10 Bad Habits That Get In The Way Of Grown-Adult Friendships

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two women friends chatting

One would think that, as we get older, friendship would be easier.

After all, when we are young, friendship can be challenging. We are all young and naive with lots of social pressures. We all crush on the same people and compete to be popular at school. Friendships can end on a whim, sometimes for no reason at all.

One would think that, as grown-ups, we would have a better sense of how to maintain a rewarding grown-adult friendship. After all, we have a better sense of who we are in the world and we know how to interact with people in a mature way.

But, unfortunately, human beings are human beings and we aren’t always our best selves, especially in friendships.

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10 things getting in the way of great friendships

1. Not respecting other people’s time

Years ago, when our kids were young, a group of mothers would take a morning walk after drop-off. We would walk our dogs and catch up on the comings and goings of our kids.

There was one friend who would always show up late to drop off. And then, after she dropped off her kids, she would go into the office and do some business and then stop on the pathway to talk to someone.

The rest of us moms would be left waiting at the bottom of the hill for her to do what she needed to do before we could take our walk.

This was very frustrating. We were all busy people with jobs and chores and waiting for her every morning did not make her a popular person.

Ultimately, we just walked without her, damaging our friendships in a big way.

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2. Trying to fix someone

In any relationship, with kids, parents, lovers and friends, the inclination to try to fix someone can be very toxic.

When someone comes to us with an issue, more often than not, they just want to be heard. They want to be empathized with. They want to get their thoughts and feelings out of their head so that they can take the next steps.

A friend who doesn’t listen and empathize is someone who is not being a good friend.

Imagine if you went to a friend, upset about a fight with your husband. Instead of listening to what happened and empathizing, they started pointing out all of the things that you were doing wrong and telling you what you must do to fix it. That doesn’t sound very good, does it?

So, if you want to maintain your grown-adult friendship, develop the ability to truly listen, to hold space for your friend, without trying to fix them.



3. Always prioritizing your romantic relationship

In almost every blog that I write about maintaining healthy relationships, I talk about the need to always prioritize your relationship. To not make it third, after the kids, the dogs and your friends.

This, I am realizing, does come with a caveat. There are, in fact, times when always prioritizing your romantic partner will interfere with your friendships.

Back in the day, there was a group of women who met every Friday night to knit and gossip.

And, every Friday night, I declined an invitation to attend. Friday nights were reserved for movie-watching with my husband and I very much enjoyed our tradition.

But, missing out on that group meeting every week put a bit of a damper on my friendships with those ladies. They would talk about things that I would know nothing about because of my absence. They would ask me to be a part of it so that they could celebrate birthdays and I would decline. Eventually, they stopped asking me and, when Fridays came along, I could always detect a bit of chilliness from my friends.

If only I had made an effort, even one night a month, to not watch movies but to spend time with my friends, I know that it would have gone a long way towards keeping my relationships with them stronger — and kept me in the loop with what was happening in the mom world.

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4. Not respecting their points of view

OK, we are adults. We all have points to view that we have developed over a lifetime, points of view that are ours and are dear to us.

To maintain a friendship, it is key that you respect your friends' points of view, even if they are different from yours.

It is interesting that, sometimes, people with different points of view can be friends. Intuitively, one would think that people with different points of view wouldn’t choose to be friends, but it does happen.

I have a friend who believed 100 percent that her kids should not watch any media at all. That TV and movies would corrupt their young minds and damage them for life. While I did believe in limiting screen time, I sometimes let my kids watch movies. This was a huge difference for us, in our perspectives on media.

But there were so many other things that we had in common and agreed 100 percent on. So, to maintain our friendships, we just didn’t talk about our different views on media. Hers were hers and mine were mine. We made the choices for our own reasons.

We didn’t let them get in the way of our friendship. (And, shockingly, all five of our kids have grown up to be productive members of society, no matter what their mother’s stance on media was.)

5. Talking about ‘hot potato’ subjects

This is an especially important thing to consider when you are trying to maintain and grown-adult relationship – staying away from ‘hot potato’ subjects.

“Hot potato” subjects are subjects that are polarizing. During these trying times "hot potato” subjects are many. Abortion, immigration, book banning, politics, etc., are all things that have caused many a family fracture and many friendships to be lost.

The best way to keep your relationship healthy if you have different views than your friends on any of these topics is to just stay away from them. While the instinct to discuss them (and argue about them) might be strong, if you want to keep your friendships, avoiding them at all costs will be key.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish that friends could talk about difficult subjects without alienating each other (and some can) but we are all so polarized in these difficult times that not skipping ‘hot potato’ subjects can have a huge negative effect on a friendship.

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6. Comparing lives

I have a friend who is always comparing our lives.

She lives in a smaller house than mine.  Her husband makes less money than mine does. Her kids had to get scholarships to college. She hasn’t been able to travel like I have. Her dog has aggression issues and mine doesn’t.

For me, none of those things are important. We are friends and we became friends in spite of our differences. But it’s really hard for her to let these things go.

I remember when I was planning a trip overseas with another friend, she had no problem talking about the opportunities that I had that she would never have. That I was so lucky to be able to do these things because my husband made so much money. That her kids could have gone to better colleges if only they had the money to pay for them.

It was super annoying. Super annoying. As a result, I stopped sharing with her any information about my life. Of course, there are things that I can’t help but share but I try, as much as I can, to not do anything that might trigger these comparisons.

We are still good friends but this tendency of hers, to compare us, has definitely put some space between us.

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7. Holding grudges

This is a big one. One of the worst habits that gets in the way of rewarding, grown-adult friendships is holding a grudge.

Of having a disagreement with someone and not being able to let it go.

I have a friend who was having an affair. I was very supportive of her and talked about it whenever she needed to. But, eventually, I got sick of it. Her lover was a dick and treated her horribly and, while we spent hours talking about how she needed to break up with him, she never did.

I told her that I couldn’t talk to her about it anymore because I thought that perhaps I was being co-dependent by doing so. She said ok. And I never talked to her again. Never.

When I reached out soon after saying that, she never answered and that was that. And I never reached out again.

We are both holding a big grudge, one that destroyed a friendship that we had had for a long time.

8. Being passive-aggressive

Passive aggression is defined as a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them.

Passive aggression is one of those things that can destroy any kind of relationship. Why? Because, instead of addressing something head-on and resolving it, we hold onto it, make subtle references to it, giving it oxygen and making things uncomfortable for everyone.

If you have an issue with a friend, talk about it openly and settle it. Only by doing so will you be able to keep your relationship healthy.

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9. Criticizing how they do things

No one wants to be told how to do things or that they are doing things wrong. No one.

Do you criticize your friends? Do you think that you know how to do things better than they do? Do you tell them when you see that they aren’t doing things correctly?

And, if you do, how do they respond to you? In a positive way? I am guessing not.

Even if your words are coming from a good place, one where you believe that you are being helpful with your suggestions, being critical of a friend will only drive you apart.

10. Flirting with their partner

I am guessing that this might be an obvious one but it is, surprisingly, something that happens all the time.

I am not saying that people always get into affairs with their friends' partners but I do mean that, at times, they might be a little flirtatious in the way that people do, in fun and for distraction.

Why? Often times it’s because we know our friends' partners well and that familiarity gives us space to flirt. Flirting is fun and flirting with a friend's partner can seem so harmless. After all, nothing is going to happen.

And I get that but know that flirting with your friend’s partner could very well have a negative effect on your friendship if it's something that your friend doesn't want you to do.

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be in this crazy world.