• Resolving Problems

My friend isn’t living up to my expectations

Published: May 27, 2014 | By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
A single woman feels like her married friend isn’t meeting her expectations of a best friend.



I have a best friend that I have known since we were five years old, and over the years we have been very close; we’re both in our mid-forties now.

Over the past couple of years, it seems that I have always had to initiate us getting together and staying in touch. She is always so busy with her work and family, which I understand, and I have included her family so that we could spend sometime together. She always tells me I’m a great and generous friend and would not know what she would do with out me, that she is blessed to have our friendship. She constantly tells me that we will have to do things together (for example: we should have a girls’ night out once a month) and then she never follows through.

I lost my job over a year ago and I have really needed a friend at times and she just has not really been there. Last summer, she maybe called me three times. I feel really hurt and worthless. I asked her if I had done something wrong and if I did, I truly am sorry and ask her forgiveness. But since I lost my job, she has been somewhat negative towards me, she has never asks me how I am doing. She just inquires about my job searches.

When I told her that things were not good at all and I was having a really difficult time she finally asked me for my resume and offered to see if one of her friends from church could help me, but the tone was so negative – like I was making her go out of her way.

Then on Mother’s day, my mother saw her at her mom’s and told her that I was really depressed and could lose my home and everything and she acted like I had not done enough to search for a job when she has no idea what I have done since she really has not taken the time to talk with me in over a year.

Again, I am really hurt because I have always been there for her, supported her when she was pregnant with her first child and when she was depressed because she gained weight and did not have any clothes. I felt her pain and since I was single and had the money, I went and bought her some clothes to cheer her up. I have been there for her when her Dad died and so many other times.

What should I make of our friendship?

Signed, Jackie


Hi Jackie,

I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. Being unemployed and searching for a job can be very depressing, not to mention fears of losing your home. Lots of times when people are depressed, they feel overly sensitive to perceived rejection. It’s also hard to be single when a close friend is has a family, because the amount of time and energy you have to devote to the relationship is greater than the amount she has.

For some people, hearing from a best friend three times over a summer would be welcome but, since you’re used to more frequent contact, that feels inadequate to you. Try to let go of your expectations and concentrate on the fact that she makes time to take your calls and that she has reciprocated, not the quantity of times.

I’d let the conversations between your mothers go. Second and third-hand communication leaves so much open to interpretation. If you are concerned that your friend thinks you haven’t done enough to find a job, ask your friend straight out. But, if you do, be prepared that she will answer your question honestly and she may have a different interpretation of your job search than you. If you don’t think you could handle her saying you haven’t done enough (even though she probably won’t), I wouldn’t put yourself or her in the situation of potentially being hurt.

A wise person once told me, when someone says, “We should do X…” it means the friend would like to do the activity if the stars align and she has the time/energy/money, but it’s not the same thing as plans that are set in stone. Not following thru with the “We should” isn’t a personal rejection or a lack of interest on the busier person’s life, but an expression of her longing or desire for the plans. That was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I’m a more literal person and as a single woman without family, I have the time and energy to participate in the “We should” activity without the obligations of most of my friends.

Not all friends are capable of supporting us the way we feel like we need to be supported, so if you’re not getting what you need from your best friend, seek out those who are able to give you the kind of support you need. You can also try to tell your friend what type things would make you feel more supported but that won’t necessarily mean that she has the time, energy or internal resources to give that to you at this time in her life. During long-term friendships, there will be times when one person is more needy than another or one person has more or less to give than the other needs.

Lastly, have you talked to your doctor about your depression? You might benefit greatly from talking to a professional counselor as a support for you during this difficult time. If you are depressed, this could interfere with your ability to search for jobs and do your best at interviews. Talking to someone might also help you ease up with your expectations about your friend and take away some of the pressure you feel about not getting enough from her.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Comments (7)

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  1. xiaoeee says:

    Respect her family. She’s an adult. She’s a married. Why not stick to yourself and take care of yourself?

  2. Lidial says:

    The same can be said from my own daughter. Think of it: this is the generation of the iPad, iPhone, iTunes, I I I, everything is about them. Is there any room for anyone else in their lives? I have similar situations with what I consider to be insensitive children. It is always about them, and what we can do for them. Friends are similar, it is all about how you can support them, and not how they can support you back.
    I think there is a book about an even exchange of support in friendship. If you feel your relationship is short changing you, you many need to look for other relationships in life. For example, my daughter is too busy with her friends, husband, family and so are most of my older friends. But, I also bought a second home and opened myself up to other frienships. It turns out there are a lot of people in this community that are actually looking for friends and reciprocal relationships. They are at different stages in life, semi retired. The problem was me, I didn’t have enough friends, so I was taking too much time from a few people. Now that I expanded my circle, things are a lot better.

