One of the most common grievances I hear from women regarding their friendships is that they feel like they’re always putting in the effort. They make the plans, send out the invites (via email, phone, old-school mail), and call in the reservations, while their friends just show up.
I understand how frustrating that can be. Women want to feel wanted—this is true of friendship as well as romance. It’s important to feel like your friend’s as eager to see you as you are to see her. And reciprocation, as we know, is one of the primary rules of friendship.
That said, I do believe that sometimes people overanalyze the one-sidedness. It doesn’t necessarily always mean that the friendship as a whole is unbalanced, or that one party cares more than the other. In friendships—as in marriages—people often fall into specific roles, and very often one of those roles is that of planner. In college, there was a guy in my extended group of friends that we called Social Chair. He was, without fail, always the one who organized all outings, whether it was a night out at a bar or a trip down to Jazz Fest. (I never actually went on that trip, regrettably…)
I think that this friend really enjoyed being the planner, but I don’t actually know for sure. It’s possible that he felt the same way that readers have described—exhausted, frustrated, unappreciated. But the reason the rest of us didn’t reciprocate wasn’t because we didn’t like him. It was because he seemed to enjoy being the planner, and he was quite good at it. And on the plus side for him, being Social Chair meant he got to choose the plans.
I understand that the relationships between a group of college pals is different than a two-person, intimate bestfriendship. But the principle is similar. If you’re always the one reaching out, your friend might assume that’s your role. She may not even be thinking this consciously. Maybe she’s just so used to you doing the work that she forgets to take the initiative.
Keep in mind that I am not defending a friend who never puts in any effort. It can be really annoying. Just recently one of my relationships with a potential BFF fizzled because I was constantly doing the work. There was no reciprocation. I would set up plans, she would sound excited and then cancel at the last minute asking for a rain check, I would respond with the dates I was available and then… nothing. Eventually I got bored of the same routine over and over, and I stopped trying. That’s when it became clear that I’d been the only one trying at all.
What I am trying to say is this: Don’t write a friend off point blank because you feel like you are always the one making the plans. Might there be a reason for that, other than ‘she’s rude’? It’s quite likely.
(Also, keep in mind the psychological phenomenon of “unconscious overclaiming”: The idea that we overestimate our contributions to something—like a relationship—compared with other people’s. Might you be overestimating your BFF “workload” compared to hers?)
If your friendship imbalance is truly bothering you, you might need to talk to your friend. But it’s hard to have that conversation without appearing as if you keep score, so I’d suggest thinking seriously about where her supposed lack of effort comes from before going the confrontational route.
Thoughts? Am I right to give the non-planner the benefit of the doubt? Or is lack of reciprocation a dealbreaker?