Advice about Adult Friendships
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Imbalanced Friendship - What to do, if anything?
- Long Time Friendship Fizzling Out
- Saving a friendship
Imbalanced Friendship - What to do, if anything?
We (husband and wife) have become friends with another set of parents at our child's preschool. Our children are very good friends and love spending time together in and outside of school. Through their friendship we have become friends with the parents of this child. We get a long, have been over to each other's homes for dinner, have had many play dates, and have gone away on one road trip.
This friendship probably started around November of '15 and at that time they had expressed an interest in get togethers and weekend trips with other families of similarly aged children. Not long after, I organized a short trip that occurred at the end of Dec '15. By organize, I mean that I have suggested a few locations, gathered input, provided lodging options, and booked the lodging (we split the costs).
Since then, I have organized another trip for Memorial Day Weekend. Obviously these are more time intensive. Outside of that I ''organize'' play dates. By ''organize'' I mean I text and say, ''Hey we are going to x park, x museum, or x whatever. Want to join us?'' These are casual and take no more than 2-5 minutes of thought or effort, and more than 50% of the time they come along. And often at the end they say, ''Let's do it again.'' I wait and then nothing.
It's been recently becoming more frustrating because this family, in the same time period, has organized one play date and one dinner, and I have organized much more. It feel unbalanced. I feel like if I didn't organize play dates or trips, we wouldn't see them at all outside of school. The kids are friends so I keep doing it for them.
I know we get along because they often say yes to activities and we share lodging on road trips - same house etc.
I'm realistic and don't believe any relationship can be 50/50 but it really feels 80/20. Since this friendship is new, it's not like my older relationships where I can just say, ''Since I organized this part of the trip, can you do x part of the trip?''
Our family structures are similar. Everyone works and we each have one child. We are currently pregnant with a second child due later this year (and they know this ) so our ability to organize is diminishing because we are more tired. We keep hoping they'll pick up some of the slack but nothing.
I'm not sure what to do and will be ok if BPNers say that I may just have to accept this as part of this friendship. Anyone with thoughts or similar experiences? Is it wrong to want the other family to pitch in a bit more? If so, how?
Thanks! Frustrated in Friendship
I feel for you. I've been in a similar boat. I did not have the energy you've had though; I was only pursuing day trips. It may be that this family is simply exhausted, and just LOVES that you are the organizer type. Heck, I'd take advantage of that too! If someone has already thought out the pros/cons and schedule, I'd be all smiles about joining in too. It may not be personal. It may just be that this family doesn't have the same energy to research all that, or make any decisions (some people are really bad about choosing something, myself included).... In any event, if you want more from them, you may have to say it out loud. They might assume you just like this role. Something like, ''Folks, I love that our families have gone on these trips together, but I don't think I have the energy to organize all of them. I'd love some help if you want to continue...:)'' anon
Just keep doing what you are doing. You already noted that the imbalance is not personal because both couples mutually enjoy each ofher's company. The other family is probably just not that good at planning. If you are getting too tired, do less of it. It will be OK. Don't worry be happy
Don't give anything you can't give freely. If you expect reciprocation, you are setting yourself up. If you want to hang out with them--and foster the friendship among the kids--then do what you are doing and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are doing what they can. If you cannot do it without resentment or worrying about balance, then don't do it. Only you can decide how much is too much on your side, but doing too much and then resenting it is not fair to them. Maybe you will end up seeing them less, but you will be able to freely enjoy the time you spend with them without simmering resentments. Watch that martyrdom
I hear you! I only have one other mama/family friend who is willing to take her share of the load organizing and hosting...and she's moving away this summer! Between having an only child (due to birth issues) and the fact that almost every kid we know is in after school care and summer-long camps because their parents work full time (while I have a flexible work schedule), I've become willing to do whatever I have to do to give my kid an outside-of-school social life. It is so hard sometimes to ''click'' with another family. When I find a kid that my son likes with parents my husband and I both like (and our core values and basic parenting style fit), I'm going to make a lot of sacrifices to make it work. I get tired of doing it all sometimes, but most people just don't think/plan ahead and step back the moment they sense somebody else will get it done. Since it seems to be bothering you, I think you should politely talk to your friend about it. Something non-judgemental and non-accusatory about how you could really use the help. Maybe make a list of basic tasks, ask if your friend sees any gaps, and ask her if she'd be willing to help (and offer her first pick of tasks). Good luck! --Another Tired Mama
It sounds like you are putting more into arranging things than the other family is able to. To look at it from their perspective, they may not be able to reciprocate - planning overnight outings is is a big undertaking - and since your friendship is relatively new, they may not feel comfortable saying anything directly.
