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Couples Counseling Can Provide These 4 Unexpected Benefits

Couples Counseling Can Provide These 4 Unexpected Benefits

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, couples counseling may be the last thing on your mind. Regardless of your feelings towards this divisive holiday, there’s no denying that it celebrates all the rose-colored aspects of relationships. While romantic connections can be a source of joy, fulfillment and intimacy, they inevitably present many challenges and conflicts. 

When two people decide to build a relationship together, they’re each coming in with unique perspectives, values and core beliefs. You may have been brought up in an environment that is the total opposite of your partner’s upbringing. Bridging these gaps can be challenging and these differences are likely to lead to conflicts over time. It’s important to know that conflict is an inevitable aspect of any relationship and is not necessarily an indication of incompatibility. When managed in a healthy way, conflict can actually be beneficial for your relationship because it provides opportunity for growth. With the skills gained from couples counseling, you’ll be better able to manage these issues as a team.

It’s a common misconception that you should only go to couples therapy when your relationship is in trouble. On the contrary, couples who approach counseling proactively (rather than reactively) tend to have healthier relationships and a stronger bond. By attending therapy before the problems arise, you’ll be better able to deal with issues when they inevitably come to the surface. While couples counseling can’t prevent conflicts, it definitely enables you to develop your skills of conflict resolution, empathy and compassion. For this reason, premarital counseling is strongly recommended for recently engaged couples. 

Besides an improvement in conflict resolution, couples counseling can be beneficial for your relationship in many ways. Here are a few unexpected benefits to consider. 

Couples counseling can improve your finances

While infidelity may be the most common cause for divorce, financial issues are definitely a close second. Money is always a sensitive topic and can certainly add a lot of stress to a relationship. Quite often, people’s beliefs and attitudes towards money are very different to that of their partner’s. One person may be a big spender while the other is more miserly. Maybe you have differing attitudes towards things like joint accounts, acquiring debt, and investing. 

Then there is the issue of financial infidelity, which is when people lie to their partner about their finances. Examples include hiding purchases or debts, keeping secret accounts or making withdrawals without your partner’s knowledge or consent. 

Couples counseling is a great way to improve your communication around finances and come to a middle ground where both parties can thrive. Couples who attend counseling are less likely to fight about money and more likely to achieve financial goals as a team. 

Couples Counseling for Better Sex 

There’s no denying that a satisfying sex life is an important factor for many people in romantic relationships. It’s healthy and natural to desire fulfilling sex with your partner. Just like finances, sex can be a tricky topic for many couples for a variety of reasons. You may have different preferences, needs, kinks or fetishes from your partner or may be reluctant to communicate your sexual needs. It can be difficult to let your partner know that something isn’t working for you in the bedroom or that you’d like to try something new. With the demands of work and children, many couples find that they aren’t able to have as much sex as they’d like, which can ultimately cause you to feel distanced from your partner. 

A couples therapist can provide a safe environment for you to communicate these issues with your partner with the ultimate aim of improving intimacy and satisfaction. 

Improved Co-Parenting

For partners who are coparenting, couples therapy can be an incredibly rewarding experience. As with money and sex, couples may also have major differences when it comes to parenting. We’re all influenced by our own childhood upbringing, core beliefs and value systems and these will all be reflected in the way we approach parenting. Parenting styles play a significant role in raising healthy, happy children and it’s important for couples to get on the same page. This is important for both first-time parents and parents who will be forming blended families. 

By attending couples therapy together, you have the opportunity to discuss disagreements and differences of opinion as it relates to the children. By coming to a compromise, you’ll be better able to work as coparenting team. As a result, parenting is a more fulfilling experience and your children are able to reap the benefits well into their own adulthood. 

Exploring Alternative Relationship Dynamics

In 2022, we know that there are many ways to exist in a relationship. Partnership is not one-size-fits-all and we all have the ability to find the relationship dynamic that best suits us. For those who wish to explore alternative relationship dynamics such as polyamory, open relationships or other forms of non-monogamy, couples therapy provides a safe and healthy space for discussion. 

At Flourish Psychology we know that each couple is unique and has a different story. We explore your relationship with you to enhance understanding of each other and to improve communication. We help you gain perspective to increase your awareness and understanding of your partner. 

