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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Do your friendships leave you feeling emotionally exhausted?

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

I had a quick chat with Metro about the concept of 'radiators' and 'drains'. They asked the following question: Do your friendships leave you feeling emotionally exhausted? Here's what I had to say.


Friendships are all about give and take. This balance can shift all the time, as we lean on friends for support through life’s challenges. This is what is so rewarding about the relationships that we have with other people, and the support networks that we develop.


But Metro asked me to delve a little deeper. They were curious to know how you can spot the signs that a friendship is drifting into emotionally draining territory. Here are some of the signs that your friendship is leaving you emotionally exhausted:

  • Feeling like you are being 'pulled into' your friend's life. That you need to be available 24/7. Maybe you’re worried about what might happen if you are unavailable, or if you say the ‘wrong thing’. You might feel overwhelmed, helpless, anxious, angry, or guilty. This can lead to a sense of being emotionally exhausted.

  • Noticing that the dynamic feels a bit ‘one-way’. Good friendship can mean dropping everything to support a friend in need. But it’s important to keep a watchful eye on what’s going on in the relationship. If you have a sustained sense that you’re supporting someone who doesn’t support you back, then it’s worth reflecting on how that makes you feel.

  • You might notice that you’re neglecting your own self-care or relationships. Perhaps you’re distracted supporting your friend. Or maybe their situation leaves you feeling guilty if you spend time or energy looking after yourself.

So if you're answer is yes - you think that your friendships leave you feeling emotionally exhausted. What can you do about it? Here are some tips:

  • Monitor your personal boundaries. Think about the time and energy that you’ve been offering, and whether you need to step back and put more of a boundary in place. This might help you to feel less emotionally drained. It also sends a signal to your friend and reframes what you want that friendship to look like.

  • Think about your own patterns of behaviour. Do you often get pulled into this type of relationship? Are you a ‘people pleaser’ or a ‘rescuer’? Are you worried that other people will judge you if you don't drop everything to support everybody? Consider what friendship means to you, and the messages that you received about friendship when you were growing up. In counselling we can explore these patterns, where they come from, and how they impact on your self-esteem.

  • Consider what else is going on in your life. Perhaps this friendship or situation is particularly emotionally exhausting. Or perhaps it's a sign that you're feeling exhausted, stressed, or burnt out in other areas of your life too. Maybe a bit of self-care is in order.

  • Know where to signpost your friend. If a friendship is becoming emotionally draining, it’s likely that your friend might benefit from additional support. SHOUT and the Samaritans are staffed 24/7 by trained listening volunteers. Or they can seek counselling with a trained therapist, where they’ll have a space to explore their emotions.


Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take the time to look at your relationship patterns with other people, and what it tells you about yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a free introductory 30-minute chat.


Click here to view the original article in Metro.


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