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Reader Wisdom: Setting standards for friendship

Published: November 29, 2013 | Last Updated: December 11, 2013 By | 16 Replies Continue Reading
A reader speaks about setting standards for her friendships.

Sometimes people feel so desperate for friendship that they make the mistake of befriending anyone. Having had that experience, a reader named Diana comments on a post entitled: Why would someone have no friends? She says that she’s now learned to accept “socializing friends” as well as close ones but draws some lines by setting standards to protect her heart when choosing her friends. 

She writes: When I was young I would accept anybody because I was so desperate for companionship. Now I have basic standards for people who want to be my friend.

  • If I’m patient enough to listen to your problems but then you can’t listen the one time I reach out to you…..you’re gone.
  • If you can’t muster basic empathy….you’re gone.
  • If I’m only your friend when your other friends aren’t available…you’re gone.
  • If you trivialize my life or my problems….you’re gone.
  • If you can’t stand the rare times something is about me (my wedding) and not about you then….you’re gone.
  • If you start only coming to things I organize when “better” stuff isn’t happening….you’re gone.
  • If you make thinly veiled xenophobic comments towards me then….you’re gone.
  • If you’ve reached adulthood without the ability to say “I’m sorry” then…you’re gone.

Are there any other basics you would add to the list?

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Comments (16)

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  1. Karen says:

    If you lie to me and hide the fact that you are hanging around with people who have treated me badly, you’re gone.

    I’ve about given up on making friends. No one seems to value their friendships anymore. Everyone is selfish and self centered.

  2. caraK says:

    This list gives me courage to add:
    When i got diagnosed with a critical illness, and fought tooth&nail for a year to save my life, &when we met, you said i needed to give you credit for the ONE email you sent (your only contact to me in that year)…….you’re gone.

    When i got great news of healing & superb prognosis,&phoned you to share this amazing news, and you gave me one minute to tell it, then you talked 59 minutes nonstop about the “traumas” (so not) in your life……..you’re gone.

    When i got great news about my health and suggested we get together, you sternly said you were going to pay a “guilt” visit to an elderly friend of your dead mother’s and no one else…. And later i had the courage to email you that i was surprised at your stern reply….then you wrote me the only decent-sized email I’d ever got from you, but the content was entirely in defense of your position–how tired you are and all your surfacey “problems”……….you’re gone.

    If you’re our closest relatives who turned their backs on us (dh&me) the whole time i battled thru this CA illness, then at Christmas you sent a card saying “sorry haven’t been in touch, just so busy” AND you’re retired and healthy………you’re gone.

    It is heart-breaking. Thank you all for giving me the courage to make these promises to myself as I otherwise recuperate. Please pray for me to hold to this and bring wonderful new friends into my life.

    • WJS says:

      Hang in there. The illness thing really separates the wheat from the chaff. Nearly died from a rare cancerous digestive disease and half my family never even got in contact with me during the whole three year ordeal. Needless to say those people are gone. Heard from another family member that two of them were sitting around wondering why I don’t talk to them anymore since they “haven’t done anything and just don’t understand it.” I said somewhat bitterly amused, “That is a perfect illustration of exactly why I don’t talk to them.” Gotta love the complete self-centeredness. Good luck to you.

      • caraK says:

        thank you. your reply sure does mean a lot. especially the family part. I really cannot believe there are people in my family, and in dh’s family, who don’t know whether I survived or not because they haven’t been in touch with me. the more I learn from other women that my experience is NOT unique at all, the better I will feel. nevertheless it is difficult. thank you again.

      • Linda says:

        Cara…first, I am very sorry you have been so sick and hope this email finds you well. My 20 yr old son has been very ill for the past year and I have really learned who my friends ARENT. I have ended several long term friendships as a result of their lack of sympathy, empathy and downright cruelty. I am in the process of kicking another loser to the curb now! I am shocked and beyond hurt that people I have supported and been there for during their ups and downs have abandoned me during this year of hell. There have been times as well when my own family has been nowhere to be found despite my son’s condition growing worse. My son’s illness has forever shown me how truly selfish and heartless most people are. I have lost so much faith in people it is so sad. It is so important to your health to not surround yourself with toxic people. Take care of you!!! You are worth it.

    • Jan says:

      caraK you need a great big hug. I know where you’ve been – I lost my late husband to it and know what a battle it is to have to fight for your life. You have been through hell and back with that scare but you stood up to it and with your resilience you overcame all the odds that were against you. This shows great strength and courage. Don’t let other’s failings rob you of your joy. Even though it is hard to do you need to forgive. Because if you don’t that person is still controlling and influencing your life in a negative way. Forgive and let it go and you will feel a great weight lifted. It doesn’t mean you have to forget or have contact with that person. But what you will be doing is taking care of your own inner well being by getting rid of the yuk they have dumped on you through their selfishness. I went through a very similar experience to you when I lost my husband and it was from a family member who should have been my closest support. I had to forgive that person and the minute I did it in my heart I felt a definite release and now that person has no control over me whatsoever.

  3. Carol says:

    Hello, I received an email from my best friend last evening. She and her husband recently helped me go through a cataract surgery. It reads, (with her permission to share), “Hi, I just ran across this quote. I found it touching and I feel that it describes our relationship. It remind me of why I am grateful to have you in my life. Here is the quote,

    “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing,not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” – Henri Nouwan

    Love you my friend.

