Rocks and Hard Places: Traversing the One-Sided Friendship

You’ve been there before.

You’re the one who sends the text to your friend at 6:32pm, have him read it at 6:33pm, and doesn’t receive a reply by the time you’re in bed at 1:12am.

You’re the one who makes plans with your friend, which took countless days of back and forth, only to have him cancel on you for a more lit party down the street.

You’re in a one-sided friendship.

There are few things more disappointing than being in a one-sided friendship because it can be so frustrating to put in so much effort into connecting with someone and not receive the same kind of enthusiasm and effort back. One-sided friendships are something I’ve had to deal with all my life and only recently have been able to overcome and work through.

It’s hard to navigate relationships like this because we’ve invested so much time and energy into our friends. There’s something about them that keeps us coming back and yet it hurts when it seems like they don’t like us as much as we like them.

Talking to many people about this problem, I’ve gotten a lot of advice about what to do in one-sided relationships. It all boils down to about three options.

  1. You accept your friend as they are and match their level of effort and energy.
  2. You confront your friend and address your feelings in hopes that they’ll change.
  3. You no longer stay friends with this person.

One of my first experiences with one-sided friendships was moving away to college while my best friend stayed in our hometown and went to community college. We still talked a ton my freshman year, but the number of words exchanged between us dwindled each month.

More recently, I’ve had a friend whose relationship with me exhibits all the signs of a one-sided friendship. I always messaged him first to spark a conversation. He would answer me with terse one or two word responses. I’d invite him out to meet my other friends, but I’d never receive invites from him.

Every situation is different and I think the correct thing to do is precisely what feels right to you. With my long distance friend, I attempted to confront her and directly ask why she was distancing herself from me. Even then, all she could respond with was, “It’s just how it is.” It was then that I knew this wasn’t worth the hassle. Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and move on and that’s what I had to do with her.

My more recent experience was more difficult to resolve, and to this day, it still isn’t fully figured out. My close friend makes me ridiculously happy when I’m with him and we have tons of fun when we go out, but it hurts to not be a priority in his life. I first tried to confront him about it, like I did my high school friend and he did change… for all of two weeks. These days, I’ve been trying to accept him as he is and match his level of effort put into our friendship. It’s hard, but in the process I’ve made new friends who fill in the void that he creates in me. I’ve decided I’m not ready to let go of my friend because he does bring me so much happiness.

Sometimes, a relationship is so unequal that it wears on you. It plagues your mind and you know things aren’t going to change. This is when you have to cut your friend out of your life no matter how happy they make you. If the cons outweigh the pros, then it has to be done.

This doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough or that your friend was a bad person. It only means that you are two pieces of a puzzle that just don’t fit together. No person is better or worse than the other; you two are just different. Once you start focusing on the people who do love and appreciate you instead of those who don’t, your life will only change for the better.



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