Friendship is an interesting thing. It has caused me lots and lots of grief and even more joy! My purpose in writing this is to share a few things I have learned over the years that have really and truly diminished the level of stress I have in my life as a result of friendships.
Here are 10 thoughts on friendships in general (and this could be equally applicable to romantic relationships). Don’t you love how I set myself up as the expert? I’m not. These are just my thoughts. Feel free to add your own, disagree with mine, or say anything else in the comments.
- Choose your friends. If you don’t like how someone is treating you, if you don’t like that a person never meets your expectations, if you have any kind of problem (beyond the minor irritation) with a friend, you may want to evaluate the situation and make a choice. You can decide to a) reign in your expectations and be okay with how your friend is or b) not be friends with that person. But own your decision…especially if you choose option A.
- If you can feel yourself being phased out (technical term meaning that someone is trying to “dump” you as a full-time friend), just let it happen. This is especially true in dating, but I think just as applicable in the Land of Platonic Relationships. Why on earth would I want to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with me? There’s no need for a DTR…ever. All that does is make things awkward and hurt feelings on multiple levels. Having been both the phaser and the phased, I know both sides well.
- Side note #1: If all of your friends in every aspect of your life are phasing you out, or if this is a regular occurrence, you may want to do a good self-evaluation because chances are, there’s probably something you are doing that is causing this regular exodus. If, after a thorough self-evaluation, you don’t see anything that might need adjusting in your behavior, just accept that you are a very particular shade of chartreuse that a selected few can handle, but when those selected few come along, you will have friends for life!
- Side note #2: Should you be the phaser, you might be tempted to share your feelings about why you don’t want to be friends with/date that person anymore. Or the person might ask why. DON’T DO IT! DON’T GIVE IN! I’m not saying to lie. Lying never works (even if you are trying to spare someone’s feelings). Just share your feelings, not thoughts, not observations, not advice; just feelings. Here’s the thing. You may not want to be friends with that person, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be 10 other people out there who like your ex-whatever exactly the way she is. If it is the case that no one wants to be friends with her, it is her responsibility to figure out who she wants to be and with whom she wants to be friends. And words NEVER GO AWAY!
- Friendships will evolve. Life moves forward. I have great friends from high school. These girls were, and are, very important to me. But our lives went in different directions and our friendships changed. I have recently caught up with a number of them, through blogging mainly, and it has been fantastic. I still adore them. But…it is different and there’s nothing wrong with that. This includes when a friend starts to date someone. She still likes you, she is just really, really excited about a particular guy and that’s all she can see. Let her be excited. Let her love it and enjoy it without making extra stress for her. Eventually, things settle. They get married or they break up. If she’s a friend, she will still need you either way. Don’t make her feel like she can’t turn to you.
- If you are lonely and think that people don’t like you and don’t want to be friends with you, you might be right. Harsh? Perhaps. I prefer honest. On this one, I speak from personal experience. I have been that girl with whom no one really wanted to be friends. I felt sorry for myself. I tried way, way, way too hard and all for naught. When I finally decided that I was going to be happy and enjoy my life anyway, I suddenly had friends…through no “friend making” efforts of my own. Be the friend you want others to be to you and you will naturally attract those people (unless you are ingratiating or a doormat…then you will attract the wrong kinds of friends).
- No one wants to be a “pity” friend. Be genuine. If you find yourself inviting someone along because you feel sorry for him, trust me, he can tell. I don’t know what the best solution is on this one. I think a case-by-case assessment is always needed.
- Be wary of misunderstandings. Don’t assume that a friend is mad at you when she doesn’t return one phone call, unless you’ve done something that merits “upsetedness”. Life is busy! Wait a while. Try a second one. And then, depending on the history, don’t worry about it. She will call you eventually or she won’t.
- Just because you get along with someone does not mean that you will like all of the same things. Now, some of you are thinking, “well, duh.” But trust me, I had a hard time learning this lesson.
- Along with #7, just because you have known someone for years and years, don’t assume that you know him better than he knows himself and don’t assume that he won’t change from time to time. This is both limiting and irritating! However, there are times when a drastic change occurs and you may be concerned. As a good friend, do you butt in or let him flounder? My vote: voice your concerns, offer help, then let your friend come to you. Don’t force it.
- Do not assume that, because you enjoy all of your groups of friends, it’s a good idea to mix them. Even for those of us who aren’t friends with everyone, we do have various circles. Sometimes mixing works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Just be aware.
- Be kind. No matter what. Yes, those of you who know me realize this is not always one of my strengths…but I’m working on it.
