How to deal with unreliable friends
At some point in your life (if you haven’t already experienced it), someone’s going to let you down.
It’s just the reality of the matter unfortunately.
Someone will not return your call, or you’ll be stood up, or someone will cancel plans on you, etc. etc.
The first time it happens, we can easily excuse it. We might even excuse it the second or third time.
But when this becomes a pattern among a person we care for, it can be frustrating.
The question then becomes: how do I handle this in a loving way? How do I forgive this person but also set healthy boundaries? How do I stand my ground and make it clear what I will and will not accept without coming across as inflexible?
These are all great questions, and they’re questions we need to ask ourselves all the time. Because it seems like sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that being a good person means being a doormat; that you have to be okay with the way people behave or treat you and not say a word. Or that you just have to keep forgiving someone and learn to ‘settle’ with their actions even if it hurts you.
Here’s the truth of the matter: you don’t have do be or do any of those things!
Here’s another secret: you can’t change people but you can certainly change the place they hold in your life.
You see, the thing is that friends are the family you can pick. You get to select the people who are going to surround you and make up your community. And above all else, you should know this one thing: you deserve to feel loved.
Not like an afterthought. Not like someone’s fall-back plan. Not like a burden, or a chore, or a second-class citizen.
The people you surround yourself with should be contributing to your walk in some way, adding to your life, enhancing you, up-leveling you, bringing you joy, being there when you need them most.
Life is just too short to make time for someone who isn’t going to make time for you, or value you, or prioritize you.
So if a friend has proven unreliable, then I hereby give you permission to know your worth. You deserve better than that. And I want you to believe that.
Here’s what I want you to do next:
1) Lovingly confront the friend and address the behavior that is hurting you. This can be a face-to-face conversation, an email, a letter, etc. Yes, vulnerability is a scary thing but once you push past the fear, there’s such uplifting liberation on the other side.
2) Forgive the person their offense. Yes, forgiveness still plays a role here! But just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean they get the same stock in your life as they did before. It just means you’re letting go of old baggage so that you can open yourself to better things.
3) If the behavior doesn’t change, then I want you to minimize this person’s presence in your life. This can mean adding some distance, making sure they’re not as involved in your life, or just cutting off communication altogether.
We go through high school and college thinking that we have to stay friends with the same people forever and ever, and so the thought of breaking up with a friend can certainly be painful.
But again, if this person is not making time for you or is constantly letting you down, then it’s clear your paths may be going in different directions. That’s the thing. We all have our own walks and journeys and paths in this life, and sometimes those paths go in different directions and we have to say goodbye to people who are no longer adding to us.
It can be sad, sure. But it doesn’t have to be a dramatic breakup either. It can be as simple as saying “at this point in my life, I want to surround myself with people who are fully invested in a friendship with me. Right now, because of [describe their behavior and how it’s been affecting/hurting you], I feel that we’re on different paths and that you may not be able to give that to me.” Then let them know if you simply want to take a break for a time, or if you think it’s best to bring the friendship to an end altogether.
The good news is that once you decide what you won’t tolerate and what you do want in your life, you’ll start to attract it. And people who are 100% committed to doing life with you are such a breath of fresh air.