How to Deal with One Sided Friendships

We’ve all had one sided friendships. You know, the ones where you send five text messages before you get one back. The kind of friend who tells you about the dinner party that they’re throwing, but doesn’t invite you. Maybe you go out of your way to visit them, but they’ve never done anything for you. But, you get what I’m saying. The friendships are one sided, and you’re the only one who is the friend.

How to Deal with One Sided Friendships | Sadly, this occurs a lot when you get sick

Yes, I chose a chain-link fence for that graphic on purpose. Because a bad friendship, like any bad relationship, can feel like a prison. It’s a horrible place to be.

This is a very complex issue, so I’m just touching on one aspect that I have had to deal with a few times since I got really sick. When you get really sick, you find out who is a friend and who is simply an acquaintance.

My advice is not applicable in every situation.

The most confusing things that I’ve realized about one-sided friendships is that when you finally confront the other side of the friendship, they usually have no idea. They think you two are perfectly good friends. #StabInTheHeart, right? Like, you’ve been being eaten up over what to say, how to deal with it, talking it over with your significant other/family member, and then the other person has no idea that she isn’t even a friend. I don’t even hold people to very high standards of friendships anymore. Like, “Glad you’re alive,” once a month is cool.

There are tons of good reasons to try to maintain a friendship when it feels like you’re alone in it – like if your friend is depressed or going through a hard time, so they aren’t responding. But, there are plain old friendship fizzles.

From some very painful, personal experiences, I’m here to share my tips.

How to Deal with One Sided Friendships

  • Recognize that you’re in a one sided friendship.
    Sometimes it’s gradual. Like, she doesn’t respond for awhile, but then all of a sudden she wants to meet for coffee, texts you, and is generally in your life. That’s confusing, so you never know where you stand because you then text to set up the next coffee date and never hear back! The worst? When she wants to know why you didn’t tell her you were going through a hard time. Maybe because you didn’t think you were currently friends?
    Sometimes it’s really obvious. Maybe your friend goes on and on and on about the great weekend plans she has, but she doesn’t invite you. Guess what, you’re not in her circle of friends.
  • Say something.
    You don’t have to be mean or start a fight. Since these people can be hard to get in touch with, you may have to email or text. I wouldn’t suggest this with a coworker or someone you have to see on a regular basis – you probably don’t have a one sided friendship with someone you see on a regular basis. You might not like them, but that’s different. But, for like an old college friend or someone you have to go out of your way to see, technology is helpful.
  • Be careful what you say.
    You might save your friendship if you don’t attack her. I mean, you’ve been trying to be friends with the other person, so there is probably something you like about her. I have done everything from apologizing for bothering her (which I honestly felt like I was doing) to flat out telling the other person to just stop offering advice because she isn’t my friend if she only talks to me on her own terms. Or even, as a generic example, “Are we friends? The way you _________ (don’t respond, don’t accept my invitations, ignore me, fill in the blank), communicates that we aren’t friends.”
  • Decide what you want.
    Do you want to salvage the friendship? Maybe just letting her know that it’s one sided is a wake up call for the other person, so she realize she’s been selfish. If she’s been going through something personal, but didn’t feel comfortable telling you, that’s her prerogative, but at least you will know where you stand. You don’t need to pour your soul out to someone who won’t confide in you.
    Do you want them out of your life because they’ve hurt you? Then let them know. You don’t have to say “I’m cutting you out of my life, you life-draining, bitch,” but you can let them know that you are sorry that you don’t have room for them anymore after you bring the topic up.
  • Stand by your decision.
    Sometimes friendships end. A lot of times, they fade out. That hurts. I think that hurts more than a friendship “break-up,” since you don’t quite get closure. I always wonder what is wrong with me. Why was I not good enough to be considered a good friend? Why didn’t I get included in invitations? What can I do better with my next friend? Will I ever get another friend?
    When you just stop talking, it’s ok, but if you’re the only one keeping the friendship going, take a second to reevaluate why you keep pursuing the friendship.

How do you deal with friendship break ups? Are they as painful for you as they are for me? Do you say anything or just let it drop?

one sided friendships

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: life thoughts | Tags: |
  • I’ve always had a hard time making friends and sometimes I feel like I can’t even tell who is actually a good friend. No one really hangs out/invites me places outside of work, but it seems like everyone else always goes/hangs out together. Yet they all call me a friend? Friendship is so complicated…and it doesn’t help that I plan to move. Maybe it’ll be better to try and start all over making new friends in a new city!

    • I hope it is easier in a new city! I had great friends in DC. It was great. College was great. Now, I live in the suburbs and can’t get around, so I kind of just blog and go to the doctor. I hope that’ll change one day!

  • These are great tips. I often find myself feeling like I’m in a one-sided friendship. Then, I have to humble myself and remember that God gives me grace when I have a one-sided relationship with him, and sometimes these people deserve grace (and an honest conversation)! Great post.

