Tell Me About It

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My friend is always “too busy” for me. I am always the one that has to contact her, and the few times we manage to schedule lunch or dinner, she cancels. I feel like our friendship is very one-sided.

 

We tend to make time for what is important to us.

That being said, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t important to your friend. At times, we all have issues that take precedence over a friendship –– a sick parent, a troubled teenage child, work deadlines. If, in the past, your friend has generally been able to hold up her side of the relationship, then you may just need to give her time to resolve whatever issue is currently occupying most of her time. In fact, if you know she is struggling, you may need to offer assistance rather than demand time. And, later, when you are struggling with a hefty problem, she will reverse the roles and support you.

If she is, in fact, a good friend who is simply overwhelmed at the moment.

However, if she is consistently “too busy,” you need to evaluate the friendship. Perhaps the two of you have diverged in interests, attitudes or lifestyles to the point that maintaining a close friendship is no longer desirable. Or perhaps she is simply taking advantage of your tendency to “be there” for her without any intention of returning the favor.

You can approach your friend, without accusations and without defensiveness, to discuss why she does not have time for you. Depending on whether her reasons for “busyness” are valid and whether her future actions change, you need to decide whether the friendship really has any value to you. You need a friend on whom you can rely. And if she can’t ever be there for dinner, she most likely won’t be there for a crisis.

Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. It’s OK to let a bad one –– or even just an indifferent one –– go. Remember the good times, appreciate what you learned from the friend, allow for the possibility of resuming the friendship later and move on.

 

My other siblings do not help me in caring for our aging parent. I can’t keep doing everything by myself. How can I make them help me?

 

First, a simple question –– have you asked for their help?

Sometimes, people struggle in actually asking for help. We assume others should know how much we are doing and how overwhelmed we are. We want them to offer so we don’t actually have to ask.

And then when we do ask, we keep the request vague. Worse, we may even just drop a hint, rather than even a nonspecific plea for help.

So, my first suggestion is ask for help –– in as direct a manner as you can. If you need a few hours break once a week, ask another sibling to take over the caregiving for those hours. If you need help with grocery shopping or bill paying, ask specifically. Often, people will respond to a direct request, when a vague one either leaves them uncertain about action or provides them an easy excuse to ignore you.

But if, even after direct requests, your siblings still don’t offer any assistance, the truth is you cannot make them. We cannot make any other individual take any action they do not choose to take.

We can ask. We can beg, plead and cajole. We can manipulate. We can even threaten. But the other person still has to choose to take the requested action.

So, if you are left without any help from your siblings, you can still turn to your church and community. Support groups and assistance can also often be found online, especially for caregivers to patients with certain types of illness or disease.

And you need to release yourself from any anger or bitterness towards your siblings. You will have peace knowing you had the experience of spending time with your parents and making their lives a little easier in their later years. Leave your siblings to their regrets.

 

Angel Donnette Robertson is not a professional counselor, but she has a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and complications of relationships.

 

Have a relationship question for Angel? Email it to prime@insidecolumbia.net. She will select reader questions to answer, along with questions she finds, in upcoming issues of Inside Columbia’s Prime.

 

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