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What to do when someone isn't pulling their weight in a friendship

It can be annoying if you're the one always making the effort.
/ Source: TODAY

We’ve all been there before: Texts and invites from your friend start to slow down, then stop. You become the one who always has to reach out about plans, or invite your friend out for dinner and drinks. And though everything seems fine when you actually do meet in person, you start to wonder: Why am I the one doing all of the work?

It’s actually a pretty common problem, psychologist Andrea Bonior, author of "The Friendship Fix," told TODAY. Friendships tend to wax and wane over time, depending on how people’s lives are going.

“Adult friendships can withstand that,” Bonior said. “You can’t expect two people to always be in sync with each other.”

So what can you do? First, Bonior said, try to think about your own expectations. Are they off, given everything going on in your friend’s life? Perhaps she has started a new job, has a health problem or has entered a new relationship. Or perhaps you have lately been bringing something to the friendship — even a certain neediness — that has contributed to your friend’s withdrawal.

Once you’ve done this, then it’s time to have a talk with your friend. Make sure to pick the right setting, Bonior advised, ideally in person, and not right after your friend has refused yet another invitation. That way, you’re less likely to lash out and have an unproductive conversation.

Instead of accusing your friend, try to express your own feelings. Use the old couples’ counseling trick of making “I” statements, Bonior said: “I feel like we haven’t been able to hang out as much recently,” versus “You are flaking out and not showing up.”

Make sure you know what you hope to get out of the conversation: an explanation? An apology? Just a feeling of being understood?

Hopefully, your friend will hear you and you will both make an effort to meet each other’s needs. However, if your friend is not open to the conversation, “Sometimes it means there’s a shift in the friendship that is more permanent,” Bonior said.

If you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall and need a break for your own mental health, take a step back. You don’t have to end the friendship, Bonior said, but you can give yourself a little time and space.

You may decide that, in order to have this person in your life, you’re willing to make more of an effort to plan things — and that’s okay. What you want to avoid, though, is approaching the friendship with a bean-counter mentality, Bonior said.

“The deeper and closer the friendship, the more the reciprocity is just trusted,” Bonior explained. “You don’t want to get in a pattern where you’re constantly looking to be paid back. That just becomes toxic. If the friendship is meant to last, you’re going to fall into reciprocity naturally.”

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