hurt by my friend

The #1 Thing You're NOT Doing that is Hurting Your Friendships

I know, I know, I know... you're busy.  Life is as full as feels survivable. You're barely keeping up with the inbox that continues to fill up, the voicemails being left, the demands by the people who live in your house with you, and the tasks being added to the to-do list.  And so, oh how I hate to bring this up.... I really do. The last thing any of us needs is to feel like there's "one more thing" we need to be doing.

And yet...

And yet, it's truly the #1 thing that can make the biggest difference to your friendships.  

The Action That Would Make the Biggest Difference

To be sure, there are many different things that hold relationships together, such as doing favors for each other, making fun memories, being present in painful moments, practicing empathy, remembering her birthday, staying in touch, showing up at the big events, sharing a secret with her, and showering her with affirmation, to name a few.

But what if I shared with you the #1 complaint I get that causes your friends to give up on their friendships???  

What if I spelled out for you the #1 action that would make the biggest difference?  

The easy answer is: initiate reaching out.

I swear to you-- there isn't a subject that comes up as often as this one.

I get at least an email a week from someone about to give up on a relationship because they are tired of being the one to always reach out.

To be clear: I'm not one of those who believes that initiation has to be 50/50, and I don't believe in this "the ball is in her court" business. I'm completely fine hitting the ball repeatedly. I know many amazing relationships where one person is the primary catalyst, the initiator, or the scheduler.  I know in our marriages that we settle into "roles" that we each play on behalf of the relationship, without each person needing to every chore 50/50.  In a perfect world-- our friendships could be like that, too. I also think some people find it easier than others to reach out --based on practiced skills, insecurities, and personality types--and I'm all for each of us showing up with our strengths.  

So believe me:  I don't think you have to initiate in order to be in a healthy relationship.  In fact, I know that the only things necessary for a healthy friendship is: time together/consistency so that we can have fun (positivity) and share our lives with each other (vulnerability.) And as long as those 3 things happen-- it doesn't matter who initiated it. (For more on The 3 Requirements of Relationships)

What This INAction Means to your Friends

But we live in a world where aren't just running into our friends automatically and so time together then HAS to be scheduled.  There's no other way around it-- we can't feel close to people without interacting. And that means someone has to initiate it.

And your friends are WEARY of being the one. You're gonna have to trust me on this one: I hear from them on this. Often. They take this very personally. They feel like it means your don't value them or think about them. It leaves them feeling unimportant to you. They create a narrative in their heads that if they mattered-- you would reach out. They feel rejected. They feel like the responsibility of the relationships falls on them... that their initiation is the only thing holding you two together. They feel resentful of this giving and it leaves them feeling that the relationship isn't mutual or reciprocal. They feel used, they feel tired, and they feel unappreciated.

You and I know that probably isn't true.  

And yet there it is.

I can keep trying to remind them that it doesn't matter who initiates as long as it keeps the relationship connected, but at the end of the day-- if you were serious and wanted to do the one action that would leave them feeling relieved, happy, and loved-- you would reach out and not wait for them to do it again.

What You can do

You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reach out to them, you can swallow your fear that you're interrupting them or not reaching out at a convenient time, and you can simply know that whether they say yes or no-- they will feel loved because you reached out and thought of them. And that's what they want: to know that they matter to you.

And at the very least-- one thing you will try to do more often is thank your friends when they do initiate.  You will appreciate the gift they're giving and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you:

“Thank you for keeping the ball rolling on us staying in touch. I know I don’t do it as well as you do, but I want you to know it means a lot.  Thank you for not giving up on me.”  

And with that acknowledgement-- you'll find that they might just be that much more willing to initiate. Yet again.

Not an initiator? Send this to a friend who is with a note of appreciation and expressing your willingness to practice doing it a bit more! :)

And leave your comments-- do you agree? disagree? What stops you from reaching out? 