I bet that they really appreciate that you are making these arrangements, as it is obvious from your post that everyone is having a good time.
Rather than putting yourself out so much and feeling like it's unfair, perhaps you should step back a bit so that it can feel more equal. Maybe keeping things to dinner and playdates. Or, if you feel the overnight outings are important, accept that this is not something they are going to help with.
From what you are saying, it sounds like there are a lot of positives in the friendship, and it is relatively new. One last thing to consider is that with your constant arranging of activities, it actually puts pressure on the other family - if you step back, it actually will give them the room to reciprocate, if that makes sense. Pareto Principle 80/20
Everyone is good at different things; sounds like you are good at setting up dates. It's hard to realize that others may not be like you, that setting stuff up doesn't come naturally as it does for you. They are thinking about other things first, which is part of diversity and celebrating each other's differences. If you like them, keep seeing them. Stop keeping score. Maybe you will come across a way in which she/they can 'help' you, or find a talent which they would like to share. You'll find that by looking for that, exploring ways in which they are different, not identical to you.
This Berkeley Parent will not say that you have to accept it, in fact I say the opposite. It is entirely possible that the other couple, or mother, has no clue that you feel this way. She may be certain that you ENJOY preparing the trips and ideas. If she is as busy as you with a job, husband and child, there's not much time to reflect on how other people are feeling or thinking. Tell her. Tell her the way that you would want to be told if one of your friends was feeling frustrated about something to which you had no clue.
Some things can't be shared, but this is not one of them. Little things like this can erode a friendship if they are not expressed. Dare to be honest, and it might strengthen your friendship. You have to take a risk. You can even tell her that you are taking a risk. And, if she bolts from the relationship, believe me life moves on and your child will make other friends. good luck!
wow we sound just like your friends. I don't know why they are like that, but I can tell you our reason is just we like to spend time at home more, we aren't that social, we like to do our own thing BUT we feel some guilt over this, you know, like we SHOULD do more which is why we do stuff when invited. We have some friends like you who are always planning stuff and they get us out doing stuff. We don't really want to do this stuff and as the date gets closer we dread it but we do it and then have a great time, hence the ''let's do it again!!'' stuff.
We try to do our part in the relationship by hosting more of the playdates and doing more favors, like picking their child up from school or babysitting, whatever. I know that may not be quite the friendship you want but I figure they can just stop asking us, that is okay with us, this is just how we are, we will never be one to initiate stuff. anon
I have found myself in this initiating role often, in family friendships developing from a playful amity between my kid and a chum. For a while I was happy to be the one proposing/setting up the get-togethers. Then when I found myself getting a little huffy and muttering about 'manners' or 'reciprocity' or 'what about a little eagerness to be with US?' I simply took a break from being the self-appointed caretaker of the friendship. My friendliness--and my child's--beamed forth unchanged whenever I bumped into the other parents and child; I simply refrained from kicking up all of these cool encounters or projects. (I was an only-child, by the way, and it is sadly common for onlies to pursue manifestations of friendship far more avidly than the other kids, especially those with siblings.) My child, and my wife and I, sacrificed some opportunities for the warm fun we all enjoyed, which really did not hurt anyone. We just kinda took it easy, played with other kids and parents. Eventually the non-reciprocating clan resparked the friendships by stepping up with proposals and invitations of their own. We didn't withdraw haughtily 'to teach them a lesson' or to shame them, much less to sit back and count the weeks so we could prove how superior we were in manners/generosity etc. Once the activities started up again the friendships were warmer, more mutually appreciative, and spontaneous. Nothing was ever said; things worked out. One lesson: one can push one's friends into the habit of receiving, and away from the habit of reaching out. Overeager Amigo
In my opinion, it's rare to find a family that has similar availability to your own. People are just different amounts of busy, or have different tolerances for having kids around, or are more introverted, or....? I'm sure they do like you, and it sounds like you have a nice friendship. Reciprocating less is different from never reciprocating, in my book. If it feels like a burden to you, then lay off it for a while. Your kids can still be friends with minimal or no contact outside school. Or don't lay off, and chalk it up to good karma for later. Accept and move on. Or just ask nicely for a little more, but don't be too surprised if they don't change their habits right away, or ever. anon
It took me a long time to learn this, but some people can't even organize their way out of a paper bag. Throw in a couple of kids and work and aging parents.... I'm amazed that some people can actually leave the house.
