What's a normal way to navigate friendships?
July 29, 2015 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I feel as though I have a lot of trouble navigating friendships with same way other people do. More specifically, I feel as though my normal is not anyone else's normal vis-a-vis level of contact, time commitments, etc. How do I address this? Lots of snowflakes inside.

I'm married, and I have a reasonable number of both male and female friends, not zillions the way a lot of other people seem to, but enough to keep me from feeling isolated. The only problem is that I feel like I'm total crap at maintaining friendships because I often want a lot more than anyone else seems to want. I guess that's a roundabout way of saying that I see myself as needy and clingy in many of my friendships. I then start to fret and ruminate that the person wishes I would go away and leave them alone, which in turn makes me feel even more clingy and needy. You can see the cycle here, on and on, ad nauseam.

To give a small bunch of examples: I have one friend who lives on the opposite coast. Without getting into very much detail, I know he has a lot going on in his personal life. We used to talk very frequently, i.e. almost every weekday, and now we talk a lot less than that. I usually initiate contact via text, and if I don't initiate contact, we'll go around a week to ten days without speaking to each other. I'd like to talk more, but don't want to push.

I have another friend who I talk to pretty much every day. She also lives on the opposite coast; she used to live here but she moved away roughly a year ago. I was very upset when she moved and told her so, and we talked about it and it was fine. That feels normal to me, although there are people who think it's super weird that we talk so often.

Yet another friend lives here in the same city I live in. We talk pretty frequently, although not every single day (I'd say more like a few times a week) and we see each other every week or two weeks or so. If it were up to me, I'd talk to him every day, but he doesn't seem to want that, so I try to back off. I'm usually the one to initiate contact, though I guess not always.

With all of my friends, I have a really, really hard time trying to decide how much to reach out to them. Should it be every day, twice a week, four times as week? I sometimes feel like an alien or something because I genuinely think I have no clue how people do this in real life.

As a corollary to all this, with some of my friends, I often want to talk about the relationship to make sure everything is ok, which of course only makes things worse, or rather, I feel like it does. For example, the third friend above and I often talk about serious stuff, like past relationships and so on, some of which I have shame about for various reasons. Every time I tell him things like that, I start to ruminate that I've finally told him the thing that will make him realize what a horrible person I am, and he won't want to talk to me anymore. A couple of times I've actually texted and asked him "Did I freak you out by telling you such and such?" and he's always reassured me and said no.

So I'm wondering how other people's friendships go. Do people talk to their really close friends every day or nearly, or is that just way more closeness than most people want? And I guess what I'm also looking for here is advice on how to just stop driving both myself and my friends crazy and just trust them already. Oh, I should mention that I'm in therapy with a really excellent therapist who's helped me with a lot of this (and honestly, I'm a lot better than I used to be), but I'd like to get a broader take on it. Thanks for reading this far.
posted by O Sock My Sock to Human Relations (25 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Female, married, 40: that is a lot of contact. I email/text close friends maybe once every couple weeks on average? We talk on the phone way less than that. For the ones that are local, we see each other in person probably about once a month, or once every couple months if we've been busy; for the ones that aren't, once or twice a year (for the ones that live a couple hours away) or once in a blue moon (every few years) if they're on the opposite coast.

We mostly all have kids and houses though, which makes our lives way busy. When I was in my twenties I saw my close friends every weekend, and sometimes even during the week.

Maybe work on trusting that things are OK unless you're expressly told otherwise. Some friends I have, we can go a year between talks, and we're fine.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure there is a "normal" here. levels of contact (and the nature of that contact, and expectations about the same) differ across individuals and even within an individual when it comes to various relationships. In general this stuff is hard - I think i probably have more "friends" than average (whatever that means) but finding time and maintaining those friendships is difficult (there are folks i count as friends who, for other people, given the relative (in)frequency of our contact might qualify as something less than friends).

