The Importance of Equal Friendships

Do you ever struggle with friendships? Do you feel like you’re constantly putting all the effort in but getting very little back? Or perhaps you feel constantly frustrated with a friend?

When I was going through my CBT years ago I learned all about the importance of equal friendships. I’ll share what I learned below, as it made such a huge difference in how I view friendships now, which has made them a lot healthier.

Do you feel like you’re above your friend?

We often hear phrases about people being above, or below others. What does this mean? If an individual feels above another person, often they feel they are better, or in a more advantagious position to them. They may have feelings of boastfulness, or feel pity upon the other person.

However, when a person feels below someone else, they don’t feel as good, or good enough for that person. They idolise them, put them on a pedestal, and often they can do no wrong. The person may feel belittled, and often ‘small’ in comparison.

It takes an honest person to admit if they feel either above, or below someone else.

When it comes to friendships, where do you stand?

So, thinking about being above or below a friend may seem odd… but think about the people in your life. Pick a few of them, then go through them one at a time.

Ask yourself truly, how do you feel? Do you feel like you’re above them? Maybe you have qualities that you admire more than theirs? Or perhaps you feel that your job/ accommodation etc is better than theirs? Do you feel like you’re achieving really well, but they aren’t? Be honest with yourself. No one is judging you here, and the only way through this is to really be accountable for how you feel. No one else needs to know.

Likewise, do you feel below your friend? Have you put them on a pedestal? Do you look at what they have and feel envy? Do you feel worthless compared to them?

It’s really important to think about where you stand within your friendship. Acknowledge where you are. Only then can you start to move forward onto healthier friendships.

Do you ever think about how they may feel?

Mind reading is the worst thing to do. But often, we find ourselves doing it anyway. So, once you have reflected on how you feel, think about them. Do you get the feeling that they see themselves as above you? Do you think that they look down on you? Often when you are talking to them, do you feel a burden?

Or, do you think that they feel below you? Are you always trying to halt what you say so that they don’t become envious, or feel down because in your mind, they have put you above themselves.

Why unequal friendships fail

I know this blog post is difficult to read, with all the above and below references. But the jist of it is; if you have an unequal friendship, (regardless of who is doing the thinking), it will fail.

This is a difficult pill to swallow but unfortunately, too many negative emotions take place, or negative connotations. These feelings can range from bitterness, to resentment, envy and jealousy.

If you feel below a friend, you will always be scrambling to be better and will feel envy, jealously, and be a bit needier. If you feel above a friend, the opposite will happen. You will almost resent them being around you, as you don’t feel they bring your life added value. The same would happen if you believe your friend has either of these feelings and thoughts.

What should you do about unequal friendships?

If you feel like a friendship of yours is unequal, I would seriously consider the future of it. It isn’t healthy to keep chasing a friend, nor is it fair if a friend has to keep chasing you.

Try to have some time apart from the friend, but don’t burn bridges or close doors completely. Just try and spend some time on the friendships that are equal. However, if you do struggle, then try and keep some things light and laid back. As in time, you can find that as life goes on, friendships can absolutely level out again.

No one wants to be in an unequal friendship. Trust me, I have been there. When you see yourself as equal to others, and they see the same way, then the magic of friendship truly happens. If however, there is imbalance and inequality, the friendship will suffer tremendously. Work on yourself. Work on your self-esteem if you find yourself feeling below others. If however you feel above your friends, then take some time to yourself to truly reflect on what is important in life, and if it is fair to string people along.

Once you start to work on yourself, and what YOU can control in your life, you gain a lot of self-awareness. Once you feel equal to others, then a friendship flows naturally, with mutual respect, kindness and love. Those are the truly special friendships.

Don’t lose hope entirely, as I said above, take some time to focus on the healthier friendships in your life. But more important, to focus on YOU. Doors don’t have to be sealed shut, locked and key thrown away. Leave them ajar… until the levels can even out once more to be healthier for you both.

I hope that this article has helped give you an insight into unequal friendships. Read more about friendships here, and here.

