Social Question

Mariah's avatar

What do we owe our friends?

Asked by Mariah (19102 points ) February 10th, 2013

I’ve always thought the “right thing to do” was to support friends through thick and thin. I still think that is ideal behavior from a friend, but are you a crappy friend if you don’t?

Is it wrong to “ditch” a friend for anything besides flagrant mistreatment? What do you think?

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19 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

You don’t want to get into enabling behavior of self-destructive acts. So you don’t lend money to a friend who is an alcoholic or a drug addict, for example, even though you might freely lend money to other friends.

I think there are other things that might cause me to ditch a friend who hadn’t mistreated “me”, and that might be if he / she mistreated someone else that I knew about, or an animal.

Pandora's avatar

You owe a friend a shoulder to cry on and moral support if needed when and if you can.

What you don’t owe a friend is to be taken advantage of or to be extremely put out and learn to hate or feel bitter because you couldn’t say no. A real friend will understand that you can’t always say yes and sometimes you have to be a little selfish to preserve yourself or others that you love and even to preserve your friendship with them.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You owe them love and support. Sometimes you also owe them a no. It depends what they ask.. As a loved one told me today, life’s a bitch some days.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

It depends. Friendship is a give and take, a ying and yang. But I personally don’t think it works if one friend gives and the other just keeps on taking.

Say for example I have been there for all of my friends through thick and thin even through marriages when money for me was tight. But, when I needed my friend because my husband was dying she blatently told me she could not be there for me. So she decided to visit me once at my home while my husband was in the hospital dying, taking my precious time I did have with him away, while I had to listen to her for over an hour about the fact that she wanted my advice because she was cheating on her husband!

So that was it for me. I don’t talk to her much because of that. She has actually replaced me with a younger version of me. I guess she’s afraid of getting old, I dont know. But she is in a much different place than me now, and I’m ok with that, I’ve known her for over 20yrs I will always love her and think of her even if we are not as connected as we have been before.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think I would use the word owe. What I would say is generally in life you get what you give.

I feel compelled to be supportive to my friends, available, helpful, caring. I went through a very hard time in my early twenties and my friends were amazing. It made me realize that I want to be that for my friends.

Unbroken's avatar

I have had friends that I left behind, it’s a part of growing up. Some people just like destructive cycles. And while they will help you they also expect you to live with the drama they purposefully bring into their lives.

I felt guilty about this because they had been there for me through a lot. But then I realized they were partially to blame for all the trouble I went through. Also they were much needier then me and when I gave them valid options to change they never stood up to the plate.

After some mental self flagellation I realize that support groups were there to support people. I am not a support group and functioning as one, especially when there is no initiative to change is codependent and doesn’t help either one of us.

rojo's avatar

Friends know their friends faults and accept them as they are. Yes, we leave them behind sometimes but we don’t ditch them.

wundayatta's avatar

If you don’t borrow any money, then you don’t owe them anything.

Personally, I think we owe our friends to check up on them. When I got sick and stopped contacting my oldest friends for more than a year, a few of them never checked up on me. It was really weird. I couldn’t reach out to them, and I kind of expected they would at least call once. Or send an email.

My best friend didn’t and then when I finally did get in touch with him, and told him what happened, he told me he didn’t want to hear about it. So I figure that’s that.

Friends check up on you at least once a year. That’s my bottom line. Less than that, and they aren’t friends.

ucme's avatar

A pint & a packet of crisps (salt & vinegar)

Response moderated (Spam)
mazingerz88's avatar

You owe a good friend, a call, a visit or an invitation to hang out once in a while even if there is nothing to talk about. Especially when there is nothing to talk about.

Mariah's avatar

I really appreciate your thoughts. I needed to hear some of these things. I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about my reactions to a current situation with a friend. Basically I am feeling a little suffocated by this guy friend of mine who is not happy at all with his life and comes to me and talks very negatively about everything. When it started I kept saying things like “this is what friends are for” but now that it’s five months later and it’s still going on, I kind of feel used and a little resentful.

Thing is, according to my standards of what friends are and what they do for each other, he hasn’t done anything wrong. Friends should be there for each other during tough times, right? But my natural reaction was to grow very weary of his negativity and now I don’t even want to see him or talk to him at all anymore. I keep trying to force myself to because I feel like a bad person, but I’m not really being a friend if I’m talking to him out of guilt.

There is almost no give and take, but that’s not his fault. He has said he would listen to me if I were the one who needed to talk…but I’m really happy with my life right now.

