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Why do some friendships go awry?

Karen R Koenig
Psychology
Things go awry when you find yourself doing more and more (and your friend doing less and less) and going overboard in the care department. You may be confused by why you’re not feeling the same way you used to and find yourself starting to resent her (your friend). So you redouble your efforts. She may sense your desire to pull back and, therefore, start easing off the relationship in fear of you dropping her. Even if the relationship gets back on an even keel, sooner or later her neediness and your overdoing will crowd out whatever else is healthy and positive in the relationship.

Because friendship isn’t a science, it’s difficult to measure the balance of give-and-take. You want to avoid a tit-for-tat situation - you need to pay for the phone call this week because I paid last week - but you also don’t want to be doing all the heavy lifting while your friend is busy filing her nails. You want to cultivate and establish a felt sense of equilibrium and fairness. Sometimes you may need help figuring out what’s going on and require feedback from family and other friends. If you trust the people you generally go to for advice, listen carefully to what they have to say. Many times everyone else in your circle can see that you’re being used but you. If that’s the general consensus, take off your blinders or watch out: You’re about to be taken down by your own good heart.

Sometimes friendships fizzle out because neither party has the communication skills to address and fix problems - and there are difficulties for even the best of friends. In fact, weathering difficulties is exactly what cements relationships. If a friend hurts you and you don’t speak up but expect her to read your mind, you’re setting up the relationship to fail. If two friends are both shy about expressing their needs, how can a relationship get over the bumps? Friendships also fizzle because of the limits of individuals. There’s a phase that two-year-olds go through called parallel play in which they engage in activities side by side but there’s no real connection between them. Adults often have similar kinds of playmates: people to go places with but with whom there is no real attachment or intimacy. Over dinner, you talk about your week and she talks about hers without any meeting of the minds or hearts. This kind of relationship has a short shelf life because, as the saying goes, there’s no there there!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.