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Friends of Convenience: What Is It, How It Works & Signs to See It

You’ve no doubt heard about friends of convenience, but what does it mean? And how can you tell if you’re one too? It might not be as bad as you think. 

Friends of Convenience

Friendships are complex things. And friends of convenience? Are these things we need?

We shift and change as we go through life and it could be that the friends you started out with, simply aren’t there anymore. When you look at your friendship circle these days, it’s probably become a lot smaller over the years.

Maybe you had many friends, but as time ticked on, some got married, some had children, some moved away, and some simply disappeared from your life for no particular reason. It’s not abnormal to be able to count your true friends on one hand.

Should you be concerned? Hell, no! It’s about quality, not quantity.

You will have many different types of friends as you go through this thing they call life, but there is one type of friend that may confuse you a little. We’re talking about friends of convenience. [Read: Relationships of convenience and why people get into these]

What are friends of convenience?

There are two reasons why you would be friends with someone out of convenience or vice versa. One reason is a regular reason that you can easily accept. The other is something you need to think about carefully.

The first example is that you’re friends of convenience because you simply run in the same circles and go to the same place.

For example, you might be friends with someone because they go to the same gym as you, and you bump into each other a lot. You might be friends with someone because they’re close to your partner. Or, you might be friends with someone because they work in the same office as you.

In this case, you’re friends of convenience because it’s easy and because you bump into each other a lot without really having to put the effort in. [Read: How to make new friends as an adult no matter where you are]

That’s a quite positive example.

The second example is a little more negative.

You could be friends of convenience because you or the other person has something the other one wants. In this case, one of you is being used and one of you has an ulterior motive. [Read: How to handle friends that use you and learn to break the cycle]

Friends of convenience revolve around being useful

The motive could be anything; it could be that you’re “friends” with someone because they’re close to a person you have a crush on and you’re trying to get closer to them as a result.

You could be “friends” with someone because they’re influential in a career you’re trying to get into. In that case, you’re using your association to get a little extra progress and help.

It could be anything and the focus could be on either one of you. It could be you with the ulterior motive, therefore using your “friend,” or it could be the other way around and you’re the one who is being used.

As you can see, one example is acceptable and quite normal, the other is altogether a little more selfish and could result in someone being emotionally hurt. [Read: How to stop being selfish, and hurting and using others]

Is this friendship real?

Can friends of convenience ever be true friends?

It depends. Would you make an effort to see this person if you weren’t forced to see each other via circumstance? Do you have a lot in common? Do you genuinely like spending time with them?

If you’re nodding your head in a “yes,” then perhaps you met by circumstance and convenience but you’ve developed a closer friendship as a result.

In many cases, that’s how most friendships begin. You don’t just bump into someone in the street normally and then boom! You’re chatting on social media and meeting up for coffee catch-ups. You normally meet someone via work, your social life, via mutual connections. In many ways, being friends of convenience is how most friendships start out. [Read: 75 fun questions to ask a new friend and feel like BFFs in no time]

However, if we’re looking at the second example where you become a friend with ulterior motives, then no, that’s not real friendship at all.

In this case, you’re using someone to get what you want, or you’re being used for someone else’s gains. You wouldn’t choose to spend time with this person, or they wouldn’t choose to spend time with you. And as soon as you get what you want, or they do, you’ll probably disappear from each other’s lives.

Pretty grim, right? [Read: Bad friends – 25 types of friends you must unfriend from your life]

We all make mistakes

The thing is, we’re all human and that means that on occasion we don’t tend to think things through. You might innocently find yourself talking to someone who you know could help you get to a place you want to be.

Without meaning to, you strike up a conversation that engages the other person to the point where they want to spend time with you on a friendship level.

In that case, you can understand how friends of convenience situations may develop. However, once you start to think about your motivation, you have to take a step back.

Using people for personal gain isn’t okay, and it’s not okay if someone is doing it to you. [Read: How to spot selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

The thing is, how can you tell?

We’re not suggesting you go all paranoid and try and work out whether the friendships in your life fall into this category. We’re sure they don’t.

However, if you do have someone in your life who you suspect isn’t really as true as they suggest, or you are acting in this way towards someone else, it’s time to sit down and really think carefully about what is going on. [Read: 15 types of toxic friends who make you miserable and bring you down]

Friends of convenience or not, it’s not worth wasting your time on fake friendships. Not when you could be out there developing real ones with someone who you truly do connect with on a genuine level.

