Advice about Adult Friendships

Parent Q&A

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  • Coach for help with my social life

    (4 replies)

    My social life is not what it was pre pandemic and I miss it.  I used to feel as though I had many friends and that I lived a full life.  Not so much anymore.  Several friendships have fallen by the wayside for various reasons and institutions where I had some social outlets (eg classes at the gym) haven't really come back yet. I find myself doing a lot of comparing my life to other people's social lives and of course I always come up short. I realize that comparing yourself to others is probably one of the least healthy things you can do, but I can't seem to stop myself from doing it.

    I'm wondering if anyone knows of a suitable life coach or other professional I could contact to help me figure out how and where to make friends.  I googled, but most the coaches that came up were geared toward people with social skill challenges, which I don't think I have.  Berkeley area is best, but zoom is OK too.

    I don't have a recommendation, but I wanted to say that I felt similarly to you some months ago, and I suspect you and I are not really alone in those feelings. Fast forward to today and it feels like things have personally steadied on a social level, I've made a conscious effort to spend more time connecting with friends, and even old ones with whom I had lost touch. I think it might help you to think of the things you enjoy (music? art? books? nature?) and find some new groups to get involved with, not just the ones at the gym. Through EPRPD and the local museums there are so many ongoing activities to try. I've also found volunteering can be wonderfully helpful and there are plenty of places that need us. All this to say, you're not alone, and if you keep reaching out in ways that are meaningful to you, I think you'll find things much improved. Best to you!

    There was a great We Can Do Hard Things podcast episode on this topic recently titled "The Secret to Making and Keeping Friends with Dr. Marisa Franco". There were some good suggestions. I think you'll find you're not alone in this struggle.

    After becoming a pandemic parent I also struggled with isolation and needed support in finding connection.

    For coaching, I worked with Abby Vieira, Sunrise Life Coaching, she was able to help me realize what I needed, and problem solve ways of finding resources. She is a great coach and parent herself, I very much recommend her!

    For exercise, I found Sweat in Emeryville to be great. Social, upbeat, and outdoors. I feel much stronger in my body and more centered in my mind.

    Hang in there, I felt to isolated in the beginning and have been able to find meaningful connection over.

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  • Judgmental therapists in the family?

    (6 replies)

    This may be mere coincidence, or leaning too much on anecdote, but I have a question about therapists:  Both a family member and a close friend--two very intelligent, charming, energetic people, with some experience of depression, for what that's worth--eventually became therapists. My question is whether others with a therapist in the friends-and-family circle have noticed that therapist's becoming ever more judgmental, offering unsolicited advice or opinions, and jumping to conclusions about others' intentions, even in the smallest matters. Both my friend and my relative had internship training with quite difficult clients, then went on to successful private practices, and are both now middle-aged. Both are very conscientious about their work, and I wonder whether either has really learned to let go of the therapeutic role: for example, to not treat a flippant sentence in a text or e-mail about a mundane topic as if it were the crux of a client's issue. ("What was the purpose of that observation? Did you intend your tone to express such negativity?")

    Anyway, I often have that walking-on-eggshells sensation around the relative, and some with my friend as well; I feel rather like a parent being patient with a teenager who's acting out. Maybe they just forget who they're speaking to, and slip into clinician mode. Or perhaps it's simply these two individuals and my relationship with them, and nothing to do with their occupation. Both live at a distance and lead busy lives, so it's not easy to talk about any of this in person.

    Any thoughts, observations? (Please, not judgmental ones!) Having said all that, I truly don't mean to bash therapy or therapists, two of whom helped me a great deal.

    Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  It is really tough to constantly feel like I'm being judged and/or offered (unwanted/unsolicited) therapy by my therapist relative (who is unmarried and childless, but of course knows more than I do about marriage and childrearing).  I have to constantly watch how I express myself; it is very stressful.  The individual in question is still in therapy herself (3x per week) on top of being a therapist.  I am (unlike you) pretty judgmental however - this experience has DEFINITELY colored my view of therapy and therapists.  

    My husband is a therapist, about 10 years experience now. He is in the right profession for sure, he notices things and is skillful about asking probing questions. That said, me and my daughter agree that we experience him as being in clinician mode often and forgetting to be human. But when called on it, he usually realizes we're right and stops. EG, I'll say, STOP THERAPIZING ME and the point is quickly taken.

    there is a lot of diversity among therapists as people (not to mention training background and treatment modalities) just like any other profession but i can imagine why it would be extra irritating to receive unsolicited advice and judgment by a therapist (it's like having an argument with an attorney, you sort of know they're not necessarily logically more correct but somehow with their skills of persuasion they make you feel like they are more 'right' than you are).

    For the original poster, if they are intelligent and charming they also probably have a way of making you feel 'lesser than'. so-called intelligence can often be used in a defensive way. really what is needed is emotional connection and the focus on the relationship. 

    There is a wide range of where people are in their own healing process. Also, the bar to become a licensed therapist is not very high. as a therapist myself there are only a select few colleagues that I would go to for support and many others I would not go near.  It's like they have the potential to facilitate the most healing but also can cause harm. I have personally felt among certain therapist colleagues that if I became their friends I would always have the feeling of being not 'good enough' as a support person.  Then there are many other therapists that I highly respect that I can still feel like an equal when I'm next to them. All 'good' therapists I know don't use big terms or esoteric theories or make you feel 'lesser than'. And if that's a theme that comes up that is something to be talked about because when you care about someone else what matters isn't who is right or wrong, but the impact that they have on you and the relationship.

    Hope this is helpful

    Interesting observation/topic. I also have both a family member and a friend who are therapists by occupation. I've found that my family member frequently goes into this clinical mode with me, even going so far as to diagnose (with the caveat of prefacing the diagnosis with "I can't diagnose but...") the experiences I've had with other friends and family. I wonder if being in this clinical mindset on a day to day basis with clients has made it so that they can't help but pick up the patterns they've been trained to analyze, even though we aren't in a therapeutic relationship. 

    In contrast, my friend who has not been in practice for a few years now since having their child, doesn't do this with me unless I specifically ask for that type of advice. I imagine if your job was to edit films or such, could you help not analyzing the issues with every movie you watched? No judgement here, but perhaps a kind reminder to take off their therapist "hat" and that you want their advice as a friend would help them curb that auto inner therapist response. I need to do the same with my family member; it gets to be too much at times, for sure!

