Having friends who don’t reciprocate the kindness, thoughtfulness, and other things you do is incredibly draining and frustrating.
Reciprocity is the backbone of any friendship, without it, there really isn’t a strong ‘friendship’.
If you have one-sided relationships, it doesn’t always mean you should give up on them.
Here are X steps for dealing with people who do not reciprocate your efforts:
How to Deal with Friends Who Don’t Reciprocate Your Efforts
1. Take a Step Back and Look at How Much Effort They’re Making
It’s worth taking an objective view of how much effort they’re really making from their point of view.
If your friend only ever contacts you when they need something or have good news to share, it’s a one-sided friendship.
But this might be how they behave naturally, and to them, it might feel like they’re making a lot of effort.
I’m just saying you shouldn’t write someone off until you’ve really put yourself in their shoes.
They might need a little help to get over some anxieties, motivational issues, or something else to start giving back as much as they’re taking.
2. Look at How They Treat Other People
It’s also a good idea to look at how they treat other people. Do they treat everyone else the same as they treat you?
Do they only ever take and never give back?
Or are they actually a really great friend to everyone else but for some reason, they’re not returning the effort you’re putting into the friendship?
There’s a big difference between the three, and it’ll give you a good idea of where you stand with them.
If they’re a taker with everyone, then it’s probably not worth your time and energy.
But if they’re a great friend to others and just not returning the favor with you, then it’s worth considering what the issue might be.
3. Have an Open Conversation with Them About It
This is never going to be an easy conversation to have, but it’s something you have to do to know where you stand and what to do next.
You can’t just keep putting all the effort into the friendship and getting nothing back, it’s not fair to you.
So sit them down (or have a conversation over text/phone if that’s easier) and explain how you feel.
Tell them that you feel like you’re putting all the effort into the friendship and you’re not getting anything back.
See how they react and go from there.
It won’t be easy, but I can guarantee you’ll feel a lot better for it, whatever the outcome is.
4. Ask Yourself What It Really Means to Stay Friends with Them
This is something you have to ask yourself after having that conversation.
Do you really want to stay friends with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your efforts?
Is it worth your time and energy to keep trying with them?
It can be hard cutting someone off who you see all the time or are part of your circle of friends, but it might be necessary for your own wellbeing.
It’s a personal decision that only you can make, but hopefully, this article has helped a bit.
5. Rethink If You Need to Lower Your Expectations
This is more for a situation where they’re not a bad person and you like them, but they’re just not returning your level of effort.
You might need to sit down and have a chat with yourself about your expectations.
Are you expecting too much from them?
Do you need to lower your expectations in order for the friendship to work?
Going back to an earlier point, are they treating you the same – or maybe even better – than some of their other friends?
Take a good look at the situation and weigh up the pros and cons. Maybe you’ll get a feeling for what is right.
6. Don’t Harbor Negative Energy or Resentment
This is one of the most important things on this list.
You can’t go into a friendship or relationship with someone expecting them to change or resenting them for not being who you want them to be.
It’s not going to do either of you any good and will only lead to negative energy.
Accepting someone for who they are – the good and the bad – can be incredibly difficult, but if it’s causing you mental anguish you have to do so.
Find a way to let go of any negative feelings, whether that means accepting who they are, distancing yourself, or focusing on self-care – it’s an important step.
7. Accept that This Is Who They Are
I’ve been in this position, I had to accept that a cousin of mine is never going to reciprocate anywhere near to what I contribute to our friendship.
It’s up to you, but if you accept that this is who they are and that they’re not going to change it will lessen the burden you’re feeling.
This doesn’t mean you should put up with giving more to the relationship than you get back, but it will help you find a better balance in the relationship.
It’s fun and rewarding to help people grow, especially when it comes to building more fulfilling relationships, but it’s just not always possible.
8. Distance Yourself if They’re Too Demanding
If you’ve had the conversation, asked yourself the hard questions, and the person is still being an emotional or mental drain on you, it might be time to distance yourself.
It’s not easy, but if someone isn’t willing to put in the effort to make things work then sometimes there’s nothing you can do.
You can only control your own actions and if you’re finding that someone is constantly demanding more from you than you can give, it’s time to take a step back.
It doesn’t mean you have to cut them out of your life completely, and it doesn’t have to be a dramatic split.
In fact, you don’t even need to tell them anything if you think it’ll upset them.
It’s all about you thinking about yourself and doing what’s right for you and your life. You need to put your own happiness and wellbeing first.
9. Set Some Healthy Boundaries You’re Happy With
Setting boundaries is an important step in any relationship – especially if you find yourself always being the one who gives more.
It’s not about shutting someone out or being cold, it’s about communicating what you’re comfortable with and what you need from them.
For example, you might need some time alone after a long day or week, and that’s perfectly okay.
It doesn’t mean you don’t want to spend time with them, it just means you need some time to recharge.
If they’re the kind of person who demands a lot of time and energy, setting boundaries is going to help your relationship.
10. Consider Cutting Them Off Completely
This is a big step, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, it might be time to cut them out of your life completely.
It’s not easy to do, but if someone is constantly draining you emotionally or mentally it might be the best thing for you.
I’d talk this over with other trusted friends first before making a decision as it’s not a decision to make lightly.
But it’s certainly something you need to consider for your own wellbeing, and I’m sure it’ll also help you form better relationships with others around you if you’re in a better headspace.
What Is a Reciprocal Friendship?
A reciprocal friendship is one where both parties give and take to the relationship.
It can’t always be equal. In fact, it’s hard to be equal, but you both need to be happy with the balance of the relationship.
This can be in terms of time, energy, financial support, emotional support, or anything else.
It’s important to have relationships like this in your life as they can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
If you find yourself always being the one who gives more, it might be time to reassess the relationship you have with that person.
It’s not always easy, but it’s important to do what’s best for you and your wellbeing.
When Should You Give up On a Friendship?
This is a tough question to answer, and honestly, there is no one correct answer.
If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, it’s at that point where it might be time to cut them out of your life or take a step back.
It’s not easy to do, but if someone is constantly draining you emotionally or mentally it is the best thing for you.
You can’t be the best version of yourself, especially not around the person in question if they’re not reciprocating what you’re giving them.
It’s Important To Focus on Yourself and Your Own Wellbeing
In the end, you need to focus on yourself and your own wellbeing.
You can’t always control or affect what someone else does, but you can control how you react to it and what you do next.
If someone is upsetting, frustrating, or wearing on you, you need to take a step back and make sure you’re doing the right things to make yourself happy.
Distancing yourself from friends who don’t reciprocate is one thing.
I also recommend taking time to meditate, practice breathing exercises, and spending time doing things that make you happy.
That might also mean spending more time with friends who reciprocate your energy and efforts.
In fact, that’s the best thing you can do. Filling your life with friends who care about you and give a lot back is what enriches our lives.
Image credits – Photo by Samsung Memory on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.