Ask Ciiku: I feel like a dial-a-friend

Dear Ciiku

I have a friend who spends some months of the year out of the country. We talk a lot and whenever she’s having a problem I try be supportive and help her out. However, I’ve noticed that whenever she’s in the country the friendship changes. We talk less and there is little if any effort to meet from her end. Efforts from my end often end up in a cancellation. It’s not uncommon for her to be silent for days and text me when she’s out of the country again. But it is more than that. Even how we talk. The best way I can put it is that I can almost feel the dial of the friendships priority moving down and up depending on where she is. It is upsetting to be so close for so long and then suddenly feel like hi-bye friends.

I am beginning to suspect we are not truly close friends, only that I can be relied on for emotional labour when most of her other friends are not around. If she does not want to be close that is fine, but I would rather not share and be as open if our friendship is not that deep. My question is how to approach this conversation. I am realising that discussion on boundaries and defining friendships has a lot less information and guides than in relationships. I don’t know how to start this conversation without it seeming like an attack. What I really want is clarity but most of things that I can point to as changing are hard to put into words.

A friend

Dear Friend,

You deserve clarity. In fact, both of you need to be on the same page regarding this situation. And yes, a conversation must be had. It seems you have accepted that the friendship may not be as you viewed it. That’s a good place to be so that the conversation doesn’t revolve around how to make it deep but rather, how to get to the same page in your friendship.

The thing is, you can’t control how she reacts to the conversation. You can use the most pacifist approach and it may still be deemed as an attack. I think what you must focus on rather is ensuring that when the conversation is had, (and it must be had), that everything you are thinking and feeling is expressed. That, in my opinion, is the crux. Since it seems that you have better communication when she isn’t in the country then I think it’s best to have it then, in whatever medium is comfortable for you.

My opinion on this is you shouldn’t preempt the conversation by issuing a “we need to talk” notice. Just dive into it during any regular conversation you are having. And ask all the questions you believe will provide you the clarity you seek…… “how do you view this friendship? How come we never meet when you are in country? What kind of friend do you need me to be? How do you see this friendship? What defines this friendship?”

Both of you must be honest with each other to figure out where you will go in the friendship. And I wish you well.

Ciiku

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