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Dealing with an unreliable friend

What do you do when an unreliable friend breaks dates and can no longer be trusted her for her word.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I’ve known my friend for just under a year. Although we get along well, she is unreliable and flaky.

When I suggest doing something, she doesn’t seem keen. She either says okay, and we’ll set a day to see each other or the classic response: “I’ll get back to you” – which she never does. As a result, numerous plans we’ve made either haven’t happened because they are forgotten about or she cancels them at the last minute with some poor excuse. Sometimes this happens when I’m on my way to meet her! She cancels plans she initiates, too, and says we never hang out enough, which I find confusing.

On the rare occasions that we do manage to meet up, she always makes an excuse to leave early and the whole thing is cut short. What’s more frustrating is that it’s because she’d rather spend time at home with her boyfriend whom she lives with!

So how should I handle this? Am I being unreasonable?

Signed, Lauren

ANSWER

Dear Lauren,

Of course, you aren’t being unreasonable! No one enjoys having an unreliable friend who consistently breaks plans.

It sounds like your friend truly wants to get together with you—or else she would simply say no when you ask, nor would she initiate get-togethers. But she may be having difficulties making plans and keeping them either because her boyfriend is making demands on her time or because she feels driven on her own to spend more time with him. One other possibility is that she is simply a poor planner/scheduler.

As far as you are concerned, the precise reasons are irrelevant. Friends should be more reliable and considerate than she is being to you. You need to talk to your friend and let her know you would prefer she not make plans rather than break them at the last minute. Ask her if she knows why this keeps happening, and suggest she put herself in your shoes and think about how she would feel if the situation were reversed.

If you are more assertive in setting limits and letting your friend know how you feel, this will hopefully be something you can work out together. Sometimes women are so swept away with romantic relationships that friendships take a back seat. You may need to find other friends to fill the gaps in your calendar if she can’t improve her track record.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Irene

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Category: Disappointing friends

Comments (21)

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  1. Julie says:

    WOW!I’m so glad I landed here. I was having a problem with a friend I really cared about, but was super unreliable. A couple of days ago after she canceled on me at the last minute once again, I decided to kindly explain to her how I really wanted to be friends, but her standing me up may affect our friendship in the long run. I mentioned to her that I understood how busy she was and requested that in the future we not make plans. I suggested that she contact me the day of and if I’m not doing anything we can hang out and this may be the only way to save our friendship.

    I didn’t hear back for a couple of days, so I decided to give her a call. I left a message letting her know that I hope she was not mad at me. Asked that she call me when she gets a chance and hoped she was ok. I also explained that I was doing this because I cared about her and didn’t just want to write her off and would like for us to have a good friendship where we can communicate with each other. No response.

    Though I felt bad feeling I may have lost a friend, I still had no regrets, because I really did not like her making me feel like she wasn’t respecting my time. I have had times when I didn’t feel like hanging out, but I never cancelled. I just don’t like to do that unless its a must, so why should she feel ok doing so with me? Anyway, to make a long story short, I feel so much better knowing I’m not alone in this and made the right decision in expressing how I felt.

    I would never set out to hurt anyone, so this type of behaviour never makes sense to me. I recently had to break up with a boyfriend of five months for the same flakyness. He wouldnt let go and couldnt understand why i didnt want to continue to try. Hellooo..i’ve talked to you about this many times. I have been trying. I had to tell him I was dating someone else for him to leave me alone. His friend tried to talk to me to get him in my good graces, telling me he cared so much about me, but this is just how he is. Claiming they are best friends, but he treats him this way as well, but he is a great guy. Huh? If the person is never there for you when you need them, how are they a great person? Some people are just the way they are and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to let go.

    I have a great group of friends that i’ve been friends with for years and I feel very lucky. I’m always up for new friendships, but there is no way I’m letting anyone in my life or trying to sustain a friend with kind of personality.

  2. Linda says:

    I had a friend who cancelled plans at the last minute too. At first, I believed her excuses, and let it go. Then, a pattern emerged, and I spoke up. We talked about her cancelling all the time and made an agreement to just not make any plans anymore. How stupid is that? Real stupid. I’ve moved on and made lots of other friends. But, about 3 months ago this friend called and made a plan with me (all her idea) for a Saturday afternoon. It had been a long time since I had seen her so I agreed to the plan. She called all week, on Monday, Wednesday, and even Friday talking about how fun our plan was going to be. Then, the next day, on Saturday, about an hour before our plan….yep…she called to cancel.
    I let her know how I felt about it, and her answer was that I think that the world revolves around me. I hate that bitch…she’s off my list forever now. If I never see her again, it will be too soon.

