How to Build Healthy Friendships and Navigate Toxic Ones


By Noelia Veras

College is often an up and down experience characterized by losing and gaining friendships. There are many defining aspects of college, but friendships are one of the most formative and helpful as life skills. After graduating from Catholic University, we will reminisce on the experiences we had that were defined by the people that we were with.

Some parts of a friendship are non-negotiable and they are required for long term relationships. These qualities include honesty, vulnerability, and trust. Being honest with friends is vital because otherwise the friendship lacks a sense of reality and truth. Vulnerability is important because one must be able to be their truest selves in front of their loved ones, and vulnerability exposes all parts of a person. Lastly, although it sounds cliché, trust is essential. If friends do not trust each other, there can be constant tensions and an unsettling uncertainty.

Although these aspects are pretty straight forward, it may be difficult to navigate in an actual friendship. Lack of honesty among friends can be extremely uncomfortable to address, but if the friendship is a genuine one meant to be long lasting, honesty should not be so difficult to acquire.

This issue on college campuses is often seen in roommate disputes. Without honesty, fixing problems such as incompatible bedtimes and messiness can be difficult. Another issue involves going out on weekends and whether friends have the same interests in where and when they go out. Some people enjoy going to parties while some students prefer monumenting; a middle-ground among friends cannot be reached without honesty and compromise.

Although these conversations may be uncomfortable, addressing these conflicts helps build problem solving skills for the real world and make these friendships more sustainable.

As for vulnerability, when discussing life before college and personal experiences, some people are better at opening up than others, and that is simply due to differences in personalities. Addressing how hard it is for you to open up is helpful in a friendship and helps people figure out what makes them comfortable. This conversation of figuring out how open or closed off you are is, in it of itself, being vulnerable with someone.

Trust is something far more difficult to assess and address than the other two, because it is not often fully explored or valued by humans. In recent decades, people have become more and more predisposed to distrust others, leaving a deficit in relationships when it comes to being trusting. If this is something you struggle with, you are most certainly not alone. In college, this is a huge struggle because you are expected to become friends with people you have just met. To build trust in these relationships, you simply have start small with your friends by spending time with them and allowing honesty and vulnerability to step in, while trust is cultivated.

Another difficulty of friendships in college is maintaining those friendships from back home. A simple call once a week for fifteen minutes or texts reminding them you are always there for them is important. Going to college does not mean you lose the years worth of friendships from your hometown, therefore it is important to still put effort into these relationships.

So what happens if you are in a toxic friendship? In the cases of toxic friendships, it is important to have open dialogue. Although dialogue is necessary in all friendships, it is essential in toxic friendships in order to see just what is making the friendship toxic. Perhaps ask them to go to the Starbucks in the Pryz or somewhere that is distinctly relaxed to comfortably talk about the problems in this relationship.

If dialogue is not a feasible option, distance and time are. Sometimes people need time to themselves, whether it be for days or months. Time is often a remedy for even the worst of wounds, not just because it provides distance but because it provides growth and room for maturity. If you see people you have severed ties with on campus, it may be awkward and you do not need to ignore them, saying hi or waving helps you be the bigger person and keep the relationship cordial.  

Friendships should be long term and helpful, not destructive. Thus, it is important to try to have honesty, be vulnerable, and build trusts with friends, as well as taking some time and space from toxic friendships.

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