  3. Alberta says:

    What you could make of your friendship is : It sounds like your friend is very busy with her family, would be interesting to know how many children she has? When you have kids they can consume your life, and rightly so because, as a mother your duty is first and foremost to your children.
    Perhaps one or more of her children is special needs? Or that her spouse is ill – or she herself is ill – you never never know sometimes, because sometimes when people get sick they don’t want to discuss it and if their spouse is sick they don’t want to discuss it with friends either.
    It could be that if her spouse or child was sick and the reason she didn’t get involved in your life when you lost your job was that she didn’t want to dump her problems on you if you were already going through difficult times,and not that she was necessarily ‘ignoring’ you.
    It could be that she thinks about you at odd times ie 2am – when you are likely asleep and it is not an appropriate time to talk. It is not up to your friend to live up to your expectations of how she should be because of what you did for her in the past – you did this out of good intent and out of your good heart. It seems the concept of friendship isn’t about oweing ship or time being owned by another person – it is about showing your good heart as you did and appreciating good memories even when you are busy with your lives. Sometimes friends can set expectations that are like hoops to jump through and labelled uncaring or selfish or other names if expectations are unmet. Perhaps friendship shouldn’t be about meeting or setting expectations -more about freedom in the enjoyment of a persons company in the random flowered schedule of life. Then friendship relationship becomes, rather than a wasteland of unmet expectations. a place that is welcoming and enjoyable to be in.

  4. Nancy says:

    I’ve had similar problems with friends in the past & still do at times. Some people just can only deal with so much as everyone has their own problems to deal with first. You should have a face to face talk with your friend & let her know how hurt you’ve been by her behaviour. If she listens, great, if not, then she simply doesn’t value your friendship as much as you do. So then you can either let her go or remain casual friends with her instead & not tell her about any of your problems from now on.

    It seems to me like she is kind of selfish & insensitive now. Make new friends who’ll care about you more. Actions always speak louder than words, so no matter what she says, her actions will tell you so much more. She should not be making you feel bad about not trying hard enough to find a job. It’s hard for most people to find a decent paying job these days! Distance yourself from her for now & let HER call, text, or email you instead. If you continue to make all the plans & are always calling her, she might view you as being to needy even though you probably aren’t that needy. Like I said, find better friends & demote her to a movie & dinner buddy. Stop doing as much for her.

  5. bronwyn says:

    I think sometimes when we’ve experienced a job loss, people tend to distance themselves, almost as though our misfortune is somehow contagious. And I really don’t think anyone has any business judging someone else’s job search efforts. There are so many things that go into that process.

  6. lottie says:

    Hi Jackie,
    Both Amy and Sandra have given such sound advice.
    I know from experience how it feels to be used and disappointed by fair weather friends.Gosh it really hurts because you would not treat a friend like that. When I was out of work I thought it was the end of the world and had so much trouble just to get dressed, and the phone stopped ringing which made the agony worse. So many tears and hurt.
    Last year a FWF used me all through summer ringing and arranging trips out.My husband remarked about how the FWF was always on the phone. Suddenly last October just before my birthday she stopped ringing. It was like I was on phone patrol wishing for a call but nothing.When I rang her she was busy or anything not to meet up.My husband knew I was sad I cried and said I have been used again.
    Then 7 weeks ago I was contacted by an ex employer who asked me if I would go back to work for them and name my terms. The smile could not be wiped off my face. It was so unexpected. I met up with the FWF who never asked about my work until I let it slip out that I had been asked back to an old employer. Her face and jaw hit the deck. She has done everything to try to get me to tell her my terms and I just say how sooooo happy I am. She deserves to have her face rubbed in it.

    Now the text messages are coming. She texted last night and today left a message on the land line and has just again rung. Needless to say I am not answering the phone I am too busy with my work and relaxing writing you a message. So please remember things will improve and get better it just takes time. Nobody has happiness all of the time and the same goes for the opposite. Try putting your own needs before others. You don’t have to be mean or nasty but let others see that you deserve some respect.
    Very best wishes for you,I hope I have been of help.

  7. Sandra says:

    I agree with Amy’s good advice, Jackie. I’ve also noticed, over the years, that major life events — marriage, children, moving to a new home, etc — all have impact on our old friendships. The change can be hurtful and hard to deal with.

    For example, one of my best friends (of 25 years) bought a new summer cottage a few years ago, and her family became obsessed with the place. Though it sounds crazy, but this second home really changed the direction of our relationship. I was happy to see my friend enjoying herself, on the one hand, but her absence in the summers and fall weekends really changed things quite a bit.

    For starters, my friend was often away at her cottage and unavailable in the summer and early fall months. When I went through two surgeries and needed her support one summer, she was floating on the lake with her friends at the cottage. She never even sent me a get well card or called to see how I was recovering. It was as if she’d moved to the other side of the planet and was oblivious to anything going on back home. Of course, when she needed my support the following winter, she expected me to be at her beck and call. All said and done, my old best friend redefined the meaning of “fair weather” friendship.

    Since then, I don’t feel as close to her, though I still enjoy her company and see her periodically. But I’ve also built another support network of other fantastic friends I can count on, any time of the year. And I make sure I am able to reciprocate their support too.

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