The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Am I Asking Too Much of a Friend?

A one-sided friendship is inherently frustrating.

QUESTION 

Hi Irene,

I've recently been coming to terms with some deeply buried grief, and also struggling with self-injury problems as well. My "best friend" of 19 years has hardly been there for me and only seems to come around when he needs me. He makes it very clear that he does not care about my emotional troubles, and I find it truly frustrating to try and be there for him when he is never there for me.

I try to be supportive of him and he knows that whenever he calls, texts, or emails me, I will answer. On the other hand, it's rare that I can get a hold of him and even rarer that he'll answer in a timely fashion, despite his "open" schedule.

As I've been going through therapy, I've often asked myself if my friendship with him is worth it. Sure, he has his moments when he can say something nice, but those times are far and few, and the time in between those golden moments is filled with unanswered calls and snide remarks, put-downs, and just plain old disregard for my emotions. He makes me feel guilty for trying to ask that he be supportive of me in my recovery! It deeply hurts me that even my struggles with self-harm don't even phase him.

He is my only friend at the moment, and it makes me fearful to think of leaving him, even though the cons of staying with him outweigh the pros. What should I do?

Signed, Trish

 

ANSWER

Hi Trish,

Since you are in treatment, I hope you are discussing this problem with your therapist who knows you far better than I. Since my knowledge of your situation is limited, I can only speak in generalities.

You haven't mentioned whether this friendship has always felt one-sided. If it has been this way for some length of time, it has to be disappointing to feel so unsupported by someone you care about and depend upon, especially when that individual is your only friend.

On the other hand, it would be difficult for any friend, even a very good one, to know how to respond to self-injury. Perhaps, you are expecting too much of him.

One suggestion: Your friendship may be more viable if you depend on your friend for companionship, and depend (at least primarily) on your therapist to discuss emotional issues related to your recovery.

Also, given this one-sided friendship, you need to seek out other friends as well. It sounds like you may be overly dependent on someone who isn't capable or willing to meet your needs.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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