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How to Handle a Fair Weather Friendship

by Melanie Scheller

A fair-weather friend is one who is willing to share your good fortune, fame and success but not your sorrow, failure or misfortune. An example is the friend who is always happy to let you pick up the tab at lunch but gets queasy if you want to talk about your mother's cancer treatment. A fair-weather friendship is a drain on your time and energy that might be better spent on developing a true friendship, but knowing how to handle such one-sided friendships can be tricky.

How to Manage a Fair-weather Friendship

Analyze the situation as objectively as possible. Look for patterns in your friend's behavior. Making written notes about specific events may help. Has your friend consistently been unavailable when you needed him most? Is this behavior a new development? Perhaps he's experiencing difficulties in his own life that make it hard for him to offer you support. You may need more information before making a decision about how to handle this friendship.

Analyze your own behavior. Have you been expecting too much of your friend? If a friend has supported you through a divorce, a bankruptcy, a broken engagement and a foreclosure, it's understandable that she might want to distance herself from your latest personal disaster. It's not fair to blame a friend for backing off if you consistently expect her to be your therapist. It might be time for you to seek professional help.

Consider whether your friend has the ability to change. If you shared your feelings with your friend, would he make an effort to change? No one is born with the interpersonal skills that strengthen relationships. Perhaps your friend has never experienced a truly supportive friendship. You might be able to steer him in the right direction by explaining or demonstrating how to provide support to a friend during difficult times.

Decide whether you can simply accept your friend as she is. It's not necessary for every friendship to be emotionally intimate. A person who panics when faced with illness might be the best hiking partner you'll ever have. Your friend's shortcomings may seem less annoying if you have a network of supportive friends. If you choose to continue a fair-weather friendship, be realistic in your expectations. Don't count on the friend to be there during tough times.

If you choose to end the friendship, the simplest solution is to stop contacting your friend and see what happens. Sometimes that's all it takes. If the friend continues to offer invitations to socialize, you could try making excuses and not returning calls, but you may need to speak to your friend directly. State the situation in terms of your feelings and your needs. "I was disappointed when you didn't come to my father's funeral," is better than, "You're a lousy friend. You're never there when I need you." If you're certain you want to end the relationship, be firm and consistent.

Cultivate new friendships. It's tempting to accept a fair-weather friendship if you feel that's the only kind available to you, so expand your network. Join a book club or a kayaking group, or volunteer for causes that are important to you.

About the Author

Melanie Scheller has been writing about health for more than 20 years. Her work has been published in "American Baby," "Medical Self-Care" and "Current Health." Scheller holds a Master of Public Health and a Master of Education.

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