It’s a weird, hollow feeling. If it wasn’t so upsetting you could laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

Being a backup friend is extremely lonely

I’m talking about being the backup friend.

Have you been consigned to the role of mere backup friend?

You know…

  • a friend to someone that only gives you the time of day when all of their contacts are unavailable.
  • a friend to someone who only speaks to you or arranges to meet you when they are incredibly bored.
  • a friend to someone who only talks to you to vent their frustrations and problems and use you like an agony aunt.
  • a friend that uses you like a tool – indeed, they only want you for something. To help with homework? To drive them somewhere perhaps?

At some point in our lives we might well have been backup friends as well as those relegating others to a backup position.

But it is not nice.

It can be devastating.

And incredibly lonely.

A soul-crushing, gut-wrenching, tear-blinding loneliness.

Believe me, I languished in this predicament for many years. And not just with fake friends.

It was family too.

One person whom I hadn’t heard from in a long while (it was mostly me who initiated contact) phoned me to tell me he was ‘bored and had nothing better to do’, hence the reason for our conversation. He made it quite apparent on multiple occasions that I was a mere afterthought.

A second person would constantly prattle and bleat on about her problems in their seemingly one-person show (I swear she thought (and still does!) that all of the planets revolve around her!); yet her intonation, one word replies and grunts when attempting to reciprocate listening to my issues, would make it plain that she didn’t care. She would hastily revert the conversation back to herself, or sometimes she would even ask me a particular question about myself, as a springboard to turn the question towards her.

A third person would drop me like a hot potato the first opportunity she could get – as long as they had someone else more desirable to replace me. It would seem like we would get on well for months (I realise now it was because they had no one at the time) and as soon as someone else came on the scene, it was like a storm had swept in and uprooted and destroyed my life. This hurt the most, like hot knives lancing through me.

I was not there. I was invisible, irrelevant.

An irritation.

Not worth her time.

She would come skulking back to complain about what the new person in their life had done and then when things were going well with them, ditch me again and again and again. I would get extremely upset that she would not want to go out with me – she would make constant excuses to justify her refusal – yet would go out last minute with others. If she eventually did relent, her behaviour and mannerisms made it abundantly clear they would rather be anywhere than with me and would spend half of our time together on the phone talking to her new interests. I would pour my heart out, crying and letting her know how her actions hurt me so – to no avail. It would happen over and over and over. It was surprising how her behaviour could change in a matter of minutes – well change, or reveal her true self.

Now some people think that it is better to have this backup role than have no friends at all. I disagree. While you might be offered some relief from isolation, this is only temporary and is far from genuine. And after all, can you really call them friends if they treat you so badly? Are you so much less of a person that you should settle for scraps of attention and fakery? Do you deserve second-rate relationships? Should you beg someone for a portion of their time?


You deserve a lot better and you deserve to be happy. You deserve to have someone that you can go out with, confide in without fear of reprisals and be in their presence without irritation radiating off of the other person, like a fly they are itching to swat. You are not a doormat so don’t allow others to treat you like it.

At the end of the day, it is their loss. They have lost the opportunity to get to know a truly amazing person. Go forth and find other truly amazing people to spend time with.

Take up hobbies and go to classes. Find people who share your interests and passions. It is much easier to cultivate genuine friendships this way.

But the ultimate advice I can give, from someone who has been a backup friend? Be comfortable being alone first. Don’t be scared of the emptiness. Embrace it. Discover who you are and discover what you will and will not tolerate from others. This time for myself was an absolute gift for me and it made me stronger, wiser, and more confident in myself. I must admit, I have deleted a lot of toxic ‘friends’ from my phonebook.

You’ve already had a rotten time – so don’t waste any more time. Take yourself out, do things by yourself – it gets easier the more you do it. It is extremely liberating! Once you are happy and comfortable with your own company, you will be comfortable in establishing contact and cultivating genuine friendships with others.

There are too many nice and great people in the world to wretchedly tolerate other people’s insensitivity towards you and blatant disregard for you.

Recognise your worth.

Launch yourself from backup to bold and brave.

Seek the nice people out.


Credits: Original Picture by GraphicStock


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