Emotional contagion is real, and you can use it to your advantage.
My husband and I are fortunate enough to have six or seven sets of couples with whom we frequently pal around with, and one in particular that we consider our closest companions. We ring in every New Year with them. Weekends together have included road trips to Vegas and regular lounging with takeout and a movie.
But one day I came to the realization that something was missing from our friendship. “If you stop and think about it, they really never initiate plans with us,” I told my husband. “You know, you’re right! Why is that?” he wondered.
The situation bothered me, so I looked for some help. Was there a way for such an imbalanced friendship to feel balanced again? Here’s how the experts recommend reconciling a friendship that feels uneven:
If your friends don’t make plans with you, but also blow off your invitations, that is an issue. But if they are happy to hang out whenever you invite them, the friendship may not be flawed. Mark Rogers, Psychologist and CEO of Insights Without Borders explains that some people are planners by nature, while others are less so. “If you are OK with always being the one to invite your friends, then accept this is going to be … the dynamic of the relationship,” he says.
Sometimes friends reach out less, and we’ve all been there. Before launching into feelings of frustration, consider the current situation. “If you know your friend is going through a really tough time, (college finals, medical school, a divorce, new baby, etc.) then cut them some slack,” says Marie Dubuque, author of “Handling the People Who Hate You While Keeping Your Self Esteem in Tact”.
According to Heather Kohos, founder of The Shift LA, clear communication is crucial to all successful relationships, including friendship. “Generally speaking, someone not initiating plans means we’ve never asked them to, they aren’t capable of taking the lead, or they are worried about not meeting our expectations,” she explains. “Look at your needs and values with this relationship and realize you might not be communicating [those values] correctly with this friend.”
Rogers adds that speaking with your friend directly will only strengthen your bond. “Create an agreement to discuss this issue or issues with them. Doing so will help establish greater intimacy and friendship with them, and your relationship with one another,” he notes.
If you are having any doubts about the friendship, one way to seek clarity is to take a break from making plans and see what happens. “If your friend constantly relies on you … to make plans and you are utterly sick of it, stop calling,” says Dubuque. Sometimes just taking a break can ease the frustration and help you see the situation more clearly before one of you reaches out.
It’s important to feel that the investment you make in a friendship feels equal. If the scale of balance tips more in one direction and you begin to notice a lack of effort from the other side, then it’s time to access your options. Consider the other person’s situation and evaluate what could be affecting their lack of effort in your friendship. Decide whether or not you are comfortable with your existing dynamic. And if you’re not, don’t be afraid to confront your friend. A relationship can only become stronger from open and honest communication.