Have I Been Friend-Poached?
Advice for a woman who thinks her friends have been stolen.
Welcome to "Friend or Foe," the DoubleX advice column for your queries about the trickiest of all love affairs: friendships. Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of I'm So Happy For You, a novel about best friends,is now taking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted in a future article or elsewhere unless the letter writer stipulates otherwise.)
Dear Friend or Foe,
My friend "Sara" met my now-former best friend, "Diane," through me. After the two started hanging out, I was a little annoyed and jealous, but I let it go. But when I decided that Diane (who backed out of being my maid of honor at my wedding) wasn't someone I wanted to be close to, Sara complained that I was making her feel like she had to choose between us.
Enter "Bianca," an acquaintance who approached me and said she wanted a deeper friendship. I opened my heart and told her about my break with Diane, and she assured that she "had [my] back." I also introduced Bianca to Sara, and they started to bond, which I was fine with. Although by then I'd begun to notice a pattern: Sara wanted to get close to anyone I was close to.
One Saturday a few months later, Sara told me she was crafting with her fiance. I found out later on Facebook that Bianca had been there, too. I forgot about it until I got an e-mail that Bianca, Sara, and Diane were going canoeing. I had vocalized that I was too busy to do anything that weekend. Still, I was stunned and hurt not to have been invited. I confronted Bianca, who played dumb and said she found out about the trip two hours before. She must have then e-mailed Sara about my complaint. The next thing I knew, Sara had sent me an incredibly nasty e-mail, referring to me as "Queen Bee," telling me I needed to let go of my jealousy, and saying that life wasn't a popularity contest. She even had the nerve to ask me if I was "abandoned as a child." I felt hurt and betrayed by everyone, including Bianca, who—it turned out—had set up the craft-time with Diane and Sara. When I confronted Bianca about forwarding my e-mail to Sara, she lied and said she hadn't.
Even so, both Sara and Bianca think this is all about me and Diane. But it's not. It has to do with all three of them being sneaky and withholding information. Sara is trying really hard to be buds again. She offered to watch my dog when I travel. I haven't decided how or what I'm going to do. But I have noticed that Sara is starting to get close to other good friends of mine, too. Please tell me how to defuse this situation.
Help, I've Been Poached
A victim of friend-poaching once myself, I wrote an essay a bunch of years ago on the very subject. From your description, sweet, magnanimous Sara sounds like a classic FP indeed. The generous reading is that she just loves everyone she meets and can't stop pursuing new friendships. The less generous interpretation is that, like some kind of friendship Don Juan, she enjoys drawing others in before spitting them out again. I suspect she's guilty only of the former, and here's why.
You've managed to feel hurt and excluded by THREE of your girlfriends. Could they really all be two-faced schemers? Certainly, feeling left out is awful as an adult, just as it was on the schoolyard. But it might be time to take a look at how you're contributing to your own alienation. I've never heard of anyone outside the military, gangland, or the mafia assuring her new bestie that she "has [her] back." Friendship is supposed to be about confession and companionship, not swearing your allegiance.
What's more, paranoia tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you rant and rave about having been scrapped from scrapbook night, the more your friends will begin to feel as if they have to invite you out, rather than desire to do so because your company is such a delight.
Regarding canoe weekend, you did say you were busy. And forwarding others' e-mails is something all of us do by accident all the time. Bianca shouldn't have lied about it. But nor can you assume that she purposefully exploited your privacy. You don't mention how you and Bianca are getting on now. But it sounds as if Sara is offering to make a fresh start of it. I suggest taking her up on it. Her e-mail was harsh, yes. But I'm sorry to say it sounds as if it contained some uncomfortable truths.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.