Friendship Criteria

Friendship Rules?

Do you have certain expectations of your friends? If so, what are they? Do you have friendship rules? A certain code of behaviour? Acceptable and unacceptable ? What would need to happen for one of your current friends to become an ex-friend? How many times can a friend do something ‘bad’ before they’re struck from your friend list? Of course, a certain level of forgiveness, understanding and flexibility is expected in most close relationships (from time to time) but when does a healthy and positive friendship become an unhealthy and negative one? When is enough, enough? Where’s the line? Does it happen quickly or is it an erosion that happens over time? Maybe both?

All good questions.

Me

To be honest, I don’t have as many friends as people might expect. Not what I would call friends, anyway. Yes, I’m a friendly bloke (mostly), yes I know a lot of people and yes, I do have a lot of acquaintances and colleagues, but friends? Not so many. Some people assert that friends are friends no matter what. I disagree. There are deal-breakers. When it comes to the matter of healthy friendships, I believe many people have compromised themselves.

In a big way.

The Anti-Friend

Recent conversations and coaching sessions tell me that some people are confused about real friendship. I’m always amazed when people talk to me about their ‘friends’ who run them down, undermine them and sabotage their attempts to improve their life in some way. Just so you know, that’s not friendship. On any level.

And yes, it happens a lot.

Yesterday, I spoke with a woman who has lost thirty kilos over the last six months. She looks and feels fantastic. Her biggest challenge over that time has been her ‘best’ girlfriend (good grief) who has done anything and everything but support and encourage her on her weight-loss journey. Apart from trying to sabotage her with regular high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar gifts (“don’t be silly, one won’t hurt you”), her bestie is now telling her that (1) she’s become obsessive (she hasn’t) and (2) she’s boring to be around (because of her new habits)and (3) the weight loss is making her look prematurely old.

Wow.

That’s what I call a truly crap friend.

I’m of the opinion that too many people have been involved in unhealthy, negative and, even, destructive friendships for far too long. And I’m guessing some of you reading this right now might relate. In an effort to belong, many of us have accepted second best. Third best. If you allow your ‘friends’ to treat you poorly then maybe you need to think more of yourself. If you don’t believe you deserve their respect, kindness and honesty then neither will they. Consciously or not, you have taught people how to treat you. We all have.

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:

  • People who trash talk you: not your friend.
  • People who resent your success: not your friend.
  • People who try to manipulate you: not your friend.
  • People who lie to you: not your friend.
  • People who don’t respect your beliefs or values: not your friend.
  • People who take but never give: not your friend.
  • People who ‘compete’ with you: not your friend.

In my world (Planet Craig), the above stuff is non-negotiable.

If you recognise any of your ‘friends’ on the list then maybe it’s time to re-think your friendship criteria. Personally, I’d rather one genuine friend than a hundred pseudo-friends.

But that’s me. :)

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm

If I try not to expect too much of people then they mostly pleasantly surprise me. Although I try to be reliable myself, I don’t rely too much on other people if I can help it. Most are friendly acquaintances. Friends are rare, take a long time to make, and are totally trustworthy. Probably a lot of people have the potential to be friends, but a few close friends is all I can handle, because being a good friend to someone involves work, although it’s enjoyable.

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Joe February 27, 2012 at 12:43 am

Nice one Craig!!

Thanks :-)

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Pip February 27, 2012 at 12:50 am

Hi Craig,
I will offer a scenario I’ve found regarding body shape/size/thinness/obesity.

