When Reliable Friends Become Too Reliant
It's always okay to accept support from a friend, but is it healthy if they start expecting things in return?
One of life's many joys is friendship, and it is the source of so many people's motivation. There is something so incredibly pleasant about being able to have support while also supporting someone else...but what happens when things start to get more demanding?
Attempting to sustain a relationship that is fueled by one-sided effort can be incredibly draining, both physically and emotionally, and can leave you feeling guilty when trying to say no. Depending on the severity of the situation there are different ways of addressing the issue. The first step is figuring out how they effect you and into which category they fall into.
Occasional Dependence Type A
The individual shows dependent symptoms, but only rarely, and may apologize afterwards for stepping out of bounds. They may plead in the moment, but will not hold a grudge if you deny them and have a decent understanding of the roles in the friendship. They may use phrases like, "Could you please plan the trip for us? You know how bad I am at this kind of stuff," despite having an approaching deadline or previously agreeing to handle things on their own.
Occasional Dependence Type B
The individual shows dependent symptoms rarely, but does not see error in their actions despite making others uncomfortable. They may plead in the moment and will not react kindly to being denied, though they will soon return to their normal demeanor. They may have an impaired view of social roles within the friendship. They may use phrases like, "Hey, I know you're busy but I really don't want to work tonight. Would you mind covering my shift?" And will not be incredibly pleased if you say no.
Dependence Type A
The individual requires your assistance but doesn't appear to have malicious intent. They may not always pick the best times to ask for help and can get upset when denied, but over all their intentions are not to use this against you. They may use phrases like, "C'mon, please? I helped you last week, and I really did it out of the kindness of my heart."
Dependence Type B
The individual demands your assistance and, at times, can appear almost threatening. They don't seem to mind putting you on the spot and make you feel like you should say yes regardless of what you prefer. This may cause you to help begrudgingly and begin to feel uncomfortable around this person. They may use phrases like, "I helped you out before, I think you kind of owe me for that one," and will appear betrayed if denied.
The individual frequently demands assistance and is comfortable jeopardizing your emotions to get what they want. They may use phrases that make you feel obligated to help despite the amount of pressure they put on you like, "I've done so much for you, why don't you ever help me back?" They will purposefully do things for you so that you owe them, and will use previous situations to coerce you into agreeing. Though this may not be entirely intentional, an individual like this has manipulative tendencies and will be more comfortable asking things of you in the future if you don't stand your ground.
The individual takes advantage of your emotions regularly and uses them to get what they want. You are placed in a situation where you are providing for someone you should not naturally be providing for. Examples of this may be an abusive parent, a partner that disregards your feelings, or (as I am using) a friend that toys with you and your good intentions. They may use tactics like lying to keep you in check, or using their previous deeds to keep you trapped. This person may utilize phrases such as, "After all I've done for you, you're still being selfish! Do you enjoy making me overwork myself? You know I'm all you have," and is clearly manipulative. In this situation it is imperative that you prioritize your emotional and physical safety, even if that requires leaving the situation altogether.
The first two categories may not require immediate action and are, in fact, rather healthy. You may be a natural caregiver and that will draw those in need towards you. If it has a negative effect on you and your emotions though, having a sit down chat with this individual will most likely clear things up and prevent them from escalating further. However, if this friend falls into either of the last two categories it is important to know that these occurrences are not your fault. Even if you are incredibly kind or feel like you have an obligation to pay the individual back, this person is using manipulative tactics to achieve a certain goal. No one (especially a friend) should be keeping tally marks of how much you owe them and how much they deserve from you.
In conclusion, we all depend on other people at times and it can be rewarding to help out as well, but allowing yourself to be used is not beneficial to either party. You're always allowed to be your main priority.
About the author
I'm a specialist in the areas of criminology, psychology, and sociology who will mostly be writing on my gradual findings throughout my various studies.
Aside from the scientific mumbo jumbo, I'm just here to inform others.