There’s a lot of truth in the saying that ‘friendship is a two-way street’ and we’ve probably all been in relationships that often feel more like one-way roads to nowhere.
I know from personal experience that when you have to do all of the leg work, it can get tiring and demoralizing. If you find that it’s always you who has to call up your friends, organize the get-togethers, or make changes to your schedule to accommodate theirs, you probably start to feel that this is unfair after a while.
You wouldn’t be wrong there — true friendships aren’t built on one making all of the efforts while the other sits around doing little to contribute. Sooner or later, you are going to wonder if you are really friends at all.
And to make matters worse, if you get replies like, “I’m busy, I’ll call you later,” when you contact them, and they never do, that sucks. The same goes for messaging: there’s nothing more infuriating than texting a friend, only to be ghosted by them.
Although this kind of one-way effort can indeed be a sign that the friendship isn’t as solid as you think, there may be other factors playing out that you aren’t aware of. Some people don’t feel comfortable taking the initiative, for example, and others are used to having someone else do all of the running around.
As a friend quote says, “We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”
You need to get to the bottom of why you are the only one trying to sustain and nurture this friendship, which we are going to look at below.
After that, I’m going to give you some useful tips to help redress the balance and to know when it’s time to call it a day and move on.
I’m not going to tell you to simply end the friendship or get involved in an all-out row about why they never call you. This type of approach causes nothing but hurt, conflict, and even shame or guilt on both sides. Instead, I want you to think about how valuable that person is to you and how committed you are to making the friendship work.
No one likes to be taken for granted but often or not, our own sense of insecurity or lack of self-esteem can cloud our judgment. Also, any past experiences of being in a hurtful relationship can make us super-sensitive and too quick to judge others, without giving them a chance to explain themselves.
A lot has to do with the way we ‘think’ people should respond to us, and how we should behave in return. Add to that, the fact that we are all familiar with taking on a certain role in our relationships and don’t realize that we need to step up or change our approach.
One-sided friendships are exhausting and some of the tell-tale signs are things like:
- You always have to take the initiative to meet up. If you don’t, nothing gets arranged.
- They only contact you when they need something.
- You always need to go to their place but they’ll never come to yours.
- You always need to fit in with their plans.
- You are always there for them but they aren’t there for you when you need support or help.
- They never ask how you are.
- You show your friend kindness and generosity but get nothing back in return.
- They only ever talk about themselves.
My ‘friend’ Nadia was going through a rough patch with her husband at one point and needed some time away so she asked me to join her on a weekend break.
I was excited at the prospect of spending a few days of relaxation although I knew that she would probably also want to talk through some of her problems during that break.
What I didn’t expect was for her to monopolize the conversation for the whole two days, going on and on about her problems without even asking me how I was doing. I came home feeling emotionally drained and used. It seemed like she only cared about herself and selfishly assumed that I was prepared to listen to all of her problems without any consideration for me.
Being a good listener is fine, but when the conversation is totally one-sided, it can call into question how much your friendship really means to this person and can make you feel like a door-mat.
That’s how I felt, and I’m sure you will have experienced something similar. Maybe when you do call your friend, they spend all of your phone time talking about themselves when you could actually do with a listening ear yourself.
They may never be available when you make suggestions to meet up, but demand that you drop everything to get together with them when they feel like it.
Showing kindness to your friend is also great, as long as they appreciate it and would act the same way with you. If not, that’s very unfair. Of course, we don’t carry out acts of kindness to get anything in return, but you know the difference between someone being genuinely grateful and someone who is simply taking you for granted.
This can be very damaging to your self-esteem and make you feel as if you aren’t deserving of the same kindness and consideration. If you feel like you are bending over backwards to please them, it may be a good time to consider why you do that, and what you get out of it.
Listening to your friend’s problems is a sign that you care about them, so when you find that they have no interest in your own life, what does that say about them? Perhaps it’s part of your nature to be a good listener, but you also need to be able to talk about yourself and to express how you feel, to confide in someone, and share your thoughts with.
Having to take the initiative all the time may be fine with you, especially if the other person is genuinely very busy and doesn’t have time to call you first. But, honestly? How long does it take to make a quick phone call or send a short text?
Maybe you need to consider if this other person really is too busy, or if that is an excuse. Whatever the reason for their unwillingness to get in touch, you have to weigh up if it is valid or if it shows apathy on their part towards contributing to your friendship.
