Dear Dr. Norquist:
I wonder if I’m expecting too much from a friendship? The ‘friends’ I hang out with do not seem really sincere. I’m always unsure whether they really like me or if they are just being friendly because it’s convenient. They have left me out of activities when it was inconvenient to include me (now you see why I feel insecure about the friendships). I’ve been working and living in Hoboken for several years now and haven’t been able to establish a secure best-friend relationship.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Friendships can be so painful sometimes, yet so affirming and life enhancing at other times. We long for a friend, with whom we always feel accepted, supported and understood. We long for someone we can always feel comfortable reaching out to, sharing our joys and sorrows and having fun together. Our lives feel deeper and richer when we can express our feeling and share our experiences with a friend, and when we can play the same role in that friend’s life. A life that is not shared is lacking in color, and richness. Establishing and maintaining such a friendship however is not always an easy task.
Ask yourself what qualities you look for in a friendship – qualities such as trustworthiness, an ability to understand your experience of life, shared values and interests, dependability, availability (emotionally and physically), etc. Now step out of yourself and see yourself from a distance, taking a serious objective look at yourself. See if you are offering these qualities in your friendships. Take note of areas in which you could improve, and think of practical and behavioral ways you can make these changes. Try to see yourself from the eyes of your friends. How do they experience you? What effect does your presence have on them? The more you practice this exercise, the more insight you will receive.
Perhaps the friendships that you are pursuing are not the right ones for you. Friendships that evolve into “best friends” generally start off with an easy sense of affinity that grows over time. Most people have only 1 or 2 really close friends, and then other friendships and acquaintances that are comfortable and sometimes fun, but never become really close. Close friendships require time (something we generally don’t have a lot of once we are working full-time and having families). They require time to mature and weekly availability for contact by phone or in person. If these women you mention are not interested in a closer friendship with you, then perhaps you should accept them as friends, but not close friends, and start looking elsewhere for close friendship possibilities.
Friendships cannot be forced, and nothing positive comes from seeing yourself as the less desired friend. Instead, focus your energies on finding and building a friendship with someone who is open and available and on the same wavelength (so to speak) as you are. As I said before, when the friendship is right, there is a natural flow and affinity. Look for this in any friendships you wish to further develop. Also look for qualities in the other person that show the ability to be a good, trustworthy friend. If you are open to others, comfortable with yourself, and living the qualities that you would look for in a friend, then you are most likely to attract the friends that are right for you.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2018 Chaitanya Counseling Services