You love your friends and you’d do anything for them. You’re their biggest fan, their #1 cheerleader, and you’re there through thick and thin. However, there may be someone you’re supposedly close to that doesn’t offer the same in return. It seriously blows. Here’s how to recognize when you’re in a one-sided friendship and what to do about it.
Signs your friend isn’t pulling their weight
- You’re always the one initiating contact or making plans to hang out. This shouldn’t be the case. While it may not be 50/50, they should be interested in hanging out with you too, and make moves to make it happen.
- They frequently cancel plans at the last minute or don’t show up at all. This is a huge sign of a one-sided friendship. Why are you always on the back burner?
- They dominate the conversation and don’t give you a chance to speak or share your thoughts and feelings. It’s like you’re just there to validate everything they do. Where do YOU come into the picture?
- They never ask how you are doing or seem disinterested in your life. You always ask what they’ve been up to and how they’re feeling, but they never return the favor. When you do volunteer info about your own life, they swiftly change the subject and don’t have much to say.
- They only contact you when they need something or want your help. This is the most obvious sign of a one-sided friendship there is. It becomes very clear very quickly that they’re just using you. Don’t allow that to happen.
- They’re not supportive of your goals or accomplishments and may even belittle or dismiss them. Aren’t they supposed to be your biggest cheerleader? Either they’re jealous of you, want power over you, or they just don’t care. None of those options are a good thing.
- They only talk to you when they’re feeling down or need someone to vent to. What’s even worse is that you’re always there for them. You just have that good of a heart.
- They never reciprocate your effort to maintain the friendship and seem content with letting you do all the work. Ugh. This is exhausting, unfair, and a major sign of a one-sided friendship.
What to do when you realize you’re in a one-sided friendship
- Have an honest conversation about it. Talk to your friend about how you feel and be frank about it. They may not realize that they’re being one-sided. A conversation can help to clarify the situation and it might be enough to make them change their behavior.
- Set boundaries. Establish boundaries and stick to them. Don’t allow your friend to take advantage of your kindness or continue to neglect your needs. Just make sure your expectations are reasonable. You’re not (and shouldn’t be) the center of their world.
- Reevaluate the friendship. Consider whether the relationship is worth maintaining. Is the friendship healthy and fulfilling for you, or is it causing you more stress than happiness? If they’re not really responding to how you feel and don’t seem interested in changing, it might be time to walk.
- Spend time with other friends. This person is not your only friend, thank goodness. It’s important to have a network of supportive friends who appreciate and value your company. Focus on cultivating those relationships instead. If this one fails, it’ll be no big deal.
- Take a break. If the friendship is causing you a lot of stress, it may be helpful to take a step back. This can give you time to reflect on your feelings and decide how to move forward. If the friendship picks up again in the future, that’s great. If not, you’re better off without it.
Why do friendships become one-sided?
- Their life circumstances have changed. If one friend goes through a significant life change such as moving away, starting a new job, or getting into a new relationship, they may have less time and energy to devote to the friendship. It’s not that they don’t care, their head is just all over the place. That doesn’t make it okay, of course.
- Your personalities are totally different. Sometimes, people have different communication styles and may not realize that they are dominating the conversation or not reciprocating efforts to maintain the friendship. If you’re someone who requires constant communication and needs a friend to be very present on a daily basis, it could be that your expectations are too high (or they simply aren’t in a position to meet them).
- They’re just not making an effort. Friendships take effort from both parties to maintain. If one friend is not willing to put in the effort to stay in touch, make plans, or engage in the friendship, it can become one-sided. Sure, life is hectic, but they can take five minutes to check in with you every now and again.
- They’re extremely self-centered. Some people may be naturally more self-centered and have their head up their own butt, which can lead to them focusing more on their own needs and desires rather than those of their friends. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. You might need to point that out.
- The power dynamics are skewed. Power dynamics can develop in friendships, with one friend holding more power or influence over the other. This can cause the less powerful friend to feel like they have to go along with what the other friend wants. This is not a situation you want to be in.
When should you let go of a one-sided friendship?
- There’s a serious lack of reciprocity. Obviously, you don’t give to receive in life. However, you’re also not a doormat. If you’re consistently putting in the effort to maintain the friendship but your “friend” acts like they couldn’t care less, it may be a sign that the friendship is no longer serving you.
- It causes too much stress and upset. If the friendship is causing you stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions, it may be a sign that it’s not healthy for you. Life is tough enough without deadbeat friends hanging around.
- They’re disrespectful or purposely hurtful. If your friend consistently engages in disrespectful or hurtful behavior towards you, kick them to the curb. Your friends are supposed to want what’s best for you. If they’re actively working against your best interest, they don’t belong in our life.
- You realize you have different values or goals. Obviously, you don’t have to agree with your friends on every single thing in life. However, people do grow and change, and sometimes that takes us in different directions. It’s possible you’re in a one-sided friendship because things have run their course.
- There’s conflict between you that you just can’t resolve. Not every issue can be overlooked or moved on from. If there are unresolved conflicts in the friendship that are causing ongoing tension or resentment, there’s no shame in admitting you just can’t move forward. Better to wish each other well and be on your way.