Why You Should Stop Thinking You're the Better Friend

friends in a fight

Let's say you have a friend. And let's say this friend is great -- funny, supportive, kind, clever. Alas, she never seems to do as much for YOU as you do for HER. You're the one always inviting her family for dinner. And watching her dog when she's out of town. And picking up her kids from school that one time she had the stomach flu. (Damn right, you're keeping track.) Is it time to say adios to a friendship that's starting to feel one-sided?

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Nope. It's actually time for YOU to stop keeping score. This is a friendship, after all -- not a friendship contest. (Totally different.)

Still, many (read: all) of us get caught up in tracking who's giving and receiving more in a friendship. Which isn't a good thing, because we are sure we are ALWAYS the giver. And feel hyper-prickly and annoyed about it.

Shasta Nelson, the founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a female friendship matching site, interviewed over 1,000 women about this very subject for her new book, Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

What she found was almost comical.

"Only 26 percent feel the giving [in their friendship] is shared equally, and a whopping 60 percent of us believe we do most of the giving," she says. "Even the 26 percent who view their relationship as mutual tend to believe other women are more likely to be takers than givers."

Okay. So we tend to get all Tracy Flick about our friendships. But ... why?

For starters, "we aren't very good at asking for what we need," says Nelson. "We like the role of being the giver, then we resent it."

And that resentment may come and go, depending on what's going on in the rest of our lives.

"When I'm healthy, happy, and whole, it feels good to give, but when my resources feel scarce, my generous spirit can wane, frustrated with anyone who seems to want what I'm protecting," Nelson explains.

More from The Stir: 10 Friends Every Mom Should Have

Another reason we feel like we're carrying the brunt of our friendships on our own tender shoulders is that, hello, we all perceive the world differently. 

"I honestly don't think our friends aren't giving to us, but we're just not noticing," says Nelson. "If I always host girls' night, am I giving more? Or is my friend because she hired a sitter to watch her kids then drove over to my house?"

Eighty-three percent of us bring different strengths to a friendship, Nelson notes. "[And] none of us brings everything."

So before you start ignoring your friend's texts or conveniently forgetting to invite her family to your next block party, ask yourself: "'Are my needs being met? Am I getting what I need? Is my heart being fed?'" asks Nelson. "These are the bigger questions."

If your friend criticizes your kids, never meets you at the gym when she promised that she would, and blows you off in a time of crisis, your answer might be, "Hell, no." And rightfully so.

But if she regularly shows up when you invite her and you truly thrive in her company, "that's something else entirely," Nelson says.

"There will always be tough conversations, hurtful words, neglect, and unmet needs in a relationship," she notes, "but [unless it's a consistent pattern] none of these mean we have to withdraw our goodness."

 

Image via lightwavemedia/Shutterstock

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