First and foremost, true friendships require reciprocity. What this means is you shouldn’t always be putting in 80% of your effort to a relationship when the other person is only ever putting in 20% of there’s. Friendships are mutual relationships, but just because someone mutually wants a relationship with you, unfortunately doesn’t mean they will always respect you enough to reciprocate the thoughts and actions you do to show them their value. Sometimes, it is okay to put in more effort than your friend because they might need it, but when it becomes a constant pattern of them not reciprocating your effort, you should consider a few things.
The first step to addressing an unbalanced friendship is to try and resolve the conflict and tension often caused by these situations. The keys to addressing conflict is communication and setting boundaries. Sometimes conflict can be resolved by ignoring the tension and letting it subside, then acting like it never happened. However, this will never be the solution to stopping the pattern of unreciprocated friendship.
When resolving any kind of relational conflict, the first step you want to take is communicating your feelings. When someone’s actions hurt you, you want to tell them. This doesn’t mean you have to accuse them of being a bad friend or start and argument. It simply means you need to tell them how their actions make YOU feel. A good technique for this is using “I” statements. For example, “I feel frustrated and not important when you don’t tell me important things going on in your life.” More than likely, your friend should understand where you are coming from, and you will be able to discuss the matter in a civil and friendly manner.
The second step to resolving these kind of conflicts is setting boundaries. When someone hurts you and you begin to communicate your feelings, you also want to let them know what works and what doesn’t. For instance, if your friend is making sarcastic remarks every time you try to talk about something important to you, you should use an example and tell them exactly why you don’t like it. “It makes me feel invalidated and like my experiences are a joke when you say things like this/that:…” Setting boundaries for what actions are and are not okay in your relationships is not just important for resolving conflict, but for preventing it. If someone respects you, they will respect your boundaries as well.
The most important thing to remember about friendships is knowing you are worth the effort and kindness you put in to them. If someone isn’t reciprocating your friendship, or isn’t respecting your feelings and boundaries, you need to tell them so. If it results in the loss of a friendship, remember that in the long run, it wouldn’t be worth the sacrifices you would continue making. Friendships are about mutual respect, honesty, and value with each other. When someone doesn’t give you back what you are putting in, you should probably reconsider what kind of relationship you have with them. Don’t forget, you will always make new relationships as your life moves forward, and if you continue to set boundaries and know your worth, you will find valuable friendships that can last a lifetime.