What to do When Friendships Change

The hard thing with friendships is that they don’t come with an expiry date. They don’t even come with a best before date. That means that it can be extremely hard to tell when a friendship has run its course and to know when your efforts are no longer deserved. Below we will explore what you can do when friendships change.

Firstly we need to think about why a friendship may have changed. Often a lot of the people wondering about their friendship will be feeling confused, hurt and sometimes even heartbroken if it is been a long-term friendship. There are many reasons as to why a friendship may have run its course, or certainly why it may have changed.

People Change, So Friendships Change

To start with, it’s really important to recognise the fact that people change. We change constantly. Sometimes, this can be for the best, and sometimes this may create a rift between a friendship. Perhaps one person has matured, or one person may have experienced a change in life circumstances and this has had a reflection on the way they are behaving or treating others.

People change, and life changes for a whole host of reasons. It’s sad when it happens, but unfortunately in life, change comes and there is nothing you can do about it. So when you are reflecting on your friendship, and wondering why it has changed, ask yourself- what has changed in your friends life? Or your life? Have they changed as a person? Do they still have the same ethics and morales as before? Has the circle around them changed?

Sometimes, the only change is their behaviour with you. This can be caused by a number of things, it could be that they see themselves as on a different level to you (either above or below) and this creates a very unhealthy friendship. It could be that they have found something that you have said or done, whether intentional or not, upsetting or annoying. They may not have been able to communicate this to you for whatever reason, but you are left wondering what you have done and the void between you both just gets greater and greater. Unfortunately, if they haven’t been decent or mature enough to discuss this with you, it is likely that they don’t want to salvage a friendship and are happy to part ways.

Another reason for your friendship changing could be because they see you as competition. Some people are naturally very insecure about their own life and so, they view friendships as a competition. They want to be the one with the better relationship, the better job and have the better situation in life. If you have something that they view as better as them, they won’t like this. Unfortunately, this is linked to where they situate themselves in accordance to you. They see you as beneath them, so if you have something in your life that they view as above them, they will be holding this against you. The worst thing is, you will have no idea! You are probably sat there right now, dwelling on the friendship, wondering what on earth you have done wrong. The answer is nothing! They are just sucking on a very bitter pill.

How have you treated your friend?

It’s so sad when a friendship changes its dynamic and when someone you love and care about becomes very distant towards you. But the one thing you have to ask yourself, is how have you treated your friend? Can you hold your head high, knowing that you have been kind, decent, caring and loving towards them? If you are struggling to pinpoint where it went wrong, or why they have changed their behaviour, chances are it has nothing to do with you.

If you can walk away from this knowing that you did the best you possibly could, that you were a decent friend to them… then try and hold onto that. I know it’s hard, I know how much this must hurt right now. But, hold onto that feeling knowing YOU did absolutely everything you could for them and that you stayed true to yourself.

Stop chasing

This is the fundamental rule. STOP CHASING. If you’d like to know more about why it’s not healthy to chase friendships, read my blog post here. Your friendship has changed… the person on the other side isn’t being the same with you. Chasing them is only going to make this worse. It will irritate them, annoy them. As time goes on, the rift gets deeper the more you chase. Save yourself dignity and grace. If you know you’ve been kind and good to them, walk away and don’t chase. If you think or know you have said something upsetting, or done something then apologise ONCE and walk away if their hostile behaviour continues.

I had a friendship recently that changed. She meant the absolute world to me. I honestly never thought it would change, but then again, it wasn’t the first time with this friend. We had been on and off as much as Ross and Rachel in Friends. I knew I had been the absolute best I could be, sent gifts in the post, sent messages and offered to call whenever she needed. I got literally nada back. Now… I KNEW in my heart that I had been my kind self, I had been the friend I had always been with her. It wasn’t appreciated, wanted or returned. So, I walked away. I recognised that the more I tried to talk to her, the more hostile and cold she was being toward me. It was time to stop chasing and to let things be. Trust me, I know how hard this is. But it’s the right thing to do.