Part of what’s frustrating is I feel like he’s using me for support when he’s not even taking steps to improve his situation. Well, that’s kind of unfair. He has tried to improve his situation but the problem is that it’s not his situation that’s the problem. He thinks it is, he thinks he’ll be happy if things change, but I know he won’t because I’ve gotten to know his attitude pretty well over these months. He’ll find something else to be sad about. What he needs is therapy and he is dead set against it. That’s what’s frustrating to me. How can he expect my help when he won’t even help himself?

rojo's avatar

@Mariah Your last sentence; “How can he expect my help when he won’t even help himself?” is especially telling. It is hard to tell someone that, while you are there to support them, you cannot live their lives for them. Actually, telling them is the easy part, getting them to listen, believe you and eventually do something is the difficult part.
Don’t just tell him what he wants to hear, tell him what he needs to know. It almost sounds like you are enabling him in his delusions.
Good luck.

Mariah's avatar

I’ve definitely considered I might be enabling him. I definitely am not just telling him what he wants to hear and he gets mad at me for it sometimes. To be honest I’m half hoping he’ll say something awful to me so that I’ll have something that feels like a valid reason to stop talking to him. So petty and immature, I know. I should probably be direct and honest with him at this point but he is so ludicrously sad all the time and I just can’t add to it.

CWOTUS's avatar

Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy about something. I don’t know how to explain it any better.

My uncle is very much like this, but hell, he’s 88 years old and senile. Your friend doesn’t have that excuse.

If you really want to be a friend to him (and this might be a hard choice for you, especially at this time, if you’re ready to end the friendship as being entirely too one-sided and a drain to you), then it might be time to tell him a hard truth: “Look, I’ve been willing to listen to you bitch about things, but I don’t see you taking the necessary action to make things change. If you don’t stop doing what you’ve always been doing, then you won’t get anything other than what you’ve already gotten. I don’t know how many other friends you have that are willing to listen to you bitch about things, but you’re going to lose one if you don’t modify your behavior in some way.”

wundayatta's avatar

In friendship there is give and take. It isn’t only the person in trouble who gets to give. He should be happy listening to you talk about your happiness. That is a fine subject for friends to talk about.

I actually think it is especially important that you remember to talk about happiness. You guys seem to be in a pattern where you only talk about troubles. What that does is make you think that only troubles exist and only troubles are possible. It is the negativity you are talking about. You need to talk about your positivity so that he understands that good things can happen. You need to bring him up by showing an example, not indulging his depression.

It can’t be fake positive or rah rah cheering. It has to be no-nonsense this is what is happening. You’re not rubbing it in his face, nor are you shying away from it because it might make him feel bad. You talk about it to show him what is possible. Not to blame him or shame him. Just to give him hope. If you can do it, then he can, too. This is important stuff.

In my bipolar group, I think I serve in this role. Sometimes I wonder what I am doing there since I am doing well. But I think it’s what I just told you—it shows people that it is possible to get out and pull yourself up. Every time he complains, you can talk about your experience with that issue. It’s not that you are one-upping him. It’s just your experience. It’s not that you are teaching him a lesson. You’re just laying out experience that he could possible take advantage of. That’s all.

Then it becomes a conversation. His experience, your experience, his experience, your experience. That’s a friendship. That’s not being used. You both take turns listening. It’s equal. It is very important in a friendship that the conversation remains equal, no matter what is happening. Each person gets equal air time…. or at least satisfactory air time.

Mariah's avatar

Thanks you guys who have given me advice specific to my situation here, as well as the answers to the more general question I originally asked.

I actually got an incredibly opportunity to give him some honesty yesterday. He asked for it. We had a weird conversation and then he said “Are we okay? Honestly?”

I tried to use “I” statements so it wouldn’t sound accusatory. I’m feeling like a bad friend to you. Despite my previous stated beliefs of what friends do for each other, I’m feeling really burnt out by our situation. My life has been too serious for too long and lately I find myself drawn towards people who lighten it, not add to it. I have been being a coward and avoiding you instead of being straightforward and honest. I’m sorry. I think the best way to proceed, because I do want us to stay friends and I don’t know that the current state of affairs is working, is to be a little lighter with each other for awhile. I’m sorry.

He took it really well! If I had known, I would have told him ages ago. He was afraid I was mad at him and was relieved to hear it was burnout more than anything else. He agreed we can lighten things for awhile and I am filled with relief.

Thanks again all. I will keep your advice in mind if it becomes a problem again.

rojo's avatar

@Mariah Glad that it is working out for you. Sometimes facing things head-on is the best course of action. And, like I said, I don’t like just ditching friends particularly when the going gets a little bumpy.

Unbroken's avatar

@Mariah Wonderful approach and handling the situation!

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