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  • Resolving Problems

My Friend Wants To Get Together Too Often 

August 2, 2020 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading

When one friend wants to get together more often than another, the situation can wind up making both of them uncomfortable. 

QUESTION

Hi,

Jan, my friend of 30 years, calls asking to get together with our husbands about once a month. I like both of them very much, individually and as a couple, but I really can’t afford the time to see them or anyone else once a month.

For one thing, I work at home, putting in long hours, and don’t have all the time I would like for myself or socializing. Although her husband is still working, she’s recently retired. Also, I have too many friends (luckily) to see any one of them that frequently.

Jan just called again about getting together this weekend. I declined, saying we had a very busy week, which we do. Of course, I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. I’d never expect any of my friends to see me once a month! Anything I can say or do?

Signed, Eva

ANSWER

Dear Eva,

It’s hard to say no and disappoint people we like, but friendships need to be reciprocal and honest to be mutually satisfying. 

Clearly, your friend Jan is more eager to get together than you. At this point in your friendship, it seems there is a mismatch in how much time you can devote to each other. This often happens during life transitions like retirement, and other times when friendships get out of sync (e.g. a once-single friend gets married or a once-childless friend becomes a mother). Every stage of life carries different needs and time demands.

Often, when people retire and no longer have the regular camaraderie of co-workers, they have more time and interest in establishing or strengthening social ties. And your friend may simply have far fewer friends than you.

You and Jan have a long history together and it sounds like you don’t want to lose the friendship. That’s why you asked this question and feel guilty about saying no.

To preserve the friendship, you will need to set limits and communicate them as clearly and tactfully as possible. Don’t wait to turn Jan down again. Instead, have a heart-to-heart with her (perhaps, on the phone) and explain that your work commitments usurp a lot of your discretionary time. Tell her that you really value the friendship with her and her husband but you can’t get together as often as you would like because your time is so limited. 

She may feel hurt a bit and back off from asking again but in the end, it will feel more comfortable than you having to turn her down repeatedly and be more comfortable for her than always feeling turned down, and perhaps taking it personally. Hopefully, the next time you get together, you’ll both be happy to see each other.

Hope this helps!

Best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (5)

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  1. Cynthia Ann says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve struggled with the same issue myself, and it’s good to see the input from others. I’m the type of person who doesn’t need constant or frequent contact with the same friends. I enjoy socializing but also spend lots of time working on my own projects and getting together with my family. Sometimes I need time alone or with my husband.

    Different people have different expectations from friendships—and I have found this is where the trouble or hurt sets in. One of my neighbors used to call me almost daily and wanted me to go everywhere with her, even to the grocery or butcher. She made every day a field trip and badly needed company because her husband worked all the time. I was unable to be the friend she needed every day— I had to continually explain to her that it was nothing personal, but I had work and other plans that kept me busy. She was pushy and it was hard because I liked her. She finally backed off and found another friend, a widow in the neighborhood, who had more time for her.

    • Irene says:

      It’s especially difficult to deal with when the friend is a neighbor. But just like fences, good boundaries make good neighbors!

  2. LB says:

    I have found that people are indeed, very busy, and distribute their discretionary time according to what and who are most important to them. If someone has no time for you, that person is telling you something important. Listen.

  3. Pink Amy says:

    People aren’t mind readers. She probably has no idea how you feel. I’d wait until the next time she asks, so that the conversation can happen more organically and less awkwardly. “How about the first Friday next month? John and I can only afford to eat out every few months.”
    Our time is our own. We don’t owe it to anyone and while we owe no explanation, a long time friendship is usually worth giving more.

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