Being in a relationship doesn’t have to be hard all of the time. If you are worried about the strength of your relationship or the future of the partnership we can help support you to explore your concerns.

At Flourish, we affirm all couples – gay, straight, poly, trans, open, gender expansive, single, married, dating, friends, blended, and parents in relationships. Contact us today to schedule your first session.

The pros of Being Single on Valentine’s Day

The pros of Being Single on Valentine’s Day

As January turns to February, you’re probably seeing red hearts, flowers and chocolates everywhere. For people who are unhappily single on Valentine’s Day, this time of year can be especially triggering. People who have recently experienced a breakup or divorce may also find this time to be challenging. Watching friends and coworkers receive flowers and chocolates can really sting when you haven’t been having much luck on the dating scene. These days, social media has upped the ante with extravagant displays of gifts and orchestrated marriage proposals. 

We live in a society that places great pressure on us to be partnered. We are constantly being shown imagery of happy couples and marriage is heralded as a necessary part of adulthood. For many, “finding the one” is on par with finding a fulfilling career or achieving financial stability. You may feel pressure from your family members or friends who ask inappropriate questions about your personal life.

Women are often more affected by this pressure than their male counterparts. Unmarried women are subject to societal expectations of marriage and, ultimately, babies. Childless, unmarried women beyond a certain age are especially susceptible to the demands of friends, parents and society in general. The expectation of “settling down” with a mate can leave women feeling dejected, unworthy and hopeless. For cisgender women who wish to carry a child, considerations such as fertility and the biological clock are at the forefront of the mind. 

What if we changed our views on singledom? By reframing your single status as a symbol of independence and autonomy, you can detach from those societal expectations and pressures. Being single is your time to be selfish. It’s the time to focus on your goals and to develop a deeper understanding of what you truly want out of life. Here are a few ways to make the most being single on Valentine’s Day. 

Single on Valentines Day? Self Love is the Best Love 

Being single on Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to practice self love. Spending quality time with yourself helps to improve both self-awareness and self-esteem. If you like to journal, consider writing about your best traits and triumphs. Solo activities such as visiting a museum or participating in a hobby are fulfilling aspects of your self love journal. 

Use Valentine’s Day to take extra care of yourself. Have you been neglecting self-care activities like feeding your body healthy foods, exercising and keeping up with hygiene tasks? Let the day be a reminder that you are worthy of being well taken care of. Take a nice, long shower or bath and spend some time refreshing your living space. Cook yourself a nourishing meal or visit your favorite restaurant. Move your body by taking a scenic walk or doing some stretching. 

If you like to engage in self-pleasure, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge. Masturbation is a healthyhttps://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18581/10-reasons-to-make-masturbation-part-of-your-wellness-routine.html and fun way of exploring your body and making yourself feel good. The practice has many benefits such as stress relief, more restful sleep and an improvement in your body image and self esteem. 

Spend Time with Friends and Loved Ones

The importance of community can’t be overstated. As humans, we need connections with others to foster a sense of belonging. Make the effort to spend quality time with loved ones and platonic friends. Quite often, we’re led to believe that romantic relationships should be our top priority. The truth is that we need a variety of fulfilling relationships and we may achieve that sense of belonging in many ways. Nurture your friendships and make the effort to deepen your connections with the people who are important to you. 

If you’re a pet owner, go ahead and show some extra love to your  fur baby. Pet ownership offers many benefits such as companionship, anxiety reduction and increased levels of empathy. Research shows that petting or cuddling with a dog causes a significant reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol. Dog ownership is even linked to lower blood pressure and improved cognitive function. 

Find the Positives in Being Single on Valentines Day 

The benefits of gratitude include improved emotional regulation and decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout. There are many reasons to be grateful for your single status. Being single affords you the freedom and flexibility to do as you please without having to consider someone else’s needs. Being single provides an opportunity to gain a high level of self-awareness, which can bring you closer to living your very best life. Time alone can help you to identify your priorities, as well as the characteristics of the partner and life that you want. 

It’s important to remember that relationships come with their fairy share of problems. It takes real effort to make a relationship work and romantic relationships have a significant impact on your mental health. Coupled people have to consider the needs of their partner and may even have to compromise on their own needs to make their partner happy. Like being single, relationships come with highs and lows, so it’s important not to idealize coupledom. 