If you used to pick them up from work as they didn’t have a car, then they ghost you as soon as they buy one of their own, the chances are they were using you. You are right to feel hurt or angry and it’s easy to become distrustful of others after that, which may be affecting how you treat any new friends.
Why are you the only one trying to sustain and nurture this friendship?
There are many points we need to consider when experiencing this feeling of ‘always having to be the one to make the first move’ and wishing that your friends would call you for a change.
As frustrating as it feels, it can also be downright annoying and even make you feel insecure. Does your friend really like you? Did you d something to upset them? Are they trying to give you the hint that they want to be left alone? Do they even want to be friends with you?
Let’s think about some of the things that could be going on behind the scenes:
1). Your friend is the kind of person who waits for other people to invite them out first. Not everyone likes to make the first move, and some are more than happy to go with the flow. It’s just their style and they aren’t aware of how annoying it can seem to others.
Maybe they have never gotten used to initiating anything and haven’t picked up on the fact that a good friend will be more proactive when it comes to organizing get-togethers.
2). Your friend may be shy and feel insecure about asking you to meet up with them. Their lack of confidence can be totally misinterpreted by you or others and even though they would love to meet up with you, their insecurities prevent them from calling you.
It can stem from a lot of problems they have dealt with in the past and has nothing to do with you as a person. For some people, it takes a lot of courage to be the one to do the inviting and they may even be relieved when others approach them first.
3). Your friend may not be as focused as you are on arranging a bowling night or grabbing concert tickets. You are always one step ahead of them as you like to organize everything well in advance while they have other priorities that occupy them.
Your friend may have a great idea for the weekend, which they were going to mention to you on Friday, but you’ve already gone ahead and booked a table at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
4). Your friend may be quite the introvert, who doesn’t necessarily enjoy social gatherings and prefers one-on-ones. Someone who is used to being alone can also go a lot longer than a person who is a social butterfly, so their failure to contact you doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to hang out with you. They simply enjoy their own company and don’t feel the need to reach out to you.
5). You may have earned a reputation as being the ‘organizer’ and your friend has taken on the passive role of waiting for you to make all of the plans. If this is the case, they won’t realize that you feel frustrated with them for not calling you and will assume that it’s your job to do the organizing because that’s who you are.
6). Your friend may have different responsibilities or priorities in life, which means that they don’t always have the same schedule, free time, or peace of mind to contact you.
The demands of their job may leave them feeling drained, or their family situation could put pressure on them that leaves little time for socializing. Not everyone can manage their lives as well as you, but this doesn’t infer that they don’t want you as a friend.
7). Your friend may not enjoy holding conversations over the phone, preferring face-to-face contact. If you are work colleagues or see each other frequently in class, they may not feel the need to be in constant contact, even if you prefer that.
Not everyone is into texting and many people find chatting over the phone a waste of time. I know people who don’t even have a mobile phone, even in this day and age, and others who don’t like using social media, which has nothing to do with their desire to have friends.
8). Your friend might feel that they are disturbing you by calling: an impression you may have given them yourself. Not everyone feels comfortable making phone calls without a good reason.
They could be unsure of your relationship, believe they don’t have anything interesting to say, or get anxious about where they stand with you. It’s possible you are very busy and have ignored their calls in the past or told them you can’t talk, which may explain why they refrain from calling you now.
9). Your friend may have different interests to you, so isn’t likely to call you to talk about stuff that they think will bore you. They might know that basketball isn’t your thing, so would rather call other buddies who share the same passion as them. On the other hand, they will call you to talk about a new TV program that they know you would like.
10). Your friend’s circumstances may have changed. Perhaps they were single when you met and now have a new love interest, meaning that they spend most of their time pursuing that relationship. They could have started a new job or college and need to invest their energy in getting used to that, so they don’t get around to contacting you as often as you would like.
There could be many other explanations for your friend’s reluctance to call you or organize meet-ups. They could even be trying to deal with problems that you aren’t aware of, so try not to jump to hasty assumptions without understanding exactly what is going on with them.
Often, we are projecting a certain type of personality or behaviour that gives the wrong impression. For example, calling a friend every day may make you seem pushy or clingy. It could be that you have loads of free time and enjoy chatting on the phone for hours on end, while your friend has responsibilities to meet and can’t afford to do that.
A lot of what you are experiencing could be an over-exaggeration you have created in your mind, and this reflects on how you view yourself more than how your friend sees you.
Demanding that they call you could be to fulfill some kind of need you have to be at the center of attention and you may not handle feelings of rejection well.
