I have a friend who I’ve known for over a decade. Ironically, we (both men) bonded over our shared sense of being socially awkward and then discovered that we share a lot of interests. Those shared interests have sustained our friendship over the years, and we tend to catch up at least once a month now that we live in different cities.
But, over the past year, I’ve found that every conversation is dominated by his stories, complaints, and a lot of tangents that have nothing to do with me. I know he’s struggling because he’s still quite isolated, so I think that this selfish behaviour is just a consequence. Still, it feels very one-sided and has become more noticeable now that I’m struggling with some issues of my own. I don’t feel supported by my friend, and I am questioning whether he should be cut out completely.
Is there a way to break through to him and make my concerns heard? Or, now that we’re older, is this just a sign of who he’s become and so it’s best to end the friendship?
Thank you for your letter.
It saddens me to hear that your decade-long friendship is on the rocks. I’d imagine that the last ten years were filled with lots of memorable and meaningful moments. Having a close friend who sees you, and with whom you share so many different interests, is clearly not something to take for granted. However, in order to have a long-lasting, fulfilling friendship, more is required. It seems that there is clearly something missing here, which has caused you to face a very difficult question: “Is this friendship serving me anymore?”. I would encourage you to think about your situation very carefully, before closing the door on this relationship. Let’s see if there is a way to salvage this friendship and avoid the (emotional) costs of having to change the locks.
So, what can we expect from a friend? Is a friend merely an individual who has the same taste in music or films as you? Is it someone who is also accepting of who you are, who is trustworthy, a good listener and can support you? Well different people may have different opinions on the subject, but what matters is how YOU define what a friendship is. It is abundantly obvious to me that you wish for your friend to be more attentive to your concerns/worries and perhaps dedicate more time to hearing you out. Right now, as you mentioned, the friendship is one sided – he is reaping all the benefits whilst your needs aren’t being met. Have you tried telling him how you feel? When we are gripped by our own issues, it can be quite difficult to see how those around us may be affected by our behaviour. Suffering can give us tunnel vision – we are only focusing on the pain and the stress that is encompassing our world. Perhaps he hasn’t realised how his actions have impeded your friendship? Remember communication is the key – without it, neither one of you have a shot at mending this relationship.
What happens if, after you’ve had a conversation, the same problems persist? Will that be the final straw? Unfortunately, you and only you can determine whether you’d be able to continue the friendship. Yes, you could still have a relationship, but you might have to rethink the role he plays in your life. Life is constantly changing, and you’ll find that some friends will stay for a season whilst others will remain for a lifetime. As psychotherapist Nancy Colier (Psychology Today, 2013) stated: “When we can be honest about a friendship, and about the season of life that the friendship belongs in, then, we can be truly grateful for the miracle that a friendship is. Trying to force a friendship to keep bearing fruit past its season is a disservice to its profound nature.”
For more information/tips please click here or alternatively you may want to consider seeking for professional help.
I wish you all the best.
Dear Dania is for informational purposes only, Always seek the advice of a mental-health professional, or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We may edit your letter for length and/or clarity.
*The author’s identifying details have been changed in order to protect their privacy.