My friend has been experiencing some health issues lately which might be quite serious. However, he doesn't want me to inquire, tells me to forget about it, and my best guess is he doesn't want pity for his situation. At the same time, he sounds so stressed that I find it hard to do nothing. Part of me wants to respect his wishes because he is an adult who is not required to share everything with me, and maybe talking about this will increase his stress. The other part feels that maybe leaving him alone right now is being irresponsible.

We are good friends, who both recently moved, so he lives in a different city to me. We usually communicate via messaging. The move was recent so I at least have not had time to build up a good support network in my new environment.

I have some options:

  1. Give him space, let him know he can reach out to me whenever he is ready
  2. Force contact (if so, how?)
    • Talk to him about other things (via messaging? ask to Skype?)
    • Talk to him about what is happening with him
    • Visit him


(I left the options up there as some answers already refer to them, but am no longer asking for which option to take)

My goal is to keep our relationship going, so that he has someone to talk to should he want to. But how can I communicate that I both respect him and do not pity him, and that I care deeply about his wellbeing? I want to acknowledge the situation, rather than pretend nothing happened and just send trifling messages.

  • Can you edit your question to focus on asking how to reach out to your friend who is resisting emotional support. We expect questions on this to be specific in their scope. Right now you are asking both "What should I do?" and "How do I do it?". Questions asking "What should I do?" are off topic on this site. We can't decide for you what the right course of action is. Since you're already leaning towards option two the easiest way to make this question on topic is to focus on that.
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


I would choose your option #1 with a bit of mix in from #2.

You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped at the moment, if you try too hard you will create more disconnect. But what you can do is be there for him and try to continue on with your life and relationship. Your help might be just that you are around and you keep going - that's what helps your friend.

Once your friend feels he needs to share he will share. By trying to pick and dig through and get the information YOU need you might put more stress and create more emotional gap.

  • I guess I don't see a straightforward way to 'continue on with our life and relationship'. Our usual conversation topics are relatively trifling, and it feels very awkward to continue that conversation without having addressed this heavier topic first somehow.
    – user17027
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 18:33
  • @TheHagen YOU believe you need to address it. But you don't. It's his information and no matter how close you are you have no right to continue on to try to get to it and remind him about it. Your presence and ability to ignore the heavy topic(assuming he doesn't bring it up) is what he needs. He would feel better if you could take his thoughts and feeling away from the problem, not bring them back on. Think how animals do it - dogs. It's very hard, I understand you are worried and want to help, but you have to work towards "being there for him", not being on his back all the time about it.
    – Alexus
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 18:56
  • @TheHagen I run out of character count, so continuing: Instead of calling and saying "Hey bud, how are holding up there? Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" you should do something like "Hey bud, how is life? Can you talk right now? What are you doing on Friday? Want to checkout the [BAND NAME] concert that is happening that day?". And of course, to seal it off before you switch to positive approach, tell him that he should know if he ever needs to talk or help, you are always there for him and you wish to give him space. Then switch to taking his mind away if he doesn't mind.
    – Alexus
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 18:57
  • @TheHagen Your conversations are most likely trifling because you can't let it go yourself and that creates awkwardness. It's a hard work and very hard thing to do, but that's what makes good friends good - they are willing to work to make it better.
    – Alexus
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 19:01
  • So my problem also comes from now living in a different city to him and mainly continuing our friendship via messaging (it's far enough that I would need to find accomodation to visit). Of course our conversations are not all trifling, and I am not trying to pry for information, but "being there for him" can only take the form of messaging him about something.
    – user17027
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 21:13

Friend is having a hard time, but resists emotional support

Guys are hopeless at recognising emotional impacts of situations. They also hate dwelling on things they can do nothing about.

The best support one can give is time and just being with someone despite the things they can do nothing about.

You need to create space, so that issues can come out, not because the space is there because of problems but because sharing makes sense when you know people care.

The worst thing is appearing to want to know something but not being able to change anything.

Depending on the person, some are so unmedical, finding out what is wrong, and then giving some context can be helpful. But this depends on both ones own knowledge and that of the other party. In a close relatives situation, finding out the problem saved their life, because they are fairly hopeless at identifying when things go critical.

But the crucial step is trust, and just showing support in general that earns the right to be trusted. It sounds though you have not yet reached this point in your relationship.

So I would suggest some face to face time, maybe a weekend visit, that gives time for things to relax and not be rushed.


Most men don't like to show weakness. It comes from evolutionary artifacts embedded within human DNA that resonate echoes from primordial existence when the weak and infirm were shunned or killed. It's a form of protection no longer necessary.

I know from experience that I've often hidden pain and suffering for fear of making myself vulnerable.

What I've done in similar situations is simply say, "If there's anything I can do, please let me know." But make sure you're prepared to back it up. I've found that if the diagnosis is recent, a person needs time to come to grips with it. There is an element of grieving associated with serious health problems.

Sometimes I've questioned who I can truly rely on, because even the best of friends many times won't carry through to the end. You could demonstrate your commitment by researching his condition and perhaps giving him more hope.

You might consider recommending that your friend teach others in at-risk groups how to avoid contracting the same condition. I've found this to be very healing, because it imparts worth to our suffering.

The last thing is, I know I never like to let friends down. If he's a true friend, maybe he doesn't want to let you down. In his mind placing emotional distance between the two of you may be the best way to spare your feelings.

I've seen this happen several times. Many times when a spouse (not your position I know) receives a terminal diagnosis, (s)he will seek a divorce to spare the other spouse grief.

That doesn't work, or course, because, as I have found, there are no shortcuts in this life! So, I've found that if you give it some time, make your presence known without expectations, and be as honest as you can be, that produces the best result. Everyone wants to be loved! That will never change!

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