    I was a therapist "in my past life," and what you've shared doesn't surprise me. Generally speaking, psychotherapy and clinical psychology remains pathology-oriented, which is consistent with a focus on what's wrong. In turn, this is consistent with a "need" to "fix it," e.g., by offering advice as to how you might change for the better. But I, too, have been fortunate enough to have worked with one amazing therapist who was intentional about not "pathologizing" her clients. In therapy school we learn that clients have mental disorders, and at the end of the day, these labels convey the message that there's something wrong with clients. Therapy culture will shape the assumptions of those who work within it. On the other hand, some therapists resist clinical psychology's pathology orientation, and a few have a deep, genuine respect for the client's perspective. I think what you're experiencing is a blend of occupation along with development, in other words, I think the habit of evaluating others as wrong or sick or as needing to change, is itself a lower-level habit that reflects a certain immaturity. That tendency is there regardless of occupation, but certain occupations will exacerbate it. I feel for you!

    I was somewhat traumatized by a therapist-parent at my son's elementary school. We would chat on the playground or at an after-school sport, and she always seemed to have the most cynical and negative interpretation of my every motive. How did I know? Because she was constantly interrupting, or quickly responding, to ascribe meaning to most everything I said, when I was just trying to have a neutral-positive connection. I felt short-circuited and judged, and that trying to have a conversation with her was decidedly not a safe space. It was intrusive; I am used to more compassion and equanimity in my conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances, without having to defend or explain myself. One might think that means my friends and family let me be delusional, and that she could see through it, but I didn't think that her 'insights' were very accurate, since they were so negative. I seek supportive, interesting connections in a fragmented society, not to be taken down by a therapist on the playground. It seemed to me that it was a power-play, and that if I were her client, her approach would be traumatizing, not healing. In fact, I am generally opposed to psychological diagnoses and categorizations for most people, who are just trying to do their best living in a demanding, often unhealthy society. What most of us need is a safe, healing space to explore our inner self, history, emotions, and aspirations, without feeling judged. Perhaps she was trying to help, or she was overly-enthusiastic, especially since she wasn't currently working as a therapist, but I decidedly prefer 'alternative' approaches - shamanic or spiritual counselors, for example. When trained well they focus on holding a big compassionate healing container, in contrast to the Western clinical approach, which can feel almost lawyerly and intellectually combative - looking for the holes, the flaws, and the weaknesses to fix, which can just make the client more paranoid and separated from their inner knowing.

  • So many friends … so little community

    (14 replies)

    I’ve been living in  Berkeley and Oakland for over 20 years. I have many friends here from different stages in life. I have friends from college, work, graduate school, friends through my spouse, friends through my kids’ various schools through the years, friends from various interests and hobbies that I have, and friends through my volunteer work. Despite having all these friends, I feel like I have very little community here. 

    I grew up in a different part of the country which always had a solid sense of community. People were always available to help with a house project, spend a whole weekend day hanging around grilling by the pool, or to get together on a weekday evening to hash out a problem. There was time to get into deep conversations and make real connections - both for adults and kids. There was always someone around to watch a kid or a pet - no strings attached. Even people you just met would do this kind of thing. The older I get, the more I miss this - and the more I desperately need it.

    Has anyone here has success developing a real sense of community here? Do you have friends who are available without booking weeks in advance? People who will spend a relaxing weekend day with you and get into deep conversations about relationships and heavy topics? Someone who will watch your kids or come help out with a household project with no strings attached. If so, how did you build that community here?

    I have done all of the above things for many friends here over the years. It doesn’t feel like a burden to me - it’s how I was raised. It’s a gift to help others when they need it. But I’ve learned that this mindset doesn’t seem to exist as much here. And I really miss it. Any thoughts on how to find it?

    I wonder if you’re missing a place or an era. I grew up in Oakland and now live in Alameda. I remember my parents life looking more like what you describe. Life was less busy and hectic, and you didn’t need to schedule with friends weeks in advance. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with a good sense of community and we help each other out, in smaller ways than you describe. Maybe you can find more of what you’re looking for elsewhere, but I think to some extent life is just more complicated. 

    Short answer: No. I don't think you'll find this here. I am born and raised in the Bay Area, and I have never had this, although like you I have many friends and am a social person.

    But the kind of community network and support system that you remember doesn't seem the norm here. My parents were from England, and my brother moved there many years ago, and has definitely found exactly that. It exists all over the world and probably across the US - but not here. I'm sorry.

    It sounds like you've cultivated great relationships and I'm sorry you're feeling like those are still lacking in these important ways. I have lived in the Bay Area basically my whole life (since age 2, now 36!) and find that I have some long lasting friendships where I would feel comfortable swapping childcare, asking favors etc, but many of the connections where I feel that sense of community as you're describing are neighbors. I've found a couple families who live very close to us and we've become much closer during COVID. Due to the slowing down of so many things during lockdown, we did lots of spontaneous outdoor playdates, walks, trips to parks/coffee and then once adults were vaccinated we were able to expand those activities more! I find that lots of people are open to spontaneous plans but I'm usually the one initiating and there's no hard feelings either way if it doesn't work out. I find not planning too far in advance is better for my mental health most of the time and works well having a young child and two full time working parents. I used to plan everything quite far in advance and then sometimes once the day came, I wasn't as excited as when we initially planned. Now that I do more things spontaneously or with a few days notice, the excitement is still there once the activity rolls around! I'm not sure how helpful this is but happy to chat more if you'd like to contact me directly.

    Hi, I've lived in Oakland for 20 years and am having the same experience. I've recently gone through a tough divorce and realize I don't have a community I can call on. Like you, most folks have plans and to grab a spot, I need to book weeks in advance. I have a teenager, which limits me a bit, but I'm looking for companions who can do just what you described: hang out, have deep and meaningful conversations, take a spontaneous walk. I didn't grow up here, which adds to my sense of detachment. Most of the people I know are from the area and have much more history. I may be a bit older than you, but if you'd like to start somewhere, let me know. 