we live in nyc, life is busy, and keeping in touch is hard. childhood and high school friends are scattered across the country and globe and even with technological advances its hard to maintain close relationships across distance. then again, in a city as spread out and busy as New York its tough to make time to regularly see some of our best friends just because we dont live or work in the same neighborhood or borough.

some things that have helped:
finding the right technology - after a visit or some other close-ening event ive noticed i tend to text/email/call more regularly. group texting seemed absurd to me initially but ive embraced it and have a couple on long-term ongoing group texts with various friend groups.
-iPhoto sharing is great for folks with kids - my college best friend and father of our godson lives in another city several hours flight away. hes busy raising his son and sometimes doesnt respond to texts or have time to call, but will sometimes catch me as he commutes home and when we cant talk its nice to see the updates to the photo roll they keep of their son (and it includes likes/comments ala facebook but in a decidedly less public format).

Ill second rabbitrabbit that you seem to have quite a lot of contact with quite a number of people. i feel you on the anxiety about it but i think that is just par for the course with how i - and maybe you - interact socially (as an example if i am at a party with lots of people i know even if i am involved in/enjoying conversation with one person i find my mind wondering what else is going on, who else i could be talking to, etc).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2015


I have a modest close peer group about 8-12 people I'm in regular contact with. I see most of them every week or every other week. I talk to them on the phone close to never. I email them only to set up in person hang outs.

I have a larger distant peer group, (25? people) including opposite coast family and friends that I contact (email/text/phone/facebook) probably once a month. Maybe less. So obviously I'm not a daily call person; but if one of my good friends wanted to talk everyday I'd be cool with it, but I would be annoyed if they kept ASKING if I was ok with it and needed my reassurances that I was, in fact, ok.

But there isn't a silver bullet here. Every relationship is different. None of the concerns about your own perceived neediness comes from anyone else, that's all you. It sounds like your friends genuinely don't mind and even anticipate your concerns.
posted by French Fry at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2015


It sounds like you and your friends actually are having a LOT of contact, especially since you're all busy adults. I have a lot of close friends: some live across town and others live across the world. Of those who are not local, sometimes we go through phases where we call or text every day but mostly we'll go through phases where we don't get in touch for a few months. However, we just pick back up when we both get the chance and it's no big deal at all. In-person visits are the best because they allow us the chance to have a taste of that closeness we haven't been able to have for a long time due to life's demands.

I feel we have different types of friends and friendships: they can be very reliable but they're never static since the world around us is always changing. The amount of contact and reaching out always depends on the people: awhile after a longer message, you can always do a "thinking of you, know you're busy so no need to reply, but just wanted to say hi!" I think you're very self-aware to recognize that often you want more than the others in a friendship; it's OK and most people have been on both sides of that equation. I'd look into perhaps expanding your friendship circle (I, too, am more social than your average person) so you can be the extrovert you are without relying too much on any particular friends. I'd consider looking into more ways you and your husband can connect so you can help grow that important friendship, too. (After all, ideally, partners are best friends, right?) Perhaps you could use your social skills and interests to reach out to others as a volunteer?
posted by smorgasbord at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2015


I'm an introvert. I talk to my very best friend about once per week, and even then it's usually just a check in. So texting a silly gif or something like that. I see each person about once a month or so, unless we are both really busy. This applies mostly to my good, local friends, and there are only a handful of them.

If my friends are not local or not as close, then I talk to them maybe once a month or once every few months. Talking everyday just takes so much time! The only person I talk to everyday is my husband, and if we're traveling separately, then I might not even talk to him everyday.

Do you talk to your partner as much as you want to talk to these friends?

It would drive me crazy if someone wanted to talk to me every single day, who did not live with me or next door to me. But again, I'm an introvert. There are definitely people who want to talk everyday, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect this of all your friends, or to correlate the amount of contact to how good the relationship is.

