Recently I spent one on one time with three friends over the course of a long weekend. While I can’t share the details of the conversations I had with each of them, I can tell you the follow up texts I received were very similar: “Sorry to burden you with this!”, “Sorry I’m downloading all of this on you!”, and “My apologies for the diatribe”. My reaction? I had enjoyed the conversations with them.

More and more people are expressing their unwillingness to share their burdens with friends, yet very often these people are more than willing to be the listener. When it comes to sharing, they clam up. I often ask, “Are you burdened when your friends share with you?”

“No, never”.

“Then why are you convinced the opposite is true – that if you share with them, they will be burdened?

“I just don’t want to bother them. They have enough on their plates”.

Isn’t the give and take of sharing life’s experiences part of what being a friend means? When we signed up for close friendships, where did it say in the rule book that only positive, cheerful, pleasant and upbeat information is to be exchanged?

When we fail to share our woes with our friends, we take away the opportunity for them to give back to us, to care for us and to be there for us. In other words, in trying to protect them, we fail them. We fail to give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves as a friend to us.

While it is unusual for three of my friends to be going through such difficult times simultaneously, I had felt neither burdened nor downloaded upon. I was happy to be a listening ear and a voice of perspective. I care deeply for them, but their troubles are not my troubles and do not hold the same weight in my heart or head as in theirs.
There was another added benefit as well. While I truly felt for my friends in their difficult situations, I walked away feeling grateful for what was happening in my life – a feeling that only became as pronounced as it was, because of their willingness to share what was going on in their lives.

Another idea is to consider that the “burden” you think you are, is really “noise”. Perhaps you use this excuse to keep distance from people you could be close to. Perhaps it is a way to protect yourself from feeling vulnerable. Yet the truth is, the more alone you feel, the more vulnerable you truly are.

Rather then worrying about burdening the other, some people feel burdened if they share with a friend because, “Ugh, if I lean on them, then I’ll have to do even more for them in return and I don’t have the energy for that”.

“They” will be burdened, “They” have enough on their plate, “They” won’t like me in the long run, “They” will expect even more from me in return. That’s quite a bit of assumption going on, as well as twisting and complicating a situation beyond recognition. The alternative is to practice healthy friendship boundaries. Be responsible for your feelings and trust your friends to be responsible for theirs. There are enough potential areas of conflict in relationships without fabricating new ones. Minimize the work you are doing. Be a good friend by also allowing your friends to be there for you.

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