  3. “Dealing with an Unreliable Friend”- It is very tough to handle unreliable friends. They just make you sad on various occasions. You want to enjoy your time with him or her but they don’t take it with heart. According to my opinion if you have a unreliable friend and he is not kind with you then do the same as he/she do with you. Only by doing this they can know what is being to neglect your loved ones.

    • kim says:

      Thank you for your insights. I do have an unreliable friend- cancels on the last minute, calls and DEMANDS for my time when she’s free. Although I don’t cancel plans on the last minute to give her a dose of her own medicine, I started NOT making plans with her unless it’s a group thing. In that way, even if she cancels on the last minute, I can still do as planned, without her. She’s frustrated that “I seem to be very busy lately”, but my response is : Yes, I am. I feel good that she no longer has any chance to waste my time.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Does it really matter why this or any other ‘friend’ continually cancels? What matters is being around people who treat you with kindness and consideration.

  5. Denise says:

    You make plans with someone who constantly cancels, gives poor excuses, cancels her own idea plans, and spends lots of time with her boyfriend. If this were happening to me, I’d think of a few possibilities:
    1)She doesn’t want to spend time with me. Instead of saying no, she’s not interested or no longer thinks we have enough in common, she stays vague (not keen) or just cancels with poor excuses hoping I’ll get it.
    2)She treats others like this and it’s just a general problem she has. 3)She decides later her boyfriend is more interesting than plans with you.

    If she won’t give you a clear, honest explanation, you should move on. People who like you enough to share their time will find a way to do so, be honest that they are too busy or make a stronger effort to reschedule.

    I remember hitting it off wonderfully with someone at work. I left the position and suggested we keep in touch and was hurt when it didn’t work out. I never doubted the person’s sincerity and wondered what happened; still sad about it.

    Hope this helps.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Denise and Lauren,
      Yes, Denise , I totally agree with what you said, especially in Point 1. I used to work in the same office as a woman who seemed a lot like Lauren’s friend. She told us that she had trouble in saying “no” to acquaintances, co-workers and friends, so instead she pretty much always said YES, accepted the invitation, and then just didn’t show up, or faked out at the very last minute with a lame excuse. She said they would “get the message” that way!Yikes! Some people are just callous, and have no feelings for others unless it is strictly to THEIR benefit. Once she agreed to go and see a movie with a co-worker, and she left her waiting outside the movies theatre …and her cell phone was “conveniently” turned off. The other girl was furious the next day, understandably. When this “woman who could not/would not say NO”, got another job at a new workplace, she promised to “keep in tough” with a number of people. Needless to say, she didn’t.

      Some people are just like that. They really don’t care about other people’s feelings. They are just wired differently. Don’t give them multiple chances, as they REALLY don’t care. They are selfish and narcissistic. It’s sad, but that’s the way some people are, and chances are, they will never change for the better. sometimes, you just have to move on, for your own good.

  6. Janet says:

    I can really relate to this- I have had a couple of friends like this over my adult years and it is extremely frustrating!!! One friend I had seemed as if she was clearly interested in a friendship with me, but whenever she would suggest a get-together with me or together with our sons, who are approximately the same age, she couldn’t seem to get it together or would leave me hanging. One of the last times we attempted to get together socially, we talked of an excursion to a museum over a school vacation – she seemed interested, but I waited around for her call one morning and into the early afternoon, and finally gave up, just took my son and went with him. I took a break from her for a year or two -during which time I continued to get positive signals from her which was very confusing. I gave her one last chance, we tried to arrange a get-together, but it was the same old thing, she left me hanging so I gave up on her entirely. When I see her we are friendly to one another and always have something to talk about, but that’s it. I never quite understood what went wrong with this friendship as this woman is clearly a capable person, an attorney married with two children, so in some ways I blame myself. As opposed to me, she does have a career and many other friends, from college and her community, so I wonder how it is that they accept and put up with this behavior!

  7. Alex says:

    I have been through this exact thing with someone. I took it hard because I don’t befriend lots of people in the first place. I began blaming myself for the flakiness. I decided, after way too long and too many “I forgot” episodes, to walk away. I had the conversations and asked the questions. She knew how I felt but continued to do what she wanted or “doing me” as she put it.
    It has nothing to so with anyone as to why someone is rude and inconsiderate. Even if that person doesn’t enjoy your company there is absolutely no reason to be rude. As adults we should be able to say that we aren’t compatible rather than accept invitations and extend invitations that we don’t intend to follow through with. It’s that simple.
    In my case, this person sought out people who would put up with their bad behavior. I was supportive towards this person and I even got to the point where I was ok chit chatting with that person but I didn’t ask to get together anymore. The last straw was when they asked me to do something for them that I deemed important. Again, no follow through after I’d asked them to please not do that again.
    See, this person knew I cared and that’s what they were looking for but they weren’t looking it reciprocate or even respect me or my feelings. For me, that’s what it comes down to … Respect. When someone doesn’t respect themselves they certainly won’t respect you. Disrespectful and inconsiderate behavior towards others shows what that person feels about themselves. When I realized this it was easier for me to walk away without the conversation, etc. I just decided I didn’t want to deal with it anymore and that person hadn’t added anything positive to my life, so why continue on?
    We all have our faults. Someone might be flaky but they might be an awesome friend otherwise. That’s when you can overlook certain things. If you can’t say that that person has added anything positive to your life then letting go is a must.

