Love. The unrequited kind. We’ve all dealt with it, either in our adult years or with that high school crush which, at aged 15 was actually THE love of your life. You loved that crush, you loved the very bones of them and yet, they never even knew you existed. Harsh reality, but not massively uncommon. In fact, I’m not sure I have enough fingers and toes to count the sheer number of unrequited loves I’ve had.
But more recently I’ve been thinking about another type of relationship – another place where the unrequitedness (a word? It is now…) of our love can take a severe battering. Friendship. Think about it – have you ever had that person in your life, male or female, with whom you chased and chased a platonic relationship only to have your emotions – unrequited?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the unrequited friendship, and the hurt you can suffer when a friend just doesn’t want to give you what you hope for back. Do you ever feel you are making a lot of effort to keep a friendship going only to be met with utter indifference? Are you drifting apart and trying to claw back what you once had with a barrage of texts, Facebook messages and unanswered calls?
I’ve been there, and it hurts. But there are some ways to deal with it.
Assess your friendship
This is the toughest, but we’ll start with this and it’ll get easier from here I promise. Whilst you may be making all the moves and all the effort, have you reached the point of, well. No point at all? Sometimes, friendships end. Sometimes people drift apart due to circumstance, location or just because. Friendship can be long lasting, but it can also be transient too – for the moment.
Think carefully whether this friendship may have reached it’s course, and then act accordingly. Unlike romantic relationships, you don’t need a messy break up to tell you it’s over.
Keep doing what you are doing
If you don’t believe your friendship is over, don’t stop making the effort. People go through difficult times in their lives – sometimes they are ready to talk, and sometimes they are not. Without you realising it, your messages and chasing may well be keeping up the spirits of someone who is just not ready to respond right now. Or they might be busy – don’t be hurt or upset, but understand that sometimes you can’t be the number one priority.
Alternatively, you may have to accept that in this particular relationship, you are the do-er. The one who makes the plans, the one who organises everything. That definitely isn’t a bad thing, so long as you are happy in that role. I’m pretty happy in the organiser role, but at times it can get tiring. So I’m honest about that…
Discuss feelings openly
If this is an important relationship to you, then perhaps it is time to get honest about how you feel. Do it sensitively, do it face to face, but most of all, just do it. Open up about how important the friendship is to you, but explain that it feels one sided, and you’d like some support too. If it is a good friendship, it’ll withstand some brutal talking it out.
Perhaps your friend doesn’t need as much face to face time in the friendship as you do. I am friends with people I barely see, and yet when we are together it feels as though we are never apart. So it is ok that we don’t text each other all the time – we have that bond and it’ll always be there. By discussing feelings openly, you may come to realise that this is exactly how your friend feels – you have an unshakeable bond that doesn’t require constant contact.
We recorded a podcast all about female friendships. In the episode, we asked why is the gold standard for female friendships as portrayed in the media a hilarious, supportive group three or four close mates they can confide in with no room for falling out? How do you navigate friendships when you are at different life stages? And finally, what’s behind the intensity of female friendships – why can they be so fragile, and how do you manage that?
We’ve also collated a heap of other reading about female friendships if you want to delve a little deeper (basically – it’s complicated!):
- On female friendships – it’s complicated
- The science behind female friendships
- The politics of friendship
- Not every woman has a strong unit of female friends. It’s time to stop feeling guilty about it.
How do you deal with the brush off from friends? Do you take it personally, or just move on to others? Tell us your story in the comments.
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