• Keeping Friends

Guest Post: When BFF Stands for Bad Feelings For Everyone

Published: January 26, 2011 | Last Updated: September 25, 2023 By | Reply Continue Reading
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By Lucy S. Danziger and Catherine Birndorf, MD, co-authors of The Nine Rooms of Happiness

Friendships bringing you down? Social stress can add to feeling completely overwhelmed this time of year. Here are three strategies for how to cope with it.All those resolutions to “be a better person” and be the best we can be three weeks ago get a little harder when friends make us mad, sad or feel left out or taken advantage of. It’s hard to not stress out (or stress eat) when we ruminate about the fact that friends had a party, didn’t invite or include you, or that your oldest pal got you a nicer gift than you got her, or that you are jealous when on “Boastbook” you see gorgeous beach pictures from pals who went much nicer places over the holidays than you did. You can’t help it. You’re human.

It’s enough to make you want a whole new set of friends. And in fact you feel guilty because suddenly you want to spend more time with your new work friends, or workout buddies, or people who you just met, anyone but the old friends you’ve known for years. You’re not only sick of them, you’re sick of the you that you are when you’re around them. And that too can be healthy, except that it leaves you feeling guilty when you blow them off or make little time for them, now that your interests have changed.

You know friends are important, vital even to your own wellbeing. Studies have proven it: the quality and quantity of your friendships matter. Surround yourself with positive people and you’ll be happier too. So what do you do now? Well here are three strategies to help you cope with the tangled emotions and powerful stressors of our friendships. Rethink the way you approach it and you can have healthy, happy and joy-filled friendships again, all you have to do I change how you think about the Living Room.

That’s right, in the emotional inner house of your being, the Living Room is where you deal with the issues above, and in The Nine Rooms of Happiness we give you the “keys” to being happier in every room, from the bedroom (romance) to the bathroom (well-being and weight, vanity and aging). But today we tackle the mess in the living room. First know that you can close the door when you’re elsewhere (like the office, the bedroom or the “tenth room” where you go to think) and come back and clean it up later, when you have the time and inclination. Here is how:

Friendship Woe: “My friend constantly blows me off and it drives me crazy!”

Key Process: The Relationship Equation: A + B = C. You are A, your friend is B and the relationship is C. This may be the most useful Key Process we give you in The Nine Rooms, since it’s universally applicable to friends, family and even inanimate objects like money. Use it when someone, anyone, is driving you nuts. You can’t change them (B in the equation) but you can change yourself (A), specifically your reaction to them, how you deal with them, and when you change one part of the equation, even if the other remains constant, it changes the outcome (C), the relationship. Try it when a friend blows you off. Stop calling her and making plans. Make alternative arrangements. Take care of yourself and she will either come around or not, but it won’t matter because you’ll be otherwise entertained!

Friendship Woe: “She has it all, great job, house, hubby, life. I’m jealous!”

Key Process: It’s Not Either/Or… It’s Both/And. You can be both happy for her and jealous of little miss perfect. Chances are if you told her that all her good fortune makes you feel a little less than fabulous sometimes, she’ll tell you her husband is cheating, her house has termites and they’ve blown their trust fund. Whatever. Even if she is as good inside as she appears outside, you may feel better for sharing your feelings. Remember it’s not you EITHER share everything with her OR can’t be her friend. You can BOTH feel envious and have differences, AND be friends. Conflict in a relationship is okay, and can even lead to better understanding in the end.

Friendship Woe: “I constantly say yes when I wish I didn’t get myself into something, like helping a friend move, or watching her kid or throwing a shower!”

Key Process: Too Much of a Good Thing is a Bad Thing. Lets be honest, friendship is a big responsibility and sometimes we feel we have to help a friend in need. But other times? A better name for the Living room is the Giving room, since we give so much and often are loathe to ask in return. Don’t breed resentment, and don’t try to be the “perfect” friend by saying yes when you need to say no. (The perfect friend can be honest and that will save your friendship in the end, since your besties know you have limits too!) You can exhaust yourself trying to do it all. Instead say: “I’m too over-booked.” If you really know you’re unable to help, tell her “I can bring you dinner but I can’t help you move.” Or “I can find you a great sitter but I can’t do it myself.” Sounds harder than it is once you get the hang of it. Tell yourself you owe it to yourself to be real. And if she’s a great friend she’ll understand and appreciate the honesty. Otherwise maybe she wasn’t such a pal to begin with!

Lucy Danziger has been editor and chief of Self magazine for more than nine years and grown the circulation to nearly seven million monthly readers. As a blogger on Self.com and also for Yahoo Health, writing about how to be healthier and happier in stressful, overly busy times, Danziger has grown a following of hundreds of thousands of online viewers each month.

Catherine Birndorf, M.D., is a psychiatrist and the founding director of the Payne Whitney Women’s Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is also a contributing columnist for Self. Both women live and work in New York City.


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