The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

When Friends Treat Us Too Much Like Family

It’s easy to inadvertently take friends for granted.

QUESTION 

Hi Irene, 

I go to dinner with the same group of women for different reasons: birthdays, gourmet dinners, etc. A friend in the group, whom I talk with in a friendly way on the phone, always ignores me when we are out as a group. It hurts but I don't know if she realizes it. How can I let her know it is hurtful to me. Thank you. 

Best, Lissa 

ANSWER 

Hi Lissa, 

As a consequence of familiarity, we often take friends for granted and are less courteous and attentive to them than we are to more distant acquaintances. In a strange way, we treat them like family or kissing cousins.

Your feelings of hurt are totally understandable.

One possible explanation, although not an excuse for her behavior, may be that she feels like you both talk more often and share a common bond. She also may feel more anxious socially in the group than when she’s talking to you one-on-one. 

My suggestion would be to ask to have coffee with her and to bring this to her attention when you meet. Tell her you so enjoy your phone chats and have noticed that in a group setting, you feel she doesn’t engage with you and you’re not sure if she means to come across this way. Let her know that you are bringing this up because you value your connection with her and feel hurt and confused.  

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As you said, she may not realize she is doing this and it may be something that is easily fixable. 

Hope this helps. 

My best, Irene

Interested in chatting with others about friendships? Visit The Friendship Blog.

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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