Friendships can be sources of joy and sources of sorrow. Since there isn’t exactly a rule book on what to do when things get tense or go south, we talked researchers, authors, and therapists to get their insight into how to manage the common relationship difficulties we all face.
Friends are crucial, and every woman should have these eight types of friends in her life. Jan Yager, PhD, friendship coach, sociologist, and author of When Friendship Hurts and Friendshifts often hears from people who’ve been hurt by a friend’s broken promise: someone canceled plans at the last minute or declined to attend an important party. Dr. Yager likes to point out we don’t have formal contracts with friends where we’ve agreed to never abandon, betray or disappoint each other. “If you bring a fantasy about what the ideal friend will do in any situation to a relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment,” says Dr. Yager. She has an example from her own life: “When my dad passed away, a friend didn’t go to the funeral. Rather than fume, pull away and be angry, I decided to casually ask her why. I said, ‘I was surprised not to see you at my dad’s funeral. It’s OK, I’m just curious.’” Turns out that her friend’s dad recently passed away too and she just couldn’t handle another funeral. “Never in a million years would I have guessed what was going on.”
When things feel unbalanced
Maybe you feel like you’re always sharing about your life, but your friend doesn’t open up about hers. It’s common for relationships to experience periods where things are unbalanced. Maybe one friend is going through a breakup and needs extra support. In times like these, it’s important that you practice becoming a better listener. It’s possible another friend simply has more to discuss at any given time. Counselor Leslie Jay says it’s important to ask for what you need, even if it puts you in a vulnerable situation: “Open the door for it to be a two-way street.” Two phrases Jay suggests trying are, “I’m happy to be able to hear what you’re going through. Sometimes I need to talk. Could you listen to my problems?” and “I noticed I’m always sharing about my life. I want you to tell me something about your life.” Yager says that when tensions arise, affirmations can help. When your needs feel unmet, repeat this affirmation from her book, Daily Affirmations for Healthy and Nurturing Relationships: “I am accepting my friends for who they are.”
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Have a friend disappear on you is tough, especially if you felt close or if the connection seemed promising. Maybe after a fun night out, your friend didn’t reply to messages or left an email unanswered. If you linger on the heartache of being ghosted for too long, we can start to feel resentful and angry, says Dr. Yager. “The basic thing about friendship that’s so important to remember is that it’s optional,” she continues. This goes for both parties. We choose others and others choose us. The challenge is to not to label your self “unchosen” and miss out on meeting new friends or cultivating deeper relationships with existing pals. Keep in mind that it makes sense to feel pain after being ghosted, so give your self some time. Carlin Flora, social science writer and author of the book Friendfluence, says, “One piece of advice is to stop trying to figure out why. It’s better for your mental health to accept that you really don’t know the reason why. Sometimes, you really don’t know what’s going on with other people.”