I feel for you. I raised the white flag. If wanted to see anyone, I was going to have to do a fair amount of work. And I do.
I never remember my parents working so hard to see friends or arrange activities. I don't know if the times and habits have truly changed or if it is an east coast-west coast thing or that I was immune to it all at this time. Maybe they don't really like you that much and won't put forth the effort. Who knows?
It is what it is. See if they can at least bring some stuff the next time. Thank you!
Long Time Friendship Fizzling Out
I have a friend I have known since elementary school. Our interests have always been quite different, but we always thought of one another as best friends, probably because we know so much about one another, and we have seen one another through a number of tough family times, and for a long time getting through those periods was our ''glue''. Our friendship has taken a beating the past few years. Some misunderstandings have occurred (I tried to talk to her about them - she hates conflict - they have never been fully resolved). We have both apologized for the hurts we caused one another, but somehow, we seem to be maintaining a polite formality, unable to break through to our old easiness. The bottom line is that we have so little in common. After talking about our kids (hers grown up - mine almost), there is not much to say anymore. She is a grandmother, now too, and while I think that is great, I probably won't be one for a long time, if ever. I have lots of interests, many other close friends and never have enough hours in my day. She seems challenged to find things to do, and still focuses on her children for most of her meaning in life (again, that's fine - just very different from me). I feel sad, but I am just not sure about where to put my energies. Will the friendship just finally fizzle out? Neither of us seems to have a lot of energy for it anymore. Just wondering if anyone else has gone through this with an old friend who can give some guidance. Also, are their any books or articles that are helpful on this subject? Lots of history there
I have about 10 close friends I've had for between 18 and 35 years. What works for me is just accepting them for who they are and accepting the friendship at whatever level of contact seems appropriate now which might not be what it used to be. I see several of these friends (the local ones) only 3 or 4 times a year and that seems fine. I still feel love for them b/c I've known them so long and I enjoy the catch up of what we've been doing in the last several months, but I don't stress about that I should see them more or who invites who. In some ways they feel like they crossed into family status at some point and like I have basically always known them so I don't feel the need to ''break up'' or do more or less. One or another will pop into my mind and I will feel like I want to get together and see what they've been up to and I contact them and we do and I like it. Strangely the more ways we have to contact people the harder it seems to really connect and I understand not having much energy for the relationship anymore. For me, it feels grounding to be able to get together with old friends who have known me forever periodically. If that is once a year, that's OK. I find with my old friends that no one has any weird energy around how long its been or who called who last so I feel free to call or email an old friend whenever even if it's been 6 months or more since last time. friendships go thorugh stages
I have been through this with friends, and it is really hard. However, it sounds to me like it is time to let this friendship go. Two things really stood out to me. One is the fact that your friend couldn't openly communicate through your misunderstandings. I have had this before, and to me it is a deal breaker - if you can't fully air these things out, then they are never really resolved, and they stay there as the ''elephant in the room.'' This is why you are feeling polite and strained with her. Two, you say yourself that you don't have much in common with her anymore. This says to me that you are staying with the friendship because of history instead of where things really are now. It's hard to let go of the past, but what has helped me is to make a conscious choice to focus on the people around you who DO have commonalities with you, and start building more connections with them. That will help you move forward and let go. It sounds like your life if busy and full - I bet if you shift your focus, you will find people around you who you can develop friendships with. This has what has helped me in the past. When a friendship ''fizzles,'' it is like mourning a loss but it is especially hard when there is no hard and fast ''end'' so you don't have that sense of closure. I don't have an answer for you, but I would suggest that if you do decide to move on, you may need to figure out your own way to provide closure. Fellow fizzler
It sounds like the friendship is dying a natural - and as these things go - relatively painless death. Of course there's sadness. The Friend Who Got Away might help you feel less alone. Best to you
I just wanted to say that my mom (early 80's) and her friends from college (graduated 1955) resurrected their friendships after they were all single (divorced, never married, widowed) and without kids again. My mom pretty much devoted herself to cooking, cleaning, raising kids, and working for a long time. She'd see her friends about once a year, or some not at all for decades. But they are back to weekly dinners and occasional road trips now. anon
Saving a friendship
I have a friend, Elizabeth, who has a child I coach. When I met her, Elizabeth and I hit it off immediately. She is very open and honest about who she is and she makes you want to confide in her, which I do. She is funny, smart, generous, sweet. Her husband is a nice guy.
