• Keeping Friends

Friends of Convenience: Is convenience a drawback or strength in a friendship?

Published: April 17, 2016 | By | 16 Replies Continue Reading
A woman asks whether “friends of convenience” are to be avoided.


Hi Irene,

I would like to ask you what your take is on convenience friends? I had a friend who’d call me when she was driving home from work and when she arrived home the conversation would end. Over the years, this is not the first time I have dealt with it.

She said she wants a friendship with no conditions etc. So that conveys to me, she only wants to continue to call, when it is easy for her to do so. The main reason I ended the friendship is because of how it made me feel.

I know “friends of convenience” are a common problem for many. Thank you for taking time to read my message.

Sincerely, Jessica


Hi Jessica,

I, too, have a friend who also calls me when she is driving from one place to another. I’m so sure that she’ll be driving when she calls that when I pick up phone, I ask her “Where are you going?”

She holds a high stress job that entails a lot of travel and also juggles family responsibilities. I know that she doesn’t have much discretionary time in her life right now.

An important aside:

Driving and talking on the phone or texting never is  a good idea.

In fact, in many states it’s illegal.

Although I worry about my friend’s safety and the safety of others, in this situation, I know she’s making the effort to call when she can.

It’s hard to respond directly to your question because you haven’t provided a context for your friend’s behavior.

  • Is she there for you when you call her?
  • Does she listen when you want to speak?
  • Does she make efforts to get together?
  • Does the friendship feel frustrating and one-sided, and is this but one of many other symptoms?
  • Are there other aspects of the friendship that suggest: “Only when it’s convenient for me?”

Having friends who are “convenient” can actually strengthen a friendship. If two people live nearby or have similar schedules, it makes the logistics of friendship easier. Could it be that you object to your friend’s selfishness, self-centeredness and willingness to always have her own way? Those characteristics could be a deal-breaker or certainly make someone less desirable as a friend.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (16)

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  1. Tina says:

    Wow, you guys hit on the nail.. negotiation and boundaries, in a world of huge diversity of people, we meet new people all life long, many of them bringing us new experiences to learn from..

    Any good advise about how to negociate with people with super big Egos? say, people that no matter the situation, it will always be ‘their way’ things should be done, and would laugh or even bull people, playing ‘smart’ or avoiding the topic, or deliverately ignore you, when one tries to set up boundaries?

  2. Donna says:

    I agree that I wouldn’t consider this a friendship of convenience. It sounds like your friend was trying to reach out to you when she had time. If, however, you feel like she calls you, does all the talking, and never asks about how you are doing or what is going on in your life, I think that is probably the real issue. Seems like she sucks your energy and you are left feeling unfulfilled.

    May I offer you my perspective? I work and have a 35 minute commute each way in the car. It’s often the only time I have to talk to my family and friends without being side tracked at home (extra-curricular activities, dinner, etc.) and also being able to speak freely. If I call and they do not answer, I totally understand. I just leave a message letting them know I was thinking about them and to call me back when they have time. Sometimes I can talk when they call back and sometimes I can’t based on what’s going on after work with my daughter. But from my perspective, I am making an effort to reach out and I would hope the effort is appreciated.

    So, this is my point: Is it that she calls you from the car or is it that she calls you, dumps on you and then hangs up? Just a thought… 🙂

    I wish you all the luck!

  3. MG says:

    Jared – I can definitely related to your experience with a old coworker.

    My work pal recently moved to another location. I sense the drift occurring… we live close to each other so it’s becoming more and more clear to me that the friendship that we formed was a friendship of convenience.

  4. Arlene says:

    I have a daughter who has a hectic life owning a night club and often times I get the on the road calls, which I am grateful for. But I also know if I leave a message to call asap, she responds, so it is a two way street where she shows interest in my well being and I make allowances for her.

    However, I also have folks who call at their convenience — boredom, anxiety, to brag, to get free advice — and is self serving and selfish to the core.

    You know the difference! Its selfishness to the core! You are just being used! Don’t take it personal…selfish people use anyone they can, just don’t be on the easy to use list!

  5. Judge Judy says:

    She sounds like a self-centered user. Who needs one-way “friends.”

  6. Jessica says:

    I know there are times when the availability to call someone is limited, like the situation Shelly spoke about but she has in the past said she only called when it was “convenient” for her. I should have
    taken that as a sign of things not changing. Plus we live two states
    away. Jessica

  7. Suzanne Fluhr says:

    Our globetrotting, digital nomad son calls almost every other day just to chat when he’s walking somewhere or standing in line waiting to order at a take out restaurant. When he was in college, he would often call walking from class to class. As a result I know more about his day to day life than I do about that of his older brother who lives in the same city and works at the same University as my husband. Sometimes it’s not a good time for me to chat, but I appreciate that he makes the effort to stay connected.

