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Finances & Money

Cleaning Out Cluttered Relationships

Hello, yet another segment from Clever Dudette on the topic of “Marriage and Life“. I think that when we talk about cleaning out our closets and donating things, and discuss the topic of personal finance, we also need to talk about personal/emotional finance. And one of the topics I would like to address is that topic of cleaning out our emotional closets.

cat and dog friendsNone of us like to compare our friendships to finances and debt, but in reality they are that: Friendships are an insurance policy. You put time and effort into them, and sometimes you see that you’ve lost money ( i.e., have been disappointed) and sometimes you can see the great rewards of this friendship (when times are good and you feel close to them). We all go through those periods where we might be the “bad” friend.

But, every once in a while you need to take stock and find out if that friend is really worth it. As Mike can attest to, I RARELY say the final goodbye to a friend–I’m usually the one who’s left going “what happened to that friendship?!?” I have three friendships-gone-bad over the years that I just can’t figure out what happened or where things went wrong. But for the most part, even though I might not feel like I get much out of the friendship, I still stick with it and devote my time and energy into it (and may complain about it to my closest friends in the meantime). But, these close friends and Mike have been challenging to me to look at those friendships more closely to determine whether they’re hurting or helping.

Points to consider when taking stock of your friendships

  1. How long have you been friends with them? How much have you weathered with them? One of my closest friends has been with me about 1/2 of my life. She’s like a sister to me. There was a period where we both drifted apart to grow up, and although I wondered “what happened”, I weathered through it, we communicated about the problems, and now we’re really close again. She’s worth the stock that I’ve put into that friendship.
  2. Look at the ratio of time and effort you’ve put into the friendship versus gotten out of it. Granted, many people go through a depression of sorts and they need you more than you need them during those periods. So, friendships aren’t always 50/50 (in fact, I think that they should be 100/100 as in marriage). But if you are always the one who makes the effort of calling them, going to visit them, sending them things/doing things for them, and you get nothing in return, you should ask yourself if it’s really worth it. This is a question that I have been asking myself a lot lately: I have a friend in which I am always asking her to do things with me, I bring her food, etc, I call her, but I rarely get anything back. I therefore feel unappreciated and ask myself often if it’s really worth it. There’s a difference between being selfish and being taken advantage of.
  3. Do you make the effort? Sometimes it’s you who’s the “not-so-good” friend. Are you always bailing out on them? Are you only a friend to them when it’s convenient to you? Do you call them often, try to make time to see them? Find things to do with them that makes them happy?
  4. Are they trustworthy? Are YOU trustworthy? Does your friend say one thing and do another or are they pretty true to their word? Examine their motives and yours.
  5. What is the purpose of the friendship? If your friend is only there for advice on cars, finance, and you’ve tried to “go deeper” and talk about more stuff and they’ve disappointed you, just keep it on the level of friendship that they are comfortable with and find other people to fulfill the other needs you have.
  6. How do they make you feel? (I know, guys, this one is hard). I’m not asking whether they always agree with you (because it is important to have someone to give you a different opinion on a topic). Do they make you feel better about yourself or are they always criticizing you and putting you down? If you are married, how are they towards your significant other? No one wants a friend who trashes those you love. Do they challenge you to be a better person?
  7. When you talk to them, is it like no time has passed since the last time you talked with them? I have several dear friends who are like this–we may go through periods of not talking for a couple of months, but when we talk again, it’s like no time has passed and we’re chatting like we just saw each other. Keep these friends. Trust me on that one.

Once you have examined that friendship, now what?

  1. Examine how you’ve been with that friend. Maybe you’ve been a bad friend or you have disappointed them in some way. If you believe in God, pray about it and ask for His guidance in the situation.
  2. Talk to your friend. Tell them how you’ve been feeling, or schedule some time with them to do something that both of you like to do (play racquetball, go for a run, go shopping).
  3. If they aren’t willing to talk to you or don’t have time for you, forgive them (silently), forgive yourself, and give them space. True friends will come back to you. In the meantime, enjoy the extra time you have that you’re no longer devoting to that person!

