Sharing your problems with a friend or loved one can be pretty therapeutic. It gives you the space to vent out your feelings, and makes you think more clearly about the problem at hand. But be careful about choosing that friend in whom you confide. I’m not saying friends are bad, but not all understand what you are going through. Not everyone knows what is right for you.
The one with a ‘me-too’ saga-
I had sprained an ankle, and it was swollen and quite painful. Confined to the bed, I was chatting up with a friend. And the next thing he says is, ‘Come on don’t be such a wuss, you can do better than that. I had a fracture six months ago and I dealt with it so bravely.’ Yes, but you had people buzzing around you round the clock, supplying you food on the bed, carrying you to the washroom, and providing you everything that you needed. You didn’t have to bother about getting your kids ready for school, or limp around to cook, or tend to sick kids simultaneously.
There is this other friend who’ll always say, ‘Arre, yeh toh kuch bhi nahi hai (this is nothing), if you listen to my problems you’ll know how much I’m suffering.’
The point is, no two situations are comparable. Many people compare your experience with theirs and in the bargain, end up making your situation seem inadequate of eliciting strong emotions.
The one who doles out Advice-
An advice cannot be universal. What applies to me cannot apply to someone else and what worked for me might not work for someone else.
A friend who had just had a miscarriage was told by her sister-in-law not to think about the baby. She advised her to start chanting and meditating. Yes, chanting helps. But this was not the time - maybe eventually, but not at that point. She was grieving, she needed time to first accept her loss and overcome her grief. How could you expect her to just start chanting? She needed someone to vent her anguish and share the precious memories of her pregnancy and the dreams she had for her baby.
When I was going through a difficult time with my mother-in-law, a friend advised me to go and get a job. It helped her, she said. It kept her away from her mother-in-law for the better part of the day. Great advice, maybe I’d take up a job, but not for the wrong reasons, and definitely not as an escape route. That wasn’t my medicine at that time. Another friend told me to cut off the mother-in-law and be nasty to her. Her words? ‘Give her back nicely’. I didn’t want to do that – my m-i-l had taken care of me so many times, and she wasn’t a bad person. I’d have to be a monster to even contemplate such a thing. All I wanted to know was how to resolve the issue at hand.
But people give advice as per their own experiences. They have no idea about your background, your limitations and your way of thinking. They tell you what worked for them. But you aren’t them, are you?
The one who barely ‘touches and goes’-
A friend Apu, once told me that whenever she’s upset, she calls upon her partner, Ani, to share her problems. Once she starts discussing her problems, Ani starts getting distracted and keeps changing the topic. After that she switches off her mobile, is not reachable or busy every time she calls her again. But when Ani is upset, Apu’s expected to lend a patient ear, give some advice and also be compassionate enough to relieve Ani from work for a few days. All take and no give, eh?
I had this, ‘if-there’s-any-problem-just-call-me-anytime’ friend, who’d do the disappearing act when I called on her more than once. She’d coax me to tell her what’s bothering me, and assure me she’d be there whenever I’d need her. But the very next time I pinged her, she’d not even bother with replying or taking my calls!
I get it, upset people are not the most interesting people to have conversations with, but you don’t expect problems to disappear immediately after some pep talk, right? Some issues persist for a long time, and if you are not up to giving your time, or lending a patient ear, don’t make false promises that you’ll be around.
There’s an opposite kind of friend who loves to smother me with her affection. She’ll put an arm around me, give me a warm hug, and coax me to ‘tell me everything’. She’d be there whenever I’d ask to speak to her. She’d listen to everything I had to say. But even before I’d realise, the words would be floating all around and be the talk of gossip mills. As a result, more people would now give me their valuable advice, leaving me pretty embarrassed and feeling let down.
That one true friend-
All friends are not made equal - some empathise with you more than the others. But it doesn’t mean you should forsake the ones who don’t feel as you do. Every single friend has a different role in our lives – it’s just that you should know what kind of friends to keep away from sharing all your stuff and who are ones worth fighting for.
If you have that one/few close friend/s who understands you, will put an arm around you when you are down, will listen to you rant and vent endlessly and sometimes just sit and watch the stars with you silently - when that’s all you want to do, count yourself lucky. Trust me, most of the times that's all that you need.