Three Benefits of One-Sided Friendships.
I’ve changed from feeling frustrated by friends who weren’t quite returning the same treatment, to feeling even more love for them than before!
Disclaimer: This article may not resolve your friendship in the way you may wish to, however I hope it can improve your feelings towards it. You can apply any of the tips to any other relationship too — family members, partners, ex-partners, colleagues, etc.
This goes out to all of us with friends we love very much and have a never-ending crush on, yet the effort and communication seem to be mostly one-sided. But what about the love? Is that one-sided too?
You know the friends I mean. The ones who are simply perfect and always make you feel happy and warm inside. They know how to banter and make you laugh. They dress the best, even when wearing overused, shapeless T-shirts over out-of-date jeans. No matter what haircut they go for, it’s always cool and stylish.
They excel in the things you long to excel in, they travel to places where you want to travel too (ideally with them), and they are so successful you feel so proud to know them, although you’re never quite sure what they do exactly; you wouldn’t understand.
Except that, they’re not there for you as much you’d like.
But these adored friends can do no wrong. They rarely get in touch, so when they eventually do, it’s normally in response to you, and the replies become sacred. You read them over and over again.
In reality, you probably caught them during accidental free minutes, in between connecting flights at some fancy airport, somewhere cool in the world, or they responded a few weeks later, in an unusual moment of boredom (or pity?). Their messages are brief.
They usually remind you of how busy they are, but somehow, they also seem to know what you’ve been up to too, which keeps you hooked. It means they care, right? Or did they just quickly review your social media for an instantaneous update? Don’t worry, your posts may sometimes make it through their overcrowded newsfeed page. You’re a lottery-winner!
Okay, I fooled around a little here, but if you can relate to some of these scenarios or you’re experiencing an unbalanced friendship that consistently tilts to the same side, the signs may be ringing “toxic… toxic” alarm bells. But before you despair and cut the cord, here are some practical lessons that you can use to turn the situation into a positive one.
Let’s dive into how we could successfully benefit from these relationships.
1. Practice one-way love.
Why not use this one-sided friendship to practice feeling and expressing one-way love, regardless of what may or may not come back to you in return? See what happens when you let go of what the ego wants, and instead focus the energy on the admiration and love you feel for this person.
Truly loving someone means setting them free, appreciating them for their uniqueness and respecting their choices, with no negative emotions attached. No anger, no resentment. This must be the purest way of saying I love you!
Everyone should have the same right to feel how they feel and choose to be how they want to be. Ideally within respectful and loving boundaries of course. Expecting anyone to do, say and be what we want them to do, say and be is somewhat manipulative, not sustainable, and will eventually lead to disappointment.
Blame and games to try bringing someone into your life tend to have the reverse of the desired effect, and generally don’t come from a place of love, but of fear. We put diamonds in a safe place for fear of losing them. We chain our bicycle to a pole for fear of it being stolen, etc.
Next time you think of your friend, take a few calming, deep breaths and see what thoughts come up. Consciously acknowledge all the negative ones, then discard them before they trigger associated negative emotions, and instead draw your attention to the positive thoughts.
Notice how your feelings change when you think of your friend in this more optimistic light. Your heartbeat may slow down, your breathing too, and you probably start smiling without even realizing it. As your heart fills up with this loving energy, send it all his or her way. In your mind. I believe they will feel it too.
A happy state of well-being is often found in accepting that there are things we cannot control, at least not directly. One thing we can control is the love we choose to give, and there is always plenty of it in each one of us. Endless! For any lack of love returned to you, fill the gap with the abundant love you hold within you. Self-love is key to this exercise!
2. Learn from the Law of Reflection.
Here is the magic of the Universal Law of Reflection: We are what we love and what we dislike in the people we attract into our lives. Let’s try practicing it to better our life.
In essence, it is said that what we love in others reflects our own qualities, often unconsciously, and the same goes with those aspects we don’t like. By acknowledging what these qualities are, we are given an opportunity to learn from them and grow.
To take advantage of this magic, we need to pay attention to the traits we love and hate in others, and notice how they treat us and how we feel about them. The principle of self-reflection helps reduce or even eliminate judgment and the feeling victimized by someone’s actions or words towards us, because they become opportunities to see ourselves more clearly.