And yeah, I wouldn't want to have a relationship that's based on talking about the relationship. And I wouldn't have anything to say to someone everyday, unless their lives are very closely entwined with mine. My husband would care about the fact that the changed the brand of mangoes while grocery shopping. My friends would not, but might care that I read a book. So I just don't have that many new things to say with my friends, and I don't want to go to events every day to spend time with people. (I used to play cards with friends, but we were all single and lived in the same dorm room. So good friends, living together, something to do = I see them regularly.)
posted by ethidda at 12:30 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, I feel this is exactly one of the great things about social media: we often don't have the time, either literally or figuratively, to call or write a long message even when we'd like to. Therefore, "liking" someone's photo or writing a line about someone's status update shows we are curious and care. Sure, sometimes social media can feel superficial or not enough but it's certainly convenient and better than nothing for keeping up with friends and family.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:30 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ok. Here's my thoughts (as a mom of two who talks to friends once a month because I and they have no time!):

-friendship needs to be reciprocal. You dial back your reaching out until you reach out about as often as they do.
- In your case, you've trained your friends to ecpect you to call first, though. So they won't think of initiating. But I would dial back a little if I were you (maybe call/text every three days or so?)and see how they react.
- if dialing back causes you anxiety, you need to learn how to self soothe. It's not fair to use friends for constant reassurance.
- that said, if you don't mind calling every day and they don't mind (they don't seem reluctant, you aren't losing any friends) everything is fine. You don't need to take my above advice.
- because it's not how often you call that makes you clingy, it's the various ways you keep asking for reassurance. The way you get anxious. That's a terrible turn off. Don't give other people the burden of regularly reassuring you you are liked.
- people often overestimate the extent of other people's social life. Maybe you too? It sounds like you have a good number of close friends and I am slightly envious! If these people like you this much, you are pretty good at making and keeping friends.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


I feel pretty much exactly the same as you. I think I'm a lot needier than most people. I worry that I'm texting everyone too much. And I'm often worried I'm being annoying or I've offended someone, or someone has "downgraded" our friendship status.

There have been a couple of times when people have told me to text them less, but as it turned out they weren't really friends. If a person doesn't respond after a text or two, I try to back off for a few days unless it's important. If they do respond, but give one word answers I might back off or ask them if everything is okay depending on the context. I try not to make it a Big Deal when people aren't as responsive as me. I've also had a few friendships that start off as texting all day, every day that reduced to every few days. I think that's normal after the excitement of the getting-to-know-you phase wears off and you start to settle into your friendship, but I can have trouble making that transition. I'm the kind of person that if I really like you I could talk to you all the time about anything or nothing, but I know most people aren't like that or won't feel that connection with me.

Some people find me too high maintenance, some people have been bothered that I don't text as much as they'd like. A lot of people really enjoy me. So I try to take everything on a case-by-case basis and try my best to match everyone's communication styles.
posted by blackzinfandel at 12:48 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


The level of engagement between friends and the number of close friendships one maintains varies wildly based on personality and any number of other factors (gender is stereotypically a big factor too), so I'm not convinced there's an objective "correct" answer to your question.

The mental health issues you allude to are something you sound like you're already addressing. You don't mention your age, but I suspect it might also be relevant here. Generally how one forms and sustains friendships changes post high school/college. Kids are often friends just because they're thrown together at school. As people get older, generally mid to late 20s, your old friends might fall away or get more distant as they move, get married, have kids, etc. New friendships grow up based around shared interests, professional affiliations, or through one's children. This sort of churn is normal, though not universal.

As an anecdotal example, I sometimes go weeks or even months if you don't count superficial social media contacts without communicating with some of the people I consider my closest friends, especially the ones that live far away.

Maybe rather than trying to define objective rules about how and when to reach out to your friends you take time to reflect on what it is you want out of these interactions. A friendship based only on your own insecure need for reassurance doesn't sound strong or healthy. Why are you interested in these people? What makes you excited to talk to them? What do you talk about? My friends do reassure me that I'm good/interesting/etc. but that's an implicit product of the interaction, not the substance of it.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:50 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a very high level of contact, and I say that as someone who is extroverted (albeit a little shy and socially awkward). Since I am extroverted and I get my energy from being around people, what I do is I find lots of activities that put me in contact with others. I like brief chats with coworkers during the day, and in the evenings I have a few recurring social appointments that give me chances to see and chat with folks.

