Signs of a One-Way Friendship

Sam is a 17-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.


A week ago, my friend had called me to let me know what had been going on with her twin brother, who was working as a counselor at a sleep-away camp. Apparently, after supposedly being close friends with a group of guys for many years, he was disappointed to see that these boys were rebuffing and ignoring him, and not inviting him on their nights off. What’s the deal?


It was now clear that my friend’s brother was the victim of the one-way friendship, with the balance of power favoring the group of guys. Parents, friends, and siblings may not notice it right away, but here are some signs that your friend, sibling, or child is stuck in a one-way friendship.



  1. 1.  Your friend/sibling/child is making more of an effort regarding plans to meet up or keep the friendship together.


In a relatively balanced friendship, each person tries to make an equal effort to invite the other one over or out. Obviously, this isn’t the case in a one-way friendship, with one person usually calling/texting/Facebooking the other more in order to make plans. Keep an eye out for instances in which the teen has to spend a large amount of money, drive a far distance, or be out a lot in order to maintain a friendship with their new friend(s). For example, if your teen/friend/sibling buys their new friend an expensive gift for a birthday, drive hours to get to the venue, and is willing to stay out until an ungodly hour, chances are the friendship may be one-sided.


2. When your friend/sibling/child asks their friend to reciprocate, the friend suddenly cannot do so.

This is a crucial follow-up to the first sign. I can remember the so-called friendship I had with my friends from my sleep-away camp. I always attended their bat mitzvahs regardless of distance or expense. Yet, when I sent out my invitations to my bat mitzvah, all but my three closest friends from camp either declined or failed to send an RSVP altogether. Failing to reciprocate in a friendship is a strong indicator that the friendship is one-sided. Unfortunately, chances are likely that the teen might brush off the incident as either a simple impossibility (regarding events) or as him/her being selfish (regarding tangible favors).





3. In social situations, your friend/sibling/child seems to be on the fringe.


Think about the last time you hung out with your group of friends. In a typical friendship, everyone seems to hang out with each other and include everyone in the group. In one-way friendships, however, there is usually one person who seems to be an afterthought, a “B-lister” if you will. This person is usually the victim of these friendships. Sometimes the afterthought’s status can be very overt. An example of this would be going to a house party with friends and either being the one sober person (even if he or she isn’t the designated driver) or the one trying to keep up with the amount of imbibing their friends may do (and possibly harming himself or herself in the process). Other times, the status of the fringe person can be a bit more covert, such as being on the end of a photo and desperately trying to hang onto the group, or being cropped out of the photo completely.




  1. 4.  Your friend/sibling/child is more willing to be accountable for the new friend’s actions.


In most balanced friendships, both parties try not to involve each other in things they might find uncomfortable, and hold themselves accountable for their own actions. Sadly, this isn’t the case in one-way friendships. The teen “in power” may convince the “weaker” teen to do something illicit or illegal, such as buying drugs or shoplifting, on the premise that your teen will be excluded from the group if he or she doesn’t obey. If the police is involved, it is likely that your teen will take responsibility for both his or her actions and the friend’s actions, in order to appear like a “trustworthy” friend. Long story short, in risky situations, your teen might be in a one-friendship if he or she is more willing to be the “fall person.”



Of course, if these above four statements ring true to your teen’s friendship, the friendship is definitely imbalanced. Unfortunately, the most common way to get a teen out of a one-way friendship requires an excessive amount of patience. Your teen may not listen to your concerns right away, and may accuse you of envy or misunderstanding. However difficult waiting may seem, your teen will eventually realize the true nature of the one-way friendship and return to healthier and more balanced friendships.

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