It takes effort to maintain healthy, long-term relationships with our friends

Research continues to show how important strong relationships are—and how detrimental loneliness can be to our overall health and well-being. In an age of constant connectivity through technology, our deeper and committed relationships can suffer as we spend more and more time screen-to-screen instead of heart-to-heart. How do we promote healthy friendships?

On an episode from the Unity Online Radio show The Heart of the Matter, Rev. George Whitton discusses 10 rules for healthy friendships in conversation with Joyce and Tom DeVoge from the Cincinnati Relationship Center. While it may feel strange to create rules for friendship, having a clear understanding of boundaries is often what makes relationships thrive throughout time.

“The bottom line is to maintain trust, to establish trust (as well as to maintain respect) in a relationship,” Joyce says.


These 10 tips for prioritizing friends can help us develop kinder and more meaningful long-term relationships.

1. Prime Time

Don’t leave friendship to “someday” or to the leftover bits of time between the things we sometimes deem more important, such as work or household to-dos, or other stuff. Be intentional about scheduling time to promote your friendships.

2. Be Gentle

Give up the power struggle that we sometimes find ourselves pulled into. Let go of fear and let go of anxiety—and allow yourself to feel safe and relaxed. Being gentle with our words and our behavior allows us to build intimacy and strengthen the friendship.

3. Avoid Aggression

Fighting, screaming, using harsh language, or other aggressive behaviors are unlikely to support any of your friendship goals—and you’re unlikely to truly be heard (or to truly hear what your friend is saying).

“We don’t have to be disagreeable when we have a disagreement,” Joyce says.

Though painful situations may arise, strive to use kind language and to honor the friendship through calm conversation.

4. Affirm Each Other

Make your friend feel good about themselves, about what they are accomplishing in life. Honor their interests and achievements with intentional celebrations and recognition. Even when our interests or goals differ, it is vitally important to help your friend feel seen and valued through affirmations.

5. Play Together

Spontaneity and laughter are key to relaxing together and building your friendship. Create space to allow open-ended conversation, unstructured play, and opportunities for true joy. While it’s true that relationships take work, healthy friendships are full of play and fun.

6. Offer Help

Friends give generously to support their friends when they need help or support. They understand and respect the goals and plans of their friend and work to support them.

“Friends show up,” Tom says. But don’t just show up when it’s easy or convenient; make an effort to be there when the other person needs it most.

7. Be Loyal

Avoid gossip, negative commentary, or complaining about a friend behind their back. This can create rifts between you and your friend who is not there—and also complicate relationships with others who have heard or joined in this conversation.

8. Apologize and Forgive

Remember that we are all human. These rules may sometimes get broken—and other lines may get crossed. Be willing to apologize, sincerely and promptly. And be just as willing to forgive when it’s your feelings that have been hurt.

9. Promote Equality

One friend’s needs and wants are no more important than another’s. No one is in charge of the friendship. Be mindful of what your friend needs and seek compromise whenever possible. Make an effort to see experiences and conversations from your friend’s point of view—and respond accordingly.

10. Privacy and Sharing

What Joyce calls the “privacy rule,” Tom calls the “Las Vegas rule.” Be very clear with your friend about what is appropriate to share—and what stays in the privacy of your friendship. Don’t share things that you shouldn’t, but also enjoy what has been shared within the intimacy of your relationship.

Friendship is an important part of our lives, and healthy friendships are essential to our overall well-being. Implementing rules like these helps us ensure we benefit from their joy and support for years to come!

Looking for more ways to build your most important relationships? Listen to more from Rev. George Whitton on the Unity Online Radio archived show The Heart of the Matter.

About the Author

Mallory Herrmann is a writer and editor in the Kansas City area. Her work has been featured in Unity Magazine®, Career College Central, and the Lee’s Summit Tribune.

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