And now, for my particular shade of friendship: I am not a person that is friends with everyone. I like people, and I enjoy being social, but I also like my little close-knit circle of friends. I don’t think everyone needs to be like me. I have a dear friend in Arizona who is friends with almost everyone she knows and she does a great job of it. It’s her passion! What is hard for me is when those people (the kind that want to be friends with everyone), want me to be friends with everyone. For whatever reason, this really, really irritates me…when it is a forced issue.
So, here are some things that I would ask all of you “I want to be friends with and include everyone” types to consider.
- Just because I enjoy spending time with you, does not necessarily mean I will enjoy spending time with all of your other friends. Statements like, “Oh, you have to meet Katie. You are going to love her!” really bug me. A) I don’t have to do anything but die. B) How on earth do you know that I am going to love her?
- Not everyone is going to want to be friends with you and that’s okay. If you make an effort with someone and you are annoyed that the person is not reciprocating, you may just want to move on.
- When we (those of us who limit our friendships more) don’t want to be “good friends” with somebody, it’s not usually because we don’t like the person. We just are not as good at maintaining friendships with lots and lots of people, so we make choices.
I promise, I’m nice. Really. I am.
Note: These are not foolproof rules. There are exceptions to every one of them. Please drink responsibly.
hey ,liked your post.the stuff you wrote about friendship…struck a chord with me….i too like to be with friends who truly are my friends…and don’t make friends for the heck of it.People tend to move away from me for I don’t have too many friends.but I know that the ones I have are my true friends.
Lucy, you aren’t the only one. I have taken the cop-out letter writing route in the past and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad way to go, provided you follow a few steps. In fact, I think this might be worth an entire post. Stay tuned.And another post on the beauty of hurting someone’s feelings (I know that sounds awful and cruel, but I can think of times when my feelings have been hurt that have been pivotal in my life…as painful as those times were, I would not change the lessons learned.)
Wow…you are a professional! This is great stuff. I just checked out a book called Boundaries, because I am having a hard time with someone in particular. I am really, really bad about verbally expressing myself (not so much with the written word..but that seems like a cop out, and kind of jr. highish to send a letter to a friend) but I need to alter somethings about this particular relationship. If only feelings weren’t involved. Of course, it makes logical sense for me to let her know how I am feeling, but I know it will hurt her feelings. I need to suck it up and let her be a big girl, bit it is hard for me to be responsible for someone feeling bad.
it seems you have really hit a commonality among women (and maybe men) here. i think it’s important to note that we all really feel the same way and that we’re all in this together on some sort of level. that being said, i totally agree that life changes and so do friendships. i’ve tried so hard to “hang on” to what friendships were when it’s really important to understand that people are dynamic and that they change, and consequently so do your relationships. well done, chloe.
Robyn, it sounds like you did the best thing under those circumstances. And sometimes that’s all you can do. Oh, the beauty of the Mormon Gossip Chain. It’s incredible.
You are really good at this Chloe! I like what you said about my situation, but I really think this particular person was too immature to handle even that! I once told her (because I wanted her to realize that she had a really bad reputation and she needed to change her behavior) that many people had told me not to be friends with her. Seriously, like a dozen people ‘warned’ me about her once they knew she was calling me and trying to hang out with me. They said “oh, stay away from that one!” and stuff like that. I thought that if it were me, I would want to know that things like that were being said… Well, not such a good idea, no. It came up a few more times and I tried to just blow it off so that she wouldn’t go psycho about it. Well wouldn’t you know it but a few months later, I heard through the grapevine that she had told her friend in Sydney, who was the ex-wife of the brother of a girl I served with in Relief Society. So of course it had traveled across Australia and back! So in the end, I just avoided making plans with her and said I was ‘busy’ whenever she wanted to do something. I took the easy way out, I guess.
this is an awesome post- i love your honesty. 🙂 i’m going to utilize your advice. 🙂
I don’t stop by too often (being the non-commital sort of new friend type), but it’s always a joy to visit your blog. I so enjoy your humor & style (and correct usage of “whom”, of course).
c’est très précis!! tu écrirais un livre 😀 la dernière phrase est mon favori, haha
Hannah…This is one of the toughest situations there is (after in-laws). Having been, at one point, the one people wanted out, it sometimes takes a while to get the hint. And, you don’t want to just directly say, “We’d prefer not to have you around” for obvious reasons. I think my approach would be to just start being very candid in conversations. When she says something that makes you crazy, just speak up. Disagree with her. Contradict her. Use this carefully, and be genuine. Do not contradict her or disagree with her just because.I think it’s also perfectly appropriate to point out bad behavior. I have been “that” friend. I remember one of my “friends” saying to me, “You know, when you say things like that, it makes me not want to be your friend.”This will go one of two ways. In my case, I thought, “Wow, I do not want people to perceive me like that because that is not how I feel at all.” And I changed my behavior and remain friends with that person and am still grateful to this day for her honesty.The other result…she will hate you, think you are a big b@#$!, and never talk to you again (maybe about you, but not to you). Either way, problem solved. In these moments, I really do try to think about us all being children of God. I can kind of stop caring about someone’s feelings sometimes, and this helps me to not be brutally honest.Without knowing the exact situation, that’s the best advice I have.
