How To Get Out Of One-Sided Friendships
We’ve all found ourselves in one-sided friendships. Those of us who, in particular, are good listeners, generous with our time, and very empathetic get stuck in a lot of one-sided friendships. People who can be a bit self-involved are drawn to people like us. And, at first, it feels flattering—they’ll tell us how sweet we are, how caring we are, what amazing people we are, and how much we bring to their lives…It’s so flattering that we are distracted from the fact that this person brings nothing to our lives. It’s great if someone appreciates that I’m a good listener and a generous person, but I don’t want them abusing those qualities, which happens a lot. I can’t play the victim entirely, though: I need to learn to recognize these friendships as they’re developing. As for those of you who are already involved, here is how to get out of a one-sided friendship.
Extend your response time
You don’t have to respond to every text right away. That’s how you train this person to reach out to you every time they want to vent, or want someone to accompany them to something that just isn’t fun. You’re free to take a few hours to respond, at which point, they will have already vented to someone else or roped someone else into their activity. Show that you cannot be relied on.
Force group hangouts
These life-sucking friends usually insist on one-on-one hangouts because, well, that’s how everything gets to be about them. So, when they ask to hang out, just go ahead and invite other friends. Show them you have a lot of people to spend time with and if they want to be with you, they’ll have to play nice, get along with others, and can’t hog all your attention. If this doesn’t sound appealing, they’re welcome to stay home alone.
Push real activities
Don’t let this friend always talk you into just coming over, and sitting on their couch. That’s the perfect environment for them to just talk about themselves for hours. Insist that you feel like getting fresh air, or checking out this movie—tell them that’s what you had planned that day and if they want to join, they can. They probably won’t because those aren’t great environments for them to get all the attention.
Complain about that other selfish person
Vent to this selfish person about this other selfish person—about how some other friend never asks you about yourself, only calls you in a crisis, is very flaky, very needy, and just selfish. If the friend you’re talking to wants to keep you, they’ll check their own behavior that’s like that.
Be extremely busy
Only make time for people who give you energy and uplift you. If the selfish person wants to see you, don’t leave plans open-ended. Tell them “I have this from 11 am to 2pm and this other thing from 4:30 to the end of the night so if you want, we can hang out from 2:30 to 4.” Make them understand that you’re not just sitting around, waiting to hang. And if they miss their window, they just don’t get to see you.
Don’t allow rescheduling
Even if you could technically let them push your lunch back (at the last minute) by two hours, don’t. This is another way of showing them that if they don’t respect your schedule, they just don’t get to see you.
Talk about yourself more
Give them a spoon of their own medicine. Just talk and talk, allowing no room for them to speak up. Consume the hangout with your own vent session. Show that maybe you aren’t the bottomless pit of patience and good listening they thought you were
Find them another friend
You can probably think of another friend who is flaky, selfish, needy, unreliable, and self-involved. Introduce that friend to this friend. They’ll keep each other very busy or they’ll start to recognize, through each other, their own bad behaviors.
Claim you’re having a hard time
You can always just claim that you’re going through personal stuff, are feeling down, and just don’t feel like hanging out with people. Remember that selfish, needy people usually want healthy, happy friends—those are the people they can drain of energy. If you claim that you’re not happy right now, they’ll look elsewhere.
Don’t answer the phone right away
You don’t have to pick up the phone each time they call. If they typically only call when they’re in the middle of an emotional meltdown, and you don’t pick up, then they won’t even want to chat when you call back three hours later—the meltdown will have passed. Show them that you are available for scheduled calls, but rarely for spontaneous, meltdown calls.
Brag about your generous friend
Sing the praises of another friend who is such a good listener, who is super organized, who you can always rely on, who has done so much for you, and who really just makes you feel positive and energetic. It might just dawn on this toxic friend that she does none of that for you.
Enforce phone time limits
If you do answer the phone, say you have exactly X amount of minutes to talk. It’s okay if you’re making it up. When that time limit arrives, say you need to go. You’re not being a bad friend—you’re setting boundaries and respecting your needs.
Enforce in-person time limits
When you hang out, also enforce time limits. Let them know you have a hard out at a certain time. If they run 45 minutes late, well, that’s 45 fewer minutes they get with you and they’ll be the one paying for it. You’re leaving when you said you had to leave.
Don’t be afraid to set a trap
If you know this person can’t be relied on, is never on time, and only wants to be around when everything is about them, then feel free to set them up to fail. Ask them to be somewhere you say is very important, at a non-negotiable time. Let’s say for example, you want them to get on a departing train with you at a certain time to accompany you to an event you don’t want to attend alone. Set them up to fail, so you have a reason they’ll understand to distance yourself.
And, of course, you can just tell the person that they’re self-involved, and drain you of energy. Just know that often, people like this aren’t able to really reflect on their behavior and may just lash out at you.