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February 6, 2019

Are My Friends Excluding Me on Purpose?

Hey, Bonita…

Bonita,

I'm the odd one out!

I really do love my friends. I have a group that I treat as my social circle and support system. They are made up of men and women alike, and everyone plays their role well. It’s just that I've realized that I'm the fifth wheel of this group. We all get together for dinner and drinks a lot, but I found out about a bunch of smaller hangouts that regularly happen without me. Three or so people will get together do this or that over the weekend, and I'll find out about it on Instagram or something. I'm always around for the big group get-togethers—or, I hope that's the case—but I can't help but feel a little left out over these smaller events.

I guess that they're all much more close friends than I thought, or they don't want to be real close friends with me. I love having a big group of people to hang out with, but I want to get in on these small groups. They all feel closer to each other than they do to me—or, at least that's what I see by them leaving me out all the time. A few of us are couples—though I'm single—and I guess that plays a part, too, but it was super shocking to find out about camping trips or Dollywood visits that never ever came across my radar at all.

Do my friends not like me as much as I like them? That is the sense that I'm getting.

Sincerely,

The Runt of the Litter

Hi Runt,

I don’t think your friends like you any less than the next one, or that they don’t desire to forge a closer connection with you. Big social groups tend to function in the way you’re describing, with smaller groups operating within the larger ones. You’re right that these small groups are comprised of people who feel much closer to each other individually than they do to the group as a whole, but I don’t think you need to take that personally. If your friends truly didn’t like you, I don’t think you’d be getting invited to the large-group hangouts at all.

You haven’t described any behavior that I would interpret as isolating or attempts to shun you, beyond the obvious move of not inviting you to a small event. Perhaps these trios and quartets share an interest that leads them to smaller social events, or maybe they just don’t know that you’re interested, too. Maybe they assume your disinterest in Dollywood or camping, though that doesn’t make it OK. I have a feeling that, if they knew about how isolated you felt, they’d probably be shocked, remorseful and embarrassed. I don’t think these people are trying to hurt you by having fun within sight of you.

Valentine’s Day is coming up. Friendships and intimate relationships give us confirmation of our goodness, our worthiness, our attractiveness and our value. Friendships impact our self-esteem just as much as romantic relationships do—maybe more. Friendship is love, and I believe we should nurture our friendships and be as intentional about those relationships as our romantic endeavors, because they often last longer and are just as integral to our feelings of actualization and value.

For you, dear Runt, I think that means speaking up and taking up more space in this friend group. If you want to hang out with two or three of them, schedule dinner and a movie somewhere more intimate than the AMC. Share a few plates at The National, then bop over to Ciné, which has a full bar. Afterwards, go to your usual watering hole and talk too loudly with your friends, yell about that movie and have fun.

Also, never hesitate to speak up about small events that appeal to you. Ask them plainly if you can come to Dollywood next year or join them on a camping trip. You are their friend—I promise you that—but they just might not know that you want to be more involved.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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