With me now I’m 1.71m, weigh 74kg with a body fat of about 33%. I consider that to be a bit overfat, my running, cycling and strength results are all less than they were. Early July last year I got down to 62kg, body fat about 21%, got a few new running PB’s, and got better strength results than ever before. To get there it wasn’t that hard, no dieting as such, controlled mostly clean choices, dedication to complete at least 60% of ideal training……..actually that was all reasonable consistency and control for me for months on end but nothing overly major.
With that fat loss, – my family were WOWED and happy BUT I had friends, aquaintences etc say such stuff……..it doesn’t look good, I look gaunt, oh have a pizza, (I need it), don’t fade away to nothing, life isn’t about being ‘skinny’, I look ‘unhealthy’, slim and fit isn’t everything! Come on, eat wedges, you need them, you look ano! I went to some relatives that hadn’t seen me for a while and they made such comments and put these pies, desserts, cakes in front of me. After all that, I lost focus, had other lifestyle changes, comfort ate big time, stopped training and went from 62-77kg in 3 months. No-one commented about the fast weight gain, (other than family and myself were disappointed). If I started to say anything about it…….I was just told you look fine…………….you’re not fat, you were skinny. (These are from slimmer people than me now). However these people had seen me at 90kg a few years back and at 62kg last July. I do think some people don’t like watching people transform and get leaner and fitter than themselves! When I was 90kg I was showing someone of some pics of me a few years ago at 60kg. They said to me…..I don’t mean to be rude but you look awful there. It shows…..particularly some girls don’t like their mates getting slimmer and fitter…….but in general guys are impressed by it! I guess if I got lean and fit and stayed that way it would stop being a talking point. However……stuff others, our body shapes and fitness levels are our own business but we do like to feel our friends are supporting us in our endeavours!

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Trish B February 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Hi Pip,
I have had a similar experience to yours but have recently made, as Craig would say, a non-negotiable decision to totally disregard other people’s comments, both good and bad (because the good ones also set you up for failure, as you may fear you can’t maintain the new you!).
I lost 8 kilos nearly 2 years ago by giving up sugar,and copped an enormous amount of flak from everyone, mainly being accused of being anti-social when I didn’t join the birthday cake and dessert brigade.
I’ve recently taken up exercise seriously, and am becoming further transformed, and I’ve decided that people can think what they like, but I choose to do what it takes to feel great.
Your real friends will support you and the rest can just deal with it! It’s very liberating to take charge of your life, believe me.

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chebbieanne February 28, 2012 at 12:02 am

Pip I think we all have that experience when we lose a lot of weight. I used to find it annoying at first but you get used to it. It never ceases to amaze me that no one mentions your weight when you are large but they go on and on about theirs. When you are the one who loses weight not only are you expected not to mention your own weight loss have you noticed your friends are no longer comfortable about discussing their weight in front of you? Amongst girls I think everyone wants to have the fat girl in the group so they can reassure themselves they are not the fattest one. When the fat girl becomes the thinning down girl you represent a threat to the group dynamic. Comfort comes not from eating but knowing how hard your mates have to try to get you to eat unhealthy stuff. When you lose weight you have your ups and downs weight wise but stick to your plan and dont worry what others think because essentially they dont really think at all.

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Dee Dee February 27, 2012 at 1:23 am

Cheers to you for this post Craig. I too only have a handful of people I would consider true friends…some relationships built up over many years and others were instantaneous, like we we’d know each other forever. I’ve had to detox so called friends who were like leeches and absolutely sucked the living life out of me (I let them)! Not anymore!

I trust my instincts a hell of a lot more these days and make the time to work on a relationship if I feel it is right. My hit rate has improved! True friends are worth it and I know I can trust them and
they would drop everything to help me if need be. They also know I’d do the same for them. That’s true friendship for me…

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karen February 27, 2012 at 2:32 am

Wow! Truer words were never spoken/written. It is great finding a “True friend”. Just need to find one! Seems all the ones I have, family included, judge and critisise, sabotage and demoralise.Would be nice to find a friend who has made mistakes… shown errors in judgement and has been “human” enough to know that others are “only human”. I guess its hard to have empathy if you are perfect. Glass houses and all…..

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Maureen February 27, 2012 at 2:54 am

“expectations are premeditated resentments” I agree with anonymous friendships have often felt like work because of their expectations on what i should do for them not so much what i wanted from them. Because of my line of work I often find lunches or conversations become a time for them to get free advice from me “because were friends your not going to charge me?” so its easier to smile make chit chat and stick to my family and core of 3 friends who are there day and night. The rest of them can make an appointment. lol

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Anonymous February 27, 2012 at 6:11 am

I can not agree more with what you’ve written in today’s entry. After the passing of my husband, 2 years ago, the following months showed me who my real friends were and weren’t. People who had been my “friends” for years, started (correction…continued)to treat me like a piece of property, all under the veil of saying that they were just doing what’s best for me. After a few months, I had to let them go. I knew it was best for all parties involved, as the relationship was completely toxic. I also had some positive experiences, where people who I hadn’t been as close to over the years, totally stepped up to the plate and have become some of my most treasured friends now. Needless to say, my friendship landscape looks quite a bit different than it did a few years ago, but for the first time in a long time…I am truly happy with all of my friendships.

