Friendships can be a lot like snowflakes

“I received an e-mail yesterday from a new friend, saying she needed to take a break from our friendship,” Kelley said as we began our coaching session. “We were just getting to know each other, and I thought things were going well. This was a complete surprise.”

“How did you meet?” I asked.

“I met her at a school event and found out we not only had kids the same ages, but also have many similar interests,” Kelley said. “In fact, two weeks after we met, I had an extra ticket to a scrapbooking extravaganza and invited her to go as my guest. We had a great time.”

One of Kelley’s goals through our coaching had been to build her friendships. As a stay-at-home mother, Kelley had felt somewhat isolated.

As excited as she had been to welcome this new friendship into her life, I could tell that she was equally upset about her friend requesting a break.

“Her birthday was last month and I planned a Girls’ Day Out,” Kelley continued. “Her husband watched the kids while she and I pampered ourselves. We started with a 3-mile hike, and then got massages and pedicures. Then I watched her kids so she and her husband could go to dinner. ”

“What a great way to spend a birthday,” I said. “How very thoughtful of you.”

“It’s confusing to me why she suddenly wants a break from our friendship,” Kelley said. “It’s not like we had a disagreement or anything. In fact, I thought things were going pretty well.”

“How else did you spend your time together?” I asked.

“A lot of our time was spent talking,” Kelley said. “I also brought over several dinners for her family. I figure if I’m making a pot of chili for my household, it’s just as easy to give her some too, so she doesn’t have to cook. I’ve been nothing but nice to her and yet, this is how I am being repaid?”

“It sounds like you feel as though there hasn’t been a fair trade,” I said. “Tell me why you chose the word, ‘repaid.’ ”

Kelley paused, thinking about what she had said.

“I did say the word, ‘repaid,’ didn’t I? It does seem like I’ve given a lot to make this friendship work and it feels like I’m not getting back what I’ve put in,” Kelley said. “It sounds like I’ve tried to buy this friendship.”

“Can you buy friendship?” I asked.

“No, but that’s how I’ve approached it,” Kelley said, “as though being a good friend weren’t enough. But it IS enough. I don’t have to buy my way in.”

“How can you explore this further?” I asked.

“It might be helpful to think about how this dynamic affected past friendships,” Kelley said. “It could also help to uncover what my expectations were for being paid back. Maybe she felt the pressure, too, which is why she wanted a break. This separation will allow me to step back and better understand this dynamic and find new ways to build friendships.”

As Kelley left, she said, “I don’t have to buy my friendships. That’s a big shift for me.”

Coaching challenge: What does it take to have a friend and be a friend? What are the expectations in your friendships? Are there any hidden expectations? How can you better understand these dynamics?

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Sheri Fisher is a life coach who is living in Grand Junction. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. For more information, go to:


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