Friendship Myths Busted!

 Friendships aren't always easy—they can be the source of a lot of stress, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings.

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Choices reveals the truth about four aspects of friendship among teens.

Who is the first person you call or text when something exciting happens? With whom do you most look forward to celebrating your birthday? What person do you lean on for support during tough times?

If you’re thinking about your closest friends, you’re not alone. For the majority of teens, friends are the most important people in their lives. But that doesn’t mean that friendships are always easy—they can be the source of a lot of stress, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings.

Choices has uncovered four friendship myths that many teens hold to be true. Are any of these affecting your relationships with your peers?

Myth 1: You Can Have Only One BFF

While some people rely on a single best friend for everything from going to the movies to studying for math tests, Duncan Fuchise has taken another route. Ever since middle school, he has avoided having just one best friend. Having many close friends is the way to go, says Duncan, who is now 17 and a senior at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon.

“If you have only one best friend, you’re just with one person all the time, and you don’t have different social interactions with different types of people,” Duncan tells Choices.

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at New York University and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend, says Duncan’s attitude is right-on.

“Having different groups of friends allows you the opportunities to understand more about yourself, provide you with new opportunities, and learn new things,” Levine says.

Myth 2: Cliques Rule the Day

High school is an exciting time for figuring out where your passions and talents lie. But should your interests determine your choice of friends?

Zach Goldberg, 17, a senior at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York, says that in high school, teens become more defined by their interests, such as sports, drama, fashion, or a certain type of music.

This isn’t always a bad thing. “I’ve made a lot of good friends because of the activities I do,” Zach says.

But there are downsides too. “There are people I was friends with who I don’t really talk to anymore—not because I don’t like them, but because we drifted apart,” he says.

Although it makes sense that many of your closest friends are people with whom you share common interests, it’s important not to let a clique choose your friends for you. “If there are friendships that you value, it’s important to maintain them,” Levine says. “No one should tell you whom you should be friends with. Keep your friendships—new and old—and who knows: Maybe your new friends will realize they too have things in common with your old friends.”

Myth 3: Fights = Friendship Fail

When somebody you trust hurts your feelings or betrays your confidence, it can seem like a slap in the face. Some people cope with this feeling by giving up on the friendship altogether or by nursing grudges that can last a lifetime.

“Holding grudges is a huge issue in middle school,” says Audrey Ziari, 13, an eighth-grader at Four Points Middle School in Austin, Texas.

But it turns out that grudges are most harmful to the people who hold them. “Research has shown us that if we don’t forgive, we are kept in a cycle of pain and revenge that can cause lasting harm to the brain,” says Pierre van der Spuy, M.D., author of A Happy Human Brain. “Holding a grudge can seem easier than forgiving, but it’s important to remember that people hurt others only because of their own inner pain, whether they are aware of it or not. When you forgive someone who has hurt you, you can go back to being yourself and put your friendship back on track,” he says.

Recently, Audrey put that advice to good use. “My friend and I got in a fight toward the end of seventh grade,” she says. “A few months passed, and then over the summer, I texted her to say I was sorry. We go to different schools now, but we’re friends again. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person.”

Myth 4: You Must Avoid Your Ex at All Costs

Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend is never easy, but it is part of life. Just because you’re no longer together as a couple, however, doesn’t mean you have to be enemies. “People think you can’t be friends after breaking up, but I think it really depends on why the breakup happened in the first place,” Duncan says.

“People tend to assume that people can’t be friends after they break up, and that actually makes it a lot harder,” Zach says. “I think the assumption comes from movies and TV, mostly. You feel that everyone else has the same belief, even though probably nobody else really thinks that way. They just think everyone else does.”

Levine agrees that remaining friends with an ex is tricky, but that it can be done. “Exes can remain friends if there are no longer romantic feelings on the part of either person,” she says. “However, it is important to maintain respect for one another. You don’t want to make your other friends uncomfortable. Being civil, courteous, and friendly is one thing, but being too close for comfort and hearing about the other’s personal life is another.”

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