Friendships are special. It’s not about the number of people in your circle, it’s about the quality of those people and how much you love them on a friendship level.

Friends really are the family we choose for ourselves, but you have to choose wisely and make sure that those around you are steering your ship in the same direction as you and not frantically drilling holes behind your back.

You also have to be sure that you’re helping your friends steer themselves to where they want to go and that you’re not acting out of selfish motivation. [Read: Real friends vs. fake friends and how to tell them apart]

Look at your friendship circle

Friendships that don’t fall in the convenience bracket will always be around. As long as the friendships in your life fall into the first category, e.g. you’re friends because you’re around each other a lot, that’s fine.

However, if you have friendships that fall into the second, altogether more negative category, perhaps it’s time to start weeding out your friendship circle. Focus your mind on quality instead. [Read: 15 qualities of a good friend that sets them apart from the bad ones]

It’s far better to have three or four true friends than ten who aren’t really all that bothered about your needs. Of course, this also means you need to assess whether you’re being the best friend you can possibly be to those in your life – friendship is a two-way street, after all!

Friends of convenience are either thrown together out of circumstance or they’re developed out of a selfish need. Examining the friendships in your life will allow you to identify any connections which aren’t completely genuine.

By doing this, you can focus your time and attention on cultivating the friendships which are real, and those which enrich your life, rather than those which are there for selfish gains. [Read: How to make more friends when you’re feeling lonelier than ever]

The signs of a friendship of convenience

If you’re concerned that maybe you have a friend who’s just around for convenience, check out these signs and see if they match your situation. Also, check whether you’re acting in these ways toward a friend in your life.

1. They’re always asking for advice or seeking help 

A friend of convenience needs you for something and it’s likely that they’re regularly going to ask for advice or help. The help could be anything from putting in a good word for them to someone in authority or borrowing money.

If they’re only around when they want something, that’s a pretty big sign that they’re a friend of convenience. [Read: Codependent friendship – The bad signs and why it’s unhealthy for you]

2. They’re rarely around when you need a shoulder 

Friendships should be two-way things. If you need your friend because you’ve had a bad day or you have a problem of some kind, they should be there for you.

For sure, they don’t have to drop everything immediately, but they should do their best to offer you the support you need. Just as you would do for them. But, if they never do this and they’re never around when you need something *only when they do*, that’s not a positive sign. 

3. You only hear from them when they want something 

You don’t hear from them for a while and then suddenly they’re blowing up your phone. Why? Because they need something, by any chance?

They’re likely to only enter your life when you’re useful to them and when they don’t need you for a moment, they’ll disappear. [Read: 13 signs your friends are ruining your relationship]

4. They don’t really care about what’s going on with you

If you talk about your life, there’s a strong chance that they’ll zone out and start checking their phone while uttering noises that make you think they’re listening.

That’s a clear sign of a friend of convenience. Friends care about what’s going on in each other’s life. If it’s one-sided, you have to question why. 

5. You’re always dragging them out of some kind of trouble

Alongside always asking you for advice, a friend of convenience is likely to require you to drag them out of whatever problem they’ve found themselves in. They will rely upon you heavily for emotional support and that could be quite exhausting for you. [Read: Drama queen alert! 12 steps to calmly deal with the diva]

6. They never just want to hang out “just because”

Friends want to spend time together for the sake of it. There doesn’t have to be a reason. If they never call for a fun night out or in, it’s likely that they have other friends for that. In your case, you’re just there when a need arises. 

How to stop being friends of convenience

If you’re concerned that you’re a friend of convenience, it’s time to understand why. Do you fall into the first, not-so-terrible category, or the second more negative one?

If it’s the latter, it’s time to cut ties. You do not deserve to be used or kept around just because you’re useful to someone. [Read: How to break up with a friend – The respectful steps you must follow]

It’s not necessary to have a huge circle of friends to be happy. You simply need people around you who are true. If you must, speak to this person and find out what’s really going on. But, a word of warning – they’re highly unlikely to admit the truth. The signs are really all you need, along with your gut feeling. 

Distance yourself from this person and stop giving them what they want. You’ll probably notice that they drift out of your life naturally. That’s confirmation that they really were nothing more than a friend of convenience after all. 

[Read: How to be a friend – The real art of true and meaningful friendships]

Fake friendships will always crop up from time to time, but learning to see the difference between friends of convenience and the genuine ones who come into your life will help you focus your attention where it really needs to be.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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