The foul weather friend

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A foul weather friend:  when a friend enjoys your hardships more than your company.

I imagine most of us have had a run-in with a fair weather friend at some point in our lives.

You know the kind:  the great friend who is always there when life is good but suddenly loses your number the moment things get rough.

It’s a tough situation, to feel as though you are losing the support of a valued friend just when things have taken a turn for the worst.

But, fewer people know that the fair weather friend has a twin.  A foul weather friend is always there for you in times of hardship.  They offer support, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on.  They commiserate and validate your feelings.

Yet, when your luck improves, they’re nowhere to be seen.

The types of foul weather friends

On the outside, foul weather friends may appear the same:  they show up in times of hardship, but they steer clear when life is grand.

But, there’s more to it than that.

In my experience, not all foul weather friends are alike.  Understanding a friend’s motivation will help you determine whether or not you want to try and salvage the friendship.

The insecure

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

This type of foul weather friend is very insecure.  Secretly, they delight in your troubles, not because they don’t like you, but because it makes them feel better about themselves.

This type of friend is prone to intense jealousy.  So, when things go well for you, they can’t tolerate your success and disappear.

This friend may encourage lots of one-sided disclosures about your troubles and offer a lot of commentary and judgment about your situation.  They aren’t too comfortable with sharing much about their own experiences, though—that puts them too close to their insecurity.   This friend typically lacks awareness about their jealousy and insecurity.  They just know that they feel better when they are around folks who are suffering.

The downtrodden

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

You know the saying misery loves company?  This type of friend is miserable and badly wants your company.  Their unhappiness is at the center of their world, but they’re glad to make room for yours, too.

It can be very gratifying in the short-term to find a friend who can tolerate your low moods.  But when things start to improve, you may feel a bit like this friend is weighing you down like an anchor.

You may even feel like you’re betraying this friend once things begin to bounce back.  With this type of foul weather friend, exchanges are mutual—they’re glad to tell you just how bad things are in their lives, and also to hear about all your misery, too.  In fact, this friend may try to one-up you and your troubles, which brings its own sorts of complications and problems.

The rescuer

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

This type of friend just wants to help.  Being helpful and kind gives them a sense of purpose, control and wellbeing.  Many people enjoy offering kindness to those they love, but for a rescuer it is less of a discerning choice and more of a compulsion.

By being helpful, the rescuer feels powerful, loved and validated.  This person is most likely a people-pleaser.

You may become quite close with a rescuer in order to receive help and support, only to find when things are going well that you don’t actually have much in common with this friend.  Or, you may find that it is more important to that friend to be needed and helpful than to enjoy your company.

If another friend lands in a crisis worse than yours, you may find yourself quickly dropped as the rescuer chases the high of performing another rescue.  This person doesn’t resent your success or happiness, but without the comfort of a caregiving role, she is likely to fade into the woodwork.

The foul weather friend isn’t a bad person

As you can see, there are vastly different motivations for foul weather friends.  But, there are some common elements, too.

For example, in each case your hardship is being used to gratify your friend’s ego.  Your insecure friend feels better about her situation.  Your downtrodden friend feels validated in their view of the world.  And your rescuer feels purposeful, valued, loved, and powerful by offering care and solutions.

Know that foul weather friends aren’t bad people.  Like all of us, their own pain and needs drive their behavior, and sometimes they aren’t aware of what they’re doing.  Sometimes a little compassion and understanding can go a long way.

But, if you find that a friendship is hurting more than helping, it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship.  If you are debating whether or not to keep a relationship, you might want to explore this post on the art of weighing a relationship.

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Knowing which changes to make isn’t the hardest part of change.  It’s actually doing it, and sustaining those changes over time, in spite of the resistance and backlash that may come.

Helping people pleasers is what I do!  I offer counseling in Austin, Texas for people-pleasers, codependency and anxious attachment, and new moms.  I offer free, half hour consultations in person at my practice, and I’d be glad to set one up for you.