I often want to talk about the relationship to make sure everything is ok, which of course only makes things worse, or rather, I feel like it does.

This sounds so familiar, OP. I really get you here, and I did this for years, but once I started to have friends who did this to me, I began to realize that it is very stressful. I think you need to trust your friends to be honest with you if a topic is stressing them out or if they need you to pull back on contact. And broadly, I think what you want to work on with your therapist is finding a sense of security and stability within yourself rather than relying on others for it. You definitely remind me of me a few years ago and I remember how I would not be able to enjoy anything (like going to the movies) if it put me in a situation where I couldn't talk to whatever friend I was so close to. I would say my advice for you is not something like "5 times a week is the correct level of contact". There can never be a rule for something as personality-dependent as this. My advice instead is that I think you may have a lot of insecurities and anxiety and once you feel more assured of yourself you will be more trusting and feel more secure in your friendships.
posted by capricorn at 12:53 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a data point, I could not maintain a friendship with someone who required that level of contact. It has zero to do with the other person and is entirely about my capacity as a human. My friends are people who only require contact every 10 days to two weeks, with flyby Likes and comments on their Facebook posts in the interim.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Talking every day is super high level contact. Some days I don't feel like talking to anyone at all, and other days one interaction is plenty. If I were one of the friends you mention, you'd be using up all my friendship energy and time with that one friendship, which is not fair if you don't live locally. But I'm probably more introverted than your friends. On the other hand, I might have more time than them, as I don't have kids or anything.

Also talks about whether a relationship is okay are a bit weird outside of a romantic relationship, unless some very dramatic thing has happened to make you think there's a problem.
posted by lollusc at 1:06 PM on July 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


>With all of my friends, I have a really, really hard time trying to decide how much to reach out to them. Should it be every day, twice a week, four times as week?

How often do they reach out to you? That's a reasonable way to gauge their comfort level. Or keep slowly backing off until they contact you first 1/4-3/4 of the time. For folks I've thought of as clingy, they were contacting me 90-100% of the time.

With my closest friends and family members, text/email contact happens between a few times a week and a few times a month, phone calls "just to chat" happen less than once per month, and in-person scheduled meetups happen a few times per month, maximum. My in-laws have a large, meticulously maintained group of friends, and they call each other once every week or so, and a few dinner parties per month, and I think of them as about the most extroverted, energetic folks I know. Daily phone calls is completely off the map of my experience except in times of crisis. Also, *infrequency* of contact has little correlation to closeness, for me. My dearest college friend and I go years without talking much, but finish each other's sentences whenever we're in the same room. We just don't mesh well by any other form of communication.

>I often want to talk about the relationship to make sure everything is ok, which of course only makes things worse, or rather, I feel like it does.

Yeah, my response to a friend who wanted to have A Relationship Talk would be to say "I'm not dating you," and pretty well end the friendship there. You do this to people regularly? I would find that unbearably stressful, having to give a regular I Like You performance. It's not how I show my love.

>what I'm also looking for here is advice on how to just stop driving both myself and my friends crazy and just trust them already.

It sounds like you equate friendship and caring with very frequent, very emotionally intense verbal communication. Me, I feed people. I hate talking on the phone. I like petsitting. Your approach doesn't make you a bad person, though I imagine we'd both get tired and stressed if we were trying to be friends. But I'd give some thought to other ways in which people show they care.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think you would find this book on Attachment theory very interesting. I believe explains a lot about the feelings you have regarding your friendships. The amount of contact you desire in a friendship is nether high nor low except in regard to someone else's desires. I don't think it's helpful to think of it in those terms however, since judgement and labels (clingy, antisocial etc.) inevitably follow. Understanding what triggers your actions is more helpful.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I could not be part of a friendship that required as much reassurance as you seem to. It's not about the amount of contact; it's about the need for such contact and the "determine the relationship" talks. It sounds like you are using your friends to address your anxiety, and I quite frankly, I (and most people) have our own shit to deal with. 99% of the time, that's why we don't text/call/email back right away. Not because we don't want to be friends, or don't like you, or anything personal like that. We just have other demands on our time and emotional energy. It's not about you unless you chose to make it so, and that's how you lose friendships.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Me, as data point:

