How setting boundaries saved my friendships
I used to tell my bestie everything that goes on in my mind. Completely honest, raw and open. We got really close, really quick. How could we not? We were both open books. That’s how besties are right? All of my close friends throughout life were like this. I didn’t have any interest in friendships that weren’t intense and deep. I used to think to myself: are they really your best friend if they don’t know you inside and out?
It took almost losing her to realise that it’s not always wise to tell your friend every little thing. When my friend said that she needed a break from our friendship my fears of abandonment came to life. I was potentially losing my bestie because of oversharing.
I was lucky, I was able to repair this friendship. Through good boundaries. I learnt the hard way that is not only OK to have boundaries, but also healthy and essential.
Most importantly, I learnt that certain topics are better off discussed with my therapist than with my best friend. Some of my mental health concerns are due to trauma, so discussing details with her were potentially triggering and / or traumatising for her. Delving into my trauma outside of a therapeutic environment also meant I could potentially retraumatise myself.
Both of these things happened: I felt triggered and helpless when talking about my trauma to her, as she was not trained to support me, and listening to my trauma caused her stress and trauma of her own.
To create a healthier relationship, I decided it was important to have an open discussion and put some boundaries in place around what topics should be off limits. There were certain subjects we agreed not to bring up and we both understood the need for this space within the relationship.
Since we established these boundaries, our relationship has grown stronger and steadier. Yes, at times I still wish I could let loose with my stream of consciousness, but then I stop myself. I ask myself why I want to?
Is it simply an effort to feel closer to her, because I never had that person growing up who I could share everything with? I regularly remind myself that this desire to overshare comes from my unmet emotional needs in childhood, and I work through these feelings with my therapist.
I’ve learnt in therapy that no matter how close I become to my friends, the emptiness I feel can never be filled by others, it will only be healed through therapy. My therapist also taught me that wanting that extreme closeness, needing a friend to soothe me and having unrealistic expectations of a friendship are the behaviours that have actually destroyed my relationships in the past.
Now I know that healthy relationships have boundaries, and even though my bestie doesn’t know every thought in my head… Shes still my bestie and I am so grateful to have her in my life!
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.
To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/