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How do you know if a friendship is unhealthy?

christydee-croppedI’d like to take the blog on a related rabbit trail from The Song of Songs for a number of reasons. The heart of the Song of Songs is a love relationship with Jesus, but so often we worship other things, and Jesus is crowded out. For women, it is often a person. We cling too tightly to our husbands, our children, our friends. Though we say Jesus is first in our life, what matters most is that relationship with a person. There has also been a lot of interest in this subject from the women participating on this blog, and I want to be sensitive to that.

In my most recent edition of The Friendships of Women, my good friend Christy, who also helps me with the ministry, allowed me to tell her story of being set free from unhealthy friendships. The above is a snowy picture of Christy and me at my cabin in Wisconsin. Christy had a pattern of unhealthy friendships, something she was not able to see — but her wise friends could. Christy would meet a woman with whom she really clicked — and there is such a joy in finding someone like that — but then that friend would become her life.  If that friend would get another friend, or a boyfriend — Christy would feel physically ill — thinking she was getting the flu. When she was friends with “Brooke,” Christy writes: “We communicated a lot through e-mail and she would e-mail me during her breaks at work. I knew her schedule well, so if I didn’t hear my computer say: ‘You’ve got mail!’ I’d become anxious. I began to worry I had done something wrong. And I’d start e-mailing her and not give up until I got a response.

I want to go through Christy’s story carefully — because I think it is so illuminating, and because she has been absolutely set free and that has changed her love relationship with Jesus. Perhaps it is a friend that you “worship” but someone or something else. I think we all can learn from Christy’s vulnerability and the wise help she received — for we all tend to look for love in all the wrong places, keeping us from experiencing true intimacy with Jesus.

Could we start by asking you for your thoughts and reactions to Christy’s story?

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  1. I can see myself somewhat in Christy’s story. It sounds to me as though Christy was an insecure and fearful person, as was I when I was married. He was a controller, and I was anxious – which is a recipe for bondage. The Lord has been faithful in teaching me in all these years since my divorce, that He is a jealous God. I was very dependent in my insecurities and fears, and wore it very well. In my friendships with other women, God has blessed me so very much with two best friends who are faithful to speak truth – even when it hurts. I want to also be that kind of friend who won’t box the other in by too high expectations or standards. I want to be an encourager in all my relationships which is something that the Lord has been doing in my life over the last few years. In unhealthy friendships, whether spouse or friend, I believe that insecurity breeds pessimism and negativism, and a steady diet of that can surely strain a friendship. I’m so glad that Christy has been set free.

  2. I am going through what feels like twisted emotions, and similar to what Christy experienced. Admittingly, sometimes I feel like “I am in love.” That bothers me because of my heartfelt devotion to Christ.

    I have been pulling back my emails and phone calls, but we minister together, so to pick and choose when to contact this friend I try to go to God for His leadership.

    I have been trying to make other friendships to not become “One- who – sucks – the – life – out – of – another.”

  3. Good discussion! Thanks Dee! All I can say is all of the above “traps”, I have fallen into at one point or another. And I think it’s wise to see them as “traps” set there by the enemy or our own flesh. I think as Dee said, it is wise to have more than one friend, and also friends as Diedra said, “friends who will speak truth into our lives” – even when it hurts!

    I think it’s dangerous – even in ministry to isolate yourself with only one person – because our tendency – is to make that person our life. Our focus shifts from serving Christ, I think, to serving ourselves. We NEED to have our “needs” met in God, so we won’t go looking to have those needs met by something or someone else.

    We need daily intimacy with Jesus. We need friends who will help us find our strength in God, as Jonathon did with David. Our friends are only people, with the same temptations, shortcomings and failings that we ourselves have. Only God has the power to help us and strengthen us and deliver us from our own temptations. As we start to look at people as little “gods” in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and hurt. We do need to “fall in love with Jesus!”

  4. I am anxiously awaiting the continuation of Christy’s story, as this issue is one I am currently wrestling with. I have recently gone through a divorce (he left me, after almost 30 years of marriage). Because it was always a “rough ride” in our marriage, my friends have been very important to me, and a gift from God. However, I am now in a place that I see my own insecurity and “neediness” in friendships. I long to be in the place where I know Jesus more intimately, as the only true fulfillment of my needs. Please continue with your thoughts on this topic, Dee!

  5. I am single and 42. Almost all of my friends are either married, divorced or widowed. I hardly have any single friends. There are pros and cons to that. Pros is that I have learned thru their experiences with their mates, children and relationships w/ the Lord and have gained great insight. The cons are that I don’t have things in common w/ them b/c I have never experienced marriage and motherhood. Because of that sometimes I feel left out and not apart of certain groups when they go out together b/c I don’t have similar life experiences. I’m sure the friendships I do have I hold onto too tightly out of fear of losing them. I also have a physical disability so making friends has always been a challenge b/c I “look” different than everyone else and so I tend to work harder than most to keep the relationship going. I am working on that and trusting the Lord to be enough. I want to be accepted for me and what’s on the inside and trust that. I’m getting there w/ God’s help. 🙂

  6. I feel that Christy’s story is just like me! I have had this good friend for 9 yrs. We have alot in common, but lately (6month) she has stop calling me, will not take my calls and emails. She would call me every morning on her way to work, and etc. I feel like I did something wrong, but I know I didn’t. I thought we would be good friends forever,beacuse we meet in church and just hit it off.
    I have been praying about it. I’m just waiting on God!
    It just hurt alot!
    I have been trusting in God- Psalms 34:18.

    It does hurt when I see her with other ladies. I don’t like that feeling.
    Is there anything I should do?