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Are you putting too much pressure on friendships?

alisounI recently had a great online meetup with midlife guru, Alisoun Mackenzie who is an expert coach in helping women enjoy a meaningful life.  As part of her expertise, she runs some great courses on how to develop and nourish friendship and getting the most out of life, whatever your age.  

Today I want to share Alisoun's latest blog on friendship - how to nourish and grow your friendships, but not to put too many demands on a friendship as well.   It's a great blog with plenty of tips, so worth a read. 

Do you expect too much from your friends?

After quite a few conversations with friends and clients recently, I found myself wondering whether we sometimes expect too much from our friends.

I’ve heard many people share how they rarely click one hundred percent with all their friends. 

Yes, they love spending time with most of their friends. But they also often feel a disconnect too – in that, they have different interests, don’t agree with everything their friends say or do, or feel they’ve drifted apart.

They also regularly said they feel the odd one out in groups where the majority of others shared interests or views they couldn’t relate to – leaving them feeling isolated, invisible, and hovering on the peripheral. 

Yet, is it realistic to expect to have exactly the same values, interests, and views as all our friends? To get on with everyone in a group? Or that friends will always treat us in the way we hope?

The downside of expecting too much from your friends

Expectations and judgement are loyal partners who rarely exist without one another and often work against you.

When we expect too much from friends we can come across as being too needy or judgemental which pushes people away.

If you ever feel hurt, upset, rejected, jealous, not good enough, or disappointed, this could be an indication you’ve been judgemental, needy, or expected too much of your friends. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t felt this way at some point. 

By contrast, when we accept people for who they are, and what they add to our life, friendships may become easier and more plentiful.

Especially when you also proactively manage your emotions and get your needs met through a range of different sources.

What do you expect from your friends?

Valuing diversity over judgement

I don’t know about you but I’d be bored if all my friends shared exactly the same likes, dislikes, opinions, values, and hobbies as me.

Yes, it’s great to have close friends with lots of similar values and tastes.

But for me, it’s the diversity of experiences, values, cultures, and opinions that form the basis of stimulating and meaningful conversations and friendships.

These discussions expand my perspective, often influence a shift in mindset or behaviour, and enrich my life in so many ways.

Even when we have massive differences in view about major topics, e.g. Scottish Independence, Brexit, or Covid vaccines, I’ve learned so much through having honest conversations with others who also value diversity more than judgement.

To what extent do you dismiss or make judgements about people?

Basing expectations upon values rather than judgements

Of course, it is good to have healthy boundaries (how you expect others to treat you) and to challenge people who don’t respect these.

I have non-negotiable expectations of everyone in my life. However, my expectations are based on values and ethics, rather than common interests.

I look for friends who value love, kindness, compassion, respect, honesty, integrity, curiosity, open-mindedness, trust, acceptance, positivity, fun, diversity, and making things happen. 

Expectations that come from a place of love, kindness, and compassion will always serve you better than those that come from a place of fear, scarcity, or suspicion.

What values do you expect of your friends?

Healthy versus unhealthy expectations of friends

Here are some examples of healthy versus unhealthy expectations:

Healthy Expectations Unhealthy Expectations
  • Good friendships take time and effort to nurture – what I get out of friendships is a reflection of what I put in.
  • I expect others to ask me out or arrange to meet up if they want to be my friend.
  • I expect my friends to treat me with love, kindness, compassion, honesty, and respect.
  • I expect people to hurt me, be dishonest, and mistreat me.
  • I love my friends for who they are and have different friends for different things.
  • My friends need to reflect all of who I am – what I believe, enjoy, and value.
  • Honesty includes friends speaking their truth – even if it’s different from what I believe or is unpleasant to hear. Plus being open to hearing my truth e.g. when they’ve upset me too. 
  • I only expect friends to be honest about certain things – not to disagree, challenge me or call me out. They’d also prefer me to hold back on what I really think or feel too. 
  • Everyone makes mistakes and miscommunications happen.
  • If a friend hurts or upsets me, I assume the worst and cut them off without exploring why.
  • There’s a difference between intention and impact – friends may sometimes unintentionally hurt or upset me.
  • I expect my friends to avoid my emotional triggers – even though I’m not conscious of them all myself.
  • When someone doesn’t call back that’s OK – they may be busy, distracted, and unable to respond.  
  • I always expect people to get back in touch – it’s rude not to, even if I don’t always do this myself.
  • Not everyone will want to be my friend and that’s OK – there are people I don’t want to be friends with too.
  • Expecting everyone or no one to want to be your friend.
  • Friendships come and go – this is natural and doesn’t mean either party has done something wrong. 
  • Expecting all friends to be friends for life or that all friendships will stay the same throughout life.
  • There are many reasons my friends will meet up together, without me. 
  • I expect my friends to include me in everything and feel jealous when they don’t.
  • Healthy friendships are interdependent – add to life without being overly needy.
  • I expect and need to see my friends all the time.
  • It’s OK not to get on with my friends’ friends or everyone in a group I really enjoy being part of.
  • Expecting to get on with all your friends’ friends or everyone in a group.

The role of a friend is not to complete you

I don’t feel it’s possible nor desirable to be surrounded by people who are a complete mirror of who we are or who will satisfy all our needs.

