Overwhelmed by Needy Friends
Healthy friendships can’t be lopsided; they should be rewarding for both people.
I have several girlfriends who are very needy. While we all go through difficult times, it seems like they always have problems.
I am single and my boyfriend lives an hour away. I run a business and a household. I am essentially alone, which is fine, and get up every day and do what I have to do.
My friends all have lots of support—husbands, children, and extended families—which is great. But for some reason, even with this support, they don’t seem to have anyone to turn to but me.
Every time I talk to them, they ask me to come visit or to go out, which entails driving one hour from my home after I've worked all day.
One friend seems to think that I should hang out at her place while she complains about her husband and yells at her two kids. The other wants me to sit with her while she “wallows” (using her words). She has nothing serious to wallow about because nothing bad has happened to her.
These friends are exhausting and never have a problem asking for my support. It’s hard for me to understand and even harder to tolerate.
Exhausted Single Person
It sounds like your friends assume that because you don't have a husband or children, you have no responsibilities to yourself, your business, or to other people.
If this is their thinking, we wonder how you ever managed to surround yourself with "several" of these self-centered people.
It’s a good sign that you recognize you are feeling drained by these lopsided relationships. Identifying the problem, even to yourself, means you realize you deserve much more.
These friends are going to continue to act the way they habitually do unless you give them a reason to change their behavior.
A good first step? Set some firm boundaries (for them and for yourself) about how often you see them, where you see them, and what you do when you are together.
Can you suggest that you get together and see a movie? Go to dinner? Go to a gym? Any of these would offer a more neutral turf and might also offer a much-needed respite for your family-beleaguered friends.
If you're tired after a long day, you're entitled to say that you are. Why not ask them to get a babysitter or relative to watch the kids and come see you? Try telling them, in a caring and non-judgemental tone, that it doesn't help to "wallow" in self-pity and suggest you do something else when you’re together.
By changing the nature of your relationships, these friendships will hopefully become more balanced, equitable, and rewarding.
Of course, every relationship is different, and to figure it all out, you’ll need to evaluate each one (rather than lump them together) and determine the value of the friendship, whether it is truly one-sided, and if it can be improved.
For relationships to be rewarding, they need to offer a sense of intimacy (with two people feeling like they understand each other) and a sense of reciprocity (that you are getting as much from a friend as you are giving). It sounds like the "friendships" you have described may not be hitting this mark.
Hope this helps.
Irene & Sheryl
Good friendships are a two-way street.
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