If you’ve been struggling with difficult emotions stemming from being single, you’re not alone. Many people are frustrated with their search for love, leading to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. It’s important to know that you are enough, just as you are. You don’t need a partner to validate your worthiness or to complete you. By developing a fulfilling relationship with yourself, you’re better able to be your best self for the people in your life. By adopting more self love, you’ll soon come to enjoy being single on Valentine’s Day.

The therapists at Flourish Psychology provide a safe space for you to discuss these difficult feelings. By working with a therapist, you can unlearn any negative beliefs regarding your single status, while detaching from the expectations of society. Contact us today to schedule your first session.

How Does a  Parenting Style Impact Us In Adulthood?

How Does a Parenting Style Impact Us In Adulthood?

Many psychologists believe that there are four main styles of parenting. Each style takes a different approach to childrearing and will affect children in different ways. Some styles of parenting are more likely to lead to low self-esteem, behavioral problems or poor social skills. On the other hand, a healthy parenting style results in a positive parent/child dynamic and more well-adjusted children.

Most people will tell you that they want to be better parents than the ones who raised them. Maybe your parents were too strict and you’ve vowed to give your kids more freedom and flexibility. If your parents failed to provide sufficient structure and routine, it’s natural to want to go to the other end of the extreme with your own kids. Many parents struggle with finding the balance between establishing themselves as an authority figure and giving their children the space to be inquisitive, explore and grow.

Understanding parenting styles can help you to contextualize your childhood and gain a better appreciation of how your parents’ influences may still be affecting you today. If you are a parent yourself (or intend to be), this information can help you to create healthier and more fulfilling relationships with your children. 

What are parenting styles? 

Clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind theorized that there is a direct correlation between types of parents style and the behavior of children. Parenting styles were put into four main categories, each with its own characteristics and ultimate effect on child development. The four categories (authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved and authoritative) were found to be an excellent indicator of child wellbeing, as well as a predictor of future success, happiness and stability. 

Parenting styles have been found to impact everything from self-esteem to physical health to academic performance. Adults who were raised by parents who adopted a healthy parenting style tend to have a more secure attachment style, while displaying better social skills and less likelihood of mental illness.

Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents differ from authoritative parents in their lack of consideration for the feelings and opinions of their children. These parents are commonly referred to as “strict” and usually hold the following views:

  • Children should be seen and not heard
  • Children should obey me because I say so
  • Children should not have too much fun

These parents demand absolute obedience from their children because they believe children should be subservient. They may set very restrictive or unreasonable rules and will implement strict punishments for any indiscretions. A no-nonsense approach often accompanies this parenting style, with lilt patience for silliness or fun. 

Though authoritarian parents may intend the best for their children, research shows that there are many drawbacks to this style of parenting. Children of authoritarians generally have an unhappy disposition and are susceptible to clinical depression and anxiety. They may display poor coping skills and may continue to be subservient in adulthood since they were discouraged from asserting independence as children.

Permissive Parenting Style

People using the permissive parenting style are likely to take on more of a friend role than that of a parent. They do not implement enough (or any) structure or discipline and tend to overlook behavioral problems. Due to consistent leniency, permissive parents do not establish themselves as an authority figure and may not gain the respect of their children. 

Children of permissive or indulgent parents are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems and to lack regard for rules and authority in general. They are at a higher risk for developing health problems such as diabetes or obesity because permissive parents do not adequately limit intake of junk food and candy. They are also more likely to have dental cavities or poor oral health because the parent does not enforce good habits and routines. 

Uninvolved Parenting Style

The uninvolved or neglectful parent doesn’t devote sufficient (or any) time to meeting the child’s needs. This can be as extreme as neglecting to provide food or clothing, but is more often a failure to meet emotional needs or to have a consistent presence. They are also largely uninvolved in the daily lives of their children and are unlikely to help with homework or support extracurricular activities. Uninvolved parents may often be unaware of their child’s whereabouts and do not know their children’s friends or teachers. Quite often, children of neglectful/uninvolved parents are left to raise themselves. 

Parents may be uninvolved for a number of reasons, including a demanding job, financial stresses, mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Children of uninvolved parents often struggle with self-esteem issues and are more likely to get caught up in a bad crowd, to try drugs or to experience teenage parenthood. As adults, they often find it difficult to hold steady employment, find healthy relationships or find financial stability. 