I prefer to have lots of different friends with varied interests.

Yes, those I’ve lots in common with often become closer friends because it’s been easier for our friendship to flourish as we do things together. But I also have good friends with whom I only share a few common interests or life experiences – we just click. 

When you get your needs met through lots of different friends and let go of unrealistic expectations, you’re more likely to enjoy more harmonious and nourishing relationships.

No one person is there to complete you.

Finding belonging through being a misfit

I’m not aware of ever expecting any one person to meet all my needs.

Maybe that’s because I was always never in the ‘in crowd’ when I was young. I was always a misfit.

Now as an adult, I see differences as something to explore and celebrate, rather than reasons to hold back.

If anything, I feel a sense of belonging in a diverse group of interesting misfits.

Are your emotional triggers getting in the way?

When you’re triggered by a friend (feel an intense negative emotion in response to something you think they’ve done), what you’re feeling is often less to do with them, and more to do with you.

These feelings can be an indication that you’ve got an unmet need or unresolved trauma to tend to.

Or maybe you’re not in a good emotional place right now – when we’re stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, our emotional triggers can get activated more easily. But this isn’t the fault of our friends. It’s our responsibility to get whatever help or support we need to recover and heal. 

To expect friends to be aware of your unconscious triggers, and how we’re feeling without letting them know, is unrealistic and could be sabotaging otherwise good friendships.

For example, you may feel a deep sense of hurt or rejection when two friends arrange to meet up without you. But the reality is you’re only feeling this way because of how you’re choosing to interpret the situation. There are many perfectly good reasons why others may want to meet up without you. They don’t owe you anything.

However, if you’ve ever felt rejected or left out in the past, particularly by good friends, when friends today do something similar, they may unwittingly activate one of your unconscious emotional triggers – intensifying the feelings you’re experiencing. Yet only a small part of your feelings today may be due to recent events.

Are you aware of any behaviours of others that trigger an intense emotional response in you today?

We’re all human and make mistakes

It’s natural even for close friends to drift apart throughout the course of life – particularly where your interests or proximity change, or where either party neglects the friendship.

Likewise, it’s sometimes totally appropriate to break ties with someone who has crossed the line too many times or has done something that conflicts with one of your core values.

However, sometimes close friends sadly fall apart because one party has unrealistic expectations, is overly judgemental, or has a zero-tolerance policy.

Yet, part of being human is that we can all make mistakes, including saying or doing things that unintentionally upset others. Especially when we’re not feeling well, are stressed, or experiencing challenges in our life. You’ll know that when you’re not feeling one hundred percent, it’s difficult to who up as the best version of yourself.

Have you ever expected your friends to be perfect?

Everyone does the best they can

A liberating perspective when things don’t go as you hope is to accept that everyone always does the best they can, with the resources available at that moment (e.g. energy, mindset, money, and emotional resilience).

This applies to you as much as it does to others.

When you accept we all do the best we can, which includes sometimes making mistakes, it’s easier to let go of expectations for ourselves and our friends to be perfect.

Which would you prefer – friends who apologise for their mistakes and accept you’re human too?

Or friends who don’t think they ever make mistakes and expect the same of you?

Reflecting on the part you’ve played

One of the most empowering habits we can develop is to consider the part we’ve played in situations – particularly when things don’t go as we hope.

You see the only things you can control or influence to some degree are what you think, feel, and do in response to any situation and generally in life. Yet we can often get caught up in focusing on the things we can’t control and influence which is destructive – for us and others. 

While others’ actions may upset you, their reasons for doing what they’re doing are often not about you. However, you have always had a part to play in co-creating what’s happening too. 

To do find a better way forward, ask yourself:
  • What part have I played in creating this situation (which I don’t like/which is upsetting me)?

  • What can I control and influence (in this situation)? These are the things to focus on. 

  • What can I not control or influence (in this situation)? These are what to learn to let go of. 

  • How could I respond differently? From the insights above. 


  • It is healthy to have expectations of friends but expecting too much doesn’t feel good and will push people away.

  • It’s not the role of any one person to complete you.

  • Having a diverse range of friends will enrich your life and mean you come across as being more interesting rather than being too needy.

  • Accepting everyone is human, does their best, yet also makes mistakes helps foster deeper and more compassionate relationships – this applies to you as much as others!

  • It’s always worth reflecting on the part you play in any situation. 

What’s next?

The two most common insights people take away from my Nourishing Friends course is that they’ve previously expected too much from friends and they’ve not put the effort in to nurture the friendships they yearn for.

That’s why during the course you explore your ideal friend’s qualities, how you show up as the best version of yourself, and how to consciously nurture nourishing relationships that will bring you joy for years to come. 

Click here to find out more.

Remember, YOU matter, your impact matters, and what you do next matters.

With love

The Meaningful Life Guide, Best-Selling Author & Coach for Midlife Women

Alisoun Mackenzie, The Meaningful Life Guide, Author, and Coach for Midlife Women

Courses run by Alisoun.  You can take a look and sign up here:

Nourishing Friends 4 Week course

The Fabulous Friends Experience 

The Meaningful Midlife Experience

My Meaningful Life Programme