I am an extrovert and get energy from a large variety of people contact, from casual to deep, one-on-one or in groups. I like hours-long conversations about very personal things, boisterous happy hours with complete strangers, potlucks, random trips, being involved in volunteer organizations, whatever.

I do not, however, like to be in constant contact with any particular friend for an extended time.

I have close friends all over the world who I see once or twice a year. I have regular friend groups who get together every few weeks for potluck or camping. I have movie friends. I have work friends with whom I have a good chat every week or two. I have interactions online. All this adds up to a lot of day-to-day pings of connection, but enough time passes between each per person that, by the time we meet up again, there are actual things to catch-up and update.

In general:

As others have said, there is no rule for friendship contact frequency. So long as you both like and enjoy, everything is OK.

What is at issue is this anxiety you have around it: the second-guessing, the doubts, the need for reassurance.

Therapy may help.

As well, when you are anxious and start to ruminate, fight the urge to get a little short-term fix by contacting a friend. Instead, sit with the feelings, endure the discomfort, until you learn viscerally that a little (or even a lot of) anxiety won't kill you, even though it might feel like it would. And all the while, observe what kinds of thoughts are being stirred up. Why this feeling of being constantly on the verge of friend-dumped? What are the feelings beneath that? Why do these feelings exist? What kind of memories, what kind of incidents? from long ago or recent? Were they true? Are they true? etc....

Objectively, your friends are good if they are willing to interact and reassure you whenever you reach out. This is more than what a lot of people have. The next step is to look within yourself, and see how you could truly come to believe that.

Best of luck.
posted by enlivener at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think you need more contact than most people have the bandwidth for in a society favouring individualism with a population that's highly mobile and/or highly burdened (given the demands of maintaining one's self and home and family under capitalism). Agree that it's too much if it's too much for the other person. Not unusual in maybe smaller towns with dense networks, or places valuing community, where people have more time and fewer obligations than most have.

You feel insecure about lack of reciprocation. You're interpreting your friends' behaviours as reflecting their opinions of you. Which may be the case. It may also be the case that they're just busy, or have different needs. I think that next time you feel anxious, it might help to move away from a You-focused interpretation, pose yourself some questions, and engage in a little more perspective-taking. Say Mary's not getting back to you. What's going on in her life? What are her needs and obligations? Is she taking care of kids and parents and working long hours? Is she just more introverted than you are? What reasons, other than having a problem with you, might Mary have for not contacting you? What have they been in the recent past? Go with those, unless Mary tells you otherwise (or you've clearly done something wrong).
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:45 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a data-point, I have two best friends and we have a group text going constantly. We exchange dozens of texts most days. One of the friends would prefer phone calls I think but texting works better for us as a group because you don't have to respond immediately, or you can keep it brief or longer, and you still feel involved in each others lives (we all live in different cities/states). For the rest of my social contact, outside of my husband and son and my soccer teams, I reach out to other friends much less frequently, maybe every couple of weeks? Always through texts.

Phone calls are exhausting and inconvenient to me, and I'm at an age where I do remember long distance hours long phone calls with my friends. I just don't enjoy that anymore. If people are picking up the phone when you call, they are probably not annoyed with the amount of contact, though.

But I would think about how much you are dealing with your anxiety by constantly reaching out, and looking for reassurance, versus finding ways to self-soothe. It's a good thing to explore further with your therapist, and possibly with the reading suggested above.
posted by JenMarie at 5:08 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I live on the other side of the world from my family and I am single. My friends are pretty much my social and emotional mainstays (well, apart from myself, my cat and my therapist). And unless we shared a house or lived next door to each other, I would think daily contact was a bit strange, or a sign that something was going on for them. If their relationship were breaking up, for example, it wouldn't be weird. But if all was normal... yeah.