Authoritative Parenting Style

The authoritative parenting style is the healthiest style to adopt, as it strikes a balance between compassion and laying down the law. Authoritative parents put a lot of effort into maintaining a positive relationship with their children while providing a structure and discipline. They take care to validate their children’s feelings and take their opinions into consideration. The authoritative parent practices positive discipline by parising good behavior and implementing reward systems.

Research has shown that adult children of authoritative parents are most likely to be well-adjusted, responsible, happy and successful.

Even if you aren’t a parent yourself, this information can be incredibly insightful for those trying to contextualize their own childhood. By working with a therapist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) you can gain a deeper understanding of parenting styles and how they may be influencing your life as an adult. This can be excellent for processing childhood trauma or unlearning any negative core beliefs, habits and mindsets that were projected onto you as a child. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

Mental Health Resolutions to Make for 2022

Mental Health Resolutions to Make for 2022

The start of a new year brings the feeling of a blank slate and endless possibilities. As 2021 comes to a close, many of us are reflecting on the challenges and triumphs faced throughout the last twelve months. During the last week of the year, you’re likely giving lots of thought to your plans, goals and resolutions for 2022. While the most common resolutions tend to be in the realms of fitness, finances and career advancement, might we suggest turning your attention to your mental health?

If the last two years are anything to go by, it’s more important than ever to prioritize self-care, healthy boundaries and emotional wellbeing. Here are a few simple ways that you can improve your mental health in 2022 and beyond. 

Develop an Attitude of Gratitude 

You may have heard this one several times before, but it still bears repeating. Expressing gratitude is one of the simplest and most effective ways that you can instantly lift your mood and feel a sense of contentment. When you’re in a state of gratitude, you’re less likely to dwell on negative emotions such as resentment or regret. Over the long term, gratitude has been linked to decreased stress levels and improved psychological health.

How can you practice gratitude in your daily life? It can be as simple as writing a list of three things you’re grateful for each morning soon after you wake up. This can be done in the notes app on your phone or in a  dedicated gratitude journal or notebook. Throughout the day, look out for small things to be grateful for and make a mental note of them when they happen. If you found a parking spot in a crowded lot, take a few seconds to appreciate your luck before you exit your car. Gratitude also helps to enhance our relationships. Be sure to let your loved ones know how thankful you are for their support and presence in your life. 

Begin a Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Meditation has been a huge wellness trend for the last few years. This ancient practice goes back to at least 1500 BCE, but is still incredibly beneficial for our fast-paced modern lives. As meditation continues to grow in popularity, it’s also become incredibly accessible. These days, there’s no shortage of apps, videos and online courses to support you on your meditation journey. 

Mindfulness meditation is a special type of meditation that trains you to slow down and detach from racing or negative thoughts. With regular practice, mindfulness has been shown to decrease stress, foster a more positive mindset and even improve your quality of sleep. To practice this kind of meditation, get comfortable in a quiet space where you’re not likely to be disturbed. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Notice how the breath interacts with the body – the rise and fall of the belly, and the feeling of air entering and leaving your nostrils. If it helps, you can keep focused by counting your breaths. It’s normal to get distracted; just bring your attention back to your breathing. Try doing this for fifteen minutes each day to experience the full benefits of this practice.

Sounds intimidating? Even five minutes of quiet time each day can have surprising benefits. You can also try practicing mindfulness all throughout the day as you engage with the world around you. Instead of absentmindedly scrolling on your phone while you eat lunch, try taking the time to eat mindfully. Slow down, pay attention and really enjoy the taste, smell and texture of your food. When taking a walk, make the effort to be truly aware of your surroundings, including the little things like the breeze on your face and the crunching sound of leaves under your feet. Living in the present moment means you’re spending less time ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. 

Don’t Neglect Your Physical Health 

Even though this is a list of mental health resolutions, your physical health has such a huge role to play. The three key areas to prioritize are sleep, nutrition and movement. By improving these aspects of your physical health, you’ll also notice improvements in your overall emotional wellbeing. 

In 2022, make the effort to develop a consistent bedtime routine to foster healthier sleep hygiene. Go to bed at around the same time each night and ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and set to a comfortable temperature. Commit to reducing nighttime device usage in favour of more calming activities such as reading, journaling or gentle stretching. Lack of sleep or poor sleep hygiene has been linked to worsening symptoms of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. By getting proper sleep, you’re laying a solid foundation for improving your mental health. 

