• Resolving Problems

A Hot and Cold Friendship: Is It Worth Keeping?

Published: January 23, 2023 | Last Updated: January 23, 2023 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
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A young woman is upset by a hot and cold friendship that doesn’t feel satisfying because it’s so unpredictable.

QUESTION

Hi Dr. Irene,

I have a hot and cold friendship with someone I met a couple of years ago during my second year as a university student. It may also be called an ambivalent friendship.

She is an empathetic person. Not in terms of being  ‘touchy,’ but she is an emotional sponge, soaking in the mood around her. As an emotional person, I understand her feelings and read her like a book. That’s probably why we are friends.

She always says I’m her real friend even though she is a social butterfly. I think she feels an emotional connection with me.

As time has passed, however, I’ve noticed that she is increasingly becoming annoyed with me. She told me that right to my face. She told me that this pattern of being hot and cold with friends is something that has happened before and somehow, it is my turn now. She alludes to some traumatic event in her past that she hasn’t shared with me.

She said she knows that she is at fault—not her friends. I realized that although she has a lot of friends, she doesn’t have close friends. Once a friendship starts to go deeper, she tends to push it away. Now I feel like she is pushing me away.

To be honest, I feel really attached to her. Why? She reminds me of how I once was. I don’t feel like I can abandon her because I know she really craves a close emotional bond with a friend.

But I’m questioning if I should keep this hot and cold friendship and if so, how can I cope with it?

Signed, Dora

ANSWER

Hi Dora, 

Sometimes friends can be unpredictable (and unsettling) if their moods change from hot to cold, switching from wanting to be close to putting you at a distance.

You said that your friend has experienced some trauma in her past and this may be one of the reasons why she is unable to forge close and trusting relationships with friends. 

If this is the case and she has had a pattern of her friendships running hot and cold, she would probably benefit from speaking to a mental health professional. Unfortunately, friends—even very good ones who are well-intended—can’t be therapists and analyze or solve  long-standing emotional problems.

In terms of the viability of your friendship, you have now known this friend for a couple of years and sort of know what you can expect from her, unpredictability and disappointment.

However, close friendships need to be reciprocal. If friendships are to be intimate in terms of sharing trust and emotions, they can’t be one-sided or unpredictable.

It sound like you desperately want to have a close friendship and I’m not sure that you can count on this friend for that. Maybe you are putting too much pressure on her for closeness that she just isn’t able to deliver. She may be satisfied with more casual friendships.

Suggestions for dealing with a hot and cold friendship:

  • Ambivalent friendships can be very stressful and unsatisfying. You don’t have to end the friendship, per se, but for your own sake, you should change it. 
  • Back off a bit. Remain friends but lower your expectations of closeness so you aren’t disappointed. You might still see each other and pursue shared interests you both enjoy. 
  • Be kind and and supportive, and explain why you are stepping back. Avoid blaming your friend for disappointing you. She is probably doing the best she can. 
  • At the same time, nurture friendships with people who are ready and able to be close. But bear in mind, close friendships aren’t instantaneous. It always takes time for a casual friendship to develop into a close one.

Hope this helps.

My best,
Irene.

 

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Category: RESOLVING PROBLEMS

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  1. Susan says:

    I’m not so sure, the writer says that she has told her that she is annoyed with her. How many times I don’t know.

    My point is that I had a friendship I was hot and cold about and it was because the other person had a quality which I didn’t like. I felt she always had to do 1 better than me. If I said I had done something, then she had to have done something similar or better. It was annoying. The problem was otherwise, I liked spending time with her and I didn’t want to end the relationship so I didn’t feel I could tell her the truth. It came out in other ways like not wanting to spend time with her sometimes or being distant. What I am getting at is she maybe behaving like this because of sometime she doesn’t like about you but doesn’t know how to deal with it.

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