The emotional burden of being the planner friend

Anya Grondalski, Podcast Producer

I often tell my mom, “I wish I had my own Anya.”

It seems like I’ve always been the initiator in my relationships, and it never bothered me until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I was invited to parties and sleepovers in high school. I went out for random fast food and late-night ice cream runs with friends. But as I’ve aged, the responsibility of making plans has frequently fallen on me, saturating all of my relationships.

I remember my first year at Quinnipiac University, leading the charge with the rest of my roommates to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. Everyone wanted to meet people on our floor, but once we got to each suite, I was the only one knocking on the door and saying hello. The friend group that we quickly established only hung out when I got us all together.

Back home, my house is the place everyone comes together. Other people host on occasion, but mine is the spot where a two-hour dinner turns into a two-day sleepover. When taking a girls trip to Cape Cod a few summers ago, everyone was gung-ho only once I fronted the cost of the Airbnb, made the itinerary and grocery list and had assigned everyone their jobs to help pull everything together.

The burden is placed so heavily on me that I’ve come to be silently expected to host social gatherings outside my own home. I’ve organized friendsgivings at other people’s houses where I was the one mopping the kitchen, preheating the oven and assigning everyone a dish to bring.

It’s exhausting.

The time, energy, and money that gets funneled into being the planner friend is immense. Putting in so much effort just to be met with little thanks or none at all is heartbreaking and infuriating. I’ve often felt like I wasn’t being taken care of by the people I loved, and all of that can lead to anxious thinking. Why am I not worth it to them?

Sometimes, it would be nice to have someone else plan a surprise party for me, cook me dinner and wash my dishes or mop my floor after a party. I wish I had an Anya myself.

But if I’m being introspective, I can’t honestly say that I’m not a part of the problem. I get so excited about party planning that I seem to just take over, and people let me. Add that to the fact that I’m a passionate control freak, and it doesn’t allow for much boundary setting or self-preservation.

Lifestyle magazine Girls Life recommends that when you’re always the one making plans, to make sure your friends appreciate you try not texting them for a while.

This is ridiculous.

If it’s not playing stupid social games, the internet recommends just accepting the fact that you’ve assumed the planner role in your relationships.

Communicating how you feel with your loved ones is the only way to reach a level of understanding and to protect your social battery. Sometimes you’ll be met with defensiveness, and other times empty apologies, but just putting it out there can be a relief.

You can mitigate expectations by checking in with yourself. Is this friendship one-sided? What has this individual done for me without being asked? Do I feel supported and taken care of? Why am I giving 80% if I’m only receiving 20%?

A Survey Center on American Life study found that the role of friends in American social life is experiencing a pronounced decline. People are reporting fewer close friendships, having limited communication with friends and relying less on them for support. So it’s more important now than ever to be maintaining friendships and showing that you care.

If you don’t find yourself relating to this article, then you’re not the planner friend, and that’s okay. But it probably means you have one of your own.

If you want to make sure you’re not exhausting these people, consider stepping into an unfamiliar role. Make an effort to surprise this person. It can be as small as buying their favorite candy on a random weekday or as big as planning their birthday party. Day to day, be sure to check in with your friends. Ask them how they are and if there’s anything you could be doing to make their life easier, and don’t expect anything in return. If you notice they seem stressed or sad, validate them. It’s all about initiating.

It can be hard to take a close look at your friendships, especially when you really enjoy someone’s company, but being your own number one best friend is the most important thing.