As social beings, we strive to make connections and feel accepted. Indeed, there are different types of friends we meet and need to enrich our lives. Sometimes we put in years of effort to build lasting friendships. At other times, we make friends easily because we meet them often, like people from our neighborhood, at workplace or in a hobby class.
However, not all of these friendships formed with people who are nearby and easy to connect with can transform into close friendships. Some of these friendships may be benign or even mutually beneficial, while others may consider you as a ‘convenient’ friend by being nice and helpful only as long as they’re not required to go out of their way to do so.
The eminent Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle famously suggested that human beings make three types of friendships: friends of pleasure, friends of utility, and friends of the good. While friends of pleasure meet and bond over common hobbies or interests, friends of the good are known to respect each other, be there always through good times and bad, and take a keen interest in each other’s lives.
However, the friends of utility – also identified as ‘friends of convenience’ – tend to rely on the benefits and gains that one or both people in the relationship bring to the table. This kind of friendship often tends to easily fall apart in case of a conflict or during a rough patch, especially if it lacks any genuine connection or mutual admiration. Friendships of convenience usually last only as long as the people in then remain in contact.
Sometimes – if it so happens that one person in the relationship continues to put in most of the work to maintain it – friendships based on convenience can become toxic and hamper one’s physical and mental health.
“It’s fine”, “maybe they were busy, “maybe next time”, are some of the excuses or observations you may repeatedly find yourself making about these friends when they let you down. And while it’s not healthy or warranted to seek constant validation or acknowledgment for all the help you rendered to them, deep down you may know this already: you deserve better. If you’ve often felt this way, then it's more than likely you are just a convenient friend for those people.
Not all friendships based on convenience are bad or detrimental. In fact, some casual friendships can bring people closer together and transform into long-standing friendships, especially if the relationship is mutually favourable. However, it helps to be able to spot a superficial, fair-weather convenient friend early on, so we can pull back before we end up investing too much time and effort into the relationship.
Here are seven ways to identify that you’ve been – or continue to be – someone's convenient friend:
Close friendships should feel reassuring and easy, wherein you can just be yourself. While I’ve realized that not all friendships are equal and comparable, sometimes I notice myself resenting the chaos and personal drama that some friends end up dragging me into all too frequently. Similarly, you may often feel unheard and wonder if you’re being used or manipulated when you’re a convenient friend for someone. If you don’t generally feel happy or cared for when you are with that friend, you may need to re-evaluate the relationship.
The most evident way to spot a convenience friend is if they always seem to need something from you, be it financial help, a favour, or your time or support. They may suddenly need you to pick up groceries for them, look after their dog, loan them money for a sudden expense they didn’t foresee, or need you to lean on for emotional support.
“The most evident way to spot a convenience friend is if they always seem to need something from you, be it financial help, a favour, or your time or support in some form.”
Indeed, asking for help and support from friends is warranted and even advisable when we’re faced with adverse situations. Nevertheless, if you feel this is mostly one-sided and you never seem to be able to rely on their support in your time of need, you may be a convenient friend for them.
Close friendships are based on offering steadfast support through tough times. Indeed, friends of utility may demand that you put them first when they need your help. Ironically they almost always seem unavailable when you need help, or it’s just too inconvenient for them to show up in support for you. If a friend lets you down too often, or you frequently hear them stating an excuse like, “I’d do that for you/ be there for you, but...”, you likely are a friend of convenience to them.
Real friends look forward to your presence and seek your company in a consistent manner, through good times and bad. So, if you often find yourself being the first resort for support when a friend is in trouble, yet you’re a forced choice or a runner-up friend when it comes to social events or hangout plans, you are likely a convenient friend for them.
Friend ignores you when together? You may be just for convenience shutterstock/prostock-studio
An easy method to spot if you’re a friend of convenience for someone is to look out for signs of avoidance when it comes to party invitations or group gatherings. If they make you feel left out and unwanted during the good times on a regular basis, yet turn to you for help without fail, this could be one of the signs your friend doesn’t care about you, but just finds you a convenient option when the need arises.
This one hit home, as this is how I identified that I was someone’s friend of convenience. Once I helped a grieving friend through his heartbreak, by being there for him whenever he wanted to vent or needed some company because he was feeling blue. However, it was evident after a while that the friend did not really appreciate my efforts, or even value my inputs on how to move on. Instead, I was just a convenient and available option, or a mere listening post, so to speak.
You could be a convenience friend if someone shares their story with you just because you’re available or tend to listen to them without judgment, but they’re distracted or dismissive when you offer an opinion. Indeed, offering support in tough times and mindful listening are some of the qualities of true friendship. However, it is tough to consider someone a good friend if they do not value your advice – or worse – start questioning your judgment or decision-making abilities.
If you’ve frequently noticed that a friend shares everything that’s bothering them or interests them with you but seems to lose interest or shuts down when you’re sharing something about yourself, this is another indication that you’re merely a convenient friend.
“if you often find yourself being the first resort for support when a friend is in trouble, yet you’re a forced choice or a runner-up friend when it comes to social events or hangout plans, you are likely a convenient friend for them. .”
Real friendships are characterized by how well you know each other and are aware of their interests, whims, goals, as well as new developments and events taking place in each other’s lives. Which is why your friend’s dismissive attitude and lack of interest in what you have to say can come across as a prominent red flag. Their tendency to withhold attention from your problems and feelings – as they shift the focus back onto themselves – can deem it a friendship based on convenience.
Friends of utility expect you to always be available to fulfil their whims and fancies, or to rescue them from a situation. You can also identify if you’re a convenient friend to someone if they repeatedly expect you to be at their beck and call, and if they never seem to understand or respect your priorities.
While they’re never there for you when you may need their assistance or support, they are likely to demand your time and presence as and when they like it. As a result, you may begin to regard such friendships as burdensome and unreasonable.
Although this may sound counterintuitive, having a convenient friend in your life isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. In fact, having a few friendships based on ease and convenience “can actually strengthen a friendship”, according to Irene S. Levine, a friendship expert who manages the website The Friendship Blog. According to Levine, having casual friends who live nearby, have similar schedules as you or meet you frequently over shared interests can be an enriching experience, as it “makes the logistics of friendship easier”.
Often, maintaining superficial or casual friendships can be helpful and even productive, especially at workplaces or when you have similar interests. But it’s important to remember that mutual trust and respect are key to maintaining friendships, however casual they may seem.
Here are some pointers that can help us evaluate if such convenience friends are worth our time and effort.
Friendships based on convenience can be a good thing, especially when they’re mutually beneficial and built on trust for one another. However, friendships that aren’t based on a genuine connection can start to feel one-sided and tend to collapse during hardships.
Knowing the indicators of being a convenient friend can help you evaluate the worth of the friendship accordingly, before you invest your precious time and effort into nurturing the same. •
Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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