Everyone has a time when they feel let down by others, both at work and at home. And sometimes the evidence is blatant – we discover someone talking about us behind our back, we find ourselves excluded, or get no response to a message or invitation. It hurts to discover that someone isn’t investing as much time in a relationship as we are, but the truth about friendships is really rather harsh according to new research*. It might shock you to find out that only about half the people whom we consider to be our friends consider us to be theirs in return. Yes, we are really this bad at judging the reciprocity of friendship…
This has echoes in an old-fashioned observation about romance too – that the person in any relationship who cares the least has the most control over that relationship. This is, of course, very true – I have both witnessed and experienced it first-hand. Interestingly, as soon as the person ‘in power’ contrives to lose (usually irretrievably) the other party’s interest or respect, they end up becoming the needy one. Friendships and relationships, like everything else, are in a constant state of flux, and the dynamics can always alter unexpectedly, thereby adjusting the balance of power.
In the most recent Disney Cinderella, the prince asks her how things are at home and she replies: “They treat me as well as they are able”… Clearly things are not as they should be – Cinderella is neither cared for nor respected by her ‘family’, but she has a very philosophical outlook on the situation. Her mother asked her to behave with ‘kindness and courage’, and she is doing just this. Happily for her, it pays off when the dynamics change and she finds herself about to marry the heir to the kingdom – and thereby clearly in a situation in which she can influence the future of her tormentors. True to her good nature, she forgives them wholeheartedly.
Good friendships are invaluable to our wellbeing, happiness, and even our financial success, so it is essential to nurture those people who truly care about us and who have proved it beyond all doubt. In an ideal world, we would all take a step back from bad friendships and relationships as soon as we see them for what they are, and invest more time in the good people in our lives. However, it is likely that most of us will continue pursuing worthless connections quite oblivious of the futility of our efforts – it is just how we’re made.