I also have depression, which means I know all about the neediness and feel that I am a huge drain on my friends. This makes me hold back from contacting them a lot, because I don't want to be that needy person that is always sucking them dry, especially when everyone (of course) has their own problems. But you know what can really help is actually being helpful for other people. You get to feel useful and needed and do something nice for someone else. You also get a break from the self-focus. So instead of asking for reassurance that the friendship is ok, they still like you etc, try asking them about their problems that have nothing to do with you. Give them support. Offer to do some free babysitting so they can have a night off from the kids, that kind of thing.

Anyhow, there's a lot of variability. Some of my friends I see or talk to once or twice a week. I have a couple of close friends who work at the same place I do, so I see a bit more of them during the week but often not on weekends. Other friends live further away so we might have a phone call once every week or two. Some are close friends in the sense I know that I could talk to them about anything, but don't need to. One very good friend and I don't talk a lot, but can have very laconic and somehow meaningful and reassuring exchanges with a few words. Just as you get a feel for which friends are more interested in talking about books, or films, or something, you can get a feel for which friends like to have long chats over the phone or at a cafe with a nice pot of tea, which ones have boring jobs and actually enjoy lots of quick emails during the day as relief from the tedium, etc.

Basically, trust them. Don't ask them for reassurance all the time (I agree with others, that's a MAJOR turn-off). Try to think of them first - not them in relation to you, but them as a discrete person with their own life. There won't be a one-communication-frequency-fits-all. And some of your friends may be the type of people who enjoy regular and frequent contact, because you're definitely not the only one who does. Finally yes, talk more to your therapist about this. Attachment theory, which someone mentioned above, might give you some insights into how to manage any clashes between your attachment style (anxious) and others, especially the avoidant one. (Though I am pretty ok with my friends, turns out when I get in a relationship, especially with an avoidant person, I become a total anxious worrywart. So I get it.)
posted by Athanassiel at 6:55 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think you're fine. Yes, what you describe is much more contact than what's involved in the average friendship, but you sound pretty tuned in to how your friends are responding and willing to pull back out of respect for their time/energy even when you would prefer not to. The fact that in all three examples the other person will occasionally initiate contact with you, even if it doesn't happen quickly, suggests to me that they don't find you needy (otherwise they'd be wary of restarting a conversation that they find overwhelming or unenjoyable). That's not to say that you shouldn't continue to be mindful of how other people are responding and adjust your behavior accordingly, but I think it's more likely that they're just in the habit of letting you call them and/or welcome the communication but lack the energy to take the initiative themselves as often.

I've had similar social anxieties, and as you know well, even though talking it out and getting reassurances from others is the quickest fix to quiet those feelings, it's also often counterproductive because it can make you come across as needy, make the other person uncomfortable, and create the problems you were trying to avoid in the first place. For me, CBT techniques helped me argue myself out of my fears, but people have all kinds of ways of self soothing. We all have to accept that at some point, others are responsible for making their own decision. If your friend decides that he doesn't want to talk to you again after a deep conversation (which is unlikely to say the least), then it's on him to do the slow fade or cut off contact or have a friendship-break-up conversation with you. Your job is to be respectful - you don't want to leave fifty unreturned voicemails or anything - but it's not to second guess your friends or to make assumptions on their behalf.
posted by exutima at 7:21 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much, everyone. All these answers have helped me a lot. Just to clarify, I don't really have what I consider "relationship talks" with any of my friends, at least not in the sense that I've had those discussions from time to time with my husband. Even I would think that's a little weird. It's more along the lines of dropping a text or email, asking stuff like, "Is everything ok?" if they don't answer a text. However, I do realize this is annoying and a counterproductive thing to do, as people have pointed out.

