It's almost as hard to generalize about friendship problems as it is to figure out how to solve them. Some situations may sound the same or have certain elements in common, but when it comes down to the details, every friendship has a different trajectory based on a unique mix of personalities, circumstances and history.
When a serious problem does crop up in a friendship, it's generally unexpected, disappointing and very uncomfortable to deal with. Communication is key, but many times we're at a loss for what to say or how to approach a sticky situation.
When another journalist recently asked me to identify some of the sticky situations that typically occur among followers of The Friendship Blog, the eight scenarios listed below were ones that seemed to recur frequently. I've provided a suggestion or two for resolving each of them.
Your friend is too busy to make plans, breaks plans, and can't be counted upon.
Make sure she's aware of what she's doing; let her know she's disappointed you and ask her to be more reliable. If the problem persists, you may need to dilute the friendship by seeing her less frequently and/or spending time with more reliable friends.
You can't stand your friend's boyfriend or spouse.
It's her partner, not yours -- and you don't have to like him. What attracts two people can be hard to quantify or understand. If you don't like her choice, try to carve out ways to spend time together with her, without him. You can say how you feel but don't try to talk her out of the way she feels. Of course, if you think her choice of partner is self-destructive, let her know that and try to be there for her.
Your friend is infertile and you're pregnant, again.
Do everything you can to be sensitive to your friend's feelings but the difficulties she's having may be so painful that it's hard for her to be around you. Continue to be empathetic, refrain from talking about children and childbearing constantly, and don't be surprised if she needs some space.
You and your friend were attached at the hip and now have nothing to say to each other.
Your lives may have become so divergent that the friendship isn't what it once was. Friendships have their ups and downs, and few of them last forever. See if you can figure out what's wrong by talking about it. If it's a matter of you, her, or both of you having changed, try to maintain a more distant connection without cutting off the friendship entirely.
You feel like you and your child are being excluded by a group of mothers.
Ouch! The only thing more painful than feeling left out is feeling like your child is left out. See if you can talk to one or more of the parents to see if you can maintain a relationship with her (or them) apart from the group. It might also be wise to try to meet new moms and kids.
Your colleague, with whom you are close friends, is taking advantage of your friendship by slacking off on her work. You were recently promoted and made her supervisor.
It's unfortunate that she's done this. To preserve the friendship and maintain productivity at work, you need to speak to her and clearly define your expectations of her performance in the workplace.
You have introduced your best friend to another friend of yours and the two of them no longer include you in their plans.
Although this feels rotten, friend poaching happens more often than you might think. Perhaps, the two of them just hit it off. You can see if you can maintain a relationship with one or the other of the two but, unfortunately, if you can't, you may need to find a new best friend.
Your friend has dumped you without an explanation and you need "closure."
After a friendship has gone south, it's nice when two people have a common understanding of what happened and why -- but this isn't always possible. Often, friends don't give us that opportunity. You can let the dust settle and try to talk to her again but you may need to achieve closure on your own by letting go and moving on.
What are some other common problems you've observed or experienced that could be added to the list?