    Hello Friend,

    I have had a similar challenge cultivating that sensibility among my friends in the Bay Area. I grew up in the Midwest and moved here in 90s and still feel somewhat unfulfilled in my friendships here, despite having a gazillion friends. My lay analysis of the cultural difference in the approach to friendships here is that people prioritize the activity over the company. I also feel that traffic, working hours and productivity demands, and bridges are a barrier to frequent meetings. There may be other factors that I don't understand yet. I also notice that meeting people requires booking out 2-8 weeks in advance, which isn't satisfying when I am looking to connect with a friend sooner than that. In general, I could easily say that I meet my closest friends in the Bay Area 2-3 times a year! Also, I notice that people are reluctant to commit and/or cancel last minute fairly often.

    In the past 2 years I sort of decided that, rather than moving to a brand new place where the culture of friendship is closer to my experience of it growing up, or even warmer, I could act I like I moved to a new city and am starting all over making new friends. I was being a bit more deliberate about finding friends who live in close proximity, walking or bicycling distance, as I think that's a tangible, modifiable factor in friendships. Of course, then covid shelter in place put a "monkey in the wrench," like my mom says (kinda getting the phrase a bit mixed up). :-) 

    I believe that you and I are not the only people that experience this dissatisfaction with how friendships are conducted here. I think it is worthwhile to consider how we can create a different experience of friendships for those that want that. I'd be happy to meet up to talk about this further, if you like. This is the first time I'm replying to a post on this forum, so I don't know if you are able to contact me directly, but if you are able to do so through this platform, feel free. If not, you can find me at and contact me there. I look forward to connecting with you. 



    I'll be curious to hear the responses to this because we are in the same boat.  You are not alone.  It seems like most people we know create this type of network through local family members and spend a lot of their time with family, leaving little time for non-family friends.  That makes things difficult for someone who wasn't born here and doesn't have a lot of family in the local area.

    Just want to say - I hear you. I'm from the midwest and what you described was normal for me too. It changed a little when I had kids because my time split. Not sure if it is Bay Area, change in times, "big city life" or just life. I also noticed community seems more a political thing than a personal thing.

    I have tried to go for quality over quantity when it comes to friends. I have many friends like you described, but I cherish the few who have depth. I have also started small groups. I am in a book group and was in a small women's group (both under 10 people) just to have the very experience you said. I also find more of this in religious communities. Synagogues and churches are based on community and community support.

    Good luck

    No, but I would love to be a part of a community like this too. 


    First off, thank you for your vulnerability and sharing.  I feel your heart out there and just wanted to say that I resonate with this longing and have been speaking to my friends back home about this issue that I face as well.  Please feel free to message me!!

    I resonate with this so much. I’ve only been here for 3.5 years but have a lot of friends without any of the thing you mention. And I miss it a lot. I am from Houston and Austin and it was so easy to build a community there. I do t have any help but you’re not alone. 

    I understand and empathize with your quest for community.  I think it's hard in an urban environment and one where people move often to find people with the interconnections that might define community.  So, as you observe, you have friends, but not a web.   Also, many people/families are tightly scheduled, so it can be hard to find quality friendship time.  (See my post from years ago: How to find adult friends, post-kids? from Sep 2002 under

    However, I wonder if some of these friends could provide some of what you seek.  If you ask them, maybe some of your friends would help with a house project, the kids, come for a pool day or spontaneously gather on a weekday.  Have you said to each of your friends that you want more spontaneous and more time with them?  Have you tried broaching more serious topics?  There are people in Berkeley seeking what you seek.  (See the many questions about adult friendships on BPN)

    I wanted more, deeper friendships as well.  It took effort.  I had to ask many different friends to go for walks (Good for talking about deeper topics!), come for dinner, and occasionally for help.  Not everyone was responsive.  In fact, most people were not, but eventually, I did find people who would do the kind of things you list, even without so much advance planning.   

    Hi, I feel the same way you do, and it’s clear that many more feel that way as well. If you do end up initiating some kind of get together around this, as a way of creating a mechanism for all these like minded people to meet, please include me! 

    Your desire for community sounds like cohousing.

    Hi there, your post really hit me in the gut. It's really very true and I have not ever put words to it. I wonder if it's just living in a city and having too many obligations. I feel my schedule is too full often. But I used to live in a neighborhood in Oakland on a cul-de-sac where many people had been there for many years and it was a true community. When we moved in people brought us cakes and our kids were always playing outside with the other kids. If you wanted to bring a bottle of wine to a neighbor's house they would often be ready to sit and enjoy it with you on the porch steps. I felt so nourished by that and surprised by it. We moved to Berkeley and barely get a hello from any neighbors now. It really saddens me and I don't know how to address it. Too many people are transient and move often making community harder. Where were you from ? I am curious where someone can find such things. Frankly I think people work too much around here. Work is life and then if you have kids that's all you have time for. It's no way to live. I live in  south central berkeley if you ever want to meet up!

  • Struggling with a longtime friendship

    (5 replies)

    Hello wise BPN parents: I would love some feedback and advice on a struggle I'm having with a longtime friendship. We have known each other for decades and I consider her a close friend. She resides in a different country and we keep in touch via texting, phone calls and visits every few years. During my last visit, she let me have a valuable possession that I promised to return to her when I saw her again in a few months to a year. Of course, due to the pandemic, neither of us have done any travelling. During this past year and a half, she expressed beliefs that were completely opposite to my understanding of the world e.g. conspiracies about COVID being a hoax, the vaccine being a form of mind and government control, opposition to racial justice movements, etc. I validate her emotions and steer conversations to different topics but I feel uneasy about her new beliefs. She recently texted me regarding an odd credit card charge on her statement, asking me what I was doing on the day the charge was made, as she thought she might have given me her card and that I'd used it. This made me feel uncomfortable and anxious that in the future, she might accuse me of misplacing the item I had of hers. I told her I would mail the item back to her, saying I felt anxious about holding onto something that was not mine and she emphatically said to not mail it to her, she would be enraged if I did, and she started swearing and said that I should go to therapy because I was feeling anxious. Feeling like a lot was being lost in text translation, I called her and she declined the call, then said she was going to bed. I feel upset and heartbroken-like what just happened? What should I do next? And how do I conceptualize this friendship given how different our beliefs are and how she just treated me? 

    This sounds really challenging. With just the information you are sharing, my first impulse is to suspect that there is some sort of mental health issue at play. In that case, I think the best you can do in the short term is have compassion for what she is going through and share occasional kind messages that validate her as a person but not the beliefs she espouses -- and to try not to take it personally. It might be a phase, and hopefully she gets help. 