Since my divorce, I've dated a lot of women, and I shared this with Elizabeth. She has been both sympathetic and supportive, and I introduced her to a woman I was dating, Mary. Elizabeth told me that she thought Mary was nice. I then told Elizabeth about another woman I was dating, Susan. Elizabeth didn't say too much, but she seemed to know of Susan and posed questions which I found insulting. She later apologized, and said she wouldn't have asked if I hadn't brought up my personal life.
About a month later, she invited me to party she was hosting with her husband. I attended the party alone, without Susan (who was not invited). During the party, I told Elizabeth that I was dating Susan seriously. Elizabeth paused and told me to exercise caution as if she knew something about Susan.
When I got home, I sent Elizabeth an email. I told her that she was drunk and that I can't be friends with her anymore. When Elizabeth finally responded to my email, she said IF she did something to hurt me she was sorry. Elizabeth now avoids me and does not speak to me (although her child is very polite and friendly).
During this time, I've found Susan to be very moody, and I find her ex repulsive and homophobic. I'm beginning to think Elizabeth was right to warn me. I miss my friendship with Elizabeth. What can I do to get my friend back?
PS I am not using real names.
can friendship be saved?
If you want to save this friendship, you should get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness. Unless there's something about this story that you're not sharing, I can't figure out why on earth you sent such an awful email to your friend. You told her that she was drunk, that you can't be friends with her anymore, and now you don't understand why she's not friends with you anymore? What am I missing?
Are you really that sensitive that it's not acceptable for your friends to express any reservations about the person you are dating? From what you've described, all of the fault in this situation appears to lie with you. I wouldn't want to be friends with anyone who would react so badly to honesty. Think before you hit send next time
Did anyone else go to the parent ed night in Albany last week about raising resilient girls? This post reminds me of this. Basically the point was that many girls cannot process conflict. It sounds like your friend Elizabeth warned you in some way about your girlfriend but said.. what? nothing specific? and you got so angry you cut her off. Why? And now your friendship is ruined. For what? And now your girlfriend is showing her true colors by being ''moody''. What's wrong with Elizabeth telling you something she thinks may help you? What's wrong with your girlfriend being moody? Just tell them both how you feel in a respectful way (instead of just blurting that you can't be friends anymore). Have some emotional intelligence. There's no reason to end all your relationships. don't have to be perfect all the time
You were wrong and rude to your friend, TWICE. Apologize for snapping at her good intentions, tell her you miss her and hope she forgives you.
Just send her this email! You said it all beautifully
This one's easy. Send ''Elizabeth'' an email or a hand-written note, and say, ''You were right and I was wrong about ''Susan''. I wish I had taken your advice. Can we be friends again?
