When Friends Don't Call
Who Is In Control of Your Happiness?
It’s Not Them… It’s You!
One of the radio stations I listen to has a segment where people can call in and talk about their personal problems. A topic that comes up frequently has to do with callers who feel abandoned or slighted by their friends.
The callers are experiencing emotional pain; they feel abandoned, unimportant to and unloved by their friends. Some of the callers express extreme sadness and feelings of loss while other callers come across as being very angry. Regardless of whether the caller seems to be angry or sad, they are focused on others as being the cause for their feelings.
When we allow other people’s behavior to determine our happiness…we give our power away.
Perhaps you are familiar with the saying “when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” This is not an easy lesson to learn. It is one that I have struggled with in the past and still do occasionally. What I have learned is that I am much happier when I avoid blaming others and take responsibility for my own feelings.
So how does blame play a role when we feel disappointment and loneliness and believe that our friends don’t really care? Typically, one or more of the following is at the root of the issue:
I don’t believe I am worthy or lovable. If I don’t love myself or think highly of myself, when friends don’t call, my first assumption is that they don’t care about me. I don’t love me, why should anyone else? Strategy: Spend time learning to love yourself and you’ll find you won’t be so resentful when friends don’t call.
I have given my power away to others. In other words, I am looking for my happiness outside of myself. I only feel loved when other people are giving me attention. If they are not attentive enough (and they never are), I am unhappy and don’t feel loved. My well-being is tied to what other people do or do not do. Strategy: I must look for my happiness within, not without. When I look for happiness outside of myself, I set myself up to be disappointed. How I feel is my responsibility, no matter what is going on around me.
I have weak boundaries. I go out of my way to do things for others to the point of not doing the things I need to do for myself. If the people I go out of my way to help do not reciprocate, then they don’t care for me as much as I care for them. Sometimes, helping is actually care-taking. It is a boundary busting behavior that can cause others to distance themselves. I come across as a know-it-all and people don’t want to be around me. Strategy: I must make sure that my basic needs are met first. I will give others the space to take care of themselves. If I step in and take over, by doing things for others that they are capable of doing for themselves, I am disempowering them and empowering myself.
I like to do all the talking. When I am around my friends, I talk so much and so fast, that no one else can get a word in. I can’t wait (and often I don’t) for them to finish speaking so I can talk again. I may ask them a question about themselves or their life, but it’s just so I can get an opening to talk about that aspect of my own life. It is exhausting for my friends, but I don’t see it, because I am too busy talking. Strategy: It would help if I strengthen my listening muscles by not talking. I must ask questions and wait for the answer, not rush the other person and leave some space between when they stop talking and when I start talking.
I am self-centered. This behavior is closely tied to not being a good listener, but worse. I never call my friends or family members to ask how they are doing, but I get really upset if they are not calling me. Or, if I do call, it’s just because I need something. I always turn all conversations back to me. Strategy: I am genuinely concerned with others and I have to start showing it. I can call just to see how they are doing, and refrain from talking about myself until I have learned to have more balanced conversations with others.
I have a hard time accepting people as they are. My friendships are conditional. If my friends behave as I think they should, then I love them. If they don’t, then I am disappointed in them. I have a hard time forgiving my friends when they make mistakes, yet I expect them to excuse mine. Strategy: Unconditional love and forgiveness start with me. Learning to forgive and love myself even though I have made mistakes will make me a better friend to others.
I have unrealistic expectations. I genuinely care about my friends, I don’t overstep my boundaries, I’m a good listener, my happiness is my responsibility and I love myself. However, I still don’t have a good connection with others. So, it really is them isn’t it? Sorry, but the answer is no. I want my friends to call me regularly because that is what I think friendship is all about, but my friends don’t have the same ideas as I do about friendship. I am expecting my friends to behave in ways that are not aligned with who they are and when they don’t live up to my expectations, I get angry at them and tell myself they just aren’t good friends. It’s like trying to get orange juice out of an apple. It doesn’t work! Strategy: If I want orange juice, I need to find friends who are “oranges”. Or, I have to learn to like or at least accept apple juice, because that is what I am always going to get from my friends who are “apples”. What sense does it make to get mad at an “apple” for not being an “orange”?
The bottom line is that we are all always responsible for our own happiness, well-being and feelings of lovability and worthiness. For me that is a comforting thought because it means I don’t have to wait for someone else to do something in order for me to feel good about myself.
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