    (her name)

    I believe it is a description of friendship that empowers both parties to not have to “fix” each other. I am not one who believes we are on the planet to see others as broken and we are in their lives to “fix” them. Becoming a fully-functioning adult, to me, means I accept that life is full of ambiguity and I have to keep learning how life really is, full of complexities and powerful surprises.

    I believe I am a very lucky person to have such a friend. I know now this was the ingredient that was always missing in my long-term relationships throughout my life. Neither of us knew how to just accept the other for who they were becoming as we spent years with each other. If you have found such a friend or even a life-partner, you have worked to create such a relationship. Congratulations!

    Best to you, Carol O. (many Carol’s on the site now.)

  4. Sanda says:

    Here’s another one: “If you can only talk about yourself when we get together — and never ask how I’ve been — you’re gone.”

    A friend and I were recently talking about a mutual friend who always dominates the conversation, whether we’re in a group or one-on-one. She’s a charming, lively person — and can be fun to be with. But by the end of the evening, you realize that she hasn’t asked you one single question about yourself, or made any attempt to steer the conversation in your direction. In fact, when pressed, this “friend” probably has no idea what is going on in our lives, because she’s too busy telling the world about herself. She’s a great guest at a party — if you want to keep things lively — but her friendship is a one-way street that always leads to HER.

    • Susan says:

      I followed this last as of two years ago and as I thought, I had removed myself from their company.
      I asked God to rid me of the Toxic “friends” and they are all gone but one.
      It sometimes makes me sad. I went from the phone ringing all the time, to many email to answer and obligations I didn’t really want to fulfill.
      I moved to this area of the country 20 years ago and I am still in close contact with my grade school friends. I am 55 and we have been thru the ringer and always there for each other. Though they have husbands and children and now grand-children I try not to bother them to much. Both of my husbands died and I have no children, so I have come to a “freeze, look around” point in my life. And quite honestly, I am scared.
      But I have chose to rid myself of the toxic relationships…I thought it be better than to keep the unreal friendships just not to be lonely.
      Men? I miss my fiancé, he was my best friend. I am trying to start over and I am sometimes at such a loss of where to start.

    • Mallika says:

      I think you mis-judge. If she is sharing without invitation, perhaps she expects the same from you. Perhaps she feels she has to carry the entire weight of conversations – even though she seems to carry it happily.

      I do not like being asked questions, I don’t mean intrusive ones, I actually mean the meaningless pleasantries like “how are you?” If you are a friend, I think that involves keeping your friends updated, it does not involve asking questions (unless they are folllow-up questions)

  5. Molly says:

    If you exclude a good friend from group party invitations, just to suit your own selfish needs & wants, even though the rest of the rest of the group were easy-going about date/time ….You’re gone.

    If you conspire a plan to exclude an old friend from a party with another friend, and then present the reasons as being moralistic and fair…. You’re gone.

    If you start throwing insults at your friend just because you feel you can, and then throw a tantrum just because they confronted you and asked you to stop…. You’re gone.

    If you belittle an old friend, drawing on the comfortable familiarity you expect, in public in order to make yourself feel superior… You’re gone.

    If you chew your friends ear off and show no interest in others in conversations…. You’re gone.

    If you close the door on an old friend when there’s been conflict, and there is no desire for resolution, giving respect to all the years of friendship…. You’re gone.

    If you constantly criticise and control due to jealousy and competition of your friend…. You’re gone.

    If you betray your friend and refuse to say the words “I’m sorry, I hurt you. I promise never to do it again”…. You’re gone.

    If you take, take, take… In conversation, in favours, in resources, in time, in energy….. You’re gone.

    If you are passive-aggressive with your friend, forcing her to meet your demands or you will leave or make her feel guilty…. You’re gone.

    If you defiantly, passive-aggressivley, keep photos to yourself after asking groups of friends to smile & pose for your camera at parties, and they have asked for copies… You’re gone.

    If you don’t maintain old friendships when you get married & have children and you used your friend during the times you most needed her when single…. You’re gone.

    Basically, friends love you in all the seasons, and treasure you for a lifetime.

  6. GraceW says:

    If you only call when you need a favor… you’re gone.

    If you can’t take “no” for an answer once in a while without trying to manipulate, blackmail, or humiliate me into doing what you want… you’re gone.

    If you expect me to be a sidekick instead of an equal… you’re gone.


  7. Lauren says:

    Excellent basic standards! I love this list! I certainly keep this in mind. I was always one of those people who gave others a second chance, and often, multiple chances….the multiple chances option was my mistake. I was enabling those people to do the same type of thing over and over again.

    Now I draw the line, and while I am always still willing to give a second chances, after that second chance, I watch that other friend’s behavior very carefully, and if it is a repeat pattern, then they are gone, or at best “demoted” to secomd or third tier acquintances/friends.

    This is a great webbsite, and I am glad that I found it. It is realloy good to know that we are not alone, and also that there are good people out there who read the blogs and give excellent analyses and advice. Thanks to Diana, Lalita and Dr Irene.

  8. Lalita says:

    Great list. My tips:

    If you have frequent interpersonal conflicts and you never analyze what role did you play into it and you’re always the victimized party despite there being evidence that you’re the problem, then you’re gone.

    If you expect everyone to include you in every invitation and then make a big stink and talk about people behind their back, then you’re gone. See the first tip.e

    If your conversation revolves around criticizing other people constantly, then you’re gone. And that’s why you probably don’t get invited everywhere.

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