Finding better friends

Today I had a really big job interview. I’ve been unemployed for a while and this was really important to me. I told my two closest friends about it as soon as I got the word, and even spoke with both friends briefly about it yesterday.

Neither one of them wished me any sort of good luck. No text, no email, no call. And it hurt. So I reflected back on my relationship with both of them, and realized that they are actually quite “needy” – they monopolize conversations, expect me to be their cheerleader when something is going on for them, offer support in a crisis, etc.

I am also pissed, and have decided if I am not worth a minute of their time, then they are not worth ANY of mine. But now I want to find friends that are NOT the kind I seem to attract! How do you do that? And how do you know they won’t turn into one of THOSE types of friends?

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11 thoughts on “Finding better friends

  1. Dennis Hong says:

    [I’d like to expand on Breck and Margaret’s points, both of which I think are excellent. (Actually, I pretty much agree with everyone so far.)

    Your friends not wishing you good luck, in itself, doesn’t seem to be that big a deal. In this respect, I’d agree that you should give it a few days before taking any drastic actions.

    At the same time, I’m guessing this isn’t an isolated issue for you, and that maybe this is just the so-called camel-breaking straw.

    If that’s the case, then I’d like to present a devil’s advocate perspective: Could it be that they’re needy with you not necessarily because they’re needy people, but because you make yourself available? As a teacher of troubled kids, I’ve found that the more I make myself available for my students, the more they expect me to be there for them on any little personal issue. (And, obviously, as their teacher, I’m not going to expect any sort of reciprocation.)

    But, if I draw the line at some point and tell them that they have to learn to fend for themselves on certain things, then they… well, get upset at first. But inevitably, they do figure out how to be more self-sufficient.

    My point is, if this is the relationship that you’ve established with your two closest friends (I’m assuming this has been going on for years), then they’re just going to take it for granted that they can come to you whenever they have issues, and that you’re way too put together to ever need to go to them for your own issues (perhaps you can take that as a compliment then).

    So, my suggestion would be to start drawing lines. Tell them, “Look, I can’t always be a sponge to everything going on in your life. Frankly, it wears me down.” Or, “Hey, I’m human, and I have my issues, too. At some point, I need you to listen to what’s going on with me.”

    From my own experience, it’s all about drawing the line somewhere. You can’t live a life without lines. Because then all the colors just blend in with each other, and you can’t figure out what it is you’re supposed to be looking at.

    Well, that metaphor got a little… uh, lineless. But I think you get the point.

  2. karlos says:

    [Before you cut off ties with these friends you need to address these issues. People are capable of change, they just need to know how you feel. If after you’ve explained they’re still acting the same, then you should think about getting new friends.

    Even then it takes years to get to know people. There’s no way to know what people are like till you break through the facade they give everyone and find the person underneath.

    I’m not even going to make a funny remark. That’s how you can tell this advice is from experience. Hence good.

  3. Jessecology says:

    [I mostly disagree with everybody so far. (Except for Dennis, heyyyy.)

    But seriously. This is just a cheap lesson for you.

    Don’t explain anything to these toolboxes, just stop returning phonecalls. THAT’s how new friendships happen: when space (emotional, time for scheduling) becomes available in our lives we find people that are more like-minded.

    You’ve heard the cliche about water seeking it’s own level? Lots of cliches are garbage, but this one is useful. At some point in the past, these two were your peers. You’ve outgrown them though. Filling up the empty hours with their drama doesn’t sound fun anymore? Yea, me either. Here’s the worst of it: your social life may be quiet for a couple (weeks? months?) as you blow off the main two people that consisted of it. Find a way to shake off that self-pity and be full of smiles so when the yoga teacher asks you to coffee (or whoever, whatever) you’ll be ready!

    My experience with this subject is ginormo (sp?). At one point I was embeded with so many people in my social system that did not have my best interests in mind that I changed my phone number, moved (out of the home I shared w. a spouse), cancelled email accounts, (this was before social networks) even stopped talking to family members for 4 months or so. Basically, except for work and some supportive new friends I started talking to, I dropped off the face of the earth. There were quiet months. But now it’s…. 6? years later and I have the most wonderful life! I love every minute!!
    Your situation doesn’t sound quite that drastic? But kick those bozos to the curb. F*(k ’em. Just because the phone is ringing (or texting) doesn’t mean you have to respond. The facebook “block” feature is extremely useful as well. Don’t explain anything: they wouldn’t be able to hear you anyway. It’d be like talking to someone underwater. Just leave. Get coffee with that yoga teacher.

  4. BreckEffect says:

    [I agree with karlos. Also, if they talked to you yesterday, then maybe they thought they didn’t need to also email you or call you today? Plus, the day’s not over – they may be busy and planning on getting in touch later (or even tomorrow!) to check in and see how it went.

    From personal experience, the older I get and the busier my friends and I get from life, jobs, and now families and stuff, it’s harder to be as thoughtful and involved with each other as we once were. Sometimes stuff comes up and people get distracted by things going on in their own lives. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about you or aren’t thinking about you.

    But, if you feel like they’re never there for you and never supportive and it really isn’t an equal friendship, then yeah it may be time to reconsider the friends you’re making. But, friendships, like any relationship, are about give and take. Sometimes you give more, sometimes you take more. But overall you shouldn’t feel used or like you’re putting tons of energy into and getting nothing out.

