My best friend has a huge network of friends and family and many work and community commitments. I understand these are important and make it hard to find time for us, and I don’t mind. What annoys me is that she won’t make firm plans. Nothing is ever confirmed until the last minute. I’ve tried talking to her about this but she laughs it off. Should I just accept that I’m not a priority? Or am I being too demanding?

When I was in school I had a terrible habit of losing things. Expensive orthodontics went into the bin along with my sandwich wrapper and lunch, digital cameras I’d saved for sat quietly on the bus long after I’d got off, more than once a violin ended up in the lost and found of the local transit authority. Even now remembering these is enough to curl my spine up in a wince of embarrassment, but by far the worst was when I lost something I’d received as a gift. I lost a lot of gifts. I don’t know where they went – they plunged into a wormhole of detached pen lids and half a pair of socks and I never saw them again. Frustrated and disappointed, a family member once told me that it was this simple: if I cared about things I wouldn’t lose them.

Now I don’t think that’s actually true. I did care about these things, that’s why I was so agonised when I lost them. But the thing this moment emblazoned on my brain was that that didn’t actually matter. I knew I cared, but the important thing was that other people didn’t. From the outside, there was no way of knowing how special these people and their gifts were to me, and I was giving people evidence that made it totally reasonable to conclude that their kindness didn’t register. And that’s not a nice thing to do by the people you care about. You shouldn’t put them in a position where it’s reasonable to conclude that you don’t care about them.

READ  Marmite, 7Up, smoked butter … chefs on how to improve your cooking for £5

Time commitments work a lot like this. The world divides into people who need plans and people who feel constrained by them. In any relationship when the two of you fall on different sides of the divide there’s a neon countdown clock until trouble, because to each of you it will look like the other doesn’t care. You’ll think “if she cared she’d make time” and she’ll think “if she cared she’d stop trying to control my time”.

The truth is it doesn’t matter who’s right, just like it doesn’t matter whether I was right about whether you can forget things and value them at the same time. What matters is that you find a language of affection that the other can hear and translate.

And sometimes the best language of affection is just saying true stuff out loud. We have all sorts of oblique ways of telling each other we matter – you’re right that making firm plans is one of them. But we can also just say, out loud, “You matter.” If your friend could find a way to make you feel that more firmly, the un-firmness of the plans might not sting so much. Don’t keep asking for plans; she might have good reasons to see them as a burden. Allow yourself to ask for a reminder that you’re valued. If she’s a true friend, that’s never a burden.

*************************************

Ask us a question

Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s questions and puzzles, big and small. Questions can be anonymous.

READ  World Autism Day: How tech is empowering people with autism in the workplace

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here