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Candy February 27, 2012 at 6:25 am

I agree with your thoughts, although it took me along time to realise it in my world. People who put you down to make them look and feel better are not friends. Have a happy day Mr Harper.

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Cardinal Cyn February 27, 2012 at 7:00 am

I kind of have a forming idea that in Western culture now, with the increase in online technology and individualistic ideals, that over generations, we lose the skills of building, maintaining and growing relationships. The more time we spend doing things alone, the less we seem to use relationship skills. And then when faced with a conflict, we have no software to deal appropriately with it. I heard stats on the radio that about 1 in 4 Australians feel disconnected and like they ‘don’t belong’ anywhere. We all seem to want deep, strong friendships. But somehow we are not meeting others who we connect with, and then connection itself is a skill that requires levels of trust, respect, vulnerability, acceptance, listening and empathy that seem rare to find. Great blog, Craig. This info needs constant reinforcement.

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Sandy Fishwick February 27, 2012 at 8:26 am

You find out who your real friends are when you hit a rough patch and see who is still around. Learning healthy boundaries with people is key, the word NO comes to mind, how people respond when they get No as an answer. I have the welcome mat for everybody but if you walk all over the welcome mat or put your dirty feet on the mat then the welcome mat will be pull from underneath you and you will not be welcome again.

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J9 February 27, 2012 at 8:41 am

I too have a lot of acquaintances and colleagues but feel truely blessed to have three precious friends in my life :)

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Beach bear February 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

Yep totally agree and had a major ‘TOXIC WASTE MATERIAL’ dumping last year. I really had a good look at my ‘friends’ and had a think about how i FELT after being with them. Some of them were draining the life blood out of me and never ever giving anything back. It was all one-way traffic.

So i finally woke up to myself and decided that i deserve better and only want to surround myself with those who can be supportive and not have any hidden agendas.

I now have a small but absolutely fantastic circle of amazing friends and we all support, encourage and are always there for each other.
FRIENDS ARE THE FAMILY WE CHOOSE :)

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Fe February 27, 2012 at 9:13 am

I got divorced many years ago. THAT made me realise who my true friends are. It’s a shame it took a life changing, demoralising and humbling event to expose the people that were treating our friendship like Flinders Lane. But I’ve learnt and I know exactly who to avoid now and in the future.

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Erin of Alice February 27, 2012 at 9:23 am

I find that I have a couple of friends, but that I have a lot of aquaitances. These are people that I know, socialise with, but dont rely on them for anythiong, dont include them in my ups and downs and dont turn to them when I need assistance. I find with true friends, you dont have to ask them for help, they are already there and giving a hand.

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Missbkcol February 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

Have to say I very much agree with what you have written in this article. I can count my ‘true’ friends on one hand and I’m very blessed to be able to have such wonderful people around me. To me it’s definitely about quality not quantity.

There are absolutely certain things that I class as deal breakers within any type of friendship/relationship and I’m non negotiable on them.

A few years back I had a cull of sorts and moved on from people that I found were a continual negative drain, non supportive, or a drama to be around, or involved with. As a result of making that choice I’m far less anxious and so much happier!

Also I’ve found that as I’ve made positive changes within myself and grown more confident the behaviours and scenarios that I used to tolerate are something I no longer contend with.

Bottom line if the person doesn’t measure up, I move on and get on with it.

:-)

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Ian February 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

I like most agree. I am very grateful for the few beautiful friends that I do have, that are so easy, happy for you to just be yourself however you choose that to look. (It is so NOT hard work)

I’d like to extend it to family, if they treat you badly, keep you at a distance, expect you to always call them and then think that we should stay close because we are family well that doesn’t work for me…

I keep getting told from others that your brother really wants to stay in touch more, spend more time with you! Yet the phone never rings, no emails etc… (Sorry my HARD work whistle goes off)

2 way is my way…

Ian

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Michael February 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

Hi Craig,

I agree and still remember a similar article you wrote about unhealthy friends some time ago.