    • Cassie, I love how you said you have to remember that a lot of time you are in a one-sided relationship with God. that me :/

    • Having an honest conversation is the most important part. I guess you can show grace through forgiveness, but I don’t think that always means reconciliation. If the other person apologizes, you can accept it without necessarily maintaining the friendship.
      In a lot of cases, especially since I’ve gotten sick, people have really hurt me. And by letting them drop in and out at their leisure only hurt me more. So, I had to stand by my decision and say “I think we can’t be friends anymore.”

  • These are some great tips on how to deal with something like this. I agree with Cassie, a lot of times I just have to remind myself that grace needs to shown since grace is shown to me daily from God for being so one-sided with Him.

    • I don’t think my tips have anything to do with God, to be honest. This is about people who have hurt me. And pain. And isolation that comes from being bedridden for several months. So, when people are one-sided in the friendships that are already hard to maintain, for my own mental health, I have to stand up for myself or confront the other person.

  • Love this Sarah! Thanks for the advice. It would be foolish for me to think I’m the only one who suffers from one-sidedness, but I (unfortunately) have (most definitely) been the one who will one-side someone else without even realizing it. Thanks for the great, humble post.

  • I take my friendships very seriously, and I have one friend in particular who is the WORST, and makes me feel like I have to do all the work. I kind of started back up from the friendship because if she’s not going to make an effort, then I have other things to focus my energy on. Great post, and glad to know I’m not the only one who has experienced this!

    • I take them seriously, too. I am the most fiercely loyal friend, which has gotten me into trouble a few times, but I will stand up for any friend. And since I can’t really get out and do much, when people drop in and out of my life, or exclude me from things for no apparent reason, it is excruciatingly painful.

  • It is so hard when this happens with friends. I have experienced it myself a time or two. I feel like if someone doesn’t make the effort, I’d rather focus my time and energy on the friends I have that are there for me. Being sick really does separate the close friends from the acquaintances. But it also makes me thankful for those that have stuck by me.

  • I’ve had a couple friends like this. I was always the one that had to call/text her and if I didn’t and we ran into her she would ask me if I was too busy to talk to her nowadays or something. So frustrating! I had to tell her multiple times that the phone works two ways. Eventually we did end up growing apart. We may see each other one a year if that. It’s sad how people grow apart sometimes

    • That’s nuts! Frustrating is right. People do grow apart. It’s always sad, though. Rationally, I know it happens, but, emotionally, it hurts.

  • I’m going through this with my best friend right now…. It’s awful, but it’s happening. Thanks for your post!

    • Oh, gosh. That has to be really hard with your best friend. Best friends are so hard. I always wished for a best friend. I guess I’ve had close friends over the years, but I always kept a large group of more shallow friends until I got sick. Then I realized how disposable I was because the friendships were shallow.

      • I’m so sorry. Some friends/ships are just that way and it’s too bad. It is really hard when you’re all at different stages in life (like I am with my bestie) but it’s still sad to go through. A lot of people want easy friendships but that’s just not how relationships work. Bah.

  • I’m such an emotional, empathetic person that I rarely feel like anybody cares about me as much as I care about them. I’ve started to understand this about myself, which has helped me give others some slack for not being quite as empathetic and relationship-focused as I am.

    However, I also don’t love confrontation or talking about feelings, so I usually just slowly pull out of relationships when I feel that I’m doing all the work!

    • Sometimes I feel the same way. I am an extremely loyal friend. But, I also can’t take the “oh my gosh, what’s the status. Does she hate me? Are we friends?” So I end up saying something. Sometimes that clears the air and things are fine, but then sometimes I’ve lost friends.
      Every situation and person is different, which makes it hard to give advice for everyone, so that (above) is just a little bit about how I handle things.

  • Great pieces of advice. I moved to the other side of the world. I learned very, very quickly who was willing to put forth some effort to maintain the friendship. With technology available, skype, text messages, facebook, email, apps to text for free…it isn’t difficult to stay in contact. But, I discovered that when I was no longer living in the same city, same community as some friends, I was no longer needed in their world. A sad revelation, but a true one.

    • That had to really hurt. Staying in contact isn’t hard at all. I timed it for a different post and you can use Siri to type “Busy with work – will talk this weekend” and it literally took 5.7 seconds to send. So, it’s not hard to let someone know that they’re on your mind/you’ll talk later.
      When I left DC to move south because of my health, I got sort of the same thing. I didn’t expect visits really, but at least a timely response to my emails. Then, I made a few friends here, but when I got more sick, they stopped responding to my emails, too. Maybe I’m a little compulsive, but I respond to everything pretty much right away. I think blog comments are the only place that I’m slow because I have to get on my laptop (since there is no app and it’s a nightmare on my phone), plus I want to be thoughtful in my responses. But, you’re right. If I want to have a friendship (which I am usually wanting – it is not hard to respond/say I’ll respond soon).
      And I get that life moves on and people make new friends, but when people just cut you out, it hurts!

