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How do I deal with childhood friends with childish ways?

Published: July 8, 2012 | Last Updated: October 29, 2012 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
Some childhood friendships are unsatisfying because they remain childish. 


Hi Irene,

I’m in my mid-twenties and still keep in touch with childhood friends. When they don’t get their way, like if they want to hang out and I’m not available, they’ll pout and not talk to me for a few days. Or if they do, they give me a guilt trip the whole time. I once had a friend call me up and start yelling at me because I didn’t answer her text message. (I was sick and just got home from the hospital at the time.)

Even when I explain all of this to them, they’re still not happy. I don’t yell at them or treat them the same way, so I don’t understand  their behavior. (Given our age I thought we’d be past this phase by now.) I’ve tried to distance myself from them and they act nice and are fine. But then the pouting and yelling eventually starts up again. What am I doing wrong? Are friendships supposed to be this much work?

My family tells me I’m “too sensitive” but I just want a normal friendship where everyone is treated nicely—or does that not exist?

Signed, Hayley


Hi Hayley,

Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits. Since you have been friends with these women since childhood, your friends may be behaving the same way they have been for many years out of habit. It’s hard to change personalities or break old patterns of relating.

The behavior you describe sounds needy and immature—although it seems like your friends respond, at least temporarily, when you set limits. Why don’t you have a heart-to-heart with them and explain that you aren’t going to tolerate pouting and yelling—and then stick to your guns.

If this fails, it could be that you have simply “outgrown” these friendships and need to downgrade them to acquaintances, people whom you get together with less frequently. For childhood friendships to be enduring, they need to change in character as we age.

Although your family perceives you as “too sensitive,” this may or may not be the case. You’re the one on the front lines dealing with these friends. Remember that friendships are relationships that we choose. If one or more of these friends make you feel uncomfortable, you need to concentrate on finding friends who are more compatible. Also, try not to lump all of them together as a group because there are probably differences among them.

Hope this helps!

Best, Irene

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about childhood friendships:

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Category: Legacy friendships

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    But if you have read this blog very closely, you’ll see that it has NOT been the case for many people that “only the real friends will be with you all your life.” In fact, one of Irene Levine’s premises about friendship is that friends don’t necessarily last a lifetime. That’s the problem here. That’s why so many people write here with heartache:

  2. Anonymous says:

    Only the real friends will be with you all your life.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I think this should be taken as a sign to move onto more mature friends. I’m kind of going through the same thing in my mid adult years. Some people never grow up or you are the one who has grown up. Either way, these are signs that new friends may be more suitable for where you are at this stage. We don’t have to be stuck with certain people forever just because we’ve been together since childhood. I got stuck with feeling that sense of loyalty. I agree with not giving them up all together and putting them in the acquaintances category. Some might change later on and catch up.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I was in my mid twenties I went through pretty much the same thing. I met a bunch of girls in my dorm at college and we had meals together and had a lot of fun during mealtime. Then, we had to decide how to spend our limited money on Saturday nights when we wanted to go out and have some fun. We were in a big city that had a lot of fun things to do, so the choices were unbelievable. I went with some to certain bars that were loud and crowded and I had a horrible time. Then I went with others to small coffeehouses where you could sit at a table, have a drink, listen to the music, and talk to your friends. I loved it. So I politely declined with the loud-bar friends, and explained rationally why I didn’t want to go to their loud bars. They took it very personally and got very angry with me. I made the big mistake of not talking to them further about it. They were even angrier. So I did have a sit down and talk with them, explaining my reasons. I said I wanted to do other things with them, just not that particular loud-bar thing. They still took it personally and were angry. So, the friendship was over. But this was probably the exception. I’m trying to say that you need to do what you need to do and not worry about caving in to others’ expectations. Yes, you can try out something with them, just as I did, to make sure you are giving it a chance. But (a) give them the courtesy of having a talk with them about the p roblmes and (b) if they still yell at you and act unreasonably, move on. You’ll meet other friends. Good luck!

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