Don’t end up regretting the now

Right NOW, as much as it hurts and as much as you feel lost, confused, hurt and heartbroken, it is important to stay true to the kind person you are. Don’t end up regretting the now. Don’t end up saying or doing something you will regret. When it comes to social media, hide them from your feed rather than unfriend them and don’t search or look at their posts or stories. On Instagram you can mute them, on Facebook you can unfollow. This will save you from deleting them and doing something very permanent.

Don’t end up saying something you don’t mean. You obviously really care for your friend, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now. I still care for my friend… I probably always will and so as much as I am hurt, disappointed, let down and cross at their behaviour, I am not going to say something that I will regret. In this situation, it’s not an eye for an eye. It’s a swallow the feeling of ‘Well, if I just say this for closure…‘ and just allow your own emotions and feelings to pass.

You never know what life has in store for you. You never know if and when that friend may come back to you, more willing to make an effort. No you shouldn’t be walked all over, and of course have healthy boundaries if and when this does happen again. But I think that’s the magic of life, you just never know when your paths may cross again and when they may get back in touch, with a different attitude then they have right now with you. That’s why, unless it is absolutely necessary and they are a toxic, hateful person, don’t burn bridges! You never know when your friend may come back into your life naturally.

Saying that, it’s easy to wish them back. I do it almost everyday… but I miss and feel things deeply. I am missing my friend, but I also know that she has every right to have who she wants in her life right now. If I am not someone she wants actively in her life at this moment in time, then she has every right to decide that for herself. I am not going to force something, believe me, I have tried that in the past and it became apparent very soon that it just ends up making matters worse. It’s best to allow the feelings to happen in your head and heart, to let them be and to work on your own self-care, self love and self esteem. Your friend may, or may not, return into your life one day. But in the mean time, don’t sit around and dwell.

Focus on what and who you have in your life

Who do you have in your life right now? What positives in your life do you have? Focus on them. Despite a long term friendship changing dynamics for me, I know I have a circle of beautiful friends I have put my attention onto. They are the ones that will get my random calls, texts and jokes. They are the ones I will see as soon as I physically can. I also have an awesome family, husband and children, plus I have a lot of work on that I need to put my attention into.

If you are looking to make new friends, then go out and seek the opportunities. Talk on your local Facebook groups, start a hobby where you can unite with like-minded folk and put yourself out into the world. Just because one person can’t recognise and appreciate your friendship, it doesn’t mean everyone else can’t.

Keep busy. Your mind will naturally gravitate towards this. Friendships ending hurt. They hurt as much as losing a loved one, or a relationship ending. It’s a loss at the end of the day. So you are well within your rights to feel this pain, to cry and to feel sorry for yourself. But time is a great healer. So while you wait for it to pass, keep busy. Don’t go looking on their social media accounts, don’t message them. Message someone else, join positive social media forums that are linked to your interests, call another friend. Start a home project or craft project. Volunteer somewhere. Keep yourself busy, and soon that hurt will reduce each day. You will soon realise your true worth, and be able to move on from the friendship.

There is nothing wrong with you

There isn’t anything wrong with you. Friendships do break down, they do get distant. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person. It just means that the person has served their purpose in your life, and for whatever reason, the door closes. But as they say, there is another opening up.

Wish your friend well, send them virtual distant love and well wishes and say goodbye in your head. It may, or may not be forever. But be the lovely soul that you are and wish them well, then move on with your life. It’s sad but you have to find a better friendship that is more suited to where you’re now at in your life.

Write down what you want from a friendship, write down what you deserve from a friendship. My betting is, that neither of those answers aligns with the friendship that has changed. Now go out and seek one that fits with your description more, or maybe you already have it. Spend your time nurturing those friendships instead. That is what I have done, and it’s been so good for me. I feel closer to those friends, more grateful. I wish my friend well, and I guess I will always miss her in my life. But I also know when it’s time to move on and to stop chasing someone that doesn’t want to be chased anymore. I can recognise that for her, I am not someone she wants in her life currently. As much as it hurts, as confusing as it is, the best thing I can do for her and myself is to walk away with the memories of good times… and focus on great times with others in my future.

Now it’s time for you to do the same…

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you’d like to read this blog post based on the friendship game everyone should be playing.