equality in friendship

Reader N. S. writes:

I have a good female friend who insists on talking in great detail about her sex life. As a guy, I’m really not interested in hearing about this since if interest in anyone’s sex life could be assigned to me, all I need to know is if it happened. But when I want to talk about my issues, she refuses to listen and tells me it’s boring. She’s not a romantic interest of mine, and I really value the time we spend together when not discussing her sex life, which is 95% of the time. How do I handle this?

Dear N.S.:

talk with your friends!

Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It sounds like you may have fallen into a pattern with your friend where you allow her to talk about something you’re not interested in without insisting she listen to you talk about something she’s not interested in. What you have to do is change the pattern. And you can do this in one of two ways.

The first way, which I don’t really recommend, is insist that she listen to you talk about “your issues”. (I assume you mean your sexual issues, because you talk about other things 95% of the time.) Tell her it hurts your feelings that she insists on talking about something so personal and then refuses to listen when you have something similar to share. She may agree at first, and then cut you off or change the subject when you go to talk about your issues. This is why I don’t recommend this method of changing the pattern.

Instead, I think you should tell her not to talk about her sex life. Your friend has been straightforward enough to tell you she’s not interested in hearing about your issues . You need to extend her the same direct courtesy. Tell her you’re not interested in hearing the details of her sex life. If she wants to tell you she had sex, fine; but no thanks on the rest of it.

Then you have to remind her that this is what you need out of your chatting relationship. She’s already in the habit of disclosing her entire sex life to you, and it’s going to take some work for her to stop doing so. Just be direct. You’re not trying to tell her that her sex life is boring; you’re telling her you’re not interested in hearing about it, which is your right.

Friendship, like other relationships, should be equal. There’s a lot of give and take, and sometimes we don’t realize we’ve fallen into uncomfortable patterns that can actually be changed. If you don’t feel like you’re getting your equal time on a topic, you need to speak up. You may find out that your friend doesn’t like talking about your sex life for a reason other than “it’s boring” — she may be jealous, or worry about your emotional health, or something else that you haven’t considered. It can be a very good way to learn more about her and how she feels, while also helping you feel better in the relationship.

If she’s shutting you down when you’re talking about issues in general and not just the one topic (sex), that may be a bigger problem. However, I still think speaking up for what you feel is missing in the relationship is the best way to end the pattern. It may take a bit of time and readjustment, but it will be worth it.


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