How to get your needs met by your friends (even when you have chronic illness)
This is my friend Vanessa. A sense of belonging in the world is imperative to our holistic whole that supports us in entrepreneurship. Without a sense of friendship and without a knowing that people have truly got our back, it’s hard to perform to our fullest capacities in our careers. Many of my clients, both entrepreneurs and people who’ve struggled or still struggle with chronic illness come to me with the concern of not getting their needs met by their friends they way they feel they are meeting the needs of their loved ones. So here are a few of my thoughts…
Get clear on what kind of needs you have that you don’t have met in your life right now.
For example, if you’re single right now and you’re not getting daily or weekly cuddles, and you’re a big physical touch love language person, gravitate towards friends who are NATURALLY inclined to be touchy feely. Find those friends in your circle who enjoy cuddling while watching a movie or holding hands while in the car.
That brings me to my first point … 1) Gravitate toward your friends strengths for what you need.
Here I mean, if you have a friend who is really good at being empathic and who is good at listening, go to them when you need nurturing, rather than going to the friend who’s first impulse is to be mrs. fix it.
On the other hand, if you do need help actually fixing an issue and getting to the root of something you’re struggling with, call up mrs. fix it.
Essentially friends aren’t our parents nor our significant others so the depth of relationship with them doesn’t mirror a biological impulse to learn to meet each other’s needs simply for survival.
With this being said, you can still get your needs met and put less pressure on your friendship bonds by resourcing more effectively by engaging your circle of friends based on their strengths and not on their weaknesses.
For example, if I want help moving a bed up two flights of stairs, I will call my friend Kelsey. Not my friend Shannon. CUE laughing face emoji.
2) Actually ask for what you need
So many of my clients come to me frustrated that their community isn’t showing up for them when they need help, especially when they are sick, but they’re not actually asking for help directly. They are making vague comments that hopefully will translate to PLEASE HELP ME! Or they are expecting people to know exactly what to do and how to help because they would if roles were reversed.
If you’re struggling with chronic illness and normal tasks or regular activities are becoming challenging to maintain, let the people that are closest to you know.
Say things like, “Hey could you drop by the store and get me X and then come and hang out with me for a while tonight? I’ve been lonely and homebound all day. I could use some human hugs.”
And then make the requests that would truly help you as much as you need. Of course, this doesn’t meant that your friends will always be available or not have their own challenges going on. But more often than not when you ask for what you need directly, people who have the capacity, show up. And enjoy doing so.
3) Choose people to rely on that have the capacity
If someone has a hard time managing their stress load and they aren’t doing the work they need to take care of their own selves (which includes leaning on you as a friend), it’s not a good idea to try to get your needs met from them.
They can’t meet their needs well, so why would they be able to meet yours with effectiveness?
This is especially true if you’ve had trauma around abandonment or rejection from your primary care givers. You may be attracted to less than available people because it mimicks what you know and what you’re trying find resolution from. I find many of my clients with a past of childhood adversity try to heal their relationship with their mother with their female friends - getting caught in an unproductive cycle of wound pressing. In those cases, it’s almost like if you can get the friend to show up the way mom should have, you’ll get resolution around feeling unworthy of unconditional presence for example. Sad truth is this usually never works because ultimately, the friend is not available for the thing you need and want, as they are barely able to be that for themselves, nor do they know how to seek it out in resources available to them.
4) Be willing to hold out
So often we sacrifice on what we want and need because it’s better something than nothing right?
When we have chronic loneliness, it sucks to be alone and to not have our needs met. So we may settle for having our needs met sometimes. Because at least that is better than not at all, right?
I suggest to both myself and to my clients to put the effort into building new relationships instead of trying to make outdated ones work.
If we stay in the cycle of settling instead of holding out for a short while, what ends up happening is that we stay unfulfilled long-term.
Instead of trying to get that old BFF to get you and be there for you, because you’ve always been there for her… try and place your time and effort in going to new workout classes where you could mesh with a new girlfriend or joining local groups that feature your genuine interests.
If you have limitations that keep you in the home due to chronic illness, utilize online support groups and form connections there in which you can plan skype dates with and meet in person one day.
When you meet new friends that click, vet them and ask them what they are looking for in terms of friendship. What do they need support with in their lives, and how do you need support in yours? Are you both available to meet those needs, and if so, score! If not, keep noticing and engaging until you find a match.
The good news is that every single person NEEDS and WANTS friends for a healthy life, so there is not a shortage of people to make connections with on this planet.
5) Show up
My final thought is to make sure that what you’re expecting out of your friends, you also do for them.
Your own needs may differ from what your closest friend needs, but it is still important to show up for them in the way they are asking if you want to create an equal dynamic.
If your needs contradict each other, for example, you need a lot of quality time, but your BFFL needs a lot of space, it may also be time to evaluate if your showing up energy (on both your ends) need to go somewhere else that has more purpose.