I love this post. I have a few close friends and a lot of friend-friends and it is a total choice that I like. I find that I can’t fully maintain tons of close friendships without feeling burned out and like I am not meeting my own expectations for being a good friend.A question for the expert though- this is one that I seriously have lost sleep over and know this person would never read this and assume because she doesn’t blog. What if there is someone who is part of a group of friends that you wish you could phase out? You like everyone else and get along famously, but this one person drives you nuts. And it seems they are always tagging along and inviting themselves to things or making comments after the fact about being left out? Like they can’t accept that you may want to just hand out with X and not make is a big deal? Like she wants me to make her a close friend but it just isn’t there. What would you do?
ohhhhh, dear chloe…i believe you have summed up my life in this blog posting. i have one former friend who pretty much fits into almost every scenario you described here. she is a former friend, who happened to gossip a whole lot about me during the tough times (and we all know what happens when one gossips), also happens to try to contact me on occasion, but only through mutual friends.and i am also limiting in my friendships…i just like to call myself choosy. and you’re right about the chartreuse thing. if only there were more of us…THEN we could be friends with everyone. ha.
Chloe-you couldn’t say it in better words. Sometimes I feel like my in-law relationships are kind of “fake,” because we all really do want the fam. to like us. I’m working on being more honest, and my husband said I’m doing a pretty good job. 🙂 It’s definitely hard, but it’s one of those relationships you just have to make work. Thanks for your awesome advice. Seriously–start a column! 🙂
Amy, I think these rules can be applicable, but it is a little more difficult. And I think your spouse should always be included, although not in a way that makes him the middle man. Example: “Husband, I am really having issues with the way your mother always puts down my cooking. I’m thinking about having this conversation with her.” Share the dialog. “What do you think?”In-laws are very, very hard. They are family, but not. You haven’t chosen them as friends. And often you come from very different backgrounds. I think honesty really is best. Always sticking to feelings. Example: “Mother-in-law, when you say things like, ‘that’s not how I make mashed potatoes’, it makes me feel like you don’t like my cooking. I know that you have been doing this much longer than I have, but it would really help my confidence if you would wait until I come to you for advice.”I think one of the hardest things with in-laws is that the relationship often start out dishonest because, of course, you want them to like you. Then you find yourself in a situation you hate, that you have shared in creating. Respect is very important and setting boundaries is part of respecting yourself. This may lead to an in-law not liking you for a while, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in a long-term relationship.
I love #6. I think leaping to conclusions can eat away at a relationship, either marital or friend. Seek first to understand, right?…This was a phenomenal post!
Robyn…it is not an easy thing to do, especially without trying to justify your actions (i.e. tell the person all of the reasons you don’t want to be their friend). The hope would be that you could stop returning phone calls, and that would be that. However, in the LDS community, it’s rarely that easy. And then there are all of the underlying, weird ideas that if you were a good person, you would be friends with everyone.It’s tough. You have to accept that the person is probably going to talk about you. In those cases, I think honesty is best, sticking with feelings.Example: “When you talk about how other people have offended you, it makes me worry (feeling) that I will offend you someday and you will talk about me as well.” Not easy, but honest without attacking. And you are in no way insinuating that her purpose is to be rude. The phrase “when you talk about how other people have offended you” carries no judgment or emotion. You are stating a fact. You have not used any emotionally charges words or phrases like “gossip” or “behind people’s back”. It’s as careful as can be, and honest. What do you think?
Hurrah! I’m a limiter myself, so I totally get what you’re saying.
This is such an interesting post. I have experienced a number of those things and sometimes it’s really awkward/hard to get past it. I met someone in Australia who seriously decided to make me her best friend instantly. It was like I had no choice in the matter. She was difficult and hard to please. She was always telling me about all the rude things everyone did to offend her. I could tell it was only a matter of time before I did something to hurt her feelings or screw up somehow. I had no desire to be friends with her. Thank goodness I moved across the world! But how can you honestly tell someone like that why you don’t want to be friends?
I think you should start a “Dear Chloe” column–you have great advice and good experience to back it up! I love my in-laws, but sometimes wish these “rules” were applicable in those relationships as well. 🙂