  5. MargieCharles says:

    [Agree with everyone else. If these people really are horrible, needy, selfish friends, then I agree it would be best to find new ones. But I’d wait a few days until the sting isn’t that bad, and then reassess the situation. Are they REALLY horrible friends? Or were you just hurt and remembering everything uncaring they have ever done to you before? Because sometimes I definitely have this problem.

    People make mistakes and sometimes get wrapped up in their own lives. Almost all of my friends have hurt me in a similar way (I felt like I was ignored, or that they didn’t care enough about me to do X, Y, or Z), but that doesn’t mean they’re horrible friends. Most of them are actually pretty awesome people and great friends, but even great friends sometimes slip up.

  6. Happy Pants says:

    [Ditto what everyone else said.

    My only advice about looking for better friends is don’t try too hard. You can’t force people to care about you, but you can care about them and show them what friends should be like. And yes, it does generally take years for the kind of friendship it sounds like you want to develop, so you’re going to have to be somewhat patient.

  7. PKP says:

    [I’ve cut off a lot of people in my life that I thought were just making my life harder. Later on, and much too late, I realized that some of these were genuine idiot-dick-asses and others were just not shining up my ego as much as I wanted (in fact, they quite often gave me kicks in the ass that I needed and usually ignored once they went away). I can’t really comment on your friends, but would encourage you to really try to determine if they’re one of these (though I’m sure the spectrum of friend roles-behaviours is broader than this dichotomy). I guess what I’m asking is whether or not the net-gain of their friendship is greater than the times they let you down. Also, Karl’s idea of talking to them is probably worth a try if you’re looking for something wacky.

  8. lilredbmw says:

    [What do you do for fun? THAT should be where to find new friends. If you play softball, then start to make friends with those girls. Or consider hosting a party and invite your co-workers, friends and family. People bring people and when you are mingling, you can find some new friends who show an interest in you. Sometimes, when you are a great friend, you end up being the one who puts in all the work. I would advise you to bring up your concerns with your current friends before just up and leaving the relationships. It very well could be that they are not meaning to overlook your needs. Maybe they just need a friendly reminder that you need a cheerleader just as much as they do. If you are a strong person, it could be that they have just assumed that you don’t need as much support as you actually do.

  9. Matt Sanchelli says:

    [After nearly 3 decades of dealing with friendships I think I’ve come to a basic categorization process that breaks down the general main “traits” friends can fall into.

    First, the most positive are ‘The Lifers’. These people are your best friends and pretty much nothing can go wrong. These people are very few and far between, an extremely rare breed. You may say you have 5 best friends but odds are 2-3 of them are Lifers and the remaining could eventually fade away. These are people you make a point to keep in your life, but it doesn’t feel like work. For example, I have 2 high school buddies whom I know are going to be around when the three of us are getting our Man-Diapers changed by retirement home interns. The three of us actively reach out from time to time with texts, calls and other randomness but know that regardless of the passage of time we’ve been through so many high, and low, times together when we do eventually achieve contact it’ll pick up directly where everything left off.

    There are ‘Energy Suckers’ – these people tend to only contact you when they have complaints or something to b*tch about. It doesn’t have to be something about you, they simply use you are a sounding board and somewhere to direct their frustration and venting. Unfortunately, this is the only time these people contact you. These people are a waste of your time and energy because all they are going to do is make you gradually more angry and bitter as well. It’s like a virus that slowly multiples and infects individual cells over time before taking over everything.

    Then there are ‘Validators’. These friends often only come out of the wood-work when there is something good going on in their life and they want you to know about it…so you can then do the nice friend thing and be supportive, congratulate them and so forth. Problem here is that is the only time you really hear from them…when something good is going on in THEIR life. Otherwise they are difficult to locate when you need/want to tell them something.

    Now, these are extremes but (in my opinion) very valid some of the more common types of people that are out there.

    Being more of an optimist though I usually look at the best in people and even during “questionable” times give the benefit of the doubt. As we get older we get busier and you just can’t take some things as personally anymore. So, when a month or two goes by between seeing a friend, I don’t think of it along the terms of “Our friendship must not really matter” but concentrate on enjoying the times we do get when able to hang out together.

    These friends may have been busy, or they may not be very good friends. That really depends on the history you all have. If they have done this sort of thing before; over-looking your good news…then it could be a pattern.

  10. ladiejoy says:

    [I’ve so been there! The first thing to do is to discuss these concerns with your friends. It would be unfair to simply cut them out without letting them know why. Their reactions to your comments should dictate your course of action.

    The fact of the matter is, there will almost always be a bit of an unbalance with friendships. There is always one person in the relationship that makes more effort to “be there” for their friends, and to maintain contact and communication. Sometimes, just because a person doesn’t say the right things to you at the right times, it doesn’t mean they don’t love and care about you. Some folks are simply not good at communicating. But unless you say something to them, they might not even realize that they are not pulling their weight in your relationship.

    And I agree with the people that said the way to find new friends is to meet people with common interests. There are so many meetup groups and social networks of various sorts that you should be able to find something interesting to do in your area, and consequently meet people of like mind. As you fade out and start to spend more time with new people, your friends will either recognize what’s going on and try to maintain contact with you – or they won’t notice and you’ll have your answers.

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