    In the longer term, if she continues to hold vastly different beliefs than you, I suppose you will have to decide how important these fundamental beliefs are to your friendships. Is it possible to maintain a new and different kind of relationship with her if she holds those beliefs? I believe it is possible to let a friendship evolve and still demonstrate you care about someone - at least for the past you have shared together - but not hold them in the same kind of regard or status of friendship as before.

    No matter what, it is okay to acknowledge that you have some grieving to do, at least for the friendship that you thought you had. I think finding space to process the feelings around that will help you accept that whatever things look like going forward, it will be different.

    Finally, with regard to the item you have in your possession, as long as it remains unlikely that you misplace it, there is nothing you can do that would put you in trouble legally, because if she really asked for it back, you would give it back. I suggest if it is giving you stress to tuck it deep in your closet, so you don't have to think about it constantly (assuming it's more like a ring and less like a car).

    I'm sorry to hear this -- friendships are so important to our mental health and it is sad to lose one. It sounds like your friend might be experiencing some mental instability given the angry outburst with swearing. I would try not to take it personally (easier said than done, I know). Do you have a relationship with her partner or family? Is it possible to check in with them to see if they've noticed changes in her personality? It is really hard to know what's going on through texts -- maybe you could set up a video call with her as well? I hope this helps and that you get some other advice. It seems like a tough situation!

    COVID and lockdown has driven a lot of people off the deepend— maybe you should pause communication until vaccines are widespread in her country any the crisis has abated. Your friend’s paranoia may be less of a problem at that point. 

    Relationship questions on this forum are so absorbing to consider. My two cents, based on what you have written:

    Let's consider three aspects of your communication with her.

    Your longtime friend now lives in a different part of the country. Based on some of the ideas she has expressed, she may be in the Fox news bubble, and right wing ideology or groupthink may have become her frame of reference.  If she were in the Bay Area and you two had regular social contact, it is likely that some of these rough edges would wear away, through exposure to more progressive thinking. But it seems that is not something you have the power to help her with at a distance.

    You are concerned that she will be upset with you over the difficulty in returning her valuable item. You offered to mail it, but she declined that offer. IMHO you have made it clear that you are being mindful that this item is important to her; it isn't as if you had forgotten about it. I think there is no need for you do take further action unless she either comes to visit or else instructs you how to get the item to her.  When she wants the item back, she can raise the subject, or you can remind her in a year or so.

    Reading between the lines, it seems that you are hurt/upset because this friend is not being warm and, well, friendly to you. The pandemic has been stressful for many people - making some people crazy - and now we must transition into resuming social contact with each other. Perhaps we can forgive each other for a certain amount of craziness, or maybe just overlook it, when warranted.

    Having been an only child myself, I have always valued the my friendships and tried to nurture them. Yet there have been situations where a friendship ceased to be viable for one reason or another.  It was hard for me to get my heard around the idea that a friendship could run its course, but it does seem that this is sometimes the case, and the only thing to do is to accept it.

    Some people can talk thru friendship problems of this nature, but many can't.  Add long distance to the problem, and it becomes less tractable.

    Wishing you the best.

    What you're describing sounds a lot like paranoia verging on schizophrenia. It does not sound like she is making rational decisions to believe certain things. Rather she is having delusions that people are doing things to her -- for example, she thinks you somehow got her credit card and used it. It's interesting that she told you to see a therapist about your anxiety.  That is probably what other people have said to her. I'm sure you're not the only one who's noticed this change.

    I have a family member who suffered from delusional paranoia for a few years, probably triggered by heavy cannabis use. Not saying that's what's happening with your friend, but my relative was seriously upset about people he thought were following him. Seeing a psychiatrist and being prescribed anti-anxiety meds really did help. But you can't really make someone do that, so I guess your job is to be as supportive as you can, but protect yourself by detaching from any kind of emotional relationship with this friend for the time being.

  • Help with a potentially toxic relationship

    (9 replies)

    I could use some help on how to talk with someone who seems like a nice person but is extremely self-centered. Let’s call her Marcia. We met through a mutual friend and hit it off. We have daughters the same age, similar political beliefs, and same sense of humor. But whenever we make plans, it always has to be a place of Marcia’s choosing. We started hiking together and there is a nice trail about 5 minutes from her house, 15 minutes from mine. I like the trail and like having a friend to hike with. But when I have occasionally asked if we could go to another trail that is right in the middle of our houses, she’s acted very put out, saying it was confusing trying to figure out how to get there. (It’s not – it’s a well-known spot very easy to find). We tried jogging too, and she has a favorite place she always likes to go, so we went there several times. After jogging there numerous times I asked if we could switch things up and try some new spots. (I’m new to the area and want to explore, also it feels confining to always go to the same place.) She took this like an affront. In my experience, friends ask each other “What do YOU want to do?” and they compromise. On good days I feel like she must just be unaware of how she’s coming off (though I don’t know how you could be unaware of this!) On bad days I feel like she’s selfish and controlling. Is it worth trying to change things or is this a toxic relationship I should leave? Since our daughters are friends I don’t want to lose this family from our lives, but it’s now really bothering me.

    This relationship is neither toxic nor controlling. She just wants one thing, you want another, and she is clear about her preference. You could plan a jog at a new spot for a change of scene, invite her and jog alone if she doesn't show. She may have physical problem, anxiety, or something else that makes her choices easier for her.  Or she may just be self-centered. But in the end I think you have to decide whether you like jogging with her more, or a change of scene more. And then just let her know your choice. Maybe you want to change it up, and jogging with her in the spots she likes works for you only once a month. Given the similar values and that your daughters are friends, I think a change of scene is of little importance. 

    You’re correct that a healthy friendship includes the give and take and taking turns to decide where to meet. Same goes for taking turns doing pick up/drop for play dates  (when covid no longer an issue) etc.

    To me, there a few things you could do:

    just accept that meeting at those two places is all this workout buddy has to offer you and view it as a limited option and put it in rotation occasionally.

    invite her to meet you at a location you’d like again and if she continues to refuse or make it difficult you could ask her why and go from there 

    I don’t think discussing location options needs to be some sort of confrontational issue and if she makes it one, it could be you feel she is not that much fun to hang out with 

    last option is just keep it to the kids relationship, but if they’re super young, that might not be possible. 

    This would bug me too, and I personally would continue to invite her to other options and go from there to determine if it’s a good fit. It ultimately depends on how much you genuinely enjoy her overall and how much you’re willing to invest to continue the friendship. Good luck! 

