Adulting Series: Friendships - The 4 Words That Can Make or Break Your Friendship
By Amanda Turecek - December 27, 2021
Therapists experience challenges in relationships and friendships too. True, we go through a good amount of training on communication. And we might have quite a few tools up our sleeves for managing anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. But we also struggle with the frustrations and disappointments that come up in friendships.
I recently came to a crossroads in a friendship where it was clear it was no longer serving me. Not that friends are there for us only. But I was finding myself walking away from every interaction exhausted, drained and sad. The reciprocal piece that can provide fun, support, and trust just wasn’t there.
As a therapist, I am comfortable sitting in hard spaces. But having tough conversations in friendships still brings up plenty of stress and anxiety. So while ghosting would have been an easy out in some ways, I committed to providing some closure to this relationship (even if ony over text!) This friend was asking for an answer and deserved one. Anxiety hit the minute I received the text -
“ Did I do something? "
Four simple words (but not THE make or break words!) that I would have preferred to ignore. But grounding in the work that I’ve done on myself and strategies I practice and teach for decreasing anxiety, I decided to adult. This friend deserved a response. Her question was clear and we have enough history that it would have left things confusing and stressful to try and just fade away.
I tried to gently explain how I had been feeling. I stated that I had been distancing because I was overwhelmed and it often felt like our friendship only revolves around her. Which is sometimes what friends are exactly for but I worried that it was not reciprocal. I shared my disappointment that she didn’t ask how I was doing or how my child was doing after I had recently told her how sick he was. I tried to be vulnerable in sharing hurt and disappointment and also needing support in friendship.
Then I waited. I cringed. I pulled up all those therapist strategies I’m supposed to be good at. I practiced sitting in all my feelings and riding the waves of anxiety and discomfort.
And it was fine. The first line of her response said sorry. The next 20 lines justified her actions and choices. She explained away my concerns. And told me it was up to me to share if I wanted to.
This led me to think about what I wanted in a friendship. What I was hoping for and what would have felt supportive. Less like counseling and therapy and more like connection and friendship. Was it really my fault that I didn’t reach out to her over and over to share updates about my sick child? Sure. But is that what I was looking for in a friendship? Would I have really felt like she was being pushy if she had checked in on me? My conclusion was a very definitive no.
It really came down to 4 simple words that were missing in our friendship. 4 short words that maybe would have taken 20 seconds to text. They would not have felt pushy and would have strengthened our connection. They would have decreased my overwhelm and stress even if just for a minute. Knowing someone was thinking of me and genuinely wanted to know the answer was what I craved. The words that were missing in all of our interactions that left me drained and sad were:
“ Hey how are you? "
When I look back at our friendship these 4 words are where things went wrong. I was missing a short statement checking in on me. And while it should not have been all about me either, I found myself too often on the giving side of the checking in and support. Relationships and friendships have so many layers. It’s not always this simple. But sometimes it can be.
As I move forward in seeking out, building, and maintaining awesome friendships that are reciprocal, I am keeping this in mind too. How can I offer support to others? How can I let them know I am thinking of them? Am I checking in?
I would love to hear your thoughts!
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