Creating Healthy Boundaries With Friends

November 2, 2021

College is a really exciting time for many reasons. Living on your own, new experiences, an unfamiliar place, and of course, new friends! Up until now, it is most likely that your family has heavily influenced who your friends are. In college, you have a lot more personal freedom with the connections that you make. Check out these tips to help you maintain happy and healthy relationships.

Friendships: Quality Over Quantity

It is healthy for humans to socialize with one another; we are social beings by nature. However, you don't need to have a ton of friends! A good rule of thumb here is quality over quantity. Choosing to spend time with the people you love who love you back will prevent you from trying to maintain toxic friendships.

Dunbar's Number

One of the exciting things about college is the new knowledge you will gain. For example, have you ever heard of Dunbar's number? Don't worry, I hadn't either until I started writing this post. In the 90's, a British anthropologist and researcher named Robin Dunbar determined a finite number of social relationships that humans are able to maintain. He came up with an estimate: humans are able to maintain about 150 social relationships. That may sound like a lot, however, he discovered that there were layers within these connections. Studies show that the closest "emotional layer" (the relationships that hold the most meaning and connection) only consist of 5 people!

Reflection is Key

Once you have established your friendships, your inner circle especially, it is crucial for you to reflect on them from time to time. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • How do I feel when I am around them?
  • What kind of energy do they bring into my life?
  • Are they there for me when I need them?
  • Am I there for them when they need me?

Boundary Conversation Starters

If the answer is no, or you are finding that they bring negative energy into your life on a consistent basis, don't panic! You don't have to part ways with them immediately, in fact, in some cases, you won't need to at all. Sometimes the solution lies in a simple conversation, more specifically, a conversation about setting healthy boundaries. Here are some examples of boundaries you can set with your friend(s):

  • I'm sorry, I can't hang out tonight because I really need to study for this exam. Can we reschedule for a different time?
  • Hey, I am really going through a rough time right now. I am not ready to talk about it just yet, and I need some space to process what is going on. Can we talk about it when I am ready?
  • I feel like the amount of time and effort you have put into our friendship is not reciprocated as I would like it to be. Can we come up with ways to fix this?
  • I am not comfortable sharing that with you.
  • I appreciate and value your opinion on [  ], but I need to be able to make my own decisions and mistakes.
  • Say no!

As you go through life, you'll continue to rely on your interests and intuition when cultivating and maintaining relationships. You'll also find that reflecting on them from time to time and setting boundaries when needed are great ways to keep them healthy and strong.