There’s nothing more annoying than friends letting you down. As I’ve said before in a pervious article. This is especially problematic when you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) rooted in attachment problems. If you’ve read my “Making Plans” article, then you’ll already be aware of how badly I react in the past when my friends have chronically let me down.
Why Friendships Matter
Where would we be without our friends? Often they’re the family we get to pick for ourselves. So it comes as no surprise that research has shown that not having a strong social support network can be detrimental to your health and mortality risk (Jane Murphy, Saga).
Although our intimate partners can make us feel happy with our lives (if you’re satisfied with the relationship), should something happen with our partners, then we can only be that happy with our lives because of the quality of our friendships (Kaufman, Rodriguez, Walsh, Shafranske, and Harrell, 2022). In short, it’s good friends, not family, that helps make life happy. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a partner who is also like a good friend too.
The fact that friendships, not family, can have a bigger impact on how happy we are in life is likely because friendships are modifiable (Materia and Baglio, 2005). No matter how I’ve tried to change and improve my relationship with my mum, it remains one of my biggest triggers for depression. It’s also easier to cut people out of your life when a friendship turns sour than it is if a family relationship does.
As de Leon (2005) stated, being connected to be through friendships with people you trust, value, and love provides meaning and purpose that is essential to the human condition and longevity. They can provide specific social capital resources that have tangible benefits to our health, such as better dietary habits and minimising stress.
How Your Friends Might Let You down
Friendships are so important to us and for us to feel happy about our lives that it can be an enormous disappointment when our friends let us down. For me, the impact it would have on me would push me to the prink of suicide because I used my friends as a coping strategy.
Here are some examples of how your friends might let you down:
- Repeatedly not showing up for agreed plans.
- Not being there for you when you need them (Justine Carino).
- Constantly cancelling plans they’ve made with you.
- Not inviting you to social gatherings (Justine Carino)
- Bad-mouthing you behind your back.
- Not respecting your privacy and using you as a source of gossip by telling other people the things you told them in confidence.
- Ghosting you until they need you.
What To Do When Your Friends Let You Down
Examine your expectations
It’s possible that you’re leaving yourself in a loop of being let down because you have high expectations for them that they can’t meet (Harley Therapy). People are individuals and they will have their own set of personality traits and life commitments, which can also change over time. Thus, we need to be mindful of this when we place our expectations on them. Ask yourself, are the things I expect from them fair? How would I feel about them and the friendship if I got rid of those expectations?
As a former people-pleaser, I would give my all to my friends, even at the cost of myself. However, that level of commitment to friendship was rarely returned. And rightly so in most cases. Unless your friend has become toxic or abusive, most friendships can be saved just by evaluating your expectations of the other person.
According to Harley Therapy, feeling let down is a form of psychological projection, where we project our own trait on to someone else. For example, I would often cancel plans almost at the last minute because of my health or because I had spots on my face, letting both myself down and others. This can then be projected on to others, so you see it as them letting you down.
Projecting can also happen as a result of being a people-pleaser. In your efforts to move heaven and earth for other people, you can over extend yourself. This will cause you to let others down because there’s only so much of you that you can give away.
If you’re interested in learning more about people-pleaseing, then check out some of my other articles on the subject. You never know, it might save a friendship or yourself.
No relationship can survive without boundaries. They’re the things we have that protect our wellbeing from being harmed, intentionally or unintentionally, by others. It pays to look at your boundaries, as they could save your friendships, especially when combined with your expectations.
Call them out
One of the first things you can do if your friends are letting you down is to call them up on it, but do it in a friendly way. You don’t want this to turn nasty, as that’ll stop you from resolving the situation and saving the friendship. Have a calm conversation with your friend and explain how this has made you feel and inform them of your boundaries.
Just like any other relationship, friends rely on good communication. Talk openly with your friends about how they’ve let you down and how it’s affected you. Find out what happened. Engage in active listening and really listen to what your friends have to say. Talk about what could have happened differently and how you will all handle situations in the future.
Several of my friends have been called out about their conduct. I had one friend that would just not turn up at all to our agreed plans, no message, no nothing. While other times they might turn up several hours late. I had another friend that would let me know as I got to where we were meeting or while I was mid travel on the train. Really frustrating.
The latter friend I don’t really hang around with anymore, because even though we’ve talked about this issue, they didn’t get any better. But, the other friend is now one of my closest friends, because they changed how they behaved after we talked it out.
My partner had a similar experience with one of their friends, which they’d complain to me about a lot. So we talked about how they needed to have a conversation with them about it, and it appears to have worked.
This can be easier said than done, the older you get. But sometimes we put too much stock in a handful of friends. This can be an issue if they’re a little flakey, if they’re flakey without intent to upset anyone. Thus, expanding your social circle can help you find friends to help avoid being let down. Services like Meetup.com could be one way to meet new people. I know one of my friends uses that to make new friends.
Reconsider the friendship
This is a polite way of saying you should think about cutting them out of your life. But I’m not talking about the kind of let down where, if you looked at it from their perspective, you’d understand why. No, I’m talking about being consistently let down by your friends. Friends that ignore your boundaries. Friends that you’ve spoken to about the way they’re treating you, but still haven’t changed. For those kinds of friends that routinely let you down, maybe it’s time to start asking yourself if they’re actually your friends or not.
As I’ve previously said, change will happen to your friends and your friendships with them. You have to accept that change will happen (Psychology Today), rather than trying to fight it. Instead, adapt to these changes in your friendships. Your friend will fall in love, move for work, have health issues, and start families. This doesn’t mean they’re letting you down. It means you need to adapt the friendship so it can survive the changes.
This is especially hard when it comes to distance when you physically move apart from each other. According to Preciado, Snijders, Burk, Stattin, and Kerr (2012), proximity matters, as literature argues that contact frequency and the strength of friendship decline with distance. I knew this first-hand as I’ve lost friends I thought were close friends after I moved away to go to university. But it’s ok, I’ve got new friends that are now my close friends.
Be kind to yourself
Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself. That’s one thing I didn’t do when my friends letting me down caused me to spiral into suicidal depression. If I had remembered to be kind to myself, I might have been able to think clearly and resolved the issues sooner.
Having friends is an essential part of living a happy life, especially if you don’t have or don’t want a romantic partner. But the same thing that makes our friends important to us allows them to be a source of pain for us. That’s why it can hurt so much when we feel they’ve let us down. Because our friends are our chosen family, so it can feel like family has let you down.
However, sometimes that hurt we feel might not be fair to place at the feet of our friends. Sometimes, it’s ourselves we need to work on. Thus, this article should help you figure out what needs to be done to save and improve your friendships, or, in more extreme cases, help you to let go of a bad friendship.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with friendships and your friends letting you down in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Kaufman, V., Rodriguez, A., Walsh, L. C., Shafranske, E., & Harrell, S. P. (2022). Unique Ways in Which the Quality of Friendships Matter for Life Satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1-18. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-022-00502-9.
de Leon, C. F. M. (2005). Why do friendships matter for survival?. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(7), 538-539. Retrieved from https://jech.bmj.com/content/jech/59/7/538.full.pdf.
Materia, E., & Baglio, G. (2005). Health, science, and complexity. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(7), 534-535. Retrieved from https://jech.bmj.com/content/jech/59/7/538.full.pdf.
Preciado, P., Snijders, T. A., Burk, W. J., Stattin, H., & Kerr, M. (2012). Does proximity matter? Distance dependence of adolescent friendships. Social networks, 34(1), 18-31. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268773, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378873311000128, and https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2011.01.002.