    There is a trend towards labeling flawed people as "toxic" and cutting them out of your lives. There are a lot more lonely people as a result. Maybe she suffers from anxiety or is neurodiverse. I don't see why her preference for going to familiar places means she shouldn't have friends.

    Hi, maybe try inviting her on a jog/hike at a place you want to explore. Say something like, “I’m going here on Saturday at 10, do you want to join me?” 

    If your friend's selfishness is limited to choice-making and plans, it could simply be a sign that she has anxiety.  New activities and new places can really be hard for some people.  On top of that, some people with anxieties feel shame and defensive about their feelings, which could explain her reaction.  This could be a way to move to a deeper level of friendship if you offer to talk about it in a nonjudgmental way.  Otherwise, it sounds as though you've done what you could to change the situation.  You spoke up in a kind way.  You suggested solutions.  She remains resistant and offered no solutions of her own, so from here on out finding a balance that feels workable to your heart is up to you.  Since the problem seems isolated to plans, I would think she can safely be one of your friends but that spending too much time with her or putting her too high in your life makes it too uncomfortable to be worth it.  Balance doing things with others, solo, and with Marcia until you hit your comfort level.  Maybe it wouldn't be so frustrating if it was a monthly hike or jog that you know in advance going to be in the same spot.  If you decide to offer that, then it is a gift and you no longer have to negotiate it.  If, however, the selfishness begins to be evident in many other areas of your friendship, quietly letting the friendship go may be smart.  I juggled a difficult friendship for 40 years with my childhood best friend and kept wondering why it was so hard.  She was later diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and wasn't able to make much headway with relationships even with counseling and medication.  I feel for her and will always care about her, but am utterly relieved to no longer have the drama in my life.  (Your friend acting like your request was an affront was something that got my attention.  Someone acting wounded and angry regularly even though you are doing your best to be thoughtful and kind is a sign that you're either not communicating well or there is a deeper issue on her part.)  I quietly let my friendship go because I didn't want my child to think that's what an adult friendship should look like.  With particularly troublesome people, you have to think about how it affects you and your family, how much you are willing to give, and then respect/defend your own boundaries.  Every friendship doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be worthwhile enough that you don't resent giving.

    I would never risk losing a good friend over whether we hike 5 mins or 15 mins from my house. No way. Jog on your own where you like and jog or hike with her near her place when you want to do that. She may be anxious about changing the location for reasons you don’t know about. Life is too short to make too much out of this. 

    She sounds a bit controlling. If you like her otherwise, ask her to join at a specific spot sometime. "Hey, I'm hiking at blah blah trail on Tuesday at 9, if you want to come along!" See how she responds, then just do what you want to do with or without her. If *everything* has to be her way all the time, slowly dial back the relationship.

    I feel like maybe I’m missing something here. I don’t see this as toxic at all. It does make le think of the behavior of someone who has a limitation they’d like to hide either consciously or unconsciously. For example I’m hard of hearing so I will steer social engagements at places I know are quieter but don’t usually tell people that’s why. Maybe your friend is anxious about driving or trying to avoid an ex in another neighborhood or has a poor sense of direction. I don’t know that confronting her will help. I think you just have to decide if you’re ok with continuing to do things “her way” or otherwise find other friends. But I see no reason why you would end a friendship over this 

    I am someone who is a creature of habit, with some anxiety in the background. I feel really comforted doing the same things over and over again, so I identify with your friend who only likes to hike or jog in the same location. Does your friend only like hiking in the same area because she had some bad experiences on other trails? Did she get mugged somewhere in the past? It's hard to tell from one example whether your friend is controlling in all her interactions with you, or just when it comes to jogging, so you are probably the best judge. Try saying, "I'm going to this place on Saturday at 1pm, do you want to join?" If she says no, don't change your plans, just go without her. If she really wants to hang out with you eventually she will join you. If she insists on doing things her way then over time your relationship will just keep drifting apart and your problem is solved one way or another.

  • Friend with Borderline Personality Disorder

    (3 replies)

    Advice, please. I read through the advice archives on BPN and found a few good things, but I would love to hear from people affected by Borderline Personality Disorder in friendships.  I have a childhood friend that I only see in person every few years who was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and manic depression. We have very little in common, but periodically she resurfaces in dire crisis (usually when she has burned most of her other bridges). I care. I do love her. Yet this friendship has been uneven for so long and our values differ enough that a true connection doesn't really feel possible. Rarely if ever do I feel like the time and energy I expend actually helps; I'm usually left feeling tired and frustrated after most interactions. She got mad and quit speaking to me for 18 months, and then she decided I was a saint and texted me 17 times while I was on vacation sending me compliments and asking for advice. With the COVID-19 crisis, I'm now trying to homeschool my kid, juggle sheltering-in-place changes, and field her messages. (I asked her not to text but she keeps doing it.) Does anybody have experience with BPD and setting boundaries that they would be willing to share? Any good books or articles to recommend?  Thanks.

    I'm so sorry you have to deal with this person. My ex-husband was diagnosed with BPD, and the most important thing I learned is that I need to protect myself. Personal boundaries are critical. The impact of BPD is wide and deep, so I strongly recommend articulating clear boundaries for this person. Then, when they ignore your wishes, you can cut them off. Sadly, that's the only way out. 


    I have had a similar experience you described & feel I've walked the path just ahead of you.  BPD is part of the B-Cluster Personality Disorders.  

    Experts say these personality disorders start by age 2, when the child "splits" into an "ideal/perfect" self/world to protect their sense of self from an unavailable caregiver (whatever the reason they were unavailable isn't relevant).  Subsequently they have trouble adjusting to the actual realities of life in real time and experience trauma along the way because they are unable to adjust with reality.  They disassociate internally & do not realize they run hot & cold to you, they are simply surviving their personal struggle.  

    You need to encourage them to go into therapy AND decide if they can comprehend that you actually understand what is going on with them.  Often they cannot believe you understand them because while you are trying to frame your reality (your whole relationship or a specific moment), they've disassociated to one or the other extreme, missing your point-of-view.  They cannot maintain boundaries, unless you are willing to enforce them.     

    My heart goes out to you.  Good Luck!