How I Can Be a Better Friend: Follow-Through

In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, two popular posts over the years have been when I admitted to my four personal biggest friendship failures and when I shared the five biggest mistakes I see other women make with their friendships. Today I add another of mine to the list. I Am Far From the 'Perfect Friend'

It started when one of my girlfriends was sharing with me her deep hurt at how a friend had disappointed her; she wondered aloud if it were a friendship worth saving.

The disappointment was so small thing: My friend had been in the middle of a big personal crisis, had reached out via text to a friend of hers with whom they have a several year history of talking about deep things even if they don't talk that regularly. Her friend immediately offered to call her that evening but later needed to reschedule, and then had never gotten back to her.  A month had gone by and my friend still hadn't heard from her.  "The last she knew, I was in crisis... but she hasn't checked back in," the pain was palatable.

Not a one of us would say that went down the way we'd want a friend to act if it were us in crisis. That hardly looks like "being there" for a friend.

And yet, I found myself sympathetic to this friend. We have all gotten swept up in our own lives and in the relationships and needs that are right in front of our faces. I felt convicted.

As she was telling me this story... I started thinking of far-flung friends that I haven't checked in on in a while.  I realized I hadn't remembered to send a note to a friend on the anniversary of a death that I knew was hard, I hadn't texted my friend who had applied for a big job to see how the interview went, and I hadn't yet reached out to one of my girlfriends who I saw on Facebook had to take her little girl to the emergency room last week. Granted, if any of them had written me I would so be there for them, but.... I wasn't initiating.

I first felt guilt. Then overwhelm. Then some defensiveness.  Then some regret. Then some sadness. And then I felt panic: What if any of them felt neglected the way my friend is feeling about her friend?  What if one of my friends took my lack of follow-through personally?  Or needed me to reach out and I hadn't? Do any of them feel less loved by me? *gulp*

How I will Practice Follow-Through

I've never had any fantasy that I am the perfect friend--and seeing how I can be so present and available to you when you're in front of me, but then not show my love by following up with you--confirmed that I have a lot of room for growth.

Here are the two commitments I have as I embark on focusing more on becoming a friend who follow-throughs when I know big things are happening in the lives of my friends.

  1. Put it in my Calendar or smartphone Reminders. She's

    I'm going to try to show my love more tangibly by putting reminders in my phone!

    scheduled to have a hysterectomy next month? Set a reminder a week before and a week after to check in with how she's feeling.  She called me and confided in a fight she's having with her husband? Set a reminder next week to check in with her.  She mentions how much she hopes she'll get a raise next month? You know the drill. It's no less sincere; in fact I'd argue it shows just how much I care. I will calendar in what matters. We don't feel less thought of when someone has our birthday in the calendar, why would we if they decided we were important enough to remember?

  2. Be as gentle with myself and others as I can be.  Guilt, defensiveness, and remorse don't foster healthy friendships.  I will do what I can, when I can, but it's also not my entire responsibility to initiate; it's also theirs for reaching out and keeping me updated, asking for what they need. I will remind myself to be no more hurt by their silence in the gaps than I would want them to feel by mine. Therefore, I will take every opportunity to tell them I love them and apologize when necessary to ensure that while we may be disappointed by each other occasionally, we hopefully never question whether the other person loves us.

It's that last one that guided me to say to my friend who was struggling with her friend, "Do you believe it was malicious? Was she trying to hurt you?" (A new favorite question of mine to help put into perspective the difference between someone hurting us vs. us feeling hurt by someone!) She immediately knew it wasn't.  I encouraged her to reach out; we can't end friendships every time someone isn't amazing.

They had an amazing talk.  Her friend, of course, felt awful and was so apologetic.  And they built their friendship stronger because they were both willing to show up with honesty and compassion.

I feel a little scared to put this expectation on myself (and am hoping not too many of my friends read this and get their hopes up! ha!) but I'm committed to growing and becoming a better friend when I can. Even if I have to schedule it in to practice.

Wish me luck!

Now, I wonder how my friend who recently filed for divorce is feeling... I'll go shoot her a little note! Anyone you want to reach out to?  :)