Anyway, thanks. You've all given me a lot to consider, and I really appreciate all your thoughts.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 9:06 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would not have that level of contact with someone unless I was heavily romantically involved with them. Checking in with "is everything ok?" Would make me feel like you don't respect that I have other things to do than be on call for you. I've broken off communication with my own mother because of her desiring the kind of relationship you describe. It's way too intense for me and doesn't leave me space to have relationships with other people (which she finds threatening).

I am not saying this to make you feel bad, and maybe this is working for you. I'm just trying to answer your question truthfully. Even if I super liked someone, I wouldn't be able to maintain that level of contact. I suspect from your question that you have trouble hanging on to long term friendships. If this were working for you, I doubt you'd write the question.

It sounds like you need a lot of reassurance, and you're trying to get it from relatively few people. Making more friends that you have looser contact with may really help. You can spread your needs over more people.

The way you are isn't necessarily bad. However, it really does ask a lot of your friends.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:00 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have just moved, but prior to that, I had three friends who I saw weekly, one bi-weekly, I didn't really contact outside of our shared dinners etc. Some more friends who I saw at at least monthly, at a monthly event, and others kind of randomly.

So, first thing, could you try getting more in person contact? I find calling/texting to be a substitute, but often a poor one, it kind of fills some of the social need, but not all of it, so it is easier to get obsessive, trying to fill that social need. I have seen people get addicted to mmorg's because they are lonely, and they like the social aspects, but it doesn't fill the same needs that seeing people in person does, so they spend more and more time online, but still feel lonely.
Try scheduling weekly or bi weekly regular events with people. Shared dinner, movie night, lunch and going to a veggie market.

Secondly, trust your friends. Trust them to tell you if they feel uncomfortable. Tell them that you are going to try and dial back on the compulsive checking, but that that means they need to tell you if they feel uncomfortable. Once you have had that conversation, good, great, now stick to it!
Anytime you feel the impulse to get them to reassure you, remind yourself that what you are saying with that, is thatyou don't trust them.
Is that the message you want to be sending? No? Then don't send it.
posted by Elysum at 5:26 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


What stands out for me is this:,
‘…I often want a lot more than anyone else seems to want.’

This is a good insight.

The level of concern with the details you describe is keeping you from finding the solution.

I have been there and come out the other side.

Things that helped:

Learning to let go of expectations
Becoming more content with myself/my own company
Acceptance in general and esp of those close to me
Understanding that in this unstable existence, relationships are alwys in flux-change is happening constantly whether we like it or not and we cannot control most of it-let it go.

Ways to get there that helped:

regular structured meditation -like insight meditation or similar

stopping to think about myself so much-consciously focussing on helping others in any way-even very small ways and if the other person doesn't know about it even better, although it needed to be something I did- not just sending money to strangers

Volunteering (so helpful)

Acknowledging that friends as well as others come in and out of our lives for reasons we may never know

The problem may be that this kind of fundamental change may not be easy for you-requires discipline and has nothing to do with your friends-it’s about you.

Having said that, it was much easier for me to do the above than to stick with the kind of anxiety/ frustration/insecurity you are describing.

Once you are able to let go in an accepting way, the nuts and bolts of how much communication etc will fall into place.
posted by claptrap at 4:38 AM on July 31, 2015


Another data point...

I have several friends with whom I'm in daily contact, usually via SMS or Facebook Messenger. We often do good morning or good night messages and chat randomly during the day. How many messages that is varies according to how busy we all are.

For the most part, I enjoy the contact. But, I am an introvert and a listener and I'm frequently the sounding board for other people's problems, so in order to maintain my mental health, I've found I have to cut back on the level of contact at times. I've taken to having "quiet time" in the evenings during which I simply ignore my phone. It's nothing to do with my friends and all about me making time for myself.

As a side note, we're mostly professionals in our mid 30s or later, without children, and with active social lives. Make of that what you will :)
posted by eloeth-starr at 1:07 AM on August 1, 2015


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