    Hi there - I don't have any resources to offer, but I wanted to say I have been in the exact same experience and could have almost written this message myself: childhood friend with BPD, always in crisis, her needs always supersede everyone else's, a very uneven and unreciprocal friendship, etc. I am currently on freeze out with this "friend" and have had a few opportunities to reconnect with her but have decided against it because I don't want to pull myself back into her vortex of drama and frustration. I don't hear you saying you get much, if anything, out of this friendship and it sounds more like you are maintaining contact out of a sense of obligation. With that in mind I think there are a few things you could do, the harshest is to cut contact altogether (which might make you feel guilty but you are well within your right to do it!), but more of a middle ground might be muting her texts and only responding to her once a day and keeping your communication with her to a minimum. The issue with BPD types is they often latch on to givers, because they intuit that people with a strong moral compass and a desire to be helpful will be willing to put up with their bs far more than your average person. Don't let her drain you when you have so much else that merits your attention. 

  • Car borrowing etiquette

    (22 replies)

    We recently bought a new car and so temporary have a third car we are not using that is parked by our house while we are figuring out what to do with it.  We are likely going to sale it but are waiting till we have time to deal with it.  In the meantime, we have some friends who have been borrowing the car when they needed a second car to get somewhere, or some friends who don't own a car who needed a car to go on day-trip, etc.  We don't mind the occasional use since the car is just sitting there anyway but I'm getting annoyed at most of them picking up a car that is nearly full of gas or at least halfway and returning a car that is nearly out of gas.  One of my husband's friends even told me when dropping it off that the car is nearly out of gas and I should make sure to re-fill it before driving it somewhere (so he noticed, the light is on, and he still did not re-fill).  I told my husband that particular friend is not allowed to borrow the car anymore since when he picked it up it was nearly full of gas!  Nobody has offered money for the gas used even for out of town trips.  It is true we did not ask for any payment or for gas to be filled, but I think it is normal etiquette to return the car filled with gas to at least the level it was at when one borrows it for use.  Is there a nice way to tell friends who are borrowing the car to make sure to at least re-fill the gas to where it was when they took it?  I want to stop letting those folks borrow it and only let the few friends borrow it who are nice about it (bring the car in same condition as it was or better, i.e. clean and with gas), but not sure how to do it without sounding petty or seeming like I'm playing favorites.  We are trying to hurry up and sell the car as I noticed that some of our friends have started relying on being able to regularly borrow it and I'm worried about frequent use increasing our liability if something happens, but as it takes time to sell a car, we need to decide how to proceed in the short term in terms of lending it out. 

    It is very rude to borrow a car and not fill the tank before returning it, or at least put in a couple of gallons if it's only driven around town. Friends who return a car near-empty or who suggest you fill the tank are rude, thoughtless, and inconsiderate. I suggest you make a new rule that the car can be borrowed only on condition that the borrower fill the tank before it's returned. Sheesh - who raised these people?! 

    Your "friends" are either clueless or deliberately taking advantage of your generosity.  Haven't they ever rented a car commercially?  The requirement there is to return the car with a full tank or pay the car rental company for the gas consumed.  You really need to speak up when you hand over the keys.  Say something like, "The gas tank is full, and we'd appreciate it if you'd refill it before you return it to us."  

    First of all, yes, there is a nice way to tell friends to refill the gas tank.  It goes like this: "Please refill the gas tank before you return the car."

    However, these do not sound like responsible friends, and you are risking them damaging the car in some way; ie. denting it, staining the seats, hitting another car, racking up parking tickets, etc.. If I were you, I would put an end to loaning it out with the following: "We are getting ready to sell the car, and aren't loaning it out anymore. It is too much of a liability."  End stop.

    I don't get why you need to be nice about it or not appear petty. If i borrow a car, I return it gassed up, that's just common courtesy. I don't know how to say something like this nicely, I'd just be like "seriously, why don't you fill it up and bring it back then?!" 

    Make your expectations clear to those who seem unaware - let them know kindly that they are expected to refill the tank before returning it. You may think it is normal etiquette and they are being selfish, etc. but they may think that the car is just sitting there unused by you so it makes no difference how much gas is in there.  

    If you aren't using the car, don't fill up the tank. Tell the next person who wants to borrow it, "Sure, go ahead, but there's no gas in it, so you'll have to fill it."  What is the borrower going to say -- "Oh, no, I only wanted the car if it had a full tank"?  If they are returning it empty, they can start out with it empty, is my opinion.

    Also, if your friends know each other, you could even say, "Sure, but John returned it empty, so you'll have to fill it."  Let that friend bug John, if so inclined.  

    I agree, the etiquette ABSOLUTELY is to return the car with at LEAST as much gas as it started with (if it was me, I'd fill the tank, out of gratitude for the free use of it).  But if you don't want to police that (and it sounds like you'd have to), then go with my option.  

    You are so nice to lend your car to friends. I generally don’t lend my car to any friends just so I can avoid the issues you mentioned, not to mention liability, what happens if the friend crashes/scratches the car, or worse, hits another car or person etc? We have only let family use our second car and they always fill with gas and sometimes wash it too before returning. Since you’ve already set a precedent and friends expect you to say yes when they ask, the only thing to do is to say no to everyone. Just say you are getting the car ready to sell, so you don’t want to lend it out. And go and sell that car. It really does not take that long! As for your friends who use your car and don’t even bother to fill up the gas tank, hesitate twice or thrice before lending them anything else, as they will treat anything you lend to them with the same lack of gratitude. 

    "Hey, can I borrow your car on Friday?"

    "Sure, but please be sure to return it with a full gas tank."

    Nothing complicated or "not nice" about that.

    By the way, you should also be asking your friends to show you their license and proof of their insurance (and making sure you're comfortable with their liability limits).  Anyone who gets upset by that isn't someone you want to lend your car to.

    Your "friends" are rude and entitled. It's friendly and generous to lend your car out; their rudeness has you worried about seeming "petty" and playing "favorites."

    You don't have to be a doormat to be nice.

    • Contact your insurance company and ask if other drivers are covered when borrowing the car. That way you'll know your coverage for certain.
    • The nice way to ask friends before loaning the car is to say directly, "It would be great if you can return it with the gas tank at the same level, and clean." Let them know your expectations up front. Don't loan the car to those who don't comply. You are doing people a favor!
    • When rude repeat borrowers ask for the car you say (very pleasantly), "I'm sorry, it's not available." Remember, you don't need to give people excuses or explanations. It's your car; "No" covers it. Only if you want to do you need to add: "You know, I don't really have time or money to refill it and vacuum it, which is what I had to do last time you borrowed it. Sorry."