The best man at my wedding is such a friend. He never follows through on anything he promises. Everything is on his terms. He has a family as I do but he never asked after them at all and raved on about his all the time.

I was getting nothing out of the friendship and stressing about losing it, and why he was not contacting me or asking about my family.

The other thing is that he would regularly make comments that were not positive but had an undercurrent of ridicule in them that I found distasteful.

Last year I reached out to his wife who then helped facilitate contact after some absence. It sounded promising until the contact when all the same things happened.

I decided that there was too much pain in being rejected by your “best friend” and as such I no longer consider him a friend.

I suspect that there is more too it than I am aware of but there is no point speculating or guessing.

No friend will be positive all the time but they should be at least some of the time.

Thanks

Michael

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Bron February 27, 2012 at 10:16 am

That girl you spoke to who has lost 30 kgs
And her best friend could be my story !!
I’ve lost 30 kgs and still working on becoming
A healthier me but in that process of focusing
On me and working hard to lose the weight
I lost my so called bestfriend as she said
I was more fun and nicer fat and unhealthy .

That was great to read and I could just relate
To her story and what you said about friendships
Thankyou a great start to my Monday
( will show you my fat photo one day I keep
It on my phone to remind myself how far I’ve come)
Bron

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Carin February 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

Planet Craig makes so much sense! Especially today. The word friend, like the word love is overused. A true friendship takes years to cultivate, experiences to share and endure. I have aquintances, but few friends. Unfortunately, I lost my dearest friend last year to cancer, I miss her so and I know I will not make another friend like her, we knew each other 37 years…We had different political views, different lifestyles, however our friendship was based on mutual respect and an appreciation for our differences. Thanks for the reminder of what makes a good friend. I have found the part I like least about growing older is saying goodbye….

Godspeed,

Carin

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sarahsarah February 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

This one cuts close to the bone for me ~ I think I’m ‘friendship challenged’ maybe! I end up in friendships that are mostly one sided and don’t feel that I get back even half of what I put in. I’m thoughtful, I’m considerate but I end up surrounded by people who only really think of themselves and for me it often seems like a lot of hard work too. Because I don’t have that many close friends I find myself holding onto these relationships when really some of them would be better let go. I know this kind of pattern says something about me but I’m still trying to work out what it is.

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Carmon B February 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

I think we have all had friendships that test us as a person, our strengths & weakness’s & our beliefs of ourselves as a whole. I had a friend, who was a friend, but realised that she could use me for her own betterment along the way. I gave the best part of me at times & did it with sincerity. When People could see I was a “person in this friendship, & not the mantle for the piece” our friendship sort of fizzled. I realise now, that the journey I took down that friendship path, made me value the beautiful friends I have now & find them all the more easier through the thick crowds of “wanna’s”. It hurt, it wasn’t easy & I let it happen to much of a degree & I should have listened to others that warned me.. But for now, those that warned me, I touch base with & we have such a wonderful time when we catch up, I cherish those moments more now as they are my true friends. Their friendship comes naturally, souly & heartfelt just like mine for them. It’s a grand & wonderous thing when you find it!!
.. Thanx Craig!!
… goes off to text some friends & email others that it has been a while since we have touched base…

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Tracey B February 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Well said ( lots of clapping)
I totally agree, over the last few years I have been detoxing my friendship circle. I have had people question why I just said ‘no more’ and didn’t think about the ex friend anymore? Aren’t you sad/angry etc. Truth- no because I’m not trying to keep them happy anymore. :)
Currently I am re evaluating a friendship which I really don’t want to lose but may. The blinders are off but things have changed dramatically in the last 6months since the purchase of the holiday/ weekend get away. Hopefully once this novelty wears off they will settle down again and stop making me make excuses not to run down there every weekend/ day off etc.
Time will tell.
Thanks again Craig – you help me feel normal

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Suu February 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Love the posts on this subject. I hope I’m never toxic to any of my 2 close friends
Recently a very good long term friend said she ‘was going through something’ and said it in an email so I rang to see if she needed a shoulder. What came down the phone-line cant be fully repeated but the gist of it was that she said ‘don’t you understand the meaning of giving someone space!?’. I waited a week and emailed to see how things were. No answer. Another week, no reply. So I rang. She said I wouldn’t understand about her stress. After a 25 year friendship I felt that our friendship had run out of puff and wrote saying that I’d prefer to cut out contact altogether and wished her well. The reply was like she was the victim in our friendship so I did what any person who hates being ignored and then sworn at – I blocked her! I felt free. Isn’t that weird?