    • LauraSL says:

      My son calls me walking between classes and I love it!❤️️ He’s always so polite and asks me if I can talk because he knows I’m at work. This mama will always drop everything for her kids.

  8. LauraSL says:

    I would not necessarily classify this as a friendship of convenience. It could be more a symptom of our over-scheduled society. The phrase “I’ll call you when I’m in the car” is so commonly heard. I have friends call when they’re driving because that’s their free time when they can talk, like between work and getting home to deal with dinner and kids. I agree with Irene, it’s not a safe practice.

  9. Shelly says:

    In my case it is my sister who at times calls me from her car before she gets home. She lives in Toronto and I live in Williamstown Ont. I know she is a very busy person and works a lot so she calls me when she is on the road to chat. She is in sales and travels a lot too and I see her twice a year and we enjoy our chats. For myself I am a loner so this way of communication is good for me. She has opened up over the years about her feelings and appreciate what I have with her, though I would not mind seeing her more often. She has an extremely busy life.

  10. Jared says:

    This is an excellent topic. I have found that most friendships are friendships of convenience. Very rare is the friend who will go out of their way to do something with or for you.

    The biggest example of this to me is an old co-worker. We were the only two guys the same age in the company and became close for over a year. We always went to lunch and break together and the ladies in the office joked that we had a bro-mance. Last year, he got a different job in the next town. Although he lives ten minutes from me, I never hear from him anymore. He never calls and always cancels plans. The main reason we were friends was because we worked together. This has happened more often than not.

    What I’ve discovered is that most people will not tell you they don’t want to be friends anymore or that they don’t like you. Instead, they will vaguely explain that they are “too busy.”

    This makes it very hard to judge intentions because there are always times when we are too busy to do things. Deciding when the excuse is legit or just an excuse is very challenging for me.

  11. Ben says:

    I like what I have heard about how we train people how to treat us. If we don’t like how people are treating us it’s up to us to tell them we don’t like it. In taking responsibility for my own happiness it’s up to me to set boundaries. My boundaries will seem silly to someone else because they don’t live in my skin. I know me better than anyone else. It’s up to me to determine what works and what doesn’t work regardless of what anyone else thinks. There is pain in growth because if you’re anything like me it takes a long time to discover initially that things are not going well and what the heck do I do about it? Opening the door ever so slightly into the world of taking responsibility for my own happiness illuminates a whole new world. One of the reasons I like this site so much is growing up my family never talked about relationships or feelings or emotions. That’s one reasons I love 12 step recovery so much is when you boil it all down it’s all about emotions, feelings and relationships. 🙂

    • Jared says:

      Ben, the notion that we need to tell people we don’t like how they are treating us is revolutionary to me. It so simple, but I have a hard time trusting it. I grew up in a family where if I communicated my needs, I found that it did not mean other people would respect them. In fact, they would go out of their way to do the opposite of what I asked.

      For example, as an adult, I have told my sister not to call me on Sunday mornings because I am usually busy. She still calls me and then leaves angry messages that I haven’t answered the phone.

      I also asked another family member not to discuss bathroom habits during mealtime. This caused her to make sure to mention it at family meal and to go into extra detail.

      Growing up with this made me not trust other people with my thoughts/opinions/needs.

      Even at the gym I attend, I have asked two people: a man and a woman, to leave me alone when I’m doing cardio sessions. This still does not deter them from trying to strike up conversations when I’m jogging on the treadmill, or jumping rope.

      • Ben says:

        Just to be clear I don’t always tell people. If someone doesn’t respect a phone boundary I just don’t answer the phone. People get the hint eventually. If someone comes up to me in my physical space I put up both hands and ask them to back off. We all learn stuff from our growing up families. I was talking with a guy yesterday who grew up in a home where people yelled a lot and were angry so why would he not think that was normal? Normal is a setting on a washing machine. One of deficits growing up in a congenial home is I did not witness conflict resolution. So there’s an example of one type of “normal” that doesn’t help in relationships. ????

  12. Amy F says:

    There are conditions on every relationship, or there should be. Those basic conditions for me would include treating each other with respect and kindness.
    When reading you letter I wondered if you ever told her how you felt and whether you communicated your concerns with her. I have a friend who calls me when she’s in the car because that’s when she’s free and unencumbered, I appreciate that and feel valued that she chooses her “me” time for me. I had another friend who called me at home and was interrupted dozens of times in a call by her kids and call waiting. I found this frustrating, so I told her and we changed things up. Other people might not have been frustrated by that. If I hadn’t told her, I would have become resentful and that could have interfered with the relationship.
    Almost all relationships are negotiations at some point or another. My question would be have you tried to negotiate the terms? Why did you continue to talk to her on the phone when she was driving if it bothered you? How will you do things differently if you feel the same way in another relationship?

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