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You Asked: Will I Get a Turn?


DearSugar --

I have this friend, and we met through business 2 years ago. She's quite a bit older than me -- I'm 27 and she's 46. We get along like a house on fire, but the friendship is pretty much one-sided. If I don't phone, go to visit, text/e-mail then I just about never hear from her. I did an experiment: I didn't touch base and we had no contact for 12 weeks exactly, then she called and said: oh, you are soooo quiet, I haven't spoken to you for like a month! I have tried to confront her, but then we end up arguing and she says I'm oversensitive.

What bugs me most about our friendship is this: she seems to always know to call me when she needs me, but she's never there when I need her. She had a hysterectomy last year -- no kids, very tragic, huge fibroids -- and I did everything in my power to support her. I know she appreciates it, and I certainly didn't do it in order to get anything in return.

But she is never there when I need her. When I saw her just before Christmas, my life was falling apart. Why do I have to pick up the pieces all by myself? Are friends not supposed to care for one another? At least she could ask if I'm really okay instead of just saying I look very stressed. We just never seem to get to it; she can never commit to a date or find the time for me. Perhaps it's the age thing?

I made a New Year's resolution to let go, but it's difficult. I love my friend and I'd feel cheated to lose her since I've invested so much. Please help.
~ Generous Gina

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Dear Generous Gina --

Taking care of friendships is an important priority for many of us, and there's a special kind of mutuality between the best of friends, even during the most challenging times. Based on your note, it sounds as if you've poured a good deal more care and concern into the friendship than you've received from your friend, from the very beginning. I know you both get along well, but she doesn't seem to nurture the relationship or you. I'm particularly sad to hear that she's not open to discussing your needs and hopes, and resorts to charging you with that old, painful charge of being "too sensitive". I'm sure you must feel both angry and hurt. And I'm sure you want to have a friend who can be a friend, in a way you recognize as loving and supportive.

I don't mean to sound too hard, but you can't be cheated of something you've willingly and passionately given, Gina. You hoped to develop a deep friendship, you acted as a selfless friend, and those things are good, decent and honorable. However, those were also choices you made, in the face of much evidence that there might be little you received in return. An initial investment doesn't demand a continuing investment. People lose a lot of things -- money, time, self-respect, and perspective -- following that kind of logic.

If, after two years, you're no closer to each other or to an understanding about what feels kind and compassionate, I think you can let yourself walk away. Or, you can decide to accept a certain level of friendship with her and adjust your own expectations and conduct. You sound amazingly thoughtful and sensitive, Gina. I wish for you many friends who help care for you, support you, and know the gift your friendship is in their lives. Good luck.

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