As a result, there only remains room for love and gratitude for what the persons we meet can teach us, as well as understanding and forgiveness for the more frustrating parts.
Think back to our one-way friendship, when you feel upset for their lack of effort or lack of attention received, pause before reacting, and notice if you recognize that behavior in yourself. You may not necessarily express it back towards the same person, but maybe towards yourself or others. Learning what it is that this friendship is here to give you will help you accept it as it is.
Imagine they are a mirror and showing you the beautiful parts that you have in yourself. Do you admire their zest for life because you wish to enhance your own level of enthusiasm and joy? Their flawless style frustrates you a little because you’re unable to wear your own with confidence?
Those aspects you dislike about them perhaps reflect an area you may need to work on too, and these will keep on being reflected to you, through people you meet, to draw your attention to the changes you need to make until you do.
Some lessons may be presented to you through unfair argument or treatment. If some people make you feel that you deserve better, don’t ignore it or similar patterns will repeat again and again until you learn to forgive, perhaps increase your self-confidence and worth, to strengthen future relationships — the new ones you deserve.
In practice, your friend is a great means to your own self-development. Grab a pen and paper, identify their key traits, make a list of the good and the bad. Then with an open and honest mind, see if you can relate to any of them. With this information, you can then build on the qualities that you recognize in yourself too, and heal the negative ones that don’t serve you.
Here’s another cool exercise to boost self-love: List all the things you love about your special friend, or find at least five. Now repeat all of those wonderful traits out loud, using ‘I am’. Yes, those are the qualities you see in that person that you love because they are aspects of yourself that you like and have within you too.
3. Assess if it’s a reason, a season or a lifetime.
I’ve discovered a beautiful poem by an unknown author about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Definitely worth reading. If we are open to the possibility that every person we meet serves a purpose, and that each one of us contributes to each other’s life experience, it makes you really appreciate every single encounter.
Even a simple smiley Good morning from a stranger can change your day for the better. The ripple effects of a smile can be enormous, so smile away too!
The aim here is to notice and appreciate what people bring into our life, and to learn also from what we feel is missing and what they are not giving us.
So, thinking back to the relationship in the friendship in question, can you identify any need that may have been met or desires realized? Have you perhaps learnt something new, like a new sport or passion, thanks to their input into your life, or have they inspired you to make some changes? And vice versa, have a think of what you may have contributed to their lives. You may have been the earth-angel they needed.
If the job here is done, this may explain why the relationship is fading away. As harsh as it may sound, if the relationship no longer serves either of you, you need to release it to create space for new opportunities, new lessons. Feel the gratitude for what it has offered, and let go gently.
In Tony Robbins’ words, “To change your life, turn your expectations into appreciation.” This simple twist has been transformational for me, and feelings of disappointment have almost vanished. Appreciate what the friendship has brought to you so far, and eliminate any other expectation.
This doesn’t necessarily mean banning everyone from your life who has not been in touch with you over the past year or month. We all go through our own individual phases, and sometimes distance between two people happens organically, with no malign intentions. With time, situations change and people evolve.
Some people are meant to be around each other forever, and be there through the changes together, while others may only need sporadic, rare meetups, and others come and go.
This concept helped me change my expectations of people, appreciate the gift of everyone’s contribution to my life, whether through a short or longer presence, and what they each taught me. It also makes me feel more purposeful knowing that I too bring something to everyone else’s lives!
It is natural to feel disappointed when friendships change or they stop meeting your expectations. In this article, I shared a few tips on how to make the most of all relationships with the people in your life, even the beloved one-sided ones. By practicing unconditional love, learning to identify our own qualities in others and accepting that each person we meet is a gift.
If that one-way friendship you used to get frustrated about has become something to feel truly grateful for, go on and tell them: Thank you! But don’t expect a reply.
After 16 successful years in the same organization, Francesca Dal Bello recently left her corporate job to explore freedom and adventure. So far she has volunteered, solo-traveled, ridden her motorbike from London to Italy, walked over 900 km along the Camino de Santiago, launched a blog, and is now preparing to embark on a van-life experience around Europe for a year. While on the road, Francesca’s dream is to inspire others to also have fun, seek their truth, and reach for their freedom. She will continue to work as a Freedom Coach and create exciting workshops and retreats for anyone who wishes to join her on her amazing journey! You can check out her progress and articles on Gr8fool.