Exercise is another well-researched contributor to good mental health. Moving your body not only releases feel-good hormones like endorphins, but can also fill you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Consider new and enjoyable ways that you can move your body in 2022. If you’re tired of the old gym routine, why not switch things up by trying out a new sport or taking up a dance class? The key is to find an activity that you genuinely enjoy, so that daily exercise feels like a natural part of your day. 

What about nutrition and your mental health? Just like all your other organs, your brain is affected by the food you eat. Diets high in refined sugar and processed foods have been known to cause a worsening of symptoms for many mental illnesses, including depression. On the other hand, healthy foods like salmon, avocados and whole grains are known to support brain function and can even help reduce dementia in older adults. 

Monitor Your Social Media Usage

We’ve written about the connection between social media and mental health in a previous blog post. While we may not yet have information on the long-term effects of constant social media use, we do have quite a bit of research on the shorter-term impacts. Many recent studies have explored the psychological impact of increased exposure to social media platforms and how this can contribute to depression, anxiety, self-harm and disordered eating. 

Although platforms like Instagram and TikTok can provide hours of entertainment and allow us to keep in  touch with friends and family, they can also encourage a few unhealthy habits. Comparing yourself to the highlight reels of your favorite influencers can lead to low self-esteem and FOMO, while endless scrolling makes it easy to fall into the procrastination trap. As 2022 approaches, do a digital detox by unfollowing accounts that make you feel unhappy or inadequate. Adjust your settings to eliminate anxiety-inducing notifications and disconnect from the 24-hour news cycle. Consider replacing social media scrolling time with other apps such as 

Set and Enforce Boundaries

Boundaries are a necessary component for maintaining fulfilling relationships and safeguarding your mental health. Simply put, a boundary is a limit or a rule that defines how other people are able to access and interact with you. It’s up to you to determine your boundaries and they may differ from relationship to relationship. For example, you may be uncomfortable with friends showing up unannounced to your home, while your romantic partner has a spare key to let themselves in as they wish. You deserve to feel comfortable and respected within all your relationships. Consider all your connections (work, familial, platonic, romantic, etc.) and determine whether any adjustments need to be made in terms of boundaries.

In addition to these healthy habits, working with a therapist is one of the biggest and most impactful steps you can take towards improving your mental health. Therapy can also equip you with the tools needed to improve your self-esteem, foster healthier relationships and achieve your career goals. At Flourish Psychology, our clinicians are trained in number of treatment modalities to address your specific concerns. Contact us today to get in touch with our intake coordinator or to schedule your first session.  

How To Cope With Family Estrangement During The Holidays

How To Cope With Family Estrangement During The Holidays

Estrangement describes a situation when someone makes deliberate efforts to distance themselves from or cut ties with a family member. Sometimes, people choose to be estranged from their entire family of origin, and other times, the estrangement is limited to a certain person or group of persons. If you are currently estranged from family members (or considering it), you’re not alone. Research suggests that over a quarter of adults experience estrangement, whether initiated by them or by other family members. That’s over 70 million Americans. 

This is not the same as losing touch with family. Estrangement is a voluntary and deliberate decision. Sometimes, a sudden major event may trigger a decision to cut ties. More often, it is a process of gradually distancing yourself more and more over time as the relationship becomes increasingly strained. Many report that “the last straw” often happened after years of back and forth, or following several attempts at salvaging the relationship.

With the holiday season in full swing (and with the world opening back up), many people are looking forward to spending time with family, creating memories, and continuing traditions. But for those with difficult or strained familial relationships, this time of year can be extremely triggering and a great source of anxiety and pain. Depending on the circumstances of the estrangement, the holidays can bring about feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, anger, or sadness. Estrangement is an incredibly difficult and complicated life experience. Be sure to practice self-care all year long and especially during triggering holidays or events. 

Common Causes of Estrangement

Estrangement is an intentional and voluntary decision There are countless factors that may lead someone to decide to cut ties with family members. For some people who were mistreated by family members in childhood, there is an immediate decision to cut ties upon reaching adulthood or a state of independence. Parental maltreatment is one of the most common reasons for estrangement. This can include physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, or a failure to respect boundaries. In other instances, people may slowly come to a realization that their parent or family member is detrimental to their wellbeing and decide to distance themselves. It’s also common to come to a realization that the family member will never be able to meet your needs or to fulfill the role that you need them to play in your life. 

