How to Work with Your Circle: Healthy Adult Friendships

Yvonne came to her counseling session upset about her friend group. “I’m always the one that initiates getting together,” she explained. “I find the movie, pick the latest restaurant, or find the concert tickets. Then I text everyone, coordinate schedules, budgets and rides, and finally I send out reminders as the events are coming up, making sure all are set with tickets, equipment, babysitters. I’m sick of it. Why doesn’t anyone else coordinate?” We sorted through the ladies in her friend circle. Like her, they were juggling young children, spouses, jobs, home-improvement projects, and extended family obligations. “I wonder, do these women do social activities outside of the ones you plan?” I asked. “I don’t think so,” said Yvonne. “Whenever we hang out they talk about how much fun they have, and how they haven’t done anything since the last time.”

Wiley feels like lately he doesn’t have any friends. “I reach out,” he says. “I’ll send a text or message, and they sometimes write back, but they don’t ever ask me to hang out. I know they go out with other people because I see it on social media. I can’t figure out why I’m not included.” We started to look at his patterns, who he was reaching out to, when, why, and how they responded. It turns out Wiley was reaching out to guys who were more acquaintances, or friends from his past. “Does anyone reach out to you? Literally anyone?” I asked him. “Well, there are some guys who’s wives are friends with my wife; they text sometimes. “Are they local?” “Oh yeah,” he said. “They live right down the street.”

Adult friendships can be complicated. With Yvonne, sometimes people make assumptions about social organizers like herself: “She’s a natural, I couldn’t possibly do it as well as Yvonne!”; “She enjoys it so much, I don’t want to take away her fun”; “She seems to always have the time, and I’m just SO busy”. Yvonne decided to confront her friends and stand up for herself: “I put in the effort because I want to spend time with y’all, not because I have a ‘gift'”; “Some of it’s fun but mostly it’s just work, that I do because I love all of you”; “Don’t even act like you don’t know I’m busy, that’s just downright rude and manipulative.” Some ladies stepped up to plan with Yvonne, and others faded into the background.
Wiley on the other hand, had to face some hard truths. If he wanted to spend time with friends, he needed to start saying “yes” to the people who were seeking him out. It was time for him to stop pining for days and friendships gone by, and accept his present; then he could have the active social life he was seeking. What do you notice about your social life, and where can you make some healthy changes?