    Will some people be angry or offended? Sure! But they've already shown how much they actually care about you. Do you need these people in your life? Not really.

    Easy fix - leave the car at Buggy Bank ( and problem solved!

    We have folks borrow our car all the time and I've never had that issue but I think some people are just clueless. they aren't trying to use you, they just truly don't know the obvious. if someone asks to borrow it, i would just say in a nice voice, "Sure, no problem, just please bring make sure it has a full tank when you bring it back. thanks!" . If they forget, call them and say, "I think you forgot. please fill it up." and if you want to charge for wear/tear or cleaning, just let them know, "so many people have been borrowing it which we are fine with, but we're asking that people contribute X amt toward wear and tear."

    "We have multiple people using the car for different purposes so please don't forget to fill it up before you return it. Thanks!"

    I thought that it was common knowledge that you always return a car in a better condition than it was when you borrowed it. It would never occur to me not to at least fill the tank with gas, wash the windshield, and pick up the inside. You're doing them a favor, it shouldn't cost you money! I hope that you looked at that one guy with shock and horror when he told you that the tank was empty. Not only are they using the gas, they're putting miles and wear and tear on the car and you run the risk of them getting in a wreck and completely devaluing the car. 

    In my opinion, the days of lending the car out should be over. You should get it detailed and ready to sell and tell anyone who asks that it needs to stay perfect until it's sold and no one is driving it any more than necessary. Or you could just stop lending it to the free loaders, I wouldn't have a problem at all with telling them that you just don't have the funds to subsidize their trips. Especially the guy who brought it back running on fumes. He sounds like a really terrible person and it's hard to believe that he would be missed as a friend.

    I lent my car to my eight month pregnant friend. She returned it full of gas and spotless. She even vacuumed it herself. That's what a good person does.

    Hi! I can relate. I had the same type of problem, although it was letting a friend stay with me when she was in a jam but she always left her dirty dishes and didn't replenish any tp, dish soap, etc that she used. You are being so generous, and yes, it should be common courtesy to clean and replenish gas. All this use is putting wear and tear on the car you are trying to sell. I would tell everyone you took it off the insurance to save money, and are selling it and that you are unable to lend it out, end of story. Try to just sell it asap. Perhaps check Buggy Bank in Berkeley. The car stays there and they sell it for you. Your so called friends need to do Zip car or whatever they need to do on their own!!!! Good luck

    Personally, I would just say no as I wouldn't want the liability but that wasn't the question you asked....When the person asks to use your car, I would simply state in an off hand way that because so many people have been borrowing the car, you have established some ground rules: Please return the car clean with a full tank of gas and ask them if that is ok. 

    I'm sorry it sounds as though you feel taken advantage of.  I was in a similar position when I had an extra car for a while. I had purchased a new car and intended the 16 year old station wagon for my son.  My son decided to delay getting a driver's license, so the car was basically unused by family.

    I suggest that when someone asks to borrow the car, in a direct and straight forward manner, state your expectation that the car be returned with a full gas tank (regardless of the gas level when they picked it up).  If they do not return it with a full tank, the next time they ask, in a direct and straight forward manner, politely decline stating you can no longer subsidize the cost of the fuel - no judgement, no reminders that they did not fill the tank as requested the previous time.

    It's your car, you get to set the conditions for use. This is good practice for when your children become teenagers - simply, clearly, and directly state the exceptions, and hold your boundaries.

    Sounds like you need to set some ground rules for people borrowing your car. Like you mentioned, they should return it in the same condition that they borrowed it - clean with the gas tank filled or give you gas money. 

    Or you can just stop lending it out, like you mentioned, due to liability reasons. That, for me, is a very valid reason. Aside from family, I would never lend anyone my car. That might save you the headache of having to say yes to one person and no another. 

    Just be honest and don’t be shy about if. Ask politely “if you are going to borrow the car, could you please fill it back up with the gas you used, and bring it back clean? Thanks.” If they don’t agree, which would be surprising, then don’t let them borrow it. It’s etiquette to fill it up.  I’m finding these days that honesty and straight-forwardness can be very liberating. 

    Heck yeah, ask them to fill the tank with whatever they used. Make them go to the gas station instead of paying you. You are doing them a giant favor. If I borrowed someone's car, I wouldn't think twice about it. You are right that it is common courtesy.

    Honestly, I'd just stop letting anyone borrow it. You're planning to sell it, and every additional mile (and the potential for additional dings or bigger problems) reduces the value. In addition, someone who borrows your car regularly may need to be added to your insurance policy. I would simply close the door on this for everyone and let friends know you are preparing to sell the car so you can no longer loan it out. (And then get moving on selling it--if you're in/near Berkeley, the Buggy Bank is a great option that requires relatively little time/effort on your part; you can even get it detailed there.) 

    I think that it's incredibly rude of your "friends" to not fill up the tank when they're done borrowing your car. Whenever I've borrowed a car I fill it up, use the car, then fill it up again when I return it. Duh! 8^(

    It's such a simple thing to say (nicely) that I'm wondering why you're having trouble saying it? When they ask, say it then. "Sure feel free, and just remember to fill the gas up to where it was when you borrowed it"

    Also there is nothing wrong with saying it isn't available to people you don't want to lend to anymore. It seems like multiple people want to borrow it, so it's plausible that it wouldn't be free for them to use, without you having to spell out that it will never be free for them to use.

  • I am in my 40's, a single parent with shared custody and work full time. My family is far away as are many of my closest friends. I've lived in the Bay Area for many years and yet still find myself very lonely and isolated here. I connect easily with people but for whatever reason don't seem to make lasting connections and it seems to get harder as I get older. A number of friends have moved away or have just drifted away, especially since divorce. I've gone to meetup groups and done online dating as much to make new friends as for dating (I get on well with men) but still find myself very alone. Holidays really rub that in. Anyone else in this boat or have suggestions?

    I recommend going to the Website MahJongg for everyone.There are people of all ages who play,and once you learn the game (classes are available)you can attend monthly brunches and it is easy to get into or sub for a regular group.It is the best way I know Of to make friends,plus it is fun!