 

9 Comments

  1. Interesting. A friend called me her foul-weather friend recently and it made me realize that many of my friends come to me when they’re struggling and then disappear when things are going well. I would argue that this isn’t by my choice and while I certainly struggle with my own issues it’s more of a pattern. When you’re good at listening and have a job that allows for it, folks think of you when they’re crying and not when they’re smiling. It’s not one-sided. I think your article oversimplifies I bet and remove some of the responsibilities from the person seeking support.

    • Hi, Lulu. That’s good food for thought. I think I’m trying to describe relationships where people actively seek out this dynamic, to the point where they have trouble tolerating peaceful times with their friends or find it boring. Certainly, there are loads of folks out there who are good listeners and good friends and find themselves frequently called on in hard times. If those selfsame folks also take pleasure in celebrating the successes of their friends and find there’s plenty to enjoy and talk about when things are going well, I wouldn’t consider them foul weather friends. Thanks for your feedback!

    • I agree with you. I tried discussing with my friend that she seemed to only need me when she needs me and that she is having all of her fun with other people. She said I was the person who grounded her and that I’m not understanding how special and important my role in her life is. But I want the fun stuff too. I would do anything for her (and others), but I was specifically looking for information about being on the ‘forced’ end of being a foul weather friend. She has been there for me too when things have not been good so I don’t want to drop the friendship, but certainly it isn’t the relationship I thought we had nor is it the one I want.

  2. Hi Lulu. I found this site because I was searching for clarity about myself. I am an introvert and find it REALLY hard to be out there and social most of the time & avoid it whenever I can, but, I am also very responsive & present if a friend has a need. And I am genuinely happy when things go well for the people I care about. I do go out and play, but I’m not the once a week meetup. Is there room in your insightful descriptions about stormy weather friends to include the introvert like me?

    • Hi, Shae! As a fellow introvert, I understand all too well the dynamic of being careful with how I spend my social energy. Introverts can be really great confidantes and friends, in fact, and we must find a balance in how we spend our energies with others so that we’re not too often in the ‘helper’ role. It sounds like you are responsive to friends seeking support, and also genuinely happy for others when things are going well– it sounds like a nice mix!

  3. Hi Lulu, I’m grateful that you wrote about this. It provides a lot of clarity behind the actions of some individuals in my life.
    A question I’d have though is what if almost everyone in your social circle is this type of friend? Recently, I’ve received substantial success in a field that all my friends thought I’d fail in. I can understand where they’re coming from (even if they don’t mean it), but how do you deal with reevaluating all of those relationships at once when its hard to find and foster new connections in the adult world? Thank you so much.

    • Hi, Marie! It can be difficult to be in this position; I think something to consider is whether the envy or negativity you might be experiencing from your friends is something lasting dynamic or something more temporary… and that’s something to consider on a case-by-case basis. It’s natural to have mixed feelings when someone you care about is doing really well, especially if you had some doubts or worry that they might not succeed– joy, envy, curiosity, can all go together. So, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to let all of those friendships go. While it’s possible that every single person in your friend group is a foul weather friend, the more likely possibility is that it’s more complex and perhaps some friends are struggling with some fleeting feelings of envy and others may, in fact, have more of an enduring ‘frenemy’ kind of vibe that you may feel ready to let go of in your social circle. Hope that helps & congratulations on your success!

  4. Hi there,
    I’m a bit of a foul-weather friend, not because I seek it out, but because I have friends that never reach out for contact first so neither do I because I feel like I’m bugging them by trying to start conversations. But when I hear they’re going through something tough, I hate the idea of no one reaching out to them, so I do try to be there for them.
    Is this a bad idea? Should I stop subjecting myself to their problems and let the friendship go, or should I be putting more effort in during fair weather times?

  5. Thanks for this explanation. I have now known what fair weather friend and foul weather friend is respectively.

    What is called a friend who come to you when he is in need, trouble but disappears once he gets solution?

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