Today I want to talk about the problem of trying too hard to “win” someone’s friendship.
Have you ever really wanted a friendship with a specific person? If the person in question also wants your friendship, mutual interest will hopefully bring you together without much fuss. But what about when your desire to create a friendship with someone is not equal to theirs, or not even reciprocated at all?
Below are some signs that you may be trying too hard in your friendships:
- You feel uncomfortable. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you find yourself unable to relax into your interactions with this person. It just feels like something is “off.” If you’re having trouble figuring out how you feel, imagine a friendship or interaction you’ve had with someone else that felt comfortable, easy, and secure. Compare it to the friendship in question and examine the differences, being as honest with yourself as possible. A healthy friendship will not be a source of ongoing confusion or angst.
- You feel the need to be “on” or present yourself in a way that feels more palatable to this person. Your behavior changes when you’re around them. Maybe you’re more bubbly, but it’s not coming from a place of excitement – instead, it’s coming from a place of fear and desperation. Or maybe you’re more cynical or quiet in their presence because you don’t want to say the “wrong” thing and risk setting them off. Small changes in behavior aren’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but if you’re acting out of character, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself why. Are you performing in this friendship?
- You walk away from interactions feeling drained. Instead of feeling energized after talking or getting together with this person, you feel like you just had the lifeblood sucked out of you. You may feel physically or emotionally exhausted. You may feel tense, like you’ve been walking on eggshells, and actually experience relief when the visit ends: “Now I can finally breathe.” This is not to say of course that all friendships will feel amazing 100 percent of the time, but if this is a consistent pattern, it’s worth examining.
- You don’t feel appreciated. This includes feeling like you’re just helping the other person pass time until something or someone “better” comes along. They may blow you off to hang out with someone they’re more interested in or not invite you along. You don’t feel included to the extent that you’ve worked to include them. You feel that you’re doing all the heavy-lifting in the relationship and they are just along for the ride as long as it’s convenient for them. Not a good feeling.
- The other person consistently holds you at arm’s length. You feel like you’re “making progress” or “getting closer” to this person, but the next day, they’re back to pushing you away or acting distant when you want to connect. Getting someone to someone to love or care about you in the way you need is not a pet project you need to take on right now (or ever). If someone does not have the emotional skills to engage in a healthy friendship, that is not your fault.
Remember that someone’s friendship is not something you should have to “earn” or “win.” It’s not a code to be cracked, a box to check, or a goal to achieve. If you are the only one in the relationship who is putting in the effort to “make it work”, you may want to pull back and wait for a friendship in which the interest and effort is mutual.
Real friendship requires work, but not the kind that breaks your back. A skill in life is learning how to identify which relationships are healthy and worth the work, and which are a no-win game. It may feel scary to let go of a friendship in which you realize you’re the only one putting in the effort, but be strong and trust that you’ll find what you are looking for. You deserve it.