Why Are We Treating Our Friendships Like A Job?

If you've ever been on the other end of someone's ghosting, you know how much it stings. It especially hurts when it's coming from a friend you've known for years, and all of sudden, one message erases all of your history: "I'm at capacity. I'm setting a boundary. I can't see our friendship in my future." It feels like a resignation letter at a job. Maybe we can blame the pandemic, capitalism, or the hyper-individualistic culture we live in — whatever it may be, we often forget about the importance of our community. While there are instances when it's okay to ghost someone, you might want to think twice about cutting someone off over an issue that could be resolved by an open conversation.

We often keep our social circles small and transactional, wanting to be around people only when it's easy or they have something to offer us. They have to be a good "investment" of our time, and if they're going through a hard time, they're "bringing the mood down." Relationships do take work, but is it really "emotional labor" to let your friend vent to you after they had a difficult day?  Our friends are essential — sometimes they're like our family, so maybe we should re-evaluate how we treat them and how they're treating us.

Don't weaponize language

Thanks to social media, we've become very familiar with therapy-speak: terms like "boundaries," "gaslighting," "narcissist," "toxic," and "emotional labor." But these words tend to be thrown around and used inappropriately. The misuse of therapy-speak has been a hot topic of conversation on TikTok because of a viral Bustle article covering the topic. It's an eye-opening piece about how these terms are weaponized by people who ignore the needs of others and disguise selfish behavior as "self-care." 

The article details one woman's experiences after her friendship was ended by an abrupt text message: "I can no longer hold the emotional space you've wanted me to, and think the support you need is beyond the scope of what I can offer." Instead of having a conversation and working through it, the person dropped her friend with no warning. "It felt like she was ending the friendship with an HR memo," the woman told Bustle.  

Let's say it's your birthday, but your friend cancels your plans. When confronting her about how this hurt you, she replies, "I'm setting a boundary. You can't make me feel like a bad friend." Boundaries aren't about trying to control people; we set boundaries to let others know what we're comfortable with. People who abuse therapy-speak often carry around this "I don't owe anyone anything" mentality, which is harmful to others around them. To say we don't owe our friends basic kindness and decency is problematic.

Confrontation helps us grow

When people misuse therapy-speak or use ghosting tactics, they're most likely afraid to have the deeper and tougher conversations that are necessary to maintaining friendships. Though no one likes confrontation, it needs to happen sometimes. No relationship is perfect, and you can actually grow closer to people when you can work out misunderstandings and problems together. A true friend will call out your bad behavior and be honest with you; a friend who keeps everything in and withholds their emotions is doing a disservice to both you and them. When you're willing to engage in a conflict, even if it's a bit uncomfortable and vulnerable, you're showing that person that you care and want to mend the relationship.

Saying how you feel in your friendships can be scary, especially if you have people-pleasing tendencies. You might hesitate to tell people how you really feel — even if your feelings are hurt — because you don't want to start a conflict. When you keep your thoughts inside, it's easy to start feeling resentment towards people. But your friends can't read your mind. You should speak up when something bothers you and try to work it out, not quit the friendship like it's a job you hate. If you ditched a friend at every sight of conflict, you might not have many left. Have faith and trust in them that they want to fix the issues too.