In every group of friends, there is always at least one person who kinda takes care of everyone else. You are the person who gets called whenever someone gets dumped or fired, or gets a flat tire, or just needs to vent for a while. And you’re always there. Always. And for the most part, you genuinely don’t mind – you love your friends more than just about anything, so obviously you will do anything you can for them.
The problem comes when you start to wonder if you’re doing too much. And how do you even know where that line is? If you’re beginning to realize that a lot of things your friends might call “signs of how close you are” look a whole lot like “ways they take advantage of you”, it’s possible your relationship has gotten a little unhealthy. So either your friends are shitty – but somewhat genius – people who have managed to convince you that this kind of unequal dynamic is just what friends do, or maybe they don’t see it either.
Regardless, if the following are situations that ring true to you, it might be time to reassess how your friendships are functioning. Having good boundaries, knowing how much you can afford to give (both literally and emotionally), and making sure that you’re being loved and tended to as well won’t hurt your friendships – it will make them much stronger.
And, for the record, if your “friends” are upset by the subtle shifts when you try to keep a reasonable amount of energy for yourself, then (sorry to sound like your mom right now) those are not friends you need. Real friends should take care of you as much as you take care of them. That’s how it works.
Here is a list of ways it should absolutely not work:
- You’ve canceled plans you were excited about because one of your friends was having a rough day. Nothing super serious, just had a bad day and wanted you to listen to him or her talk all about it for hours, which you did, just like you always do.
- If you and a friend are both interested in the same person romantically, you are always the one to step back and let them go for it.
- If you are both going through something stressful, you end up talking about their thing. Every time. You rarely get around to talking about your stuff.
- If your friend is mad at someone, you are required to take their side. Even if you are friends with both people involved, and would much rather stay neutral, your friends don’t respect that. You’re forced to pick a side. (Just to be clear, this is a huge sign that your friends are more interested in using you to make themselves feel good than in respecting you as a person who has the right to have other relationships.)
- You’re always the designated driver, even if it’s your birthday or your new job you’re all out celebrating.
- You’re starting to let taking care of their needs get in the way of taking care of your own. Friends should obviously be there for each other and take care of each other, but if you’re putting so much energy into them that you don’t have enough left for yourself, that’s not acceptable.
- You’re the first person your friends call when they need something – everything from a ride to the airport, to bail money if they get a DUI, you’re their first call. It’s gotten to where you’re so known to be “the person who helps” that you almost feel like you can’t say no when someone asks you for a favor.
- The amount of money you earn minus the amount you spend on yourself should not equal you being as broke as you always are. Come to think of it, you do end up covering a lot of lunches and bar tabs. Your friends’ promises to “get it next time” rarely come through.
- You’re starting to feel like doing things for your friends because you want to has turned into doing things for your friends because you are obligated to.