DEAR HARRIETTE: I am having some problems with one of my oldest friends. I have known her since elementary school, and we are very close. However, I am coming to the realization that she puts no effort into our relationship. It seems like I am the one who always makes plans. As with all my friends, I am happy to do her favors and other kindnesses, even if I am inconvenienced, but it seems like she would never do anything for me that does not benefit her in some way.
For example, she recently texted me, asking if I was free for dinner one night. I was surprised and quite happy that she was reaching out to me, but my hopes were deflated after I received another message asking me to bring her some clothing that I previously had said I would give her. It seems she was interested in me only to get some T-shirts out of it. What should I do? -- Suspicious of Motives
DEAR SUSPICIOUS: One way to keep yourself from going crazy is to accept that people are the way they are. If this friend has always been a taker, she isn't suddenly going to become different because you are tired of her behavior. She is the way she is.
You, however, don't have to be as accommodating as you have been, especially if it upsets you. So, for example, you could go to dinner but not bring the clothes. If you start breaking the covenant you two have established -- one in which you are always the giver -- your friend may begin to adjust her behavior.
Should you tell her how you feel? You can if you want, but don't expect her to change her course. She may not be aware enough of her behavior to change even if she wanted to.
DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends just lost a relative to whom he was very close. I want to be able to help him in whatever way I can. The thing is, he has totally shut down. He isn't returning any of my calls. I know he is a private person, but I also know that during a time of great loss, people often rely on their friends. How can I get him to let me help? -- Shut Out, Scarsdale, N.Y.
DEAR SHUT OUT: Unfortunately, you cannot force your friend to accept your help. You can continue to reach out. You can leave voice messages expressing your love and support. You can send emails. But not too many -- you don't want to become a stalker.
I'm sure you have made it clear that you are prepared to help. If he decides to reach out, do whatever he asks without admonishing him. He is grieving, and grief can express itself in so many ways. Just be there for him and don't take his distance personally.