Many members of the LGBTQ community have cut ties with their families of origin in favor of chosen families. Others have been estranged due to disownment by homophobic or transphobic relatives. People may choose to cut ties due to a difference in value systems, or a family member’s refusal to accept aspects of a person’s identity or their lifestyle choices. Regardless of the factors influencing your decision to reduce contact with family members, your feelings are valid and it’s incredibly brave of you to make such a difficult decision for your wellbeing. 

Impact of Estrangement on Mental Health

Estrangement is often a painful and difficult experience that can affect your mental health in many ways. You may feel a lot of anxiety surrounding your decision and this anxiety may be triggered by certain events, such as holidays. You may feel guilty or regretful about your decision, which can cause chronic stress over time. Many people carry the heavy emotional weight that comes with estrangement without realizing the impact it may be having on them. 

Estrangement activates the grief response in many people, even if they were the ones to sever ties. Though you may believe that you made the right decision, you may still be mourning the loss of the relationship. This loss can be just as psychologically devastating as losing a romantic partner or experiencing the death of a loved one. For those on the receiving end of estrangement, there may be strong feelings of guilt, rejection, and loneliness. 

Coping with Family Estrangement During the Holidays

If you’re dealing with this issue, the holiday season can be an especially difficult or traumatizing time. This time of year can bring back emotions that may previously have been dormant, or bring up feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s especially important to practice self-care and self-compassion if you’re feeling triggered. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel your feelings. You are entitled to your anger and sadness. If you’re feeling regret, guilt, or loneliness, remind yourself that these are normal and expected emotions to have at a time like this. Try not to judge yourself (such as saying “I should be over this by now” or “It’s so pathetic that I’m crying about this) or to avoid your emotions. Feel them. Sit with them. Remember that they won’t stick around forever. Now is a good time to try journaling about what you’re feeling, or verbalizing your feelings aloud to yourself. If it helps, you can even try writing (but not sending) a letter to your estranged family member. By not bottling up your emotions, you’re better able to manage them and even learn from them.

Ahead of time, identify healthy and reliable coping mechanisms that you can use when you’re feeling triggered. Examples include going for a quick walk to clear your head or calling a trusted friend to talk. Make a playlist of songs that will provide comfort or improve your mood. Taking a shower is a relaxing distraction for many people during times of intense emotions. You can also try engaging in a creative hobby such as coloring, doodling to creating digital art. Other healthy coping mechanisms include taking care of tasks such as cleaning or gardening. Consider purposeful, relaxing, or entertaining activities that you can engage in during difficult moments. 

How can you seek out connection and companionship this holiday season? Can you create new memories with friends, partners, or your chosen family? When your familial relationships are strained, it’s important to develop fulfilling and meaningful relationships outside of your family. Many members of the queer community have embraced a chosen family, as seen in media like Paris is Burning and Pose. Non-LGBTQ people may also develop chosen families due to difficult relationships with members of their families of origin. Consider the people in your life who can provide you with support and solidarity.

Estrangement can be incredibly traumatic and difficult to deal with on your own. Working with a therapist is an empowering and effective way to process the difficult emotions that arise due to estrangement. If there is a desire for reconciliation, a relationship therapist can be an invaluable third party helping to bridge the gap. If there is no desire for reconciliation, working alone with a therapist can help you to find the closure you seek. 

The therapists at Flourish Psychology are qualified and trained in a variety of treatment modalities that can help you process this difficult situation. Schedule your first session to begin your journey towards healing. 

6 Green Flags for Healthy and Happy Friendships

6 Green Flags for Healthy and Happy Friendships

Strong and healthy friendships are an important aspect of overall emotional and social wellbeing. Through friendships, we are able to receive and give support, love and companionship, which often leads to a feeling of general contentment and improved self-esteem. Research indicates that healthy friendships can positively impact our physical health, possibly leading to a longer life span and the ability to recover more quickly from illnesses. 

Last month, we looked at unhealthy friendships and outlined some of the factors that can contribute to a toxic platonic relationship. In this post, we’ll be discussing a few of the hallmarks of healthy friendships. 