    • Samantha says:

      “As adults we should be able to say that we aren’t compatible rather than accept invitations and extend invitations that we don’t intend to follow through with. It’s that simple.”

      I personally accept invitations because there are people who won’t take no for an answer and will be very emotional about it. Just to shut them up, I show up for their invites. And hate myself for doing so afterward.

      • Alex says:

        As it’s said … We do whatever we do because there is a payoff for us. You’re saying that you don’t want to deal with someone else’s emotions. You don’t have to. Their emotions are theirs to handle. The truth might hurt but a lie is much worse. I wouldn’t suggest compromising yourself at all. I’m not suggesting to be heartless either. This really isn’t a black and white issue. Different circumstances and personalities definitely lend to our break up techniques or lack thereof.
        I’ve had to end interactions before. Sometimes it just fades and a few times it was someone not taking no for an answer. I wasn’t nasty about it. I tried my best to be gentle but firm and honest. I didn’t point fingers.
        I say incompatibility because no one is better than anyone else. It’s about not sharing the same core values, interests, etc.
        All we can ever do is be honest. We don’t have to be jerks in telling the truth. If someone doesn’t take no for an answer after you’ve been clear about your intentions and feelings then it’s up to them to deal with their own truth.
        I hope this clears up what I was trying to say previously.

      • Denise says:

        Samantha,

        These people who won’t take no for an answer and get very emotional–are you saying they keep asking and pestering? They sound needy and manipulative. I’d say no 50 times before accepting an invite from someone who does this. Hope next time you can say no and stick to it so not to hate yourself afterward.

      • Lauren says:

        Sometimes, it is a good idea to have a list of excuses ready so that you do not have to accept invitations to go places that you do not want to go to. Practice saying no, and then it will be easier. Or you could say, let me check my agenda and get back to you, then e-mail your decline to the invitation. You should not have to go places what you do not want to go, and you should not have to hang out with people that you do not really like. People do not stay in bad marriages, so why should they stay in bad friendships. Sometimes it is best just to let it go. Then if you bump into them, you can always smile and say Hi, but you should not be inveigled or trapped into saying yes, when you really mean no.

  8. Lauren says:

    Hi, I also had a friend who was always flaking out at the last moment (sometimes the last second). When we DID meet up , she was often very late, and thought nothing of keeping me waiting for her for 45 minutes, without even turning on her cell phone! I got sick of her dismissive behaviour to me, she did other mean things, and she was very rude at times. So in the end , I decided that I did not deserve this disrespectful treatment from her. Now I have cut her loose, and I spend time with other friends who are much better people. We don’t know what her problem is, but it made me feel bad about myself, so I decided that enough was enough. I am not her doctor or her psychologist, and I cannot help her. Why make someone a priority in your life, when you are only an option in their life.

  9. Lauren says:

    Thank you Irene and to everyone else for their replies. I really appreciate it!

    I find that I’m beginning to trust this friend less and less. I understand life can get in the way of things so it’s not the end of the world if we can’t meet up. But it’s excuse after excuse and she’s definitely making a habit of this. I’d love to spend time as a group instead but we’re never free on the same days so it’s rather difficult!

    I think there’s an issue of money behind her flakiness and I’m very understanding of that (even if it is because she’s spent it on two holidays this year!) e.g. she’d plan something to do so that it doesn’t break the bank but most of the time, she cancels.

    It’s great to know everyone has found a way to deal with their flaky friends. I know how draining it can be! I’ll definitely try and bring this up with her – even though I’m not the confrontational type. I’m just wary it may come across as if I want her to choose between her boyfriend and her friends.

    What I’ve realized is that flaky friends like the IDEA of doing something, but when it comes to going ahead with the plan – they’d just rather not!

