Imagine this. You thought you were great friends with Stacy (or whatever name you wish to insert). You shared all your days with her, you hung out almost everyday with her during Summer and you both told each other that you would do everything together, forever.
But then you feel like recently, she has been pulling away from you, distancing herself. She hasn’t been replying texts or wanting to hang out. You feel like she’s finding excuses to not meet you. Then maybe you’ve heard from someone else that Stacy actually doesn’t like you very much at all. Or maybe she’s told you herself, but never properly told you why.
Sound familiar? Your own experience may differ but it ends up with you finding out they didn’t really like you all that much.
#1 Perhaps you guys weren’t as good friends as you thought you were/should be
Many people don’t seem to be conscious of the friends they are making and letting into their lives. Some base friendships off common interests, or cause you have been “friends since kids”. But those don’t make a person a good friend. Strong friendships (and you will find that this is true in relationships too) are based on lasting qualities like emotional support and having each other’s backs.
My good friends are people who will put aside time to listen to my issues – and I do the same for them. I define a good friend as someone who shares the same values and outlook to life as me, who have similar expectations to our friendship and who are there for me in tough times. We lift each other up, inspire one another and encourage each other’s growth.
Look at your friendship trajectory, maybe some things have happened along the way that showed you weren’t as good or as close you thought you guys were.
Our perspectives of our experiences can be rather skewed sometimes and we see and believe only what we want to.
#2 Some people are good at putting up a facade and prefer to people please to avoid conflict
There’s this really strange thing that some people do, you may be guilty of it yourself – playing along like you are okay with someone though deep down you are not. Sound familiar?
Many of us, instead of exerting boundaries and deciding that we don’t want to spend time with certain people, will instead play along with social niceties, social obligations, facades and people pleasing just to come across like everything is okay, we are okay with everyone.
We want to be nice and likeable. Nothing wrong with that, except that keeping up this charade is a waste of your time and energy and you end up actually stringing along the other party.
Start to make a stand for yourself – only hang out with people whom you want to hang out with and don’t waste your (and their) time hanging out with others you don’t vibe with.
#3 Said “good friend” may have had some issues with you for awhile but has never been honest about it
Be wary of “friends” who don’t wish to address concerns they have with you but instead complain about you behind your back to someone else. This is very specific, but I’ve seen it with clients who have friendship troubles and have experienced it myself with toxic ex-friends.
If your friend is genuinely a good friend, and he/she had an issue with you – the right thing to do would be to talk to you about it. And not pretend as if everything is okay with you but go right behind your back and complain/gossip to someone else about your behaviour.
This creates tension where friends may start to take sides with each other. And who knows what this “friend” may have said about you behind your back? Said “friend” is also showing they aren’t able to communicate about issues in a mature way and may feel that conversations may creep into conflict territory.
Such untrustworthy, uncommunicative behaviour is not something I want in a good friend.
Take a good hard look at yourself
Usually when we think of friendship troubles or relationship issues, we are quick to point out where the other party went wrong. But what about you?
What can you do?
#1 Re-examine your dynamics
I talk alot about red and amber flags on my website and with clients. Red flags are important because they are warning signs that this person or friendship is probably not something you want to get involved with. And if you know what are red flags for you, you are able to get aware of them and make conscious decisions to continue hanging around the individual or not.
If you feel like your friendship has been on the decline for awhile, it usually doesn’t happen out of the blue. There are usually some signs that something has been off for awhile. Think back on when you started feeling “off” about the friendship.
And, quite alot of times, the things that bothered you at the beginning – those amber and red flags – will be the things that bother you further down the road too. So it’d be helpful to take a look at what was going on when the friendship kicked off – did you sense something wasn’t “right” but brushed it off?
#2 Think about the expectations you have towards friendships
All of us have our own views and expectations towards what friendships should be. Some think that friendships are where people need to spend time together all the time, others are alright meeting their friends once every 6 months for instance.
When your friend and you have differing expectations towards friendships, it’s usually how conflicts and unhappiness arise.
If you find that you are constantly holding differing expectations about friendships, it’s helpful to examine if those expectations are realistic for someone else – and you – to upkeep or is there a way you could be more flexible about your expectations?
#3 Think about your values
What do you value in a friendship? Quality time? Emotional support? Are you getting whatever you value out of your friendships?
If you aren’t, it’s time to relook at what values are actually carrying your friendships forward and are those in line with your own values about friendships.
#4 Take a good hard look at your friend – was she really a good friend?
Many times, I heard the word “good” or “best” being bandied about really loosely. It’s amazing what some people define “good friends”. I once was friendly with an ex-colleague who told a (genuinely) good friend of mine that both of us were close as we texted everyday. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. She texted me daily whilst I mostly ignored her messages or put them on read.
She defined a good friend as someone she texted everyday. Uh, okay. Other common ones I’ve heard were:
- We hang out everyday
- We have been friends since we were in highschool/kids (insert your period of time x years ago)
- We have alot of fun together
None of the above says anything about anyone being a good friend. Lots of people also stay in friendships long past their sell-by date just cause they’ve known each other since they were 5.
Relook at what you define as a “good friend” or “best friend” – do those qualities or traits hold up over time? Are they meaningful?
#5 Do the same for yourself – have you been good or toxic?
It is easy to point fingers at others and insist they have been the toxic friend to us. But what about ourselves? Have we been all good?
When I was younger, I sometimes did not realise I was the toxic person in the friendship. I had little control over my emotions and whenever was in a bad mood, would rant and rave to any close friend who would listen. This I’m sure, tired some people out. I did not realise this until I was in my mid to late 20s.
So some self-reflection is needed here. Get clear on your behaviour as a person and as a friend towards others. Have you always been acting in the best interests of your friendship?
#6 Expand your social network, get more friends
Sometimes with the definitions of “good” or “best” friends, you have people who place alot of demands and expectations on their good/best friends. This can slowly result in a situation where the friendship becomes co-dependent and unhealthy.
Any individual close to you – be it your parent, spouse, girl/boyfriend, friend etc – has their own lives to lead. They have their own dreams, desires and wishes to be fulfilled during their existence on earth. It is not healthy to cling on tightly to them and expect them to make you the centre of their existence.
If you find yourself becoming overly reliant on any one friend for your emotional needs, it is a sign that you need to expand your social network.