1. Reciprocity for healthy friendships 

Reciprocity simply means that the friendship is mutually beneficial and that both parties are putting similar effort into the relationship. Friendships should not be one-sided and nobody should feel like their energy isn’t being matched. Reciprocity shows up several forms and the lack of it can be felt in many different ways. At the most basic level, it means feeling confident that the person you consider a friend also considers you to be a friend. Emotional reciprocity means that both parties are able to be vulnerable with each other and provide mutual emotional support. 

When it comes to reciprocity, it’s important to remember that it’s not always cut and dry. For example, a friend who is going through an especially difficult time may not be able to support you. In those circumstances, you may need to go above and beyond for them. When the roles are reversed, you should be able to expect them to do the same. 

2. Support

Support is a key component in friendships and the lack of it often leads to a breakdown of the relationship. We all need solid and reliable support systems and our friendships should form part of that entire system. 

Support can come in many forms. Sometimes, it’s a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on when times are hard. Sometimes, it’s making the effort to celebrate a friend’s success when things are going well. In other instances, more practical support (such as providing advice or resources) is needed. It may be necessary to ask your friend what kind of support they need right now. If you are the one in need of support, it’s always a good idea to communicate with your friends, to better enable them to meet those needs. 

In healthy friendships, you should be both giving and receiving support, which ties into the reciprocity that was mentioned earlier. 

3. Trust

Most relationships (romantic, platonic, business, etc.) rely heavily on trust. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability and honesty of your friend. You feel a sense of confidence and comfort, knowing that you can rely on them and that you can believe in the things that they say and do. Trust is usually gained very slowly over time and can be difficult to repair once it’s broken. 

What makes a trustworthy friend? This is someone who keeps their promises, leaving you with a feeling of confidence that they will do what they say they are going to do. They also keep your secrets, so you can feel assured that private conversations will stay between the two of you. A trustworthy friend will not speak about you behind your back, tell lies to you or about you, or try to manipulate you. Trustworthiness means that they are able to hold themselves accountable when they mess up, and make genuine efforts to repair your trust after any indiscretions. 

Your friend should also be able to trust you and should not make unfair accusations against you. 

4. Honesty

Trust and honesty are two sides of the same coin. While trust describes the emotion of feeling confident or believing in someone, honesty describes the actions that, over time, lead to this confidence. Honesty is a track record of making a conscious effort to tell the truth, to be forthcoming, and to keep promises. Honesty often requires difficult or uncomfortable conversations, as well as a high level of integrity, vulnerability and accountability. 

Honesty goes far beyond simply telling the truth when it is asked of you. Sometimes it means coming forward even though your friend would have been none the wiser had you kept quiet. Honesty is being able to tell your friend when they have offended you, instead of avoiding confrontation and allowing the issue to fester. 

If we are to expect others to be trustworthy, we also need to be trustworthy. This means that we have to be honest with ourselves and with our friends. 

5. Respect

No friendship can be truly healthy without mutual respect. When two people respect each other, they both feel safe to be themselves around the other person without fear of judgment. Though you may not always agree or get along, an underlying and genuine mutual respect will allow friends to resolve disputes without insults. Friends should respect each other’s time, beliefs and choices. Where there is respect, there is proper regard for the needs, feelings and wishes of others. A respectful friend will never cause you to feel embarrassed for simply being yourself. They genuinely admire you and believe in your strengths and abilities. 

Respect should also be shown for any boundaries that are set, as discussed below. 

6. Boundaries in Healthy Friendships

A good friendship involves both parties setting healthy boundaries, while respecting the boundaries of the other person. You should be able to set a reasonable limitation of your friendship without unfair backlash from your friend. In the same way, when a friend sets a boundary, you need to respect it.

Boundaries can take many forms and it’s up to you to determine how much you are willing or able to give and receive in a relationship. For example, it is your responsibility to let your friend know that certain topics of conversation make you uncomfortable and it is your friend’s responsibility to be mindful of the things that they say to you. 

A healthy friendship can be difficult to nurture and maintain. It requires two people who are working on themselves on an individual level. Working with a therapist is an excellent starting point for improving your relationships. By becoming the best version of yourself, you will be better able to show up in your friendships and better able to identify and eliminate unhealthy connections. 

The therapists at Flourish Psychology are here to help you as you seek to foster healthier, happier connections in your life. Contact us today to schedule your first session.