two adult friends: the give and take in relationships

Adult Friendships: Happy Relationships Are About Give and Take

A few days ago, I listened to Glennon Doyle’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things. Her guest was Reese Witherspoon, and the topic was cultivating happy healthy adult friendships. Early in the conversation, Witherspoon compared the energy flow of friendship to “making deposits and withdrawals.” The underlying gist was that all relationships lie somewhere on the balance of giving and taking.

Doyle said that she chose Witherspoon to discuss this topic because she seems to be a person who has a lot of friends, a real ‘girl’s girl.’

I found the podcast to be entertaining and insightful. Witherspoon made a few points I wanted to share.

She started, very candidly, by saying that friendships are complicated. And as challenging as it can be to find lasting genuine friendships, it can be tricky, but necessary, to walk away from friendships that have run their course.

Witherspoon also touched on the art of introducing yourself to new people. And how a coach from her past taught there that there are three types of friends: those who lift you up, those who are neutral, and those who are draining and will try to bring you down.

Still, the topic that resonated the most with me was how all friendships involve making deposits and withdrawals. And, in a healthy relationship, there needs to be a balance of give and take. Relationships should feel good.

So, I think this topic goes beneath the surface. There’s a subtlety in the energy shared between friends that deserves a closer look.

So let’s look at making deposits or giving to the relationship.

Two adult women laughing and having fun

Here are my thoughts on giving and depositing to a friendship:

  • Witherspoon suggested the idea of calling out of the blue to see how a friend doing. Random check-ins are deposits that show you care.
  • Another deposit is thinking of your friend and sending them a thoughtful, meaningful text or a photo that made you think of her. Subtle, small gestures add up.
  • Showing up for your friend when they don’t necessarily expect it is another great idea. Bringing a coffee to her office or showing up to help her pack while she’s in the middle of a move.
  • Giving your full attention is a deposit. Placing your cell phone away, and focusing on your friend is key.
  • Then there are more energetic, subtle ways to make deposits in your friendships. One that I’m thinking of now is listening attentively.
  • Another idea is holding space for your friend. This can be even more critical because you’re mindfully supporting her if she needs help or is going through a difficult time.
  • A simple idea is just being genuinely interested in what’s happening in her life—asking about her kids, job, and family. It’s connecting with her directly and seeing how she’s doing amid so many moving parts.
  • Another example of making a deposit is introducing a friend to something new. This might include sharing something exciting happening in your life and including your friend to be a part of it.
  • Genuinely showing up for your friend, and letting her know how much she means to you is always a wonderful idea.

To me, deposits are all about giving of yourself: your time, attention, a thoughtful gesture, or an ear to listen. And if you’re sharing experiences and fun, you’re letting her in. That’s a loving, generous gesture.

Selfish woman who takes from relationship

Moving onto the withdrawals (taking) from a relationship:

Hey, so now let’s take a look at these:

  • One example might be demanding a lot of time and energy and not appreciating your friend’s limited time and her long list of responsibilities.
  • A typical withdrawal is asking for a favor. That’s what friends are for.
  • Then there’s the friend who needs to be the center of attention. She needs validation at all times and isn’t able to sit back and allow someone else to shine.
  • Another thing I noticed during the pandemic is the friend who wants to get their point across by trying to convince you of their political opinions. This is another form of withdrawing because she is looking for you as an audience to support her views.

Making withdrawals from your friendships isn’t necessarily bad. There’s a vulnerability in letting others in by needing your friends and sharing your needs with them.

With the right friend, you can feel comfortable withdrawing because you know that you also do your part in giving. That’s a real friend. It’s not one-sided. You both can give and receive in the friendship.

Two adult women laughing together.

Maybe it’s about the shared energy between two friends:

The conversation made me think about the idea that it’s not just two people in the friendship, but it’s the energy shared between them that matters the most. And it’s a question of whether that energy feels balanced. Is there a sense of support, respect, kindness, honesty, vulnerability, and a sense of fun and fulfillment shared between two friends?

Or is this a very off-balance friendship? Right now, life is so busy. Relationships, especially adult friendships, are about give and take. We can thrive with friends who “make deposits and withdrawals” in an energy-balancing manner.

How do you stand in terms of giving and taking in your friendships? Share in the comments below!

Also, please share this story with a friend you love.


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