Do you worry you feel closer to your friends than they do to you? Friendship experts weigh in on why that happens, and why you don’t have to worry about it as much as you may think.(Photo: Getty Images) Few of us would ever admit to “ranking” our friends.But that doesn’t mean that we don’t mentally clock how close we are to people.
What does it mean when we rank them higher than they do us?
The truth is, this happens a lot more than one might think.According to Danielle Jackson, a friendship coach and host of the podcast Friend Forward , research indicates that only about 50% of our friendships are reciprocal — though it doesn’t mean only half your friends like you.Instead, Jackson stresses, it’s about the differences in how close you feel towards each other.
“That means that if someone is a level 10 in your life, your go-to emotional support, the friend you place above all others, you might just be their number 6, because of the people in their life they prioritize above you,” she explains.“Your network looks different, you’ve established other ties.That doesn’t mean this person doesn’t love you or appreciate you.It may mean they dedicate a different amount of time to you.”
Once someone is on a certain tier, doesn’t mean they stay there, either.
Jackson points out that many women who become mothers begin to prioritize relationships with people who have children, due in part to the support and connection they are able to provide at that time of their life.The same can be true, she says, for how we feel about our high school or college friends, who are in the same place at the same time, experiencing the same types of things.Once these experiences end, some people find that they shift in terms of closeness, just as you may drift apart from your kids’ friends’ mothers once your children are self-sufficient.
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Laura Sniderman , founder of the upcoming friendship app Kinnd , which launches in Fall 2022, notes that the “different roles” friends play in people’s lives means they also serve different purposes.And shifting what role a friend plays in one’s life can be easier for some than others.
Story continues “Often, due to a lack of an emotional support system, clear communication and boundaries, there is a mismatch in the role one friend sees the other friend playing,” she notes.
“For example, the friend you see as a party friend might drunkenly break down and cry to you during a party one evening.You might be happy to console them, but for you, the role of that friend stays the same.The friend however, might otherwise lack emotional support in their life, and therefore put you into a new ‘role’ in their mind.Unless clearly communicated, this can create a mismatch of expectations and boundaries and therefore an incongruence in closeness.”
Where you fall in someone’s life may also be what Sniderman calls a “numbers game.”
“The sheer number of friends that someone has might dictate a difference in perceived closeness,” she explains.
“If you are new to a city and do not know anyone and you become friends with a local, for example, who has a plethora of friends from childhood, you might feel closer to them than they feel to you.This has nothing to do with whether or not they like you.Their attention is spread widely and they have different needs met by different people, whereas you might be putting greater weight on your friendship with them to meet multiple needs.”
Jackson says that her clients can often feel stressed when they hear that their friendships may not be completely reciprocal — but she stresses that how you’re prioritized in someone’s life doesn’t mean everything when it comes to friendship.
“People tend to fixate on this information and wonder, ‘Oh my gosh, am I a 10? Am I a 7?’ But I like to look at the basics, without the numbers,” she notes.”‘Does she make time for you? Do you enjoy your time together? Are you there for her, is she there for you?’ As soon as we get in our heads about whether your friend values someone else more, it becomes a problem.”
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