Your idea of what a ‘true friend’ is could also be re-examined because we often have high expectations of others that are impossible to satisfy. If you believe that being a ‘true friend’ means having daily contact by phone, messaging, or getting together, then it’s quite likely that anyone you befriend will fail your ‘friend test’.
We all have lives to lead and although it’s natural to want to hang out with friends, not all of us feel the need to do that 24/7. Good friendships are built on mutual respect, which means allowing the other person their space and listening to their needs. If you think it’s all about you, what kind of vibes are you putting out to others?
Once you have thought about how you are coming across and what your expectations are, then you can go about redressing the imbalance that seems to be emerging in your relationship. The most important elements are honesty, openness, and communication — reaching out to the other person and explaining how you feel.
Let’s look below at some other strategies you can apply:
How can you redress the balance?
When you feel that it is only you making the effort in a friendship, there are several actions you can take to put things right. Some of them will test the friendship and reveal how strong it really is. Others are meant to nurture a deeper understanding and hopefully realign your bond with each other.
Talk it through
Communication is the only way to clear the air and move forward. You can’t expect to maintain any kind of relationship if you aren’t prepared to talk about how you feel, so it’s very important that whenever you want to clarify things, you arrange to meet up to talk about it.
Make it clear that you want to meet up with your friend to talk to them and suggest a time and place. Approach the meeting with a genuine desire to reach some kind of understanding, and don’t go there in full battle gear ready to attack.
Being over-emotional is also a natural reaction but it is best if you can manage to keep things under control and maintain an amiable tone, rather than shouting or crying. You can prepare what you wish to say in advance if it helps, with statements like, “I’ve noticed that you don’t get in touch with me…
I’d prefer it if you called me more often…” It’s not a blaming game here, but a move on your part to explain how you feel and if the person sitting opposite you is really invested, they will listen to you.
In the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie said, “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”
Don’t forget that your friends may be going through something that they don’t feel comfortable talking about, which could explain their behavior. By opening a dialogue, you let them know how their behavior affects you and also give them the chance to share anything on their mind.
They may feel embarrassed or surprised, but as long as they show a willingness to work things out, your efforts will have been worth it.
If you are fed up with feeling like it’s always you who has to make the call or text, you can approach the subject with some suggestions. Explain exactly what it is that bothers you and propose how that can be resolved.
For instance, your friend never texts you or only replies to your messages in one or two words.
Once you point that out, you may find that they simply don’t like that particular means of communication. You can then suggest having chats over the phone instead if they prefer.
Perhaps they are always more than willing to come to your place but never invite you to theirs. You can ask if it is OK to visit them and even suggest a specific time and day. You never know — they may feel awkward about having visitors as their home is too small/old/messy, or whatever. If that’s the case, respect their boundaries and suggest a meet-up in a coffee shop, park, or any public place.
The point is to make it clear to your friend that you enjoy being in their company and would appreciate knowing that those feelings are reciprocated. There’s no use in pressurizing them to behave in a way just to suit you, but you can make suggestions for keeping in touch. Offer them some options such as taking it in turns to call each other, or alternating who arranges what each weekend.
That’s a great way to bring balance to the relationship. If your friend is aware of your needs, hopefully, they will make more of an effort in the future to contact you first. If they aren’t consistent, it may be that they were simply trying to please you and you will need to consider what your next steps are.
If, for whatever reason, you feel that it’s always you taking the initiative to make plans, simply stop doing that and wait to see what happens. Instead of arranging nights out, put the onus on your friend to suggest something. If they get in touch, great.
If they don’t, you need to ask yourself why that is. Could it be that they are genuinely too busy, or have they become used to you doing all of the leg work? A chat with them can easily clear this up and you will know from their reaction if they are keen to meet up with you or aren’t that committed.
You don’t need to sulk or start ghosting them. Just be open and explain that you would appreciate it if they could suggest activities too sometimes. Depending on how they respond, you may learn a lot about what is going on with them and even give them the space to take the initiative.
If nothing changes after discussing it, you need to ask yourself how much this behavior is affecting you and what you are willing to accept.
You aren’t being unreasonable by expecting your friend to organize meet-ups and if they don’t seem that bothered, why should you?
Understanding the dynamics
You may have the wrong expectations about your friendship with a particular person. Although you think that you are their best friend (or potential best friend), they may already have a large social circle and you are on the outer limits of that at the moment.