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Anon March 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Suu I had to comment, yes this is a situation I had, they do the odd thing, they don’t communicate and when you make the decision to part they get violent/angry/hurt. If they are going through stuff ok be there for them if they want, but these games are a product of a mind that’s not seeing the joy and value of having someone there for you. Games like that are not worth playing.

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Julie S February 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm

My experience is that the majority of women will backstab and turn on you at the first chance they get. As a consequence I have few female friends but lots of great male friends. It is much more fun being one of the boys. Men accept you for who you are and are not jealous or insecure because you are thinner and more attractive than them!

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Pip February 28, 2012 at 1:23 am

Trish B, thank you for that! I totally agree with you. I’m conciously working on applying that attitude across all areas of life…..rather than seeking out validation/opinions/acceptance in round about ways.

Loving your attitude…..great job on your transformation too! :-)

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philippa February 28, 2012 at 1:27 am

It’s often said that you find out who your real friends are when the chips are down but my experience has actually been the opposite – I’ve found out who my true friends are when I’m happy and things are going well!

Oscar Wilde said it best: “Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.” :)

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kate - Central coast February 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

totally agree !

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Anne-Marie February 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

Great post Craig, we all need to take account of our friendships from time to time. A lot of the time I see the best in people & feel sorry for them & this tends to over ride who they really are & what they do, even though I can walk away feeling like crap. I’m very fortunate to have two good friends that pull me up & help me take account & verbally explain what I’m going through mentally but don’t say aloud. You don’t need a lot of friends, a few is plenty or in my case a couple. :)

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annie February 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

I totally understand. You know the kind of friends that leech onto you because they get a ‘free ride’. I am good at collecting them!
Recently with the help of this site to open my eyes I have had the so called friend clean out. It is a unreal feeling when you wake up to the crap that is plastered on you.
I think the friendship turned sour as these ‘friends’ didn’t like other people to be successful or happy. Well i am happier now that i am free. I think they were not real friends just freeloaders!!!
life is good!

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Margie March 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Six months ago I got a full time job and don’t have my regular weekly catchup at the gym. One of the group however I see very often and I thought we were very close. I recently caught her out in a lie and it was over such a silly thing. It’s totally changed my perspective of her and nothing will ever be the same, caused not by the lie itself, but by the fact the she thought it was ok to lie to me, something I would not dream of doing to her.

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Michael Brisbane March 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

Oh this post and the replies blew my mind. Where to begin. Please do not think men do not experience backstabbing etc from other men. Second the comment about technology is spot on, how can we crave friendships and love yet we push it away? Also I lost a 30 year friendship because he chose the wife over me. That poster where the woman said she needed her space that is common out of the blue everything is ok then they turn on you. She should have communicated her issue you two have a break and she contacted you when ready but she choose the drama queen path. I think that just like a marriage friends can bring out issues hence why such breakups are as nasty as romantic ones. Friendship is a throw away term. Getting rid of them is sad if the other person cannot or is unwilling to improve the friendship. In my case my friends were bitchy and nasty and manipulated each other and when I broke away they gave me threats of violence and smeared my name online. I do not know why we cannot just get friends and enjoy each other’s company. I do not know why we crave it yet we do not call them. I do not know why we will spend hours days online chatting and not meet yet we want the physical contact. I am tired of friends being there for a reason of season bring on those that are there for a lifetime,

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Anon March 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I think that a friendship breakup can be more hurtful than a romantic relationship. Try spending decades with someone as a friend and out of the blue they turn on you, won’t say why and then when you say to them best to part, they get nasty with threats. Some of you I think have had the same thing happen. I was ‘friends’ with two guys (I am male) and they did all the things to me Craig listed in this post. I didn’t deserve it and paid a huge price for it. I can see if we allow ourselves to be treated in a certain way but breaking from that pattern can bring consequences. Bit like being on drugs and getting away from the group that uses them, they get very angry.

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Oh yeah? November 3, 2012 at 10:43 am

“How many times can a friend do something ‘bad’ before they’re struck from your friend list?”

If it’s a betrayal: one.

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