  • Pingback: The Friday Five: Blogger Love v.6 | orangeowldiaries()

  • I’ve been through a lot of these, and after finding out that I was the only one interested in maintaining the friendship, I cut ties. It’s a hard choice to make. Esp for someone like me when I crave friendships and human interaction. That’s why I love the blogging community so much. I’ve made a lot of really strong friendships here where I can randomly text someone to encourage them, or randomly text or email that same person asking about my laziness to turn on my living room lights. aaaand now I’m rambling (Hi, namesake!) anyway, this is a GREAT post. well said, missy

    • Hahahaha yeah, it’s hard to cut ties, but sometimes it is more life-draining when you’re the one worried about the friendship, but the other person is just doing whatever. It really hurts when you have to consciously make that decision.
      But then I think about a best friend I had at the beginning of college, but we grew apart and when I see her pop up on Facebook, it still hurts because I remember all the secrets, jokes, etc., we shared, and how we were going to be in each other’s weddings (oh to be 18) and when I got married at 25 and she got married at 26, we didn’t even invite each other.

  • This is such a tricky topic. I recently realized my best friendship was really one sided and because I’m often a giving over taking person it took me years to realize it, because when I needed her, it was still about her. As I called her out on it to save our friendship she turned it on me and wanting to change her and never being happy with her. That’s when I realized I wasn’t getting my worth in a friendship and it was toxic. I still stand by my decision to end the friendship, but there are still many random moments where I think about it and get sad. I don’t know if all this is related to growing up and growing apart, realizing as life gets more complicated we have less time for all the bullshit, or what, but one sided friendships and deciding what to do with them seem to become very common the older you get.

    • That’s horrible. Toxic friends are hard because sometimes (a lot of times-that’s why they’re toxic), you don’t even realize that they’re toxic. Once, I pointed out to a LONG time friend who lived in another city, but I kept up with, while we we actually on vacation together that a girl that was supposed to be her best friend wasn’t a good friend at all. She was kind of toxic. When she got back from vacation, that girl, plus my friend’s boyfriend, sat her down to say that they had slept together while we were on vacation. That was about 3 years ago. Now they’re married. I wouldn’t want to steal my “best friend”‘s boyfriend and marry him-how can you trust him?
      But I digress. I grew apart from a best friend when we went to the same very small college (1200 students). It was like we were best friends and then we showed back up at school after the summer and never spoke again. It was always awkward, especially because we had all of the same friends. We just turned into different people. I get sad, though, too, when I think about the memories or the memories we could have made.

  • i definitely think we all have had to deal with this.. i have stopped being ‘friends’ with a lot of people in the last few years because i just got so exhausted trying to make things work. i am not mad, or angry at these people, just don’t have the energy for them anymore. that being said, it took me a long time to realise one of my very very good friendships is kinda one sided. it’s not even one sided really, but we are different people and what i think is inconsiderate, she doesn’t even think about. i have to remind myself that she is not being malicious. and i had to stop expecting so much, relying on her so much, you know? i stepped back and stopped texting her all the time. we are still great friends, but most of the time she reaches out because i got used to not reaching out. not even sure if that makes sense, i guess i just had to change my friendship expectations. some friendships are worth that, and some are really not.

    • That makes total sense. Sometimes you do have to readjust your expectations to save the friendship. There are times that I wish that I could have done that, but when the person turns it back on me, it’s like, ok. No. However, if it someone I still run into/have to see regularly, I let it fade.
      I have one friend who is still my friend, but our friendship has just gone through a lot of phases over the years. It has to do with which of us were in relationships, who was sick, who was working more hours, or who was in grad school. We used to be inseparable, but we grew apart. We see each other when we can and really care about what’s going on in the other person’s life, but like you, I realized that she has a lot more going on in her life than me, so I let her reach out to me instead of the other way around. Until then, Twitter just has to read my jokes or something.

  • Oh my goodness, I had no idea you posted this same topic as I did today. Oops! I usually catch your posts on Twitter, but I missed this one. I hate one-sided friendships. I really do. I hate that they exist and that we have to figure out how to handle them. I love your tips though. If you approach someone about how you are feeling, it’s possible that it could heal the relationship, or it could just fizzle even faster.

    I personally would have like 3 wonderful friends than 10 one-sided friendships.

    • Hahaha actually I “promoted” this today, but I think it is like two weeks old or something. Friendship (and losing them) has been on my mind a lot, which is why I happened to be reading a memoir about friendship today 🙂
      I loved your post because it was an area that I’ve been thinking about, but didn’t really write about. Like, I went to clean out my desk at work (after 8 months of not working anyway) because I finally am separated and no one would make eye contact with me. I worked with them for two years every single day. I did lots of social things with them. And no one would even look at me! Obviously, I’ve been too sick to socialize, but I didn’t expect them to ignore me and avoid eye contact!
      My best friend from college (the roommate of 2.5 years) is getting divorced, so she just moved 2 hours away (instead of 20 minutes), so I’m out of local friends now.
      Since I moved while I was sick, I never had the chance to establish good friends here, so all my friends are long distance. Again, I guess that’s why friendship is also on my mind – because a lot of people who are chronically ill lose a lot of friends.
      But it’s just like you said, it’s better to have a few close friends than a ton of superficial friends. Most of my life, I’ve had tons and tons of superficial friends, but that didn’t serve me well when I got sick. So, now I do value my family and close friends, even when they’re far away.
      See why I’m terrible at Twitter? I write way too much! 🙂