When I look at my friendships over the years, I realize that I haven’t always been the best friend and person to those around me. But, it’s all in the effort. The first step to any change is recognizing that a change needs to be made. Never think that a friendship was useless–we all learn from each other.

So, good luck examining those friendships and getting rid of those emotional debts!

Photo Courtesy of [Haley7]

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I been through this, giving them space does help. Most times the friendship renews itself as we realize that we miss each other. Maybe twice in my life did the friendship end.I’m happy about the ones I do have now. I have a few close friends.

  • This is all great advice, but in general only applicable for the ladies. Now, before someone bites my head off for saying that, let me give you a scenario and you tell me if it rings true.

    Two once close guy friends meet for dinner after not having spoken to each other for 6 months:
    Guy 1; “What happened that we don’t hang out anymore?”
    Guy 2: “That day you did the thing without me.”
    Guy 1 “Really?”
    Guy 2 “Yeah. Ticked me off.”
    Guy 1 “Oh, dude. Why didn’t you say anything?”
    Guy 2 “I don’t know.”
    Guy 1 “Well, look. I’m sorry. Buy you a drink to make it up to you?”
    Guy 2 “Forget about it. I’ll take the drink though.”
    Guy 1 “Sure. Bartender! A drink for my friend.”
    Guy 2 “Dude, you ever do that to me again and I’ll kick your a**.”
    Guy 1 “You mean you’d TRY to kick my a**, crybaby.”
    Good natured ribbing and insulting ensues.

    And, of course, if the two guys really didn’t care to be friends anymore, they’d never meet for dinner in the first place! Sometimes, being a guy is soooo much easier.

  • Geekman, you’re absolutely right that most guys don’t worry so much about friendships. However, I do have a few “catty” guy friends who can hold a grudge like no one’s business. Ok, there’s just one of them, and I’m sure he’s holding a grudge on me right now for not talking to him for a couple months.

    But this article is good for even the guys out there to go through their friends list and figure out if any of them need to be maintained a little better or if you’ve been a bad friend in a time of need.

  • This is such a timely post! I’m going thru the evalutation of how I feel unappreciated and delving into why, and whether or not one of my friendships is two sided or has always been one sided and I’ve neglected to notice.

    This is not something I’ve ever read before, so I’m glad for the post!

    I have also never consciously ‘de-friended’ someone, but sometimes stepping back/giving space/accepting change is the most viable option.

    I can see how guys maybe don’t worry about this as much, but I still think they think about it and that things bother them, they just express it in different way – and are less vocal about it. Guys on the whole may be more willing to forgive and forget, I’m not sure.

  • This article rings true for me. I de-friended a previously close friend about 4 years ago. Looking back I could have done it in a better way, but the friendship was too much of a drain on me emotionally. I felt such relief afterwards. Now I am conscious that if a friendship feels like hard work I try and figure out why and correct it before it gets too bad or simply dial back how close a friendship it is.

  • Clever Dude, what if it feels like no time has passed with a particular friend, but you still feel drained when you meet up with this person? I have a friend who is very judgemental of me and only wants to get together on short notice…but when we DO get together we always have great conversations. Any advice? THX!!

  • r: I know what you mean. I’m not sure how Stacie would answer this from a woman’s perspective, but as a guy with that draining friend as well, I avoid talking to them for months and let it all build up so we have alot to talk about.

    This is the same friend I went to Ireland with in 2002 and drove 1000 miles with. I was the only one driving so he didn’t have anything else to do except drill me with questions. WHEW! I really was drained. But I can’t talk to him daily, weekly or sometimes even monthly. I almost get ill when I see his name pop up on the caller ID, but eventually I get the nerve to answer/call back and we have a great conversation.

    Sorry I couldn’t be more help other than to sympathize!

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