It isn’t that they don’t like you or don’t want to spend time with you but they might overlook you in favor of more established friends. Until you forge a deeper connection, you can’t expect to be included in everything so give your friendship time to grow and see how it goes.
It’s possible that your new friend feels you won’t get on with their social circle, for whatever reason. They may enjoy spending time with you because they can show another side of themselves that they don’t feel comfortable revealing with their present friends.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to feel like you are competing for anyone’s attention or taking anyone’s place. Be yourself and don’t undermine your value if you wish to earn respect from the other person.
Forming a social circle
Placing all of your money on one horse may turn out to be a lucky move, but can also leave you penniless. Relying on one sole person to satisfy all of your needs is a lot to ask for, especially if that person already has a network of acquaintances.
In reality, no single individual can give you everything you need in life and although it’s great to have a few close friends, being too dependent on anyone in particular isn’t such a good idea. They may enjoy going to see a movie with you but prefer to go shopping with someone else. That’s OK, and you are free to do the same if you wish.
Create a diverse range of friends so that you feel more rounded, instead of waiting for one person to contact you. By widening your network, you have more options and can enjoy being with different friends for different reasons.
There is no need to be left sitting at home, wondering why X or Y didn’t call you. Relying on one individual can make or break your weekend, which may leave you feeling bitter and sorry for yourself. By expanding your circle, there will be more opportunities for you to get to know a range of different people and remove your dependence on any one individual.
Adjusting to new friendships
Just because your old college chums used to text you every day, it doesn’t mean that a new group of friends will do the same thing. When you begin any friendship, it’s important to have an open mind.
Sure, you want to hang out with someone you can rely on, trust, and have fun with, but they may not behave the way your old pals used to. Once you grasp that it’s not their thing to text frequently, you can focus on enjoying time together rather than letting any insecurities rise to the surface.
Consider what you are willing to accept in a relationship and how you would like to be treated. You can’t force someone else to behave in the way that you would like, but you can determine what is important to you and what you will put up with.
If the friendship fades because of that, it isn’t something to get angry or upset over. Not everything works out as we had planned and as long as you maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem, you will have lost nothing.
Take a breather
If you feel drained by the relationship, take time out to reassess the situation and to give yourself the chance to evaluate things. By not calling your friend for a week or two, you may even get a clearer picture of how strong your friendship is.
If they call you after a few days asking how you are, saying that they were worried about you, or wondered what had happened to you, that could be an indication that they just find it hard to reach out to you under normal circumstances.
On the other hand, if you don’t hear anything from them after a few weeks, you may want to ask yourself what kind of friendship you actually have.
It could be that your friend is not as committed to the relationship as you, and that will become apparent once you take a step back. Some people don’t like to feel tied down to one specific person but may still be willing to hook up with you every now and again. If that is acceptable to you, fair enough, but work on developing more meaningful bonds with others who can offer you more than just a casual friendship.
Having friends makes life so much richer but you need to choose them wisely. Not everyone you meet will be friend material and it’s up to you to decide what you are looking for in the other person. Choosing those who value and respect you as an individual is paramount. You are worthy of happiness and deserve to have good friends who will appreciate and understand you.
Like most things in life, actions speak louder than words and your relationships need to be reciprocal — if you are doing all the giving, that’s not a balanced relationship. If you feel that your efforts are not being met with the same level of enthusiasm, it’s never too late to walk away from the relationship. After all, why should you settle for anything but the best?
Letting go of people who don’t bring us joy in life is a healthy process and you will be doing yourself a great favor by removing those who make you feel undervalued. You don’t necessarily have to make any great declarations or end things with a big argument, although you may wish to express how you feel.
You might prefer to keep in touch through occasional texts or emails, but focus more of your energy on finding real friends who will bring more meaning into your life.
It’s not always easy to do that, especially if your circle is limited. If you attend school, college, or university, you may see the same people day in, day out, and find it difficult to strike up a friendship with anyone around you. But there are actually ways of making more friends in school.
For now, stay true to who you are. There are plenty of strangers out there looking for a friend just like you!
- One-sided friendships follow specific patterns of behavior.
- There may be many underlying reasons why your friend doesn’t contact you.
- Communication is crucial to nurturing a healthy relationship.
- Making suggestions for ways to address the imbalance can be helpful.
- Understanding the dynamic of your relationship and extending your social circle are positive steps.
- Give space to the other person and reassess your expectations.
- It’s OK to let go of friendships that don’t work out.