    I'm in the same boat- I could have written your post! I'd be happy to chat by phone or meet up. I'm new to this situation of being a single mom as I just started living on my own in May 2017, so still figuring out what to do. One thing I do that makes me less lonely is volunteering- I volunteer at the food bank, the pet shelter and with the local 4-H club. When the kids are not in my house volunteering helps reduce my loneliness, and reading help a lot. Netflix too.

    Let me know if you'd like to connect.

    Making friends here in Bay Area does seem so much harder than where I moved from 15 years ago! I am a divorced single Mom with two kids who started middle school this year. I'm an older parent to boot and find the majority of folks in my age group way done with parenting or have chosen not to.i want my kids to experience friends and families coming in and out of our house-being part of community. I haven't figured out how yet. Maybe a group needs to start for folks who want. Community for themselves and their family.

    I don't know if I have any advice to give, but I am completely empathetic.  I grew up on the East Coast, and while I am happy here, I have not been able to make any good friends either.  I am hella involved in charities, school events, synagogue, but I have not been able to make lasting connections.  I wonder if there is an age window in your life where you make those lasting connections and when it closes...... I don't know.   Curious to hear what others have to say.

    I would guess that you are too busy to take on a bunch of activities. Maybe just pick one thing, if it doesn't work out, move on. Such as classes, volunteering, or some singles group. Maybe try making friends with the parents of your kids' friends. Make sure to invite people you are interested in. Maybe tea, a movie, a walk, shopping, anything to get together. 

    I was single until I was about 41 (though no children until after we got married), so I can empathize in part, anyway.  I did find lots of friends through sports - mainly through swimming (masters teams, most of which cater to literally every level of swimmer), but also running groups.  While I didn't meet my husband through swimming, my swimming friends were super supportive, and encouraged me with ideas of how to meet someone.  I met my husband via a "fancy" match service and, of the 70 people at our wedding, 20 were connected with my swimming group.  There is a fun masters swimming team in Berkeley and there must be running clubs, hiking clubs, gardening groups...etc., as others here mention.  Charities are also something you could look into, if you're inclined to do that. I'd also recommend looking into the more expensive/tailored dating services if you are interested in meeting potential partners.  All the best :)

    I'm returning to your post as I wanted to reply. While I'm not a single mother I am a stay at home mom and you know that in itself can be very lonely. I'm 43 with two grade school kids. Most parents my age have careers or children that are much older. Connecting can be difficult. Happy to connect, hike, have tea or get the kids together for a playdate. 

    Like others, I could have written this post.  I am divorced, in my 40's, with one child and family that lives on the East Coast.  I have also lost many friends/acquaintances due to the mass exodus from the Bay Area. Happy to commiserate with any of the folks on this thread in person.  :)

    I feel the same.  I've been in the bay area my entire life and still don't have any  friends here.  It gets very lonely sometimes.  I've posted to other local parenting boards, but never got much response.  Happy to connect with you.  My kids are 2 and 4. 

    I struggle with this too - AND I also feel like I've made some progress on this so I have some ideas.

    1- Regularity helps.  Two of my close friends are ones I walk with at a set time weekly.  They are both busy people and this works because it met their needs in other ways. I have two other friends I hike with not quite as often, but it's the same kind of thing where we have a pattern so it's easy to keep doing it.  For me and for them it's a two for one - exercise plus social time.  I hate to say that I can't think of any friends who have enough free time they would commit to a weekly get together "just" for social reasons, though in the past I had friends who came to dinner every week on a set night.

    2- Repeat/lengthy contact helps.  In my younger life my closer friends were made at the worst jobs - dishwasher, counter help at a bakery, etc. I often thought if I were to move somewhere new and feel lonely now I'd work a few hours a week as a barrista or something, just for the social interaction.  I think I made friends at those low level jobs because we just had a lot of hours to be together and there was opportunity to get to know each other. Some regularly volunteer thing could be like this too, if it was enough hours?  I want to try out meetups but I'm concerned it won't be regular or long enough contact.  Maybe a language class or something more stable?

    3- This doesn't always work, but sometimes when I feel lonely I try to think of someone who might also feel lonely like me or more so and reach out to them, partly just as  a way to keep myself social, but also so that two people are getting to try something social. 

    4- I'm playing with the idea of religion - feels sort of cheating as I'm not a "for sure" believer, but it's part of my childhood. But it might end up having the same problems as meetups - too casual, shifting, etc.

    For me it feels like having teens and being divorced is all part of this - I lost the center of my life being doing so much always for/with the family, and yet I'm not completely on my own able to go out all the time.  Still figuring out the path forward.  Glad to see others are inspired to start something - please share what you come up with so we can join you!


    I totally empathize with you.  I'm a single Mom and I spend a lot of time trying to make new friends and none of them seem to stick.  So, I find myself lonely in the Bay Area.  I'd love to connect and see if we click.  Same goes to others who have responded to this post. Let's get together!

    I have broken my heart over this issue, and put a lot of time into relationships that just did not last.  Very painful.  And it is much harder if you are an introvert . But it has gotten better with time, and I have made some new friends and strengthened old relationships. 

    I have no magic bullet for you, but probably you have more luck if you get involved in something long-term that other people show up regularly for as well, whether it's hiking with Sierra singles, a book club, church, a class, a dance troupe, etc.  Anything that really interests you.  When you feel empty from loneliness, it's hard to feel you have something to offer.  But other people are lonely too, it just takes time to figure out who you might want to be more intimate friends with.

    Also I do my best to let people know who I am right away (I'm not very conventional).  It just takes time to get a sense of who someone is and to form trust.  For example, my husband made a lot of friends through a swimming class he keeps taking.  Perhaps you and your child might take a tai chi or martial arts class together?

    The other thing is to continue make overtures that invite friendship and not worry about the outcome. I'll give someone a book on a topic they're interested in, or bring over soup if they're sick.  My husband is very good about mailing birthday cards (yeah, the paper kind)--that's done a lot to cement relationships.  It's a little like investing in the stock market long-term: you invest some time and see if people reciprocate and show an interest in you.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  And keep investing, because it's your best chance of a good return.

    Take heart--you're not alone.  Best of luck to you!

    I don't know if it's depressing or consoling that there are so many of us out there. I'm also in my 40s and and East Coast transplant who, despite living in the Bay Area for over 10 years, really doesn't have any close friends locally. If there a way we can contact each other and see what happens?

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Imbalanced Friendship - What to do, if anything?

May 2016

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

Oct 2015

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

Nov 2014

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 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