Navigating Friendships when you’re the ‘Helper Type”
Seems like there’s a pattern in the lives of these folks (including me) of being a kind of one-sided emotional sink for our friends. People from our communities seek us out for our listening/ empathic skills and look to us for advice about their lives on love, parenting, grief, sex etc. This is wonderful. Being generous with our time in community is a gift to this world. But there’s also a whole negative aspect to this- and that is, this one sidedness. While I understand that empathic listening or solution finding might not be a strength for many, a reciprocal give and take of care is absolutely essential in relationship.These past few years, I’ve had to say goodbye to many such one sided friendships. It took a while to learn how to compassionately communicate the problem to my friends and let myself not be guilty for distancing myself from friends who did not understand.
Here are some tips if you find yourself in a similar position:
– Is someone that reaches out to you only about themselves really your “friend”? Have you defined for yourself what friendship is?
– Notice in yourself the tendency to reply to cries of help immediately. Before replying, ask – what is my intention with this person? Then, wait atleast 20 minutes before you reply.
– PROCESS TIP:
If your friend seems to be not receptive to your help and you’ve spent 10 minutes of your day talking or texting with them, about their problem, ask them what exactly they are looking for, from you. If they communicate what they need and you can offer it, do it. Then let them know a bit about yourself.
Talk about your feelings, your thoughts.
Notice their response. Did they reciprocate? Did they ask about you? Did the conversation become about your day/your feelings/your relationship stuff too?
– If not, scroll back to your communication with this friend and check, have they been asking about you this past month at all? Is this a habit for them to reach out to you spontaneously, talk, seek help and say goodbye, without ever checking in on you? How does that make you feel? Have you enabled them to depend on you as their emotional sink?
– Often people will assume that the ‘helper type’ is strong and doesn’t need anything in return. The assumption is that if they need help they will ask. But I know, for a fact, we don’t ask. Due to our own childhood stuff, we have trouble asking/ we ask out of pent up resentment and then explode/snap. So, ask yourself- what blocks you from asking for support in return? If the answer is that this friend isn’t able to provide you the support you need too, then why are they your friend?
– Creating better dynamics for yourself will make space for you to welcome people who truly care about you too. Trust me, there are people like that out there and they can only come into your life, if you allow yourself the care and respect that you deserve.