Unequal Friendships

You stopped inviting her to lunch because she never reaches out to you. You’re always the one to suggest time together. You see her on social media, but she doesn’t “Like” any of your posts in Facebook or click the heart symbol on your Instagram photos.

Do you feel like she is someone you’re always pursuing, someone you want to have a relationship with but she’s never seeking you out for time together?

Sound familiar? Feel like high school all over again … despite the fact we’re now well into our senior years?

Do you feel like you’re the only one in many of your friendships who initializes social interaction?

Everyone wants friendships that reside on an equal footing, where, for the most part, you reach out to her and then, the next time, she reaches out to you. And there are times when you reach out twice in a row. No one should be so anal to always expect contact to go back and forth perfectly balanced between you two. Relationships are a dance.

Sometimes, however, there are friends who truly believe only one person in a relationship needs to initiate everything, and that person isn’t them. This has happened to me, and it left me feeling like I was in the middle of some immature game where the relationship wouldn’t exist unless I was the one always calling or e-mailing the other person to see if and when we could get together.

Who doesn’t like to be pursued … regardless of our age? Who doesn’t like to be sought after for friendship? Who doesn’t want to hear, “Hey, I miss you. Let’s spend some time together.”?

It can be painful when the only one seeking time together is you.

What to do?

First, take a very hard look to see if an unevenness in your relationship is a reality. Go back in your text messages and e-mails to confirm that others haven’t reached out to you, or that they have reached out and you were just too busy doing something else to respond … or you forgot. If it is true that an unevenness exists, there are a couple of ways to handle this situation.

My first suggestion is to talk about it. A friend of mine admitted to me she preferred being pursued and wouldn’t be the one reaching out. I’m not willing to play that game. We talked briefly and I could see she wasn’t going to appreciate my point of view, so I let it go. I don’t avoid her, but I don’t seek her out either.

What have you got to lose by telling her how you feel? Perhaps she doesn’t even know that she’s not reciprocating. And remember too, it’s not necessarily your fault if someone isn’t responsive to your requests.

If talking to her is not something you wish to pursue, or if you talk to her and she’s not going to change, you have two options – and I bet you can guess what they are:  1) you can “break up” with her, or 2) overcome your pride and feelings of resentment and be the one to always reach out. If you’re like me, it took a couple of years for the light bulb to go off that a form of ghosting was even going on. I kept thinking, “We’re elders, this juvenile behavior can’t really be happening.”

More recently I’ve been working on a third option — letting go. My world is filled with lots more people and fun activities than to spend much time worrying about the possible unevenness of one or two relationships. There’s too much angst and negativity tied up in worrying a lot about “Is this happening?” “Do they do this with other people?” “Did I do something wrong?”

Finally …

Remember, others might be feeling this way about you. Don’t be doing the thing that you wish others weren’t doing to you.