THE BLOG
07/12/2010 08:45 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Friend Poaching: It's Complicated

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm 45 years old and feel like a 7th grader due to a mutual friend situation. I have been good friends with two neighbors for over 10 years. I introduced them last year and they hit it off great. I was so happy for them because they both have a lot of time on their hands and now they have each other. It kind of took the pressure off of me because I don't have a lot of free time.

However, lately, they invite me to some parties but sometimes make plans and do not include me ☹. It is mostly Friend #1 who likes to tell me they have dinner plans but doesn't even bother to invite me---while knowing I have no plans for the night. Friend #2 always asks if Friend #1 called and invited me. Because I know them both more than they know each other I would think they would include me. Friend #1 goes out of her way to say she made plans with the other friend.

If I had a free night I would never think of inviting one without the other. It isn't that Friend #1 prefers to be with Friend #2; she does the same twosome thing with me, excluding friend #2. She explains that she likes her "alone time" with her friends and doesn't see anything wrong with it. I guess I don't understand. We all get along great and I think its kind of rude when I have a free night but sit home alone because she wants her alone time.

Tomorrow is Friend #2's birthday and I asked Friend #1 what the plans were. She said she made plans to go out with our mutual friend but never even asked if I wanted to go. Why wouldn't I? It's my friend's B-day too!

Friend #1 says I am acting like a teenager but I think it's the other way around. I don't care how old you are. Everyone likes to be included---although it doesn't have to be all the time. It is very hurtful, especially when all three of us get along great. What kind of friend is she? She does this with all her friends! It's so frustrating! What do you think? Any suggestions?

Signed,
Laura

ANSWER

Dear Laura,

Under these circumstances, feeling hurt is understandable whether you're in seventh grade or in your seventh decade. You introduced two long-time friends to each other and suddenly you're on the outside looking in.

Several other readers have written to me about friend poaching and each time, I realize that the "rules" for how to handle it are rather murky. Because this situation is fairly common, I discuss friend poaching in my book and have also addressed it in these prior posts:

Friend Poaching or Social Networking: What's the difference?
A Friend Poached One Too Many Times
Spinning Out of Control: It's Painful to Lose Friends and Disturbing to Lose Clients

With regard to your specific situation, Friend #1 has the right to prefer twosomes to groups. That's okay. And once you introduced her to Friend #2, it is acceptable for them to have a separate relationship. To her credit, she has been upfront with you about what she's doing but she also seems self-centered and insensitive to your feelings. Leaving you out of the birthday bash is taking things too far. Telling you that you're acting like a teenager compounds the hurt because she is, in essence, saying that it's inappropriate for you to feel the way you do. I disagree.

In acquiescing to the preferences of Friend #1, Friend #2 has also been somewhat insensitive to your feelings---particularly, given your long history.

Both friends already know you feel hurt. I don't think there's anything more you can say to make Friend #1 change her mind or to Friend #2, who seems to follow along with the program. As I see it, your only choice is to accept these relationships as they are and/or use this as an opportunity to seek out new relationships that are more inclusive and hassle-free.

I realize that your dilemma isn't an easy one and that this has to be incredibly uncomfortable since they're both your neighbors.

I hope this is somewhat helpful.

Best,
Irene

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.

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