Advice: The friend who “takes” but never gives

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Dear Jennifer,

I’ve been friends with “Amanda” for several years now. But lately it seems like our conversations are completely one-sided. I spend a lot of time on the phone listening to what’s wrong in her life, and she hardly ever remembers to ask how things are going in mine. I want to be understanding, but it’s starting to irk me. I need to find a way to tactfully point this out to her because, if not, I’m tempted to start avoiding her calls. Help.

Dear Shoulder to Whine on,

Think hard. Have things really changed or has your friendship always been a little one-sided? The best friendships have reciprocity, allowing the focus to shift back and forth. Each person can listen to and share with the other, noting and caring about the events and concerns in the other person’s life as well as those in their own.

Realistically, many friendships never get this mutual. If your relationship with Amanda has always cast you in the passive role of Audience and her in the starring role of Interesting Person with a Life, then it’s a one-way street. It sounds like you’ve matured out of that limited friendship while she has not. It’s time to back off some, and make it your goal to become friends with someone who’s not all about herself.

On the other hand, if Amanda used to be a friend who listened and cared about you, be honest with her. Tell her you’re not sure if she wants your friendship because she never shows interest in you. Let her know how one-sided conversations make you feel. At the same time, be honest with yourself. Are you someone who waits to be drawn out during a conversation and who volunteers very little about herself? If so, step up and share more. Maybe your conversation skills need polishing. If the friendship once felt more reciprocal there could be room for improvement on both sides.

Jennifer Hansen is a syndicated columnist, mom of two, and one of those insightful friends who will tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear. She’s not a psychologist or licensed counselor, but she is one smart mama.