Since you are coaching Elizabeth's child, the chances are good that she will be willing to resume the friendship if you own up and apologize. Amelia
I don't know if the friendship can be saved but I do recommend you take a very close look at your own behavior and perhaps work with a therapist. Frankly you don't seem like you are a very good or kind friend; you come across as judgmental, self-centered, moody, and with a mean streak. You invite emotional intimacy, then punish other people in their vulnerable parts. You confide in Elizabeth yet are insulted when she asks questions. She warns you about a problematic lady friend and you call her a drunk and dump her via email. It seems as though you invite and then punish her for friendly advice. If you do want her friendship back, write a letter, ask to see her in person and eat crow. Then catch yourself next time you find it necessary to do something mean and irreversible. -Don't Leave Your Friends in Need
All of the things you describe Elizabeth said seem mild and reasonable to me. Your email after her party was defensive, attacking/blaming, impulsive and extreme. I'm not surprised it damaged or possibly ended the friendship. Frankly, it sounds like an email someone slightly drunk might write. Her statement warning you was reasonable and it was your choice not to ask further questions, or believe her, or ask her not to speak any more about it, or just thank her and forget about it. She seems from what you say capable of respecting a clearly expressed boundary, such as ''I don't want to talk about Susan,'' yet you couldn't or didn't think to simply request that. The fact that you reacted so strongly tells me maybe you had your own doubts about Susan you didn't want to see at the time.
Elizabeth's reply to your email was also very generous and mild, yet you still seem to be taking issue with her saying ''IF'' she said anything to offend you, rather than sorry she DID. It was a conditional apology but it was better than nothing. Yet you never responded to that either and now you wonder why she's not speaking to you. Even the fact that she is allow you to continue to work with her child shows flexibility on her part.
You need to own up to your defensive behavior and the feelings and reasons behind it - IN YOURSELF, not blaming or labeling her - and apologize for that. It could go something like: ''I'm so sorry for reacting so strongly to your comments about Susan, for not accepting your apology, and for sending such an offensive email to you. I felt vulnerable and fearful getting close to a new person [or whatever your underlying feeling was]. You and our friendship are so important to me. Please forgive me.''
I don't know what kind of coaching you do but to whatever extent your ongoing emotional development and communication skill level are important to you, this is an ideal opportunity for you to look into yourself to see what your feelings were, why you reacted the way you did, and to practice centered, calm, non-violent communication. - Best of Luck
Hi, I think it takes courage to admit this. If you miss your friendship with Elizabeth, email her and tell her that you 'messed up' and that you're sorry. [We all mess up !!!]
If you want you can tell her that you should have taken her advice/ listened to her in regards to Susan- that you found as your relationship progressed that she was moody and you're glad to be out of it..- and apologize again.
If Elizabeth can't accept your apology well, then..that's it. You've done what you could.
I think if you catch her at the right moment.. like when she comes to pick up her daughter..you could say to her ''Elizabeth, can I talk with you privately for a moment before you leave ?'' If she says ''no'' - well then..that's it - you tried.
However, if she says ''yes''.. then you can apologize for wrecking your friendship by not listening to her when she was trying to give you some advice, and you hope that you can still be friends like you were before...
In any case.. Good Luck. all we can do is try and communicate / say we're sorry to others. judith
After what you described, I don't know if there is any hope for you to get Elizabeth back as a friend. I don't know why (if you considered her a friend) you didn't just talk to her instead of hiding behind an email. That action made it clear that you didn't want to be friends with Elizabeth anymore and respectfully, she is abiding by your wishes. Here's a tip for you in the future: If YOU bring up your dating and sex life to someone that you consider a friend ('cause you wouldn't do that to a stranger), that friend has every right to ask questions without the fear of a scathing e-mail. Friends play devil's advocate all of the time, they don't just blow smoke up your backside. It sounds like Ellizabeth cared about you dearly, and that you have some warped image of what friendship is. I'm sorry that you were not able to see what a good friend Elizabeth was to you.
Do not send her any more e-mail. When you next see her, tell her that you miss her friendship and ask her if she has time to meet you for coffee or take a walk so you have some private time to talk. She may need to think about it, so don't get all upset that she doesn't know what to do, because she certainly wont' be expecting that. APOLOGIZE. Whatever she did to you, even if it was a horrible as you believe, you lost your right to tell her what's bothering you when you sent that e-mail. I think there is something going on much deeper with you than she realizes, and you need to put your heart out there and be honest. Been there