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Don’t Be a First Responder

September 1, 2015

Once you’ve identified something that needs to change start thinking about how you will go about changing it. Come up with a plan that seems reasonable and fair (remember you helped create this pattern). For instance if the problem is that your friend calls too much or needs too much attention then your plan might be to relinquish your role as a first responder.

Don’t respond to every text or call immediately. Wait an hour at least then start waiting several hours. Eventually they will discover that you are not immediately available to quench their anxiety and they will find someone or something else that can help them manage when you are not available. This is good for you and for them.

The fact that you are not responding as quickly might anger your friend and you may encounter a confrontation or the silent treatment. Be prepared with a response. Whatever you say make certain that it’s honest even if you are not ready to reveal everything. You might say something like, “I’m trying to manage my stress level by not being as tied to my phone, “ or “I’m trying to slow things down a bit by not treating everything like an emergency.” If they want more then you might have to explain that you are impacted by their daily needs and you need time to regroup and connect to what’s going on in your life because you are working on being a better parent, partner, worker, or whatever you want to be. If they cannot accept this then . . . I’ll get to that in another post.

My suggestion for handling the silent treatment is to go about things as you normally would. Don’t act any differently (call when you might normally, text etc.) eventually they will come around and if they don’t that’s okay too.

It might cause you intense anxiety to not respond to your friend’s needs. That is normal but do your best to not feed into the anxiety cycle by caving in and going back to the old pattern. The anxiety will pass. Plan distracting events such as exercise or make plans with friends you haven’t seen for a long time. If the anxiety is so intense that you can’t focus or go about your activities in a normal manner I would suggest you see a therapist while you are trying to make these changes in your relationship. Stay strong. You can do this.

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