I was recently rewatching the hit TV show “Girlfriends.” There’s something about living in Los Angeles in your 30s and rewatching a series about a Black friend group in their 30s who also live in LA. You finally understand the jokes, relationships, and, at times, the trauma. One friend that I am sure many of us could personally relate to was Joan Clayton – the reliable friend. Everyone depended on her and it may have led to many of Joan’s downfalls.

Friend groups, with their unique blend of personalities, backgrounds, and experiences, offer a fascinating mosaic of interpersonal dynamics. At the core of these dynamics is a balance between individuality and collective identity. Each member brings their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and passions, contributing to the group’s shared narrative. Shared experiences, trust, communication, and mutual respect shape the dynamics.

While this synergy can lead to joyous moments, unmatched support, and collective growth, it can also introduce challenges as differences and conflicts arise. Nonetheless, navigating these ups and downs deepens the bond, creating memories and forging enduring relationships.

Don’t Be a Joan Clayton

Joan often played the role of the caregiver, dishing out advice, mediating disputes, and always being there for her friends. Yet, beneath her composed exterior, Joan grappled with her own set of insecurities, disappointments, and expectations. She sacrificed her own needs and desires for the sake of her friends, which occasionally led to feelings of resentment and being taken for granted.

Joan’s dependability inadvertently fostered a co-dependent dynamic. She was consistently everyone’s cheerleader and counselor, which eventually led to an imbalance in her relationships. The group, especially her childhood friend, Toni Childs, relied excessively on Joan; it diminished her sense of responsibility and self-reliance.

However, everyone wasn’t solely at fault for their co-dependency dynamic. Joan found validation and self-worth in this caregiving role, continuously leading her friends to shoulder responsibilities. Over time, all parties became dependent: one always seeking help and the other perpetually offering it, preventing both from experiencing balanced, reciprocal relationships.

Joan’s life on screen illuminates a relatable reality that many reliable friends face – the expectation to prioritize others over oneself consistently.

The Cons of Being the Reliable Friend

While wearing the hat of planner, peacemaker, cheerleader, and counselor has its perks, it is exhausting. On the surface, it might seem like an enviable position. After all, being the bedrock of your friend circle must come with many perks, right? But delve a little deeper and you’ll discover the downsides of consistently being the ‘go-to’ person among your peers.

One of the primary downsides of being the reliable friend is the burden of expectations. When you’ve established yourself as a dependable figure, friends may inadvertently overlook your own emotional and psychological needs. They expect you to be the pillar of strength, even when you’re going through your storms, which can lead to overwhelming pressure to constantly present a strong front, even if you’re crumbling inside.

Furthermore, reliable friends can often feel taken for granted. Just like Joan, who sometimes felt her efforts and sacrifices weren’t truly appreciated, being the steadfast anchor might mean that your contributions are assumed rather than acknowledged. Friends might forget to check in on you, thinking you’re always ‘fine,’ or may not consider the effort you put in to keep the group dynamics smooth.

Also, there’s the inevitable self-neglect. Consistently prioritizing others can mean sidelining your own needs, dreams, and aspirations. Over time, this neglect can brew resentment, especially when the reciprocity is minimal.

While being the reliable friend comes with its fair share of respect and admiration, it’s vital to recognize and address the inherent challenges. Every Joan Clayton out there needs to ensure they carve out space for self-care, set boundaries, and communicate their needs to their circle. After all, every reliable friend deserves a reliable friend too.