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I’m Unable to Maintain Friendships

13 January, 2022
Q Dear Sister, All my life I have never been able to maintain friendships. This scares me as it means I will never be able to maintain a marriage.

I'm scared my husband will get bored and leave me as this has happened in the past. I do have commitment issues, I was bullied and this largely contributed to my trust issues. As my friends at the time didn't have my back and instead chose to believe lies about me.

When I was in college, I had a group of friends and the same thing happened. I had a falling out with a member of the group and I was disowned by my friends.

This pattern keeps repeating itself. Even in my family circle. I will find myself really close with someone and either we will fall out and then everyone will turn against me or the person will find someone else and replace me.

My friendships have always been superficial and circumstantial. I'm so scared to complete half my deen and get married. I am scared to have children too as I don't want to give my children a dysfunctional family life. What can I do?

My loneliness has left me desperate and depressed. I've tried to put myself out there even in the mosque but again these friendships are very circumstantial. I don't know if I should just give up on the idea of having friends and getting married.

I've asked Allah multiple times about this, but unfortunately, I end up with toxic friends or short-term friends. I understand Allah removes people to get you closer to him, but the Prophets had companions. We are social creatures. So I don't understand why he keeps people away from me.

How can I reduce my expectations of friendships and relationships? How can I stop getting used to and being such an over-giver? I've received therapy in this area but nothing has helped me.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

In the search criteria for a friend, you may want to seek out people who actually have time for friendships.

However, don’t try to buy friends. That never works.

Make a list of traits you seek in friends, things you will not tolerate – and follow it!

Perhaps the lesson in this is to choose those who truly value friendship and especially those who truly value and love Allah.

Not every counselor is a good fit. I kindly ask that you give ongoing counseling another try.


As salamu alaykum dear sister,

Sister, it must be difficult to deal with what you’re going through, but I can’t tell you how many times I have had other sisters write in with the same issue. Making friends is sometimes easy, but making friendships that are real, deep, and lasting is often difficult.

I remember my father telling me when I was a teenager that in my lifetime if I could count five good friends on my hand that I was blessed. As I grew older, I could see that that was true.

We all Need Friends

Everyone definitely needs friendships. However as indicated above, people need true lasting friendships. One of the problems in today’s world is that people can be very transit.

It’s not that they don’t want to have good friends. However, oftentimes people are so busy and in a whirlwind of activity that having lasting friendships is put on the back burner.

People may be friends for a while, then move on and make new friends. Sometimes you will see groups of friends who seem very close but they are actually experiencing the same thing that you are, temporary superficial friends and fun.

True Friendship Does Exist

True friendship does exist. Friendship is like a marriage. It is something that is an investment and grows over time. So, in the search criteria for a friend, you may want to seek out people who actually have time for friendships. Additionally, as we get older making friends is a tad bit more difficult because as stated, people get busy with careers, family, etc.

Commonalities

A possible solution to short-term friendships is maybe seeking out friends with who you have things in common. For instance, if you enjoy painting or art you may want to join an art club and meet friends there.

If you enjoy learning a new language that is another way to meet new friends that have the same interests and goals in mind concerning languages. The point is when we seek out friends with who we have things in common, the friendships tend to be less superficial and are based on more concrete commonalities. This can form deeper ties and alliances.

Juvenile Style Friendships

Sister, you stated that when you were in college, you would have a falling out with your friends and everyone would turn against you and find someone else to replace you. As you probably already know that is just very juvenile behavior from very immature girls.

As you are older now and a little bit wiser, I am sure when you seek out friendships they are of a higher quality.

Make a list of traits you seek in friends, things you will not tolerate – and follow it! Problems usually arise in this life when we compromise our values-insha’Allah be clear within yourself your criteria for friendships and stick to it!

Friendship-An Organic Process

Sister, friendships usually happen naturally. True, we have to put ourselves in the position to meet new people, but the affection between friends grows through time and experiences. Friendship is not something that can be forced or hurried. It naturally builds over time.

Giving too Much

Another thing you were wondering about is how you can stop being an over-giver and get used. Being super-giving and generous is a nice trait sister, however, it can be a red flag for those who are seeking to use someone or take advantage of them.

In sha Allah, you will learn how to filter out these types of people because they do not mean you well. When seeking to build friendship sister, be kind and loving. However, don’t try to buy friends. That never works.

I am sure you are giving and loving out of the goodness of your heart, but on the other hand you also desperately would love to have a few good friends and maybe prone to overdo it with gifts and a helping hand.

If you find a happy medium with your kindness and your generosity; and you are able to draw boundaries, you may experience better results. Try to look at it like this, whomever you are starting a friendship with, they are very blessed to have you as a friend!

Fear of Marriage

As far as being afraid to get married and having children that are understandable. Not just because of your experiences with friendships, but you feel as if you are dysfunctional.

Perhaps you are not the one who is dysfunctional, but it was the people you were interacting with.

Perhaps the lesson in this is to choose those who truly value friendship and especially those who truly value and love Allah.

When one loves Allah, they will not treat you poorly nor take advantage of you. The same thing goes for a potential husband. When seeking a husband seek one who not only loves Allah, but treats others kindly, fairly, and with compassion. It may be a good indication of how he would treat you as a wife.

Retrying Counseling

Sister, I know you said you tried counseling before and it didn’t work. Perhaps it was the wrong counselor for you? Not every counselor is a good fit.

I kindly ask that you give ongoing counseling another try. Like seeking a friendship, seek out a counselor whom you feel comfortable with, who has a good rating, as well as has experience in your area of concern.

Perhaps the issue of trying to resolve to be too giving and getting used was not the stem problem. Perhaps the origin of some of your fears and insecurities lies in your being bullied as a child.

Bullying can be traumatizing and may have lasting effects throughout life (such as trust issues) if not addressed. Insha’Allah sis, please try counseling again.

Conclusion

My dear sister, I am confident that you will find good friends as well as marry and have children insha’Allah. Try refining your expectations, criteria, as well as examining your feelings about yourself to ensure your self-esteem levels are healthy and shining through.

Look for commonalities when choosing friends, and especially seek those who love Allah with all their hearts, they will make the truest friends! 

Also, insha’Allah, try counseling again to help heal any issues you may have from past bullying experiences. You may be surprised at how good you feel when taking the healing steps necessary to improve your life and well-being—and given life’s challenges, that is a constant task we all must do!

We wish you the best.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general. They are purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.