are not really our friends.

In Nina’s case, it would have been great to believe that a heart to heart discussion with Jill would have made a difference. But it’s not clear there would have been a positive impact. Jill would clearly have to be open to understanding her own self-doubts and insecurities. She might be too defensive to do so.

Ultimately, Nina must consider whether this relationship is worth saving and what steps she can take to address the hurts. But, even with the best of intentions, once the trust between the two friends has been broken, Nina’s attempts to modify the relationship may become too awkward to have impact.

There are important lessons here for Nina to learn.

First, how to evaluate another person’s integrity, while taking self-protective steps.

Next, to understand why she looked to another person for her answers rather than trusting her own judgment.

However, it’s hard for many of us to recognize that not every friendship is going to meet our expectations. Learning how to evaluate what each of our friendships offer can be very challenging.

There are some people who might be enjoyable to spend time with, but who can’t be trusted with our secrets. If we recognize these important limits, we can certainly label this friendship a “fun acquaintance,” but certainly not a “trusted confidante.”

It’s painful to discover that a trusted friend would stab us in the back. Or, perhaps to learn they’re so insecure or unhappy they would undermine our best interests. Discovering that a friendship is not what it seemed to be can be a sobering disappointment. If we sense the other person can’t be counted on, it’s important to modify our expectations and clarify a boundary, so we don’t leave ourselves vulnerable to a let down.

But of course, we’re all human. Finding the means to keep jealousy at bay requires restraint and effort. It takes tremendous strength of character to rejoice when others achieve the very things that have eluded us. Some people, who are either discouraged or who suffer from poor selfesteem, may have trouble reaching for the inner generosity that would enable them to come through for their friends. They may find it difficult to effuse excitement for another’s triumphs when their lives feel uncertain. They may worry that a successful friend might leave them behind.

However, sometimes a friend or relative is quite perceptive and may see things in our lives we don’t see. They might bring up difficult topics, hoping we recognize they are truly interested in our welfare and don’t want us to get hurt. We should keep this in mind before we jump to negative conclusions about their intentions. It takes courage for them to risk offending us. Their candor is often a show of true affection.

The challenge for all of us is to take a candid look at what our friendships offer us and to consider what the limits are. A true friendship offers reciprocity of trust and emotional support, with both parties confident there is a balanced give and take.

Great friendships can be the source of comfort, inspiration and important validation. They rejoice in our successes and are there when we’re hurting. And, while true friends don’t “yes us to death,” we count on them to give honest feedback without judgment or superiority. Knowing that our friends are behind us can boost our confidence and give us the sense that the world is a much better place indeed. ¦

— Linda Lipshutz, M. S., LCSW, is a psychotherapist serving individuals, couples and families. A Palm Beach Gardens resident, she holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia and trained at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy in Manhattan. She can be reached in her Gardens office at 630- 2827, and www.palmbeachfamilytherapy.com.

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