My "friends" are never interested in how I am and I feel they only stay in touch with me to have someone to listen to their constant complaining. How do I get away from this negativity?
Last Updated: 11/15/2021 at 6:10pm
Lindsay Scheinerman, MA, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor
My work with clients is to help them recognize and build on their strengths to find solutions for the conflicts presented in their lives.
Top Rated Answers
Sometimes the hardest choices are the ones where we put ourselves first. If you are finding they are bringing too much toxic into your life, it may be time to put some distance in the relationship. Try finding activities or groups in your area for things you enjoy and spend some time with like-minded people. If you are surrounded by happy people, you will find you are happier yourself.
Think about how you came to be friends with these people. Did you have a common interest at one time that is no longer shared? Were you perhaps more negative yourself in the past and thus on the same emotional vibration? In any event, it sounds as if you are no longer enjoying the company of these friends. It may be time to put some distance into the relationship -- don't burn bridges, but you don't have to accept invitations to see them or make time to visit them if you don't really want to.
I agree with intellectualBeing3687. I think in any kind of relationship there is always a general feeling of whether or not that person is overwhelmingly toxic or just a bit annoying. But it does sound like it bothers you a great deal, and I have been in those situations as well. If there's too much taking by one person and too much giving by the other, then some distance is probably best. On the other hand, if the relationship is mostly good but there's some unhealthy behavior going on, the person may not be aware of what they're doing to you. It may be that just some boundaries need to be put in place. Do you still find yourself enjoying some activities with these friends (maybe in more casual environments where they don't or aren't able to complain)? You can help set a boundary to encourage more of those activities by making sure you make time for them, suggesting them more often, etc. Then when it comes to the times when they've become accustomed to using you to vent to and not giving you a turn, you could say something gently like you're sorry but you're too busy right now or that you have to go. To let them know that they are still important to you, make sure that you follow this up with the healthier alternatives of getting together soon to do something fun. Or even coming up with a different time that you would be ok with talking (if you are ever ok with it, that's up to you)... you could possibly continue letting them vent but making it where it's much less often for your own sanity. Depending on the relationship, you may feel comfortable telling them more directly, something like that you're not in a position to be able to help them right now, or that you'd prefer not to talk about "x, y, and z", or even that you're beginning to feel the relationship has become a little too one-sided and you're uncomfortable having those conversations anymore. These are just ideas, but you probably have a better feel for the best way to talk to them. When I've been in this kind of situation, it's usually worked best for me to indirectly guide the friendship away from these conversations. It's possible they may ask you eventually if something's wrong or you need to talk, where you could have an open conversation with them, or the relationship might just morph naturally over time. With any kind of healthy boundary setting, it's important to know that the boundary may be pushed or tested from time to time, especially in the beginning and depending how you set it. Try to just keep gently maintaining the boundary or reminding them of it, however you choose to do it.
Do a "one week-ban on internet". I've done it so many times and it helps so much because then your friends come to you like "Omg I miss you!" and they stop complaining to you constantly. Because than...they appreciate you more. They stop and think.."Wait maybe I'm being annoying." And normally stop. Sometimes they don't, some times they do. Start asking them how they are, and see if they ask back. If not, they obviously don't care about you as a person or a friend. Humans suck :( Buuuuuuut! Growing up gets harder and sometimes your friends are afraid to talk to others so they complain constantly and yeah.. Sometimes they don't yet understand how you want to be talked to not just to be complained to.
In my past experiences with friends who seem like they may not care about me or like they are using me solely for emotional support when times are hard, I find the best thing to do is to be honest and open about it. I approached one of my friends a non-confrontational way to express my dissatisfaction with the way I was being treated. In the past, I have found its better to do this through private conversations in person or on the phone, as a lot of times, words get misconstrued over text. Depending on what they say, I decide whether or not I would like to continue being friends with them.
It sounds like your friends trust you and perhaps think you may be a good listener to their problems. However, it seems that you expect more out of the friendship. Have you voiced your concern to your friends? If so, did they give you a reason for their behavior? Are they aware that you are going through a difficult time? Sometimes, we have to let others know we are in need of support; other people cannot read our minds. It is also possible that perhaps your friends may not be as attentive and notice little changes in your behavior and words if you guys do keep in contact. This may also lead into the question of what qualities would you like in a friend.
It sounds like it's time to focus on yourself for a bit. Do things that bring you joy, and try to find online communities with other people who do those things too. When your "friends" send you negativity, just don't respond when you can, or change the subject. You can actually say to them: "Hey, I don't really want to talk about that right now, sorry." You're totally allowed to assert your boundaries like that in a conversation. You can also be more direct and tell them that you're getting tired of only talking about negative things. Tell them that you're happy to set some time aside to comfort them when they need it, but that it can't be the only thing you talk about. And just above all, don't give in to gossip or shit-talking with them. If they start, literally just go stone-faced and silent. Don't engage, and they'll learn you're not someone to be nasty around.
It is important to set boundaries with people for not only your mental health but theirs. If you feel like your relationship with people is not rewarding or unhealthy, take some time to sit down and gather your thoughts. Determine what you are or are not okay with and decide whether you would want to continue the relationship with healthy boundaries or disengage from it altogether. If you decide on the latter, make sure to clearly communicate that you wish to no longer interact with them and remember to remain polite and communicate clearly. Remember that it is never your fault if you decide to break off a relationship because it is unhealthy for you.
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