Healthy Friendships Among Young People

With the exception of strong family relationships, the most important building block for healthy dating and committed relationships are the patterns that are developed in early friendships.  When we establish supportive, healthy interactions with our friends of both genders, we are laying the groundwork for how we expect to be treated and how we expect to treat others for whom we care and are close.

What are the signs of a healthy friendship?

  • We both like each other similarly.
  • We share common interests and experiences together.
  • My friend has other friends.
  • My friend welcomes new friends to spend time with us.
  • My friend treats other people with dignity and respect.
  • I can count on my friend keep his or her word.
  • My friend stands up for me.
  • My friend is there for me in good times and bad.
  • My friend encourages me to do the right thing.
  • My friend tells the truth.
  • My friend has my best interests at heart.

Truly healthy relationships have most, if not all of the characteristics listed above.  If your friendship does not have these qualities, check the section below for the characteristics of an unhealthy friendship.


What are the signs of an unhealthy friendship?

  • Does my friend sometimes try to hurt me emotionally?
  • Does my friend make unrealistic demands on my time?
  • Does my friend try to control me?
  • Do I spend time worrying about this person or my relationship?
  • Does my friend tell me who to spend time with?
  • Does it seem like my friend takes more than s/he gives?
  • Does my friend ever threaten or intimidate me?
  • Does my friend ever give me a gift and expect something in return?
  • Does my friend sometimes talk behind my back?
  • Does my friend want me to do things that will get me in trouble?
  • Do I feel guilty or afraid when I spend time with my friend?


If you have checked two of the boxes, this relationship has the potential to be unhealthy.  If you have checked three or more boxes, the relationship has characteristics of a destructive, controlling or unhealthy relationship.

Even when a young person recognizes that he or she has become involved in an unhealthy or controlling friendship, it is sometimes easy to think it is not important to deal with the problem.  The trouble is that from unhealthy friendships, we can begin to set patterns that have implications for future friendships, dating relationships and long-term commitments. One option is to encourage the friend to change.  Sometimes that works, but when it does not work, it is vital to realize that by accepting the unhealthy pattern, we are not doing the friend any favors.  In fact, when we stay in an unhealthy relationship, we are actually encouraging our friend to continue his or her own negative pattern or behavior.