  10. Marty says:

    Over the years I’ve had two friends who exhibited undependable behaviors about getting together. One would accept and then want to change the activity, or later suggestincorporating two or three other things in the time we allotted though the first thing was focus enough. Or accept and then want to add other people to the plans and then try to accommodate their preferences. That friend really likes having lots of people around and likes to pack her free time. The other person would cancel by leaving a message or email, or wait until the last minute to say she couldn’t go. Or forget completely. So, rather than cut all the ties, and since I fundamentally like both people, I manage both people the same way. If I really want to do something, and not by myself, then I always include another dependable friend in the plan. If the flaky friend flakes out, I still have a friend to go with. When the friend who wants to pack more activities or friends into our plan, and it doesn’t fit my idea of a good time, I can decline and keep the original plan. Heading off the problem, rather than having a confrontation, has eliminated my angst and freed me to enjoy plans with or without them. People like this are in my friendship circle but they can’t ever be a BFF.

  11. Sparky says:

    Hi Lauren,

    I have no idea but your friend sounds really co-dependant on her boyfriend and wants to spend all her time with him. That is not a health relationship.
    Another thing, I am not sure but I am disabled, and I have to cancel plans I make with people at times because my pain/discomfort is very unpredictable. While there is no significant other in my life , my friends have had to learn, #1 due to my disability they need to make or have an alternative plan, #2, if they do not want to do that, some have left the friendship.
    People with disabilities are not always wanted around, because people get uncomfortable ( because they see that this can happen to them as well) and may not know how to deal with it.
    That includes co-dependancy, if she really is, then you need to set boundries or find another friend.
    I have also had a friend who rarely remembers anything so we agreed to make sure she writes it down in a calender & if you asked her something it was always “I don’t know” …talk to her find out what is going on. She may or may not realize what she is doing but the only way to really know is to ask her.

    Sparky

  12. kim says:

    Another possible reason could be the opposite.
    Someone might commit to seeing you and back out on the last minute because they couldn’t say no to you, but didn’t really want to go in the first place for a lot of reasons, which may not be your fault. It can be because the person really has a very limited budget, but can’t be frank about it, it can be because she values her days off & spare time and wants to spend it with her bf and he is her first priority, or she could be just a total scattered-brain who has no sense of keeping commitments etc. However, the fact that she has done this to you for a number of times plus the fact that she won’t decide on the details of your meet-ups and would say she’ll get back to you on this, but does not, could also mean that either she doesn’t enjoy your company so much or she just simply has no respect for people’s time other than hers. Too many possibilities. Maybe she likes seeing you, buy she has small issues like maybe she feels like you get to choose where to meet and what time, maybe she feels like seeing you only for a couple of hours but usually ends up staying out for more than what she wants, etc.

    What I’d do is talk to her about it. She needs to know that you feel like your time is not being respected. If you did already and nothing changes or if you can’t talk to her, Irene is right. Try to be more assertive. You can do this by:

    1. Not accepting last minute invites from this person, EVER. In that way, she’ll know that you are not available at her disposal.
    2. If she’s vague in meeting up, doesn’t want to discuss details, tell her “well, why don’t you think about this and get back with me on ___? or let me know as soon as you can so I can also plan my day”
    3. Even if you have agreed on a time to meet, always make a plan B, in case she cancels last minute. And let her know that you don’t appreciate her cancelling last minute, because you could have planned to do something else for the day.
    4. NEVER MAKE SOMEONE YOUR PRIORITY WHEN YOU ARE ONLY AN OPTION=)

    • tracy says:

      I like your number 4!
      I would say that her reasons for canceling aren’t worth the pondering. Put up your boundaries with what you are/aren’t willing to take and stick to it. Accommodating someone’s poor treatment of you just teaches her that you’re ok with it.

      • Lauren says:

        I agree. Do not try to figure out her reasons for flaking out…what does it matter. Do not enable her…if she keeps flaking out…let her go. It sounds like she is not really a friendly person at all., Why make someone a priority in your life , when you are only an option in their life!!! You deserve to be treated with respect.

  13. Amy says:

    I’ve known people like your friend and I’ve had to decide whether the friendship was worth the frustration of unreliability. I wouldn’t end a friendship over flakiness, but I would readjust my expectations and my priorities. With such a friend, I consider all plans tentative, meaning if I had last minute changes, I’d make them too, not as “punishment” for her behavior, but since the terms of our plans have been made by her. Of course, I’d have a discussion first, if I thought it was appropriate. With this particular friend, her excuses were her special needs son (totally justifiable) and her mental health (understandable, but I’m not going to be under her anxiety’s control. I empathize, but not when she uses the money for her meds for a manicure instead, lol). She simply doesn’t have what it takes to be a reliable friend at this time. The bonus is that I don’t get upset any more, and occasionally I have a nice time with her. But, she’s not a friend I will ever rely on to keep